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: August 2017

Gnosticism and Transgenderism

Here is a quote from New Testament scholar, N. T. Wright on transgenderism.  “The confusion about gender identity is a modern, and now internet-fuelled, form of the ancient philosophy of Gnosticism.  The Gnostic, one who ‘knows’, has discovered the secret of ‘who I really am’, behind the deceptive outward appearance (in Rifkind’s apt phase, the ‘ungainly, boring, fleshy one”).  This involves denying the goodness, or even the ultimate reality, of the natural world.  Nature, however, tends to strike back, with the likely victims in this case being vulnerable and impressionable youngsters who, as confused adults, will pay the price for their elders’ fashionable fantasies.”

When I first read this I immediately thought of fathers and their children.  The cry of my heart for fathers is not give into the cultural hysteria regarding acceptance of transgender movement.  Sons and daughters are a precious gift given to father by a loving heavenly Father.  “Children are a gift from the Lord, they are a reward from him.  Children born to a young man are like arrows in a warrior’s quiver.  How joyful is the man whose quiver is full of them” (Ps 127:3-4).  When our kids were growing up, my wife and I would refer to them as “prescription babies.”  In those days a popular phrase among Christian parents was, “God doesn’t make any junk.”

Men, it is vital for you to model, by your disposition, a heavenly Father who has given  you specially chosen children to be  in your quiver.  They are your most important stewardship.  God’s intention is for you to shape their lives so they might live in the freedom and liberty of their God given gender.  You and your wife model for your children how God intends man and woman are to live on this earth. So in my humble opinion, it is extremely vital that you as a father live freely, comfortably and without apology in your God give masculine soul. You symbolize masculinity.  Your children will absorb a sense of the masculine from you.

Granted this is not an easy task in our day.  But if your sons and daughter are to weather the chaos of the gender wars, you can have a vital impact on their lives by simply modeling a Dad who is affirmed in his masculine soul, while honoring his wife as his feminine compliment.  Judy and I made it clear to our three children that our love for one another came before our love for our children.  So how I treated the mother of my children was vital.  They know they were the result of our union in marriage.  They in turn were our most precious gifts from God.  As parents, we visualized how God had perfectly arranged the order of our family with three children male, female and male in just the right order.

Do not underestimate the symbolism of your role as Father in family life.  Leading family devotions  at the family meal is a good example.  We read in Exodus 23:25-6, “Worship the Lord your God, and his blessing will be on your food and water.  I will take away sickness from among you….and I will give you a full life span.”  Leanne Payne uses this passage to point out the following, “The modern fast track we are on has nearly eliminated ceremony and ritual at table.  Think, if you will, of the ceremony or ritual of the blessing that brings down the transcendent, hallowing the ordinary, at table.” Use meal time to express the masculine voice speaking into souls of your children.

Some Call it Conspiracy

Men, we are coming into turbulent waters in the coming days due to the “alt-right” and “alt-left” movements in our country, venting their deep anger concerning the direction of our nation.  I plead with you not to be influenced by the inflamed rhetoric, both by the participants and the media’s coverage.  We read in Isaiah 8:12 -13, “Do not call conspiracy everything that these people call conspiracy; do not fear what they fear, and do not dread it.  The Lord Almighty is the one you are to regard as holy, he is the one you are to fear, he is the one you to dread.”  Another translation says, “People are saying that others make plans against them, but you should not believe them.”

The footnote in the NIV states that verses 11-13 express two different understandings of history: “1 ) Give God the central place that only the Holy One must have, or 2) Explain historical events as the result of human conspiracy, with the constant dread of the unknown that this view engenders.”  As Jesus talks about the end of the age in Mark 13, he exhorts us  to “watch out,” “being on guard,” or be “alert” seven times.  Don’t allow conspiracy talk shape your worldview.  Here are a few suggestions to help keep you vigilant.

First and foremost, keep your focus on Jesus as Lord.  Remember that one day, “at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Phil. 2:10-11).  Focusing means that you practice the presence of Jesus. Ps. 27:3 says it best. “My heart says of you, ‘Seek his face!’  Your face, Lord, I will seek.”   Revelations 22:13 reminds us, “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.”  Jesus is Lord of history, period.  So be mindful of Jesus as you maneuver through the minefields of  conspiracy discussions.

Secondly,  submit to the reign of Jesus’ kingdom in the earth. “For God in all his fullness was pleased to live in Christ, and through him God reconciled everything to himself.  He made peace with everything in heaven and earth by mean of Christ’s blood on the cross” (Col. 1: 19-20). The alternative is the kingdom of darkness.  You will be influenced by one or the other.

