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: November 2016

Post-truth

Oxford University Press, publisher of Oxford dictionaries, recently named its international word of the year for 2016: “post-truth.”  Oxford defines post-truth as, “relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief.”   Post-truth is not to be confused with “truthiness,” a term popularized by Stephen Colbert more than a decade ago that described the phenomenon of “believing something that feels true, even if it isn’t supported by fact.”

If the observation of  the Washington Post, “It’s official: Truth is dead.  Facts are passe,” is true, we are in deep trouble as a society.  Wildman reading this blog  need to establish a secure, solid, objective place to stand rather then on the sinking sands of emotions and personal belief.  In the spiritual warfare we are in, Paul exhorts us, “Therefore, put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand, and after you have done everything, to standStand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist” (Eph 6:13b-14).  “In this context the imagery is not that of a massive invasion of the domain but of individual soldiers withstanding assault” (NIV footnote).  Jesus has won the battle.  We are to stand in the truth.

The first two parts of the armor, truth and righteousness, point to a quality of character.  A vital part of our armor  in the spiritual battle is integrity and righteous living.  They are qualities of Jesus and the new creation he brings )Eph. 4:17-24).  So, men, take note  – character is absolutely vital in our stand against evil and the Evil One.  When truth, the belt of the armor, which holds the armor  together is missing, the armor is ineffective.  The lesson for men is this – make sure you have the belt of truth on to keep  your armor secure.

So how do we employ the belt of truth in our armor.   Here are a few suggestions.  First, be absolutely clear in your mind that there is a sovereign, transcendent, loving God who is the author of truth. In Revelation, the worshipers declare “Great and marvelous are your deeds, Lord God Almighty. Just and true are your ways, King of the ages” (Rev. 15:3).  God declares in Isaiah 45:19, “I, the Lord, speak the truth; I declare what is right.”   The problem with truth  today is expressed in Romans 1:25, “They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator.” God reveals his truth in Scripture.  In matters of faith and practice, submit your mind to the authority of God’s word.

Secondly, remember that God’s ultimate truth was incarnate in Jesus, enabling truth to be relational.  This is a matter of the heart.”For the law was given through Moses, grace and truth came through Jesus Christ” (John 1:17). During times of doubt and uncertainty, literally cling to Jesus.  He promised to be with you and in you.  “But, when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth.  He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come” (John 16:13).  Therefore, learn to discern the truth being spoken to you and stand on this truth.

Thirdly, allow the truth of Jesus to set you free to be a truth teller .  Jesus declares to us, “Then you will know the truth and the truth will set you free” (John 8:11).  What is so desperately needed today are men who are willing to take  initiative guided by the truth, in a loving and humble manner.

Humble and Kind

I confess to being a country western fan.  I like the old stuff –  Merle Haggard, George Jones, The Oak Ridge Boys.   In my humble opinion, present day country doesn’t speak to the pain and struggle of life like the old stuff.  Anyway, during the recent CMA awards, the song of the year was “Humble and Kind,” recorded by Tim McGraw.  The songwriter Lori McKenna, wrote the song for her own children to remind them of what’s truly important as they make their way out into the world.  The song has launched a humble and kind movement in which fans were paying forward good deeds and sharing about it on line.

Could it be more then coincidence that the song’s popularity is occurring  as we experience deep divisions in our nation? The artist, Tim McGraw, does not come across as a wimp of a guy. In a day when there is so much distain for “toxic masculinity” and the “amoral” expressions of masculinity, we have Tim McGraw singing words like: “Don’t expect a free ride from no one/don’t hold a grudge or a chip and here’s why/Bitterness keeps you from flyin’/Always stay humble and kind.” The whole song is reminding us that all of life is build on relationships.  Put simply, “How we relate, is who we truly are.”

If there is going to be a “humble and kind” movement it will be expressed in relationships.  I suggest that men will need to take the initiative.  I take my cue from Gen 3:16, where we read, “Your desire will be for your husband and he will rule over you.” Male initiative and female response is implied in this relational description after the fall.  In I Tim 2:13 Paul reminds us, ” God made Adam first and afterward he made Eve.”  In the order of creation man is first and then woman. Romans 5:12 suggests responsibility rest with man. “Sin entered the world through one man.” Women should not be expected to set the tone of being humble and kind. Men need to take the first step.  Jesus is our example.  “He came to serve, not to be served – and then to give away his life in exchange for many who are held hostage” (Mark 10:45 – Message).  Godly men can help heal relationships with a posture of a servanthood toward others.

Humility coming  from the Latin word “humilis” meaning “on the ground.” This suggests a posture of lowliness.  One chooses a lower  place.  Jesus tells us, “For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted” (Matt. 23:12).  Peter instructs us,  “Clothe yourselves with humility toward one another because, ‘God opposes the proud, but shows favor to the humble.'” (I Peter 5:5).  “Growth in humility is powered by the simple desire to become more like Jesus” (Michael Casey).  Humble men initiate  movement in relationships by being the first to surrender their rights and privilege.

