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 2016

Pastor Andrew

Judy and I belong to an Evangelical Free Church (The Lighthouse) in our small town that provides us with a great fellowship of believers who are committed to extending the kingdom of Jesus in the midst of the coming darkness.  We feel blessed to be a part of what God is doing in our community.  We recently welcomed our new pastor, Andrew Johnson and his wonderful wife, Angela, and their daughter, Rebekah.  As one of the elders, I am committed to supporting our young pastor as he begins his ministry in our midst.

I take to heart the exhortation of Hebrews 13: 17 – Message,  “Be responsive to your pastoral leaders.  Listen to their counsel.  They are alert to the condition of your lives and work under the strict supervision of God.  Contribute to the joy of their leadership, not its drudgery.  Why would you want to make things harder for them?”  Being responsive could  also mean follow, place confidence in or be persuaded by.  Phillips translation says, “Try to make their work a pleasure and not a painful burden – that would be no advantage to you.”  Having been a pastor for 40 years I know a thing or two about being a spiritual leader and working with elders.  I have told my new pastor and the church as well, that I intend to honor my pastor and do all I can to support his ministry.

I say this, because I assume that most of the readers of this blog are active members of a church.  In my humble opinion, one of the greatest needs in the evangelical church is the “rightly ordering” of relationships.  In a day of increasing anger against any kind of authority, godly men are desperately needed to model confidence in proper spiritual authority.  When  men set the example, a sense of peace and rest prevails among the people of God.  This is the result of keeping vigilance in relationships and being involved in spiritual warfare.

Here is what I wrote in my report to the congregation as we welcomed our new pastor.  Regarding the elders (Bob and myself): “Our intentions in relationship to pastor could be summarized as follows: 1) wholehearted support, 2) fervent prayer for pastor and his family, 3) encouragement. 4) standing in unity with pastor, 5) honoring his leadership as our shepherd and leader, 6) continuing to be the ‘eyes and ears’ of the congregation, while keeping pastor informed, and 7) sharing our best discernment regarding the spiritual life of the Lighthouse.”

To the members of the Lighthouse: “The following suggestions are for all the members of the Lighthouse as we begin our new journey with Pastor Johnson.  1) Be welcoming of pastor and his family, 2) pray for pastor and his family, 3) be an encouragement to pastor, 4) honor pastor as our leader, 5) ask what our part is in the church, without demanding, 6) give to the whole, while giving up our personal expectations, 7) live in prayerful expectation of what God desires to do, and 8) live in forgiveness and acceptance of your brothers and sisters.”

Brother Bob and I as elders of the Lighthouse, sincerely believe that God has a unique calling for our church in rescuing people from the impending darkness, while helping to establish them in the fellowship of our church, bringing them into the light and providing them with spiritual refuge. Many will need to be rescued from the confusing darkness, giving them hope as they learn to reign with Jesus in the kingdom of light.  “”For once you were full of darkness, but now you have light from the Lord.  So live as people of light!  For this light within you produces only what is good and right and true” (Eph. 5:8 NLT).

The Irrational Season

Madeleine L’Engle’s poem, “After Annunciation” speaks of Mary’s vulnerability.  “This is the irrational season/When love blooms bright and wild/Had Mary been filled with reason/ There ‘d have been no room for the child.”  The virgin birth of Jesus – when God became a man, being conceived by the Holy Spirit in the womb of a virgin teenager – is beyond our rational comprehension.  “The earth was void and without form when the Spirit appeared; just so Mary’s womb was a void until the Spirit of God filled it with a child who was His Son” (Raymond Brown).   Mary’s response was simply, “I am the Lord’s servant. May it be to me as you have said” (Luke 1:38).  Like Mary, men need to learn to respond willingly from their hearts, rather than from their minds.

