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 2017

Sex Is Surefire

These are the words of Hugh Hefner, the founder of Playboy, who recently passed away.  Eleven years ago, on Hefner’s 80th birthday, Charles Colson observed,  “Hugh Hefner did more than anyone else to turn America into a great pornographic wasteland.”  I remember as a young man in the 60’s having to deal with the erotic  mystic of Playboy magazines.  I can still visualize some of my struggles with the lure of the playboy center folds.

Camille Paglia, my favorite feminist,  maintains that magazines like Playboy represented “the brute reality of sexuality.” It is the unregenerate erotic urge found in  the male soul.   “Pornography,” says Paglia, “… is not a sexist twisting of the facts of life but a kind of peephole into the roiling, primitive animal energies that are at the heart of sexual attraction and desire.”  As a Christian man, with a biblical view of sex, I view this as a distortion of  sex as God’s good gift.  “God saw all that he had made, and it was very good” (Gen. 1:31). Hefner said that he started Playboy as, “a personal response to the hurt and hypocrisy of our puritan heritage.” In rebellion against repression he advocated indulgence. Isn’t it possible for God’s love (agape) to redeem the erotic impulse?

Remember after the creation of man and women, Genesis 2:25 says, “The man and his wife were both naked and they felt no shame.”  It has taken me many years to come to peace witht the erotic energy of sex in my soul.  I felt it was like a fire inside my soul that had to either denied and avoided.  But I have learned that the answer is to redeem the energy of eros with the love of God (agape).  Eros is natural but it needs to be redeemed.  This can only happen if we acknowledge and embrace eros.

In those playboy pictures you could  feel “the intense sizzle of sexual polarization.”  Paglia calls it, ” that long-ago time when men were men and women were women.”  The erotic energy of the masculine, colliding with Playboy porn was explosive.  But Playboy is no more.   How is the Christian masculine soul dealing with  erotic energy today.  Pagila believes our gender-blending age as taken the sizzle out of sex.  The more the sexes have blended, the less each sex is interested in the other.  We live in a period of  complaint and dissatisfaction, resulting in sexual confusion and rancor regarding the genders.  Sexual energy has gone underground.  Rather then learning to embrace and integrate eros, today we are more confused then ever about sexuality.

Today Paglia sees, “men turning from women and simply being content with the world of fantasy because women have become too thin-skinned, resentful and high-maintenance.”  Could it be that men have abandoned sexual polarization, for the personal fantasy world of internet porn?  Ross Duothat believes, “Our era is less overtly sexually destructive in part because we are giving up on sex itself, retreating into pornography and other virtual consolations.”  There is less personal risk of failure in relationship to the feminine, if a man hides in the shadows of internet porn.

Paul exhorts us in I Thess 3-4, “Keep yourselves from sexual promiscuity.  Learn to appreciate and give dignity to your body, not abusing it, as is so common among those who know nothing of God.”  I know that this blog is read by many younger men.  My testimony is this.  I wish I would have come to peace with the erotic in my own soul years ago, learning to live with it in the “open spaces” of God’s light and grace.  I would have been a more healthy, passionate man both in marriage and life.

#MeToo

Recently actress Alyssa Milano used  twitter  to encourage women who’d been sexually harassed or assaulted to tweet “MeToo.”  She twitted, “If you’ve been sexually harassed or assaulted write ‘me too’ as a reply to this tweet.”  #MeToo has not only mushroomed on Twitter but it has flooded Facebook as well.  Milano was responding to a friend’s suggestion: “If all the women who have been sexually harassed or assaulted wrote ‘Me too’ as a status, we might give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem.”

This suggestion comes in the wake of the Harvey Weinstein scandal in Hollywood, exposing decades of harassment and multiple allegations of rape aimed at the big-name producer.  Popular Christian author Beth Moore tweeted, “A well meaning mentor told me at 25 that people couldn’t handle hearing about sexual abuse and it would sink my ministry.  It didn’t.  #MeToo.”  Moore decided to expand on the hashtag by suggesting how victims can get help.  “WeToo have a voice.  For all the times we were bullied into silence, we get to speak up and call wrong Wrong. #WeToo for fewer future,” she wrote.

#MeToo is,” as Sophie Gilbert wrote in The Atlantic, “simply an attempt to get people to understand the prevalence of sexual harassment and assault in society.”  It gives women and men as well, the opportunity to raise their voice in protest to sexual harassment and assault.

We read in Hebrews 13:3-4 from the Message: “Look on victims of abuse as if what happened to them happened to you.  Honor marriage, and guard the sacredness of sexual intimacy between wife and husband.  God draws a firm line against casual and illicit sex.”  Men let’s commit to moral purity and sexual integrity, aware of the vulnerability of women, while combating  the plague of sexual violence.

Our witness is greatly needed in this sexually confused and hurting society.  I agree with the challenge of David French, “Now is the time for Christians to leave their defensive crouch, to approach the public square with confidence.  A wounded and broken sexual culture searches for answers.  Who are we to withhold the truth?”

