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 2017

Unauthorized Fire

I am still cleaning up after the huge wind storm from the summer of ’16,  which took down many big trees on our property.  This fall I have already burned 24 “brush piles.”  So I have spent a lot of time with fire.  While tending to fires, I’ve had a lot of time to think, pray, and simply watch what fire does to those big plies of wood.  John of the Cross’s image of God’s fire consuming wood has continually challenged me to walk in purity before the Lord.  Wood consumed by fire becomes fire. It is transformed.

I thought about God being “a consuming fire” and having that fire in my heart.  Remember John, the Baptist said of Jesus, “He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire” (Luke 3: 16).  Later Jesus warned, “I’ve come to start a fire on this earth” (Luke 12:49 -Message).  When the Spirit was given on Pentecost, those present, “saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them” (Acts 2:4).  I Cor. 3:13 indicates that our life style will be tested by fire. “It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man’s work.” Paul warns, “Do not put out the Spirit’s fire”( I Thess 5:19).

In the Old Testament fire on the altar was never to go out.  “The fire on the altar must be kept burning; it must not go out.  Every morning the priest is to add firewood and arrange the burnt offering on the fire…” (Lev. 6:12).   There was to be no “strange” or “unauthorized” fire on altar, that is, fire not authorized by God.  Numbers 10:1 tells of Aaron’s sons Nadab and Abihu taking their censers, putting fire in them, adding incense, and them offering unauthorized fire before the Lord.  As a result, “fire came out from the presence of the Lord and consumed them, and they died before the Lord” (Numbers 10:2).

It is tempting for me to try and make myself alive spiritually with unauthorized fire. I call it “cranking it up.”  But I can’t  keep the flame burning. It is kindled by the Holy Spirit from within.  My part is in yielding to the movement of the Spirit in my heart.  I need to be aware when I am trying to lite my own fire.  It will always be” unauthorized.”  We read in Isaiah 50:19-20 ( Message), “For anyone out there who doesn’t know where you’re going, anyone groping in the dark, here’s what: Trust in God…….But if all you’re after is making trouble, playing with fire, go ahead and see where it gets you. Set your fires, stir people up, blow on the flames.  But don’t expect me to just stand there and watch.  I’ll hold your feet to those flames.”  I have often blown on the flames only to get burned.

When I sit, tending the fire so all the wood will be properly burned, I still need to respect how the fire will burn.  I remember  God is a “consuming fire” in my life.  Because of his great love,  my heavenly Father desires to burn the religious junk out of my life.   My perspective of the burning will be much different then that of my Father.  Being aware of his love and mercy for me, should make me thankful for the burning.  “An do you see how thankful we must be?  Not only thankful, but brimming with worship, deeply reverent before God.  For God is not an indifferent bystander.  He’s actively cleaning house, torching all that needs to burn, and he won’t quit until it’s all cleansed.  God himself is Fire! (Heb 12:28-29 – Message).

No Break in the Men

As a fairly well integrated elderly male, I disagree with comments made by  former First Lady, Michelle Obama at a recent conference in Chicago. She wondered publicly whether society may be protecting men to believe they  are “entitled” and “self-righteous.”  The focus, in her opinion, has been  on raising strong girls and protecting boys. “The problem in this world today,” observed Ms. Obama, “is we love our boys and we raise our girls…..We raise them [girls]  to be strong and sometimes we take care not to hurt men…..We nurture men and push girls to be perfect.”

I  have  a different perspective on how men and boys are being raised in our culture.  I do agree there should be a concerted emphasis on raising strong girls, encouraging  them to secede.  But to say, on the other hand, that men and boys are being protected, so as not to hurt them is simply not true.  The current cultural mandate, as expressed by third wave feminism is certainly not to “nurture” men, while loving our boys.  I don’t think many men, especially younger men, feel entitled or self-righteous.  Rather men are confused, feel threatened, and insecure.  They need other godly men, not feminist to help them “man up.”

My argument with Ms. Obama would be, why not strive for both strong men and strong women.  That would be the implications of Galatians 3:28, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”  God never intended one to be more superior then the other.  Rather, together as male and female, we are to reflect the likeness of God. “When God created human beings, he made them to be like himself.  He created them male and female, and he blessed them and called them human” (Genesis 5:1-2).

There was one piece of advise Ms. Obama gave in her remarks, however, in which I agree.  She implied that men need to be more relational.   “Men,” she observed, “need a support network of friends” to be able to talk with each other.  In a rather sarcastic tone she said, “Talk about why Y’ll are the way you are.”  I totally agree.  I have said this often in my blogs.  Men need to get together, tell their stories, listen to each other pain, and cry out to God for help in the healing of their masculine  souls. And yes, I agree that men need to repent of any sense of “entitlement” or “self-righteousness.” Through a secure masculine soul, men need to be able to narrative their story as both servants and warriors in our confused culture.

I refuse to except the idea that men need to be protected or nurtured  by strong women.  Together men need to rise up and take their rightful place in God’s order of creation. I read recently a quote from John Steinbeck’s “The Grapes of Wrath,”  about  men not breaking.  “Men stood by their fences and looked at the ruined corn, drying fast now, only a little green showing through the film of dust.  The men were silent and they did not move often.  And the women came out of the house to stand beside their men – to feel whether this time the men would break….After a while the faces of the watching men lost their bemused perplexity and became hard and angry and resistant.  Then the women knew that they were safe and that there was no break…Women and children know deep in themselves that no misfortune was too great to bear if their men were whole.”

Lord strengthen the souls of men reading this blog, so that they will not break in the coming days.