Mary is a prime example of the feminine response to the voice of God. I agree with Leanne Payne that “the essence of masculinity is initiation, and the essence of femininity is response.” For men to have a healthy expression of the masculine, they need to cultivate the feminine complement.  In the creation story we read, “Let us make man in our image, after our own likeness” (Gen 1:26).  “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them” (Gen. 1:27). When God created human beings in his image, he created them male and female.  This was before the separation of Eve out of Adam’s body.  The implication of creation is man (as a human being) is androgynous (male-female) in his origin.  When these are in balance, there is the healthy expression of the masculine. So what can men glean from Mary’s example?  Don’t neglect your feminine side.   

First and foremost, we need to remember and continually be aware of the need to cultivate the complimentary feminine response in ourselves.  For each man it will be different, because of personality type, gifting, and background. However, appreciation of the feminine is especially vital in a day when the feminist impulse has so maligned the masculine.  As followers of Jesus, men need to set the standard in our embrace of feminine vitality in our culture.  For too long the feminine has been overshadowed by the masculine. But with the rise of the strong feminine voice, many men have lost the true sense of their masculinity, having retreated into a kind of sickly, weak state, caught in the throes of passive suffering. Many don’t know how to act as men.  And many are afraid of the distorted feminine response in radical feminism.

Second, be assured of your God-given masculine nature, and allow your heavenly Father to bestow upon you a recognition and affirmation of your masculine self.  Christ himself will help you find the proper balance of the masculine and feminine in your life.  This will only come about when you open your heart to the Spirit of Christ, allowing God’s healing word to call you forth as a man.

Third, celebrate and do all you can to enhance the true feminine in the lives of the women you influence, especially in your wife and daughters.  When men are secure in their masculine and embrace the feminine complement in their own lives – and the godly strength of the true feminine in women, there is no need to be defensive, insecure, or silent in our witness.  “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 first to decline” (Leanne Payne).


Hacksaw Ridge

My wife and I recently went to see the new movie, Hacksaw Ridge.  This is a man’s movie. It’s about conviction, courage, and bravery; qualities needed among Christian men in our day.  Mel Gibson’s new movie tells the story of Desmond Doss, a Seventh Day Adventist, who enlisted in the Army during World War II with the understanding he could serve as a medic, so he would not have to violate his firm belief in “thou shalt not kill.”  He faced stiff opposition for being a conscientious objector.  He was sent to Okinawa and during the battle at Hacksaw Ridge saved some 75 solders from certain death.  For his actions, he was award the Congressional Metal of Honor, becoming the only conscientious objector in U. S. history to win the nation’s highest award.

While depicting the horror of war, freedom of conscience is the central theme played out in the story of  young Doss. When He says, “I feel my values are under attack.” he is echoing the sentiments of millions of Christians in America today.  In a time when attacks upon conscience and religious liberty are increasing, we are challenged by the example of the young soldier to examine the strength and resolve of our deepest convictions, which impinge on our freedom of conscience in a post-Christian culture.  Commentator, Steven D. Greudamus, considers Doss, “a hero for our troubled times.”

Eric Metaxas, over at breakpoint, writes, “Times in which florists and bakers are being hauled before civil rights commissions, being fined, losing their businesses; times in which pharmacists in Washington State can lose their licenses for refusing to dispense abortion pills; times in which churches in Massachusetts can run afoul of ‘public accommodation’ laws requiring gender neutral bathrooms – we do indeed have a model in Desmond Doss.”  The movie is not anti-war but rather a “pro-bravery tale” of one man who was mocked and ridiculed for his values.  I know, I was moved to tears several times.  I left the Bear Pause Theater, committed to love the Lord with all my heart and with all my soul and will all my mind and to love my neighbor as myself. (Matt 22:37).  What would this mean?

First, I need to be settled on what are the nonnegotiable convictions of my Christian worldview.  A Trinitarian relationship with Father, Son and Holy Spirit as revealed in Scripture is the bedrock of my faith.  I know a loving Father in heaven, who has given his own Son.  I follow and worship Jesus as Lord.  I can depend on the Holy Spirit to guide me as I submit my lifestyle and belief to the authority of Scripture.  I consider this to be my rock, not the sinking sand of modern, secular thought (Matt 7:24-27).