Our nation has lost it moral compass. Improper sexual behavior is only going to increase. More women will become victims of male predators.  “They’ve refused for so long to deal with God that they’ve lost touch, not only with God but with reality itself.  They can’t think straight anymore.  Feeling no pain, they let themselves go in sexual obsession, addicted to every sort of perversion” (Eph. 4:18-19 – Message).  This describe men who are like wolves in sheep’s clothing, intent on satisfying their unrighteous passions.

Men, I ask you to pledge with me to be a virtuous man when it comes to your public demeanor towards women.  Join me in 1) Giving thanks to God for the wonderful gift of sex, along with the guidance given to us in Scripture,  2) Being accountable to your wife for your moral purity and sexual integrity,  3) Purpose in your heart never to objectify other women in your life,  4) Ask God to build a wall of fire around you, so that other women know you are off-limits,  5) purpose to not flirt or countenance another women in an unrighteous manner,  6) ask for grace to avoid online porn, and 7) cry out to God for strength to remain pure and virtuous.

Remember Paul’s warning, “Since we want to become spiritually one with the master, we must not pursue the kind of sex that avoids commitment and intimacy, leaving us more lonely than ever” (I Cor 6:18 – Message).  Commit to being a “one-women man.”  Pray daily with your wife concerning the intimacy of your marriage. This includes body, soul and spirit.

Taking a Knee

Men are conflicted about  the NFL.   It has become a platform for politics and grievance.  Men are upset because one of their established bastions of male bonding and celebration, Pro football, is being invaded by a national controversy regarding the flag and the national anthem.  “We stand,” writes David French, “in respect because the flag represents a specific set of values and principles: that all men are created equal and that we are endowed with our Creator with certain unalienable rights.”

This controversy has forced me to elevate my fondness for  Pro football.  I enjoy watching and have used my interest as a bridge to connect with men.  But I need to  view NFL football more as casual entertainment that I can live without.  It can’t be a preoccupation in my life.  I wonder with John Stonestreet, why we have this present national preoccupation  when there are so many other pressing issues to focus on.  Could it be that we are witnessing a “descent into triviality.”  I certainly feel this when I listen to sport talk radio as I drive long miles to see our children’s families. Sport talk is dead serious about this issue.  It seems like idolatry because of the passion and commitment.

I keep thinking about Paul words in Philippians about kneeling. “….at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth” (Phil 2:10).  Could it be that men are caring more about things that aren’t important, while being distracted from things that truly are important.  Bending the knee implies an allegiance to someone.  I ask myself; “Are you willing Al, to kneel publicly out of reverence and submission to the Lord Jesus.”  If so, it will influence my attitude as to how others view the flag and our national anthem.  My commitment to Jesus helps keep this controversy in perspective.  I can be more objective, respecting why others use Sunday afternoon for accusation and grievance

I  wonder if some of the fuss about taking the knee during the national anthem among Christian men, is evidence that we might be  wrapping the flag to tightly around the gospel message.  While I consider myself to be a patriotic guy, I have a deeper allegiance to the kingdom of God.  The symbol of the cross has much more significance for me then the flag.  With Paul I pray, “May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world” (Gal. 6:13).

I also wonder if there isn’t an underlying, unspoken discontent with men in regards to the NFL.  When men are together enjoying the games, there is a kind of brotherhood that men long to experience.  The political correctness that has brought a  feminine perspective to the commentary of the game, seems like an invasion to many men.  Professional football is a male sport.  Women do not have the experience.  This is what Cam Newton meant when he said, “It’s funny to see a female talk about routes.”  He later had to apologize for this comment.

Again my contention is that if a man is secure and comfortable in his  masculine soul, he can navigate these “minefields” of controversy, without emotional attachment.  The invasion of the feminine is here to stay.  Political correctness is integral to our national dialogue. With “the mind of Christ” (Phil 2:16) we can find a solid place to stand and still be able to enjoy the NFL on Sunday afternoon.

Pope Benedict’s SOS

At the recent funeral of Cardinal Meisner in  Germany, retired Pope Benedict had a short message read from him.  It included this telling paragraph:  “We know that this passionate pastor and shepherd found it particularly difficult to leave his post, especially at a time in which the Church stands in particularly pressing need of convincing shepherds who can resist the dictatorship of the spirit of the age and who live and think the faith with determination….   in this last period of his life, he learned to let go and to live out of a deep conviction that the Lord does not abandon his church, even when the boat has taken on so much water as to be on the verge of capsizing.”

This is not the first time Pope Benedict has sounded an alarm regarding the health of the church.  Back in 2005, the then Cardinal Ratzinger spoke prophetically regarding the church in the West.  “……relativism, that is, letting oneself be ‘tossed here and there, carried about by wind of doctrine,” seems the only attitude that can cope with modern times.”  “We are building a dictatorship of relativism that does not recognize anything as definitive and whose ultimate goal consists solely of one’s own ego and desires.”  Then later as  Pope Benedict XVI he warned that the spiritual crisis the West faces is worse than anything since the fifth-century fall of the Roman Empire.