Thirdly, live in repentance and humility.  Be warned – as a follower of Jesus in his kingdom reign, you will be hated.  Matthew, Mark and Luke in describing the end times, all warn about being hated.  “All men will hate you because of me, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved” (Mark 13:13). Purpose to live humbly as a servant of Jesus, punctuated by a readiness to repent of your failures. ‘Stay alert. This is hazardous work I’m assigning you.  You’re going to be like sheep running through a wolf pack, so don’t call attention to yourselves.  Be cunning as a snake, inoffensive as a dove” Matt. 10:16 – Message).

Fourthly, cry out for God to have mercy.  The coming relational chaos, in my opinion, is a sign of God’s judgment.  Jesus warned this would happen. “At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people” (Matt. 24:10).  As a result there will be “the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold” (Matt 24:12).  That is a description of broken relationships.  In the midst of such confusion, we should be crying out for God to have mercy.  Habakkuk prayed, “in wrath remember mercy” (Hab. 3:2)

A Christian Culture

Church historian Robert Louis Wilken has made this  pertinent observation regarding  the church in America.  “Nothing is more needful today than the survival of Christian culture, because in recent generations this culture has become dangerously thin.  At this moment in the church’s history in this country it is less urgent to convince the alternative culture in which we live of the truth of Christ than it is for the Church to tell itself its own story and to nurture its own life, the culture of the city of God, the Christian republic.  This is not going to happen without a rebirth of moral and spiritual discipline and a resolute effort on the part of Christians to comprehend and to defend the remnants of Christian culture.”

The more I  study the prophets, and observe what is happening in our culture, I sense  we have not  lost the cultural war.  What is at stake is the survival of Christian culture.  I agree with Rod Dreher, when he writes in his book, “The Benedict Option” that we need to build alternate communities, allowing  for Christian formation of a new kind of Christian, who will become a different kind of citizen.  “The Benedict Option…begins with recognition that Western society is post-Christian and that absent a miracle, there is no hope of reversing this condition in the foreseeable future…..trying to reclaim a lost influence will be a waste of energy and time…”  We need Christian communities to “establish or reestablish common practices and common institutions that can reverse the isolation and fragmentation of contemporary society.”

Dreher warns us, “……Christianity is no longer at the center of our cultural definition and self-understanding, and its hold on the collective imagination is waning.”  In addition, “there are no social forces now present capable of stopping the cultural momentum toward full secularization… is more important for us to build up the internal resilience within our families, churches and institutions, that will allow us to endure post-Christian America with faith intact. ”  Could Dreher be right in saying, “The lack of awareness of our predicament and its nature is the chief obstacle among Christians to preparing for it.  Many Christians cannot fathom the magnitude of the change now upon us.”

I have followed Dreher for some time.  He might sound alarmist to some.  But I believe he is like a watchman on the walls, warning us of what is coming.  As Grandparents, Judy and I, pray constantly and fervently for our eight grandchildren and their families.  Passing on a strong Christian culture, that models godly living among men and women is going to be more difficult. Men, I want you to know that you have a friend, mentor and encourager in your calling to follow Jesus in our day, along with your responsibility of raising your children.

So what is a wild man to do?  Here are five suggestions.  First, place yourself under the Lordship of Jesus and the reign of his kingdom.  Jesus taught us prayer that his kingdom would come and his will would be done on earth as it is in heaven.  I pray that daily.  2) Humbly accept that mantle of high priest in your family.  Thirdly, for the sake of our family evaluate your commitment to the body of Christ. You need others to help model a healthy Christian culture.  Fourthly, find a group of husbands and fathers who are committed to the kingdom presence in your community.  Fifthly, always remember the promise of Romans 5:20, “But where sin increased, grace increased all the more.”  Continually cry out for God to be merciful to you and your family.

Calculating in being right

I often read N.T. Wright’s translation of the New Testament.  I was struck, recently with his use of the word “calculate” instead of “credited” (NIV) or “counted” (ESV & NAS), when declaring a person being right in God’s sight.  “Now when someone ‘works,’ the ‘reward’ they get is not calculated on the basis of generosity, but on the basis of what they are owed.  But if someone doesn’t ‘work,’ but simply believes in the one who declares the ungodly to be in the right, that person’s faith is calculated in their favor, putting them in the right.” (Rom. 4:4-5)  The NLT is very blunt saying, “When people work, their wages are not a gift, but something they have earned. But people are counted as righteous, not because of their work, but because of their faith in God who forgives sinners” (Rom. 4:4-5 ).

