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: October 2016

Locker Room Talk

Since this blog site is concerned about a  healthy  expression of masculinity, I want to weigh in on Donald Trump and “locker room talk.”  To start with, I am conflicted about voting for the best of two deeply flawed candidates.  I am saddened by religious leaders who seem to be giving Trump a pass on his “toxic” masculinity.  We hear things such as, “Trump’s not a Sunday school teacher, Trump’s a new King David or pagan deliverer Cyrus.  Trump is either a ‘baby Christian’ or the kind of tough strongman conservative Christian need since the Sermon on the Mount isn’t realistic enough for the 21st century.”

What is most disturbing is the coming  post election fall out.   One female columnist calls it, “the coming ‘sexism’ Tsunami.”  Mark my words, the path for men as humble, loving followers of Jesus, will be laden with new and vicious attacks from angry feminists, who have been collecting fresh ammunition from Mr. Trump’s  legacy as a “womanizer.” The response of some Christian leaders only adds fuel to the fire. With all the muster I can gather for this blog, I want to shout “character matters.”  America needs men of spiritual integrity who strive to model  moral purity.

Men, the Lord will not give us a pass on “locker room talk.” Jesus warns us,  “Don’t go to bed with another’s spouse.  But don’t think you’re preserved your virtue simply by staying out of bed.  Your heart can be corrupted by lust even quicker than your body.  Those leering looks you think nobody notices – they also corrupt” (Matt. 5:27-8 -Message).  Our sexual passion and energy needs to be reserved for our wives only. “Your spring water is for you and you only, not to be passed around among strangers.  Bless your fresh-flowing fountain!  Enjoy the wife you married as a young man!  Lovely as an angel, beautiful as a rose – don’t ever quit taking delight in her body” (Prov 5:17-18 – Message).  Job is very blunt. ” I made a solemn pact with myself never to undress a girl with my eyes” (Job 31:1 – Message).

Here is some hard earned advise from someone who has sought to be a “one woman man” for over 50 years.   First,  admit to yourself and confess to other men that you are a man filled with sexual passion that needs to be channeled in a healthy spiritual manner.  It is everyman’s battle in our culture.   I have been a faithful husband for 51 years.  But have I struggled with my sexual fantasies? Yes.  Men, surrender your inner life to God, letting  light into secret places of our heart.   Secondly,  purpose to honor and cherish your wife. Take delight in her.  Work at not taking your marriage for granted.  Cherish her by showing in word and deed that she first among your priorities.  She is “Bone of my bone, flesh of my flesh (Gen3:23).

Thirdly,  show your wife the utmost respect in public.  Be attentive to her.  Do little things like opening the door for her.  How you treat your wife in public, will send a profound message to women that you honor the opposite sex.  Never, never belittle your wife in public or in front of your children.  Fourthly, make a covenant with your eyes.  Never look with lust at another woman.  Do not flirt or entertain the advances of other woman.  Commit to be a “one woman man” in every relationship.

There is much more to say, but one more point.  Among other men, disavow locker room talk. Never objectify another women by your attitude, words or actions.  Be vigilant among other men.  Angry women who have been deeply hurt by other men are watching.

Quiet Catastophe

A “Quiet catastrophe” is what Nicholas Eberstadt in “Men Without Work”  calls the deterioration of work rates for American men.  “Almost one out of four men of prime working age (25-54) are not working.  Since 1948, the percentage of men aged 20 to 64 who aren’t working has doubled.  Fewer working-age men are working today than in 1930, in the heart of the Great Depression.”  Most of this decline has taken place since 1965.  Between 1965 and 2015, the share of working-men who are jobless more than doubled, from 10 percent to 22 percent.  This decline of men in the work force has gone unnoticed because men, “are invisible in public discourse in part because we have defined our social goal as getting more women to work.”  Yet between 1948 and 2015, the proportion of women between 25 to 64 in the workforce doubled for 34 percent to 70 percent, while men continued to retreat from the work place..