In 2010, as Benedict XVI, he  gave an address at Westminster Hall entitled  “the real challenge for democracy.”  He said: “If the moral principles underpinning the democratic process are themselves determined by nothing more solid than social consensus, the fragility of the process becomes all too evident.”  I personally believe the former Pope has courageously spoken as a prophet in an attempt to wake up the church in the West to the dangers it faces.

Christian Smith, a sociologist at Notre Dame, has found what he calls “Moralistic Therapeutic Deism” displacing authentic Christianity among American Christians.  The highest goal of MTD is being happy and feeling good about oneself.  It is a religious practice that suits a self-centered, consumerist culture.  “America has lived a long time off its thin Christian veneer,” observes Mr. Smith.  “That is all finally being stripped away by the combination of mass consumer capitalism and liberal individualism.”

Men, my advice, as it has been throughout my years as a pastor, is when we become  confused and uncertain due to the cultural storms, look to Jesus, cling to Jesus and cry out to Jesus for mercy.  Put yourself under the lordship of Jesus and rejoice that you are part of his everlasting kingdom being manifested in the earth.  Pray prayers of protection for yourself and your family.

Remember the words of Paul: “And so I insist – and God backs me up on this -that there be no going along with the crowd, the empty-headed, mindless crowd. They’ve refused for so long to deal with God that they’ve lost touch not only with God, but with reality itself.  They can’t think straight anymore.  Feeling no pain, they let themselves go in sexual obsession, addicted to every sort of perversion” (Eph 4:17-19 – Message).

Take this warning to heart.  Be careful not to absorb the conflicting narrative of the dominant culture.  Separated from ultimate truth, it become “empty-headed” and “mindless,” out of touch with reality, and unable to think straight.  Often the result is to become obsessed with sexuality and perversion.  Rather, look to, cling to and cry out to Jesus.

The Nashville Statement

In this  blog I  am wading into some turbulent waters regarding human sexuality.  The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood (CBMW)  released a new declaration,  reasserting the significance of biological sex and traditional marriage over society’s growing LGBT acceptance.   “The Nashville Statement”  has generated a  mixed reception from evangelical leaders.  The statement defends the importance of our creation as male and female, as it relates to issues regarding marriage, same-sex attraction, relations, and self-understanding, and transgender persons and transgenderism.   I encourage you to read the statement for yourself – Nashville Statement. org.

After some hesitation I want to express public approval of this statement.  The preamble states that our culture, “has embarked upon a massive revision of what it means to be a human being.”  Human identity as male and female is not longer seen as God’s plan, but rather, “an expression of an individual’s autonomous preferences.”  The question is asked, “Will the church…lose her biblical conviction, clarity, and courage, and blend into the spirit of the age…. .. Our true identity, as male and female persons, is given by God.  It is not only foolish, but hopeless, to try to make ourselves what God did not create us to be.”

Samuel D James expresses my sentiments when he observes, “The Nashville Statement is an attempt – an imperfect one! – at theological clarity.  It summarizes in direct language what these evangelicals believe about sex, marriage, and identity.  If it fails to speak accurately for every participant in this theological conversion, then we must acknowledge our own limitations and yearn for the day when we all shall know as we are known.”  Knowing it is difficult to deal with the complexities of transgenderism in a concise declaration,  the statement attempts to apply a “integrity lens” to the integrity of sex and gender as created by God.

This statement is a “line in the sand.”  Those who hold an orthodox faith have been too passive in the past regarding the sexual revolution and its effects upon our culture.  While  the content might seem too direct and uncompromising, it is a statement that is needed at this time in the life of bible believing Christians.  The president of CBMW observed the statement to be an “effort to produce a statement of evangelical unity on these matters that can serve as a reference point for the churches and Christian organizations that are looking for confessional language on these issues.”

My hope is that all the men who read this blog, will read the statement.  In my opinion it give biblical understanding to “the hyper-activity that is afflicting people on all sides of debates surrounding sex and sexuality.”  “We aren’t expressing some peculiar or eccentric claims of Christian theology,” noted Alastair Roberts, “but upholding creational realities that have been generally recognized across human ages.”

The Nashville statement is needed for clarification, when compared to a statement put out by a group calling itself “Christians United in Support of LGBT+ Inclusion in the Church.”  Their statement declares “A new day is dawning in the Church, and all Christians are being called to step out boldly and unapologetically in affirmation and celebration of our LGBT+ siblings as equal participants in the Kingdom of God.”  While the Nashville Statement might be too blunt, lacking pastoral empathy, its value, in my opinion, is in presenting a clear biblical expression of human sexuality.

Human sexuality and identify is not something we can agree to disagree on.  Paul exhorts  us in I Thess. 4:3-4 “Keep yourselves from sexual promiscuity.  Learn to appreciate and give dignity to your body, not abusing it, as is so common among those who know nothing of God.”

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