Emotional Labor

In a recent article in Harper’s Bazaar entitled, “Women Aren’t Nags – We’re just Fed up,” Gemma Hartley, talks about the disappointment of her husband not doing enough of the emotional labor in their marriage  –  all of the behind-the-scenes planning and thoughtfulness that goes into a life run smoothly.  Hartley and many others feel women bear a uneven and unfair amount of this work. Men are often thought of as clueless husbands and fathers who can’t do anything right.

These images of men are often depicted in commercial advertising.  There is a name of it: “Femvertising.”  “The ‘man as a dope’ imagery has gathered momentum over the last decade, and critics say that it has spiraled out of control.  It is nearly impossible, they say, to watch commercials or read ads without seeing helpless, hapless men.”  This was written in 2007.  The trend continues in our day.

Hartley admitted in the article that she did not “want to micromanage housework.  I want a partner with equal initiative.”  When I read this article, I could not help but think of the countless sessions I’ve spent with young couples getting married.  I usually had a time when I asked if they knew the emotional needs of the other and how to meet those needs. Most of the time they had no clue as what this meant.  In this blog I want to focus on the husband’s meeting the emotional needs of his wife.  In nearly every session, when I helped a man to  understand what the basic emotional needs of his soon to be wife were, the woman would always agree.

That need is stated simply: “to be number #1 in the husband’s life.”  This means that the husband thinks of  his bride as the  most wonderful woman on the face of the earth.  He tell  her often in many creative ways, demonstrating this sentiment by the way he treated her.  Her security is  knowing that she comes before anything else in her future husband life except the Lord.  I would remind the young man that he will  have to demonstrate this in thought, word and deed.  This meant that his ego needs would have to be surrendered before those of his wife.  Ephesians 5:22-ff makes this abundantly clear.

Men, after 52 years of marriage, along  with years in pastoring couples, I am absolutely convinced that the emotional needs of a man and woman in the marriage dance are different.  Learning the emotional steps of the marriage dance is paramount. My task has been to put Judy first on my priority list, demonstrate that truth in word, deed, and emotional involvement, dying  to my rights and desires, and willing to be a  servant to Judy  as my help mate.  I can testify that it will take care of most of “the emotional load” issues.  In other words, I am to take the initiative in meeting the emotional needs of my wife.  Most often the wife will respond in kind.

This simple principle making my wife number #1 is easy to define, but very difficult to live out in the tugs and pulls of marriage.  For me it has meant continues repentance of my improper behavior and attitude.  I have to set the emotional tone for our marriage dance.  The Message in Ephesians 5:25 gets right to the point. “Husbands, go all out in your love for your wives, exactly as Christ did for the church – a love marked by giving and not getting.” If a husband is willing to follow this advise from the Apostle Paul, a lot of the struggles relating to carrying the emotional load would be resolved.

Uncle Tims

Helen Smith in her book, “Men on Strike” writes  about “Uncle Tims.”  “An Uncle Tim is a male sellout who kowtows to feminists because he’s (a) just as left-wing as they are and thus agrees with the feminist worldview, or (b) too weak to stand up for himself and know that if he says anything he’s not suppose to, he won’t  get sex.”  Suzanne Venker comments Uncle Tims,  “are often the ones who lose in the end because all too often feminist wives regret their choice to make their marriage androgynous – and the men who give up their manhood, because they thought that’s what women and society wanted – are left in the dust.”  In other words, a feminized man.

An Uncle Tim in Britain, (artist Grayson Perry) put it this way, “I sometimes watch the evening news on television and think  all of the world’s problems can be boiled down to one thing: the behavior of people with a Y chromosome….The consequences of rogue masculinity are, I think, one of the biggest issues, if not the biggest issues, facing the world today.”  He advocates “resistance” in combating toxic masculinity. “Resistance needs to be woven into every moment, every thought, observation, and act.”  Mr. Perry finds himself questioning everything about his masculinity.  This is the sorry life of an Uncle Tim, having become feminized.

In an OpEd in the NY Times Richard Reeves and Isabel Sawhill made this amazing statement. “The old economy and the old model of masculinity are obsolete.  Women have learned to become more like men.  Now men need to learn to become more like women…cramped gender roles are bad for women.  It is becoming obvious that now they are hurting men, too.” The implication is that men should become feminized.  Uncle Tims will end up losing their masculine soul,  not being able to meet the emotional  needs of the women in their lives since they are now feminized.

I predict that there will be greater confusion regarding gender and the relationship between male and female.  As I have said often in my blogs, the key to bringing some sense of clarity to the roles of the male is for men to take the initiative in finding restoration for their masculine soul.  It means reaching back to the orders of creation, being made male and female in the image of God. Only then can men learn to relate compassionately to the feminine in our culture today.

This initiative will include the following essential elements.  First, and foremost men need to  find security and affirmation in their God-given masculine soul.  The masculine can not be swept away like some left over remnant of an oppressive past.  We need to reclaim our masculine soul for ourselves not embracing the distorted feminine perception.

Secondly, admit our failure to meet the needs of women.  Acknowledge how we have failed.  Men secure in their masculinity will not be defensive when faced with the anger of the feminine.  They are in the business of resurrecting the true masculine, while renouncing the distorted masculine of the past.

Thirdly, work at being sensitive and caring, but doing so from the healed masculine soul.  An authentic  male voice and spirit, not an feminized male voice is desperately need in our day.

Fourthly, this initiative needs to be  expressed with humility, brokenness, and forbearance due to the pain and brokenness women have experience from other men.  Sincere, open-hearted males can by their presence bring healing to wounded, closed-hearted women.

Fifthly, ask God for wisdom in knowing how to navigate the gender roles in your sphere of influence.  It will not be easy.  But it is our time to arise and shine for the  Lord.

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