Even more significant is the fact that, “ever-greater numbers of working-age men simply have dropped out – some for a while and some forever – from the competition for jobs.  These men have established a new and alternative lifestyle to the age-old male quest for a paying job.”  Their choice is largely voluntary.  The hours that they are not working have been replaced almost one for one with leisure time.  Seventy-five percent of this new leisure time falls into one category: video games.   Even more disturbing they seem to be happy with their choices.  “Happiness surveys actually indicate that they are quite content compared to their peers.”  Not working does not seem to be a negative factor in their lives.

Derek Thompson has written, “The economy is not simply  leaving men behind.  It is leaving manliness behind. Machines are replacing the brawn that powered the 20th century economy, clearing way for work that requires a softer human touch.”  The future of work in America will be more biased against the traditional idea of manliness.  Herein lies the problem.  “The connections between work, marriage, fatherhood, and manhood,” observed Maggie Gallagher, “unleased enormous social energy.”  Being a husband and a father has traditionally reinforced masculine identity.  A good husband and father worked.  In this way masculinity was achieved and not given.  There was less thought given to dependence on government or charity.   This is now being called into question in our day.

Today masculinity is  seen as an liability unless it conforms to the idea that gender doesn’t matter.  But redefining of masculinity has not produced a generation of men who thrive in a genderless culture.   Rather many adult men are retreating to the world of video games where their aggressive impulses can be expressed and not questioned.  In this world there is neither risk nor reward..  It is the fury of “GamerGate.”  Here men can enter a fantasy world of rage free from the threat of feminism.

Men today are suffering from “genderphobia,” which sees the basic realities of gender and gender difference as a crime against women.   Work is being  redefined as genderless, assuming that much of male work is the source of unfair privilege.  Yet all though human history men have been the primary providers for their families.  The New Testament reminds men of this reality.  “If anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for his immediate family, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever” (I Tim. 5:8).  Paul warns of being idle in II Thess. 3:11-13, “We hear that some among you are idle.  They are not busy, they are busybodies.  Such people we command and urge in the Lord Jesus Christ to settle down and earn the bread they eat…never tire of doing what is right.”

“Toxic” masculinity?

LaShawn Barber, wrote an article for  “World” magazine entitled “the war on men.”  She referenced to a student gathering  at Claremont College in California, meeting to discuss masculinity.  The common consensus  was that masculinity, “is harmful both to those who express it and those affected by it.”  So where does this leave the average male?  In advertising the event, this was said, “Masculinity can be extremely toxic to our mental health, both to the people who are pressured to perform it and the people who are inevitably influenced by it.”  So I guess men have to live with a “toxic” masculinity.  I applauded Ms. Barber for her closing statement. “I hope men will push back against this anti-male tide, just as Christians have to push back against our diminishing freedom to live as Christians in all aspects of our lies.”

Toxic masculinity was also the topic at Duke University’s “Men’s Project.”  The goal of the men’s project was for male students to “critique and analyze their own masculinity and toxic masculinities to create healthier ones.”  A nine-week course for “male-identified” students would be discussing such topics as male privilege, patriarchy, “the language of dominance,” rape culture, pornography, machismo and other topics.  The student newspaper insisted the course was “not a reeducation camp being administered by an oppressed group in service of the feminization of American society.”  I have the sense that the young men and women in this course accept the reality that every man is “toxic” in his expression of masculinity.

I want to make a few comments on the word “toxic.”  In a google search I found this definition of toxic – “containing or being poisonous material especially when capable of causing death or serious debilitation.”  Wow!  It seems that masculinity can be very harmful in our society.  I take strong exception to the word “toxic.”  Speaking biblically, I would rather say all males are afflicted with a sin nature.  “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure.  Who can understand it? (Jeremiah 17:9).  I make no excuses for the gross sinful behavior of men in our society.  But our sin nature can be redeemed, made new in the image of Christ.