In the OT the word translated as “kindness” refers to God’s long suffering love for his people, in spite of their sinfulness.  In the NT the Greek word translated as “grace” best represents the idea of God’s kindness.   Kindness chooses to see  beyond the faults of others.  Jesus teaches us, “I tell you, love your enemies. Help and give without expecting a return.  You’ll never – I promise you – regret it.  Live out this God-created identity the way our Father lives toward us, generously and graciously, even when we’re at our worst.  Our Father is kind: you be kind” (Luke 6:35-36 -Message).  Men express kindness by looking beyond the faults of others.

You’ll be fine!

This is my post election blog.  This election season has made clear that our national is deeply divided.  Christians are confused and anxious about the future.  Our voice is labeled, “extreme” and “irrelevant.” The days ahead will be difficult. I try to make sense of our cultural context, from the perspective of the  prophets.  Here is a sampling from Jeremiah.  “They spread lies about God.  They’ve said, ‘There’s nothing to him.  Nothing bad will happen to us, neither famine nor war will come our way.  The prophets are all windbags.  They speak nothing but nonsense” “(Jer. 5:12-13 – Message).  “Prophets and priests and everyone in between twist words and doctor truth.  My people are broken – shattered! – and they put on Band-Aids, saying, ‘It’s not so bad. You’ll be fine.’  But things are not ‘just fine'” Jer. 8:11 – Message).

Men, if we allow the dominant media’s narrative to inform us we will be deluded into thinking that things will be “just fine,” while we continue to ignore God.   The arrogance and vanity is apparent, when seen the lens of the OT prophets.  Isaiah warns us, “But they were a proud and arrogant bunch.  They dismissed  the message, saying, ‘Things aren’t that bad.  We can handle anything that comes.  If our buildings are knocked down, we’ll rebuild the bigger and finer.  If our forests are cut down, we’ll replant them with finer trees” (Is. 9:9-10 – Message).

I wonder if God is allowing our  national experience to be a form of judgment, giving us what we deserve.  Romans 1, which begins with these words, “But God’s angry displeasure erupts as acts of human mistrust and wrongdoing and lying accumulate, as people try to put a shroud over truth.” Then we read three times (vs. 24, 26, 28) that God “gave them over” when referring to the on going consequence of turning from Him.  The passage closes with these frightening words, which we will see demonstrated  in our dominant cultural narrative in the days to come. “And it’s not as if they don’t know better.  They know perfectly well they’re spitting in God’s face.  And they don’t care – worse – they hand out prizes to those who do the worst things best! (Rom. 1: 32 – Message).  Is this a portrait of America’s near future?

So how is a man to live in the days ahead? Here are a few reminders.  Remember that the Lord God, Almighty, the maker of heaven and earth,  is sovereign over the course of history.  The question during this political season has been, “what side of history are you on?”   Isaiah says it straight and to the point. “Surely, as I have planned, so it will be, and as I have purposed, so it will stand” (Is. 14:24) and then in Is. 46:11, “What I have said, that will I bring about; what I have planned, that will I do.” In trust and surrender put your life and future into the hands of your heavenly Father who is in complete charge of history.  James reminds us, “Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers.  Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows” (James 1: 16).

We follow Jesus, who is “King of kings and Lord of lord” (Rev 20:16).  He has established His kingdom reign in the earth (Matt 28:18-20).  We are part of that reign.  Jesus has conquered and been victorious.  So men, let us follow that lamb who has conquered.  “Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise” (Rev. 5:12).

No Boys Wanted

Back in the 80’s there was a movie entitled, “Distant Thunder,”which depicted the followers of Jesus living in the last days.  Today, men who are awake to the movement of God’s Spirit in our fallen culture, are hearing the sound of distant thunder, warning them, among other dangers,f the coming “sexism tsunami.”  Recently I learned of a new phenomena among  young fathers. Courtney E. Martin of the NPR radio show “On Being” noticed a trend among younger middle and upper-middle class fathers-to-be,  pointing of the coming tsunami.  These fathers, “seem to disproportionately desire having a girl instead of a boy.”

They said such things as, “I wanted a girl mainly because I felt it was harder to be a boy in today’s society.  If I have a boy I will embrace the challenge of raising a boy…..who needs to  learn the power of vulnerability even as male culture tries to make him see it as weakness.”  These comments were typical of men feeling more confident and better equipped to parent a strong, confident daughter.  “Men like me abdicate our responsibility by letting other men – the ones who don’t always encourage the broader, deeper humanity within males – raise boys.  And we deprive ourselves of the opportunity to heal old wounds.”  Could it be, that Christian men are becoming intimidated in  raising sons.