The Message declares, “…if you see that the job is too big for you that it’s something only God can do, and you trust him to do it……well, that trusting him to do it is what gets you right with God, by God.  Sheer gift” (vs 3-4 – The Message).  Calculate comes from the Latin word for count.  To calculate is to count on something  having a particular effect.  In this case, its a matter of a right relationship with God.   Men, do you find yourself  managing our spiritual life, calculating whether or not belief and effort would make you more acceptable  to God. I learned years ago from John and Paula Sandford that this is getting caught up in “performance orientation.”  I can still get caught in this trap.

In applying our natural abilities and spiritual gifting, we can easily calculate how well we think we are doing based on our compulsion. It just comes naturally.  What would it be for you?   Mine is that of a “people pleaser.” I can easily become compulsive in caring for others.  Even worse, it is all about me and my performance.  This only reinforces my ego strength.  I  simply work harder at being a  caring individual.  The worse I feel  spiritually the more I can  get on the tread mill of people pleasing.  But it is  never enough.  Even worse, I will perform spiritually to please God.  The Lord, of course, is not impressed with my efforts.  How would you identify the manner you try to please God with your performance?

I have reformed a lot of my compulsive spiritual behavior.  But my wife will tell you, that I can still get on the tread mill of performance orientation.  So what has helped in the lessening of my compulsion.  First, is the realization that my walk with God is based not on a contract (how I perform) but rather on receiving a gift (all grace).  Operating with a contrast, I have to work to earn favor with God.  I’ve had to learn to simply trust in God accepting me as a sinful man.  I marvel at the generosity of God. It is “sheer gift.”

Secondly, the  gift can only be received when in silent before God I hear that I are his beloved.  Beyond your thoughts, perceptions, and feelings I am loved.  I gratefully declare that I am “a beloved sinner.”  Thirdly,  learing to  live freely in the open space of God’s love for me. Here I cry out daily for God to be merciful to me, his beloved sinner.  What matters is my intentions.  If I desire to grow in Christlikeness, God’s mercy will be sufficient in rescuing me when I get  on the tread mill of performance.

Thick or Thin

Recently, David Brooks wrote an editorial in the New York Times entitled, “How to leave a mark on people.”  “Some organizations are thick, and some are thin,” Brooks explains.  “Some leave a mark on you, and some you pass through with scarcely a memory…a thick institution becomes part of a person’s identity and engages the whole person – head, hands, heart and soul.”  According to Brooks, thick organizations often share a physical location, where people meet regularly, face to face.  Thick institutions often have and practice shared rituals – such as fasting or reciting a song or a theme.  “Thin institutions,” observes Brooks, “tend to see themselves horizontally.  People are members for mutual benefit.  Thick organizations often see themselves on a vertical axis.  People are members so they can collectively serve the same higher good.”

The thick –  thin analogy helps in defining a  healthy spirituality climate for men.  With the  thinning of church life in a post-Christian culture, men need and are looking for a thick community  A very good example of a thin community  is the suggestion recently by Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg of the possibility of Facebook providing  community and a sense of belonging, filling the gap left by falling church membership.  Connecting over the internet will never produce the thickness needed for community.  There is no sense of God’s presence or the practice of interpersonal relationships.

When I thought of the thickness of  spirituality I thought of  C. S Lewis’s  quote regarding the presence of God. “The Presence of God is the most real thing we ever encounter.  If we are to have an appropriate image of God’s presence, we should envision God’s presence as something heavier than matter.”  It is what Leanne Payne calls the “unseen real.” We can’t see or feel  the Presence of God, not because it’s unreal or not there.  We can’t see it because the reality of God would blind us.  But this reality, the presence of God  lives within us. God’s Spirit living  within and among us makes for a thick community.

This was Paul’s prayer for us.  “I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith” (Eph. 3:16-17).  Rick Richardson gives testimony to this reality in his life. “When I began to take to heart Lewis’s  insights, my soul expanded….My soul came alive….My mind had new ways to imagine the substance and beauty of the heaviness of the Spirit of God…..God’s spirit is more real than flesh and blood.”  He goes on to say, “I feel more sound, more right, more solid at the center of my being.”  Now that is a dose of thick spirituality.

Here are a few things that would make for a thick community of men.  First and foremost, would be the Lordship of Jesus Christ.  Men would be expected to surrender daily to the Lord Jesus.  Egos are checked at the door.  Men come humbly together at the foot of the cross in surrender.   Remember God opposes the proud, but give grace to the humble.  Secondly, the insistence of acknowledging  we are sinner, being helpless in changing ourselves.  “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (I John 1:8).   Third, the willingness to take up our cross, meaning that we each have our unique spiritual battles and habitual sin patterns that we struggle with.  We need the help and encouragement of other men.  “If anyone would come after men, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me” (Matt 16:24).

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