So my advise to Christian men, who have to deal with their so-called “toxic” masculinity, is to get rid of it like some old “ill-fitting clothes.”  “You’re done with that old life.  It’s like a filthy set of ill-fitting clothes you’ve stripped off and put in the fire.  Now you’re dressed in a new wardrobe.  Every item of your new way of life is custom made by the Creator, with his label on it” (Col. 39-10 – Message).  God gives us a  new wardrobe that will be unique for each man, allowing him to live out of his masculine soul. God does the changing.  Our part is to choose to take off the old ill-fitting clothes.  This involves repentance, surrender and letting go of the old familiar ways, that might seem toxic.

So men I invite you to join me in the cultural battle to help restore a godly, masculine presence in society.  Yes, there is a toxic masculinity that has done much harm.  But God is raising up a whole new generation of godly men.  Through surrender to the lordship of Jesus, men  are boldly, yet humbling,   giving  expression to a new expression of masculinity.  To this I am committed.  I take comfort in these words from Ps 71:18, “Even when I am old and gray, do not forsake me, O God, till I declare your power to the next generation, your might to all who are to come.”

Fire In My Belly

As I write my blogs each week, I try to visualize the men who are frequent readers.  Recently, I have been having some doubts concerning the perspective I express regarding  Christian men and masculinity.  From my point of view, there is a lot of confusion and even distortion about male and female roles in the Evangelical Movement. My aim is to  find a balanced approach.  I wonder if  part of the appeal of this blog is the fact that I not only speak to the “tough” side of the masculine, but also the “tender” side.  I think the combination of my being a “heart person” and a “truth teller” inspires me to call men to  walk boldly with Jesus,  having courage to embrace the truth,  but also to be willing to go “deep.”  Soulful men is what this blog is all about.

Based on my own masculine journey, along with what I discern regarding “the men’s movement,” in the church I  contend that much more needs to be said about the “masculine soul.”  I found these words from the prophet Jeremiah an encouragement. “Use words truly and well.  Don’t stoop to cheap whining.  Then, but only then, you’ll speak for me.  Let your words change them.  Don’t change your words to suit them.  I’ll turn you into a steel wall, a thick steel wall, impregnable” (Jer. 15:20-21  – Message).  By the grace of God, I hope to grow in my articulation which is aimed at men who desire to be soulful.

I have also found  identification  with Jeremiah when he says, “The words are fire in my belly, a burning in my bones.  I’m worn out trying to hold it in.  I can’t do it any longer” (Jer. 20:9 – Message).  There is a message I believe that has been formed in my heart.  But it is difficult for me to put it into words.  I struggle at times to come up with a blog that I think is relevant for men from my perspective.  I am now going on my sixth year.  Spiritual motivated as a “truth teller,” I am highly motivated to see that the truth of God’s words rightly applied to the lives of God’s people, especially men. This is why I write.

I can across a great quote from Mike Mason that speaks to my motivation for writing.  “Howling one’s head off may actually be a more mature and realistic response to reality than the elaborate social skills of many adults.  With the latter so frightfully focused on grinning and bearing their way through life, perhaps babies are the ones to whom God has entrusted the important work of doing the crying for the whole world… ..If our gospel is not one that will stand up to the prolonged test of having absolutely no circumstantial evidence of worldly success, then it is a gospel of straw.”

I write for men who want to break out of the cultural box of maleness and the shallow expectation of be a “niece Christian guy.”  The following  principles guide my thinking.  First, our affirmation comes from our heavenly Father.  Secondly, men surrendering control in order to listen to their souls.  Thirdly, helping men deal with their pain.  Fourthly, men knowing that their strength comes through their weakness. And finally  encouraging men to stay on the journey to greater wholeness in spite of the  cultural opposition to a biblical view of men and their roles in family, church and society.

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