Secondly, how deeply held are my convictions?  The story of Desmond Doss was very challenging to me.  Am I willing, as a matter of conscience, to pay a price for my deepest held values?  While wanting to be a humble, loving follower of Jesus, how integrated are these convictions in my inner life, so when I am accused of being a hateful bigot or angry sexist man, I can respond with love and understanding?

Thirdly, how well do I live by my  convictions in a hostile culture?  Hacksaw Ridge tells the story of how one man went from being despised and dismissed by his fellow soldiers as a coward to being honored and accept by them as a hero.  While respectful of the opinions of other, and with no anger or resentment for how he was treated, Desmond Doss won the right to be a witness to a group of hard core soldiers.  How winsome and yet uncompromising is my witness for Christ?

Tony Romo Is a Real Man

Like so many other NFL football fans, I have been wondering what will Tony Romo have to say if he is permanently replaced by Dak Prescott as the starting quarterback of the Dallas Cowboys.  Romo recently spoke to the media about his return to the team from his injury.  Sports writer, Will Whitmore, wrote, “Romo’s statement demonstrates three behaviors that model what being a great teammate looks like, three selfless choices worth emulating when confronted with the tension of ‘me’ vs, ‘we.'”  I want to comment on these three choices.

First, Romo choose the truth over perception management.  He told the truth about how hard it was not to be playing, about his status as a distraction, and of Prescott deserving to start since the team was winningl.  “In speaking honestly about his situation,” noted Whitmore, “instead of covering for his own reputation, Tony Romo chose a narrative in which he can be present for his teammates and help them accomplish what they have set out to achieve together.”  “Don’t push your way to the front; don’t sweet-talk your way to the top.  Put yourself aside, and help others get ahead.  Don’t be obsessed with getting your own advantage” (Phil. 2:3-4 – Message).  It takes a real man to put a younger quarterback first, while publicly accepting a diminished role.

Secondly, Romo choose words to build one another up.  Romo acknowledged, “He’s (Prescott) earned the right to be our quarterback. As hard as that is for me to say, he’s earned that right.”  “Romo did not have initiate addressing the media regarding this situation,” wrote Whitmore, “nor did he have to recognize the exceptional play of Prescott to this point, or his own desire to still be competing…he chose to use his words to strengthen his team, not diminish or undermine it.” “So let’s agree to use all our energy in getting along with each other.  Help others with encouraging words; don’t drag them down by finding fault” (Rom. 14:19 – Message). It takes a real man to publicly praise a rookie quarterback, while sitting on the bench.

Thirdly, Romo choose to serve others through a  different role. Romo reflected on how he felt when he first took over for veteran quarterback Drew Bledsoe.  Saying that “something magical” has happening to the team, he pledged his support to his successor.  “Even when the goals of the team override our individual desires,” wrote Whitmore, “we can use our gifts and skills to support one another.”  “Be easy on people; you’ll find it a lot easier.  Give away your life; you’ll find life given back, but not merely given back – given back with bonus and blessing.  Giving, not getting, is the way.  Generosity, begets generosity” (Luke 6:38 – Message). It takes a real man to sacrifice his football ambitions, in order to help a much younger man to be successful for the sake of his team.

Most impressive to me were Tony Romo’s concluding remarks.  “I feel like we all have two battles, or two enemies going on.  One with the man across from you, the second is with the man inside of you.  I think once you control the one inside of you, the one across from you really doesn’t matter.  And I think that’s what we’re all trying to do. ”  Jesus tells us, “In a word, what I’m saying is, Grow up.  You’re kingdom subjects.  Now live like it.  Live out your God-created identity.  Live generously and graciously toward others, the way God lives toward you” Matt. 5:48 – Message).  It takes a real grown up man to be honest about his own inner struggles regarding his competitive ambition before the national sports media.

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