In response to this trend of fathers abandoning their sons to the gender wars, I want to encourage  Dads  with these  observations.  First, no amount of social engineering can successful and permanently replace the role of a father in God’s purpose for the family as the basic and foundational aspect of culture.  “Fathers, don’t exasperate your children by coming down hard on them.  Take them by the hand and lead them in the way of the Master” ( Eph. 6:4 – Message).  This charge is given first to fathers, not mothers. Dads, in God’s economy, you are the front line of defense. Accept the mantle of leadership that comes with being a dad. As you stand firm in the Lord, you will have grace for your task.

Second,  the need for affirmation of our masculinity  as fathers.  This is a constant theme in this blog.  Remember masculinity is passed on from one man to the other.  We cannot give away what we don’t possess.  Masculinity is caught more than taught.  No amount of gender blending can shape a young man with a healthy sense of his maleness.  “My son, do not forget my teaching, but keep my commands in your heart” (Prov 3:1).  Dad, no  one can take your place in the formation of your son.  God grace will be there for you as you embrace the task of  being father to your son.

Third, dads will flourish in our culture when they model in the words of the Benhman brothers of HGTV reality fame, a “hard head” and a “soft heart.”  The day of a stoic, distant father is fading. What is needed are dads with a “soft edges” but “firm centers.”  .

Fourth, expose your son to other godly men.  They could be relatives, neighbors or church members.  Let them  “absorb manliness” from men who walk the talk.  Find men who are encouragers of the spiritual journey, who are open and honest about their journey in finding wholeness as men

Fifth, by all means, find a support group for dads. I am now a 75 year of grandpa. With inner healing and the benefit of hind sight, I have more wisdom about fathering the when I was in the midst of raising two sons.  Find some godly grandpas to relate to as father and son.

Bob Dylan

Bob Dylan was the  surprise winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature.  According to the Swedish Academy, Dylan won,”for having created a new poetic expression within the great American song tradition.” In  ways I relate to Dylan.  We were both born in 1941.  He grow up in Northern Minnesota, where I am retired on the lake.  He had an influence on the youth movement of the early 70’s when I was a youth pastor.  Being part of “the Jesus Movement,” we had a revival among high school students in our Lutheran Church located in Edina, Minn.  “Blowing in the wind” was sung often,  along with such songs as “A bridge over troubled waters” (Simon and Garfunkel).  Intuitively we had a sense that Dylan was a “soulful” singer, speaking prophetically to the American soul.

Dylan, the poet, can be experienced as  a prophetic voice calling men to go beyond the surface to struggle with the deeper issues of life.  His songs can’t be reduced only to their verbal content.  You are forced to find spiritual meaning to  his songs.   While not a devoted fan, I came to maturity as a man, during Dylan’s rise to fame. Like many others I saw him as a spiritual poet.  Eugene Peterson notes, “a poet uses words not to explain something, and not to describe something, but to make something…….Poetry is not the language of objective explanation but the language of imagination….we do not have more information after we read a poem, we have more experience.”  That is how we experienced some of Dylan’s songs during the spiritual revival  in the early 70’s.  I applied many of his lyrics to biblical themes, that spoke to questioning teenagers.

A poet will use words to grab your imagination.  “Dylan is a profoundly spiritual poet, and his spirituality is profoundly shaped by the Christian Bible.” notes one observer of Dylan’s career.  He once said, “I don’t think I’ve been an agnostic.  I’ve always thought there’s a superior power, that this is not the real world and there’s a world to come.”  In 1980 he had a conversion experience in which he said, “Jesus put his hand on me.  It was a physical thing.”  This period resulted in two albums built around Christian imagery – “Slow Train Coming”  and “Saved.”

By the 2000’s Dylan’s lyrics, “begin to reflect less the influence of any one religion and more a seeking, mystic bent.”  In the final track on “Modern Times,” Dylan seems to reflect where all his spiritual wanderings have brought him.  “Ain’t talkin,’  just walkin’ / Through this weary world of woe / Heart burnin’, still yearnin’ / No one on earth would ever know / They say prayer has the power to heal.”   He did say once, “Being noticed can be a burden.  Jesus got himself crucified because he got himself noticed.  So I disappear a lot.”  It seems he is just walking and not talking.

Back in the 60’s “Blowing in the Wind” was asking this question,  “How many roads must a man walk down /before you call him a man?”  Dylan’s answer was, “The answer, my friend, in blowin’ in the wind /The answer is blowin’ in the wind.”  Pope John Paul II at the 1997 World Eucharistic congress in Bologna, Columbia, before thousands of youth, referred to Dylan’s words by saying, “You asked me: How many roads must a man walk down before you can call him a man!  I answer you: Just one, only one.  It is the road of a man. This is Jesus Christ, who said I am the way.” Yes, that is the road we take to become a man.

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