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: February 2018

The Silence Breakers

Time magazine has named “the Silence Breakers” its persons of the year for 2017, referring to the women who have come forward with harassment charges.  The magazine’s editor in chief, Edward Felsenthal believes the #MeToo movement represents the “fastest-moving social change we’ve seen in decades, and it began with individual acts of courage by women and some men too.”  Tarana Burke, who created the Me Too mantra and the actress Alyssa Milano, who helped promote it are now focused on what was still left to do.

“I’ve been saying from the beginning that it’s not just a moment, it’s a movement….The hashtag is a declaration.  But now we’re poised to really stand up and do the work.”  Ms. Milano adds, “I want companies to take on a code of conduct, I want companies to hire more women, I want to teach our children better….these are all things that we have to set in motion, and as women we have to support each other and stand together and say that’s it, we’re done, no more.”

I am concerned about the mistrust the #MeToo movement can cause between men and women.  Christian men can be on the forefront in bringing healing. “Distrust is becoming like a disease,” wrote one observer, ” infecting our most foundational relationship as a people, the building block of a free, civil society – the relationship between men and women…… Men are seen as ‘the enemy’ an embodied deviance that must be remolded into the image of a woman.  Their sexuality is assumed to be naturally brutal, a threat to be controlled and reduced for the individual man to be considered safe.”

Christian men should, in our day,  rise up in “the spirit and power  of Elijah” similar to John the Baptist.  The angel told John’s father Zechariah, “He will be a man with the spirit and power of Elijah…… He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children and he will cause those who are rebellious to accept the wisdom of the godly” (Luke 1:17 NLT).  Once out in the wilderness John said of himself, “I am the voice of one calling in the desert, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord'” (John 1:23).

We live in a sexual wasteland, in which broken relationships bring untold pain. Godly men, in “the spirit and power of Elijah,” can be a voice in the wasteland, calling for healing between men and women.  Men by their presence and attitude can make a way straight in the  sexual wilderness for men and women alike.  Here are a few suggestions.

First, men will live confidently out of their masculine soul.  No apologies needed  for being a man. They will walk comfortably in their affirmed masculine soul.

Second, men will allow their  identity to be shaped and formed by the Spirit of God, Scripture and other godly men, not by a culture that wants to remake men into the image of the  feminine.

Third, men will humbly acknowledge the harm they have caused acting as predators.  They will be sensitive  to the pain and misgivings many women have regarding men.  By being “strong and tender” they will seek to  win the trust of wounded women, while acknowledging some women will refuse acceptance because of  their wounds.

Fourth, men will work alongside hurting women, bringing the much needed healing voice of the masculine.

Fifth, men will  keep close check on their own sexuality.  They will not fear, deny or disregard their sexual passions, but will rather have their desires purified by the Spirit  God

Finally, men will live in forgiveness knowing that they will be rejected and misunderstood for simply being a man.

Liquid Modernity and the mudslide

Are you familiar with the term “liquid modernity.” It helps in discerning the drift of our nation.  The  concept is credited to the late Polish sociologist Zygmunt Baumen, who believed the term, “postmodern” did not accurately describe what was happening in today’s world.  “Liquid modernity” was more accurate in  describing the constant mobility and change in relationships, identities, and global economics in contemporary society.  Instead of referring to modernity and postmodernity, he saw a transition from solid modernity to a more liquid form of social life.

In liquid modernity, Os Guinness points out, “we have moved from the fixed world of tradition and identity to the fluid world of modernity, where everything always changes and nothing keeps it shape for very long.”  We live in a modern liquid world where liquid lives and liquid loves are “protean,” always liable to change.  The  only constant is change.  The  only certainty is uncertainty.  With the loss of spiritual and moral moorings, we experience what  Guinness calls  “the mudslide effect.”

Baumen maintains that we have moved from a period in which we understood ourselves as “pilgrims” in search of deeper meaning to one where we act as “tourists” in search of multiple but fleeing social experiences. Rod Dreher calls it “Nomadism,” because a general trait of the ‘liquid modern’ man is his flowing through life like a tourist, changing places, jobs, spouses, values, and sometimes more – such as political or sexual orientation – excluding himself from traditional networks of support, while also freeing himself from the restrictions or requirments those networks impose.” Are you caught in the mudslide of liquid modernity, drifting like  a confused tourist, rather then a pilgrim, who knows, “here we do not have an enduring city, but we are looking for the city that is to come” (Heb 13:14).

Guinness ask, “What are the causes for the mudslide?”  He identifies “the three dark Rs,.” which help us discern if we are caught in a mudslide.

First, “a radical relativizing of claims and certainties through which postmodernism reduces all truths to the level of undecidable.”  If you are going to avoid the mudslide, you will have to determine in your mind what is the truth.  Is your view of reality anchored in Scripture.  Psalm 33: 4 proclaims, “For the word of the Lord is right and true; he is faithful in all he does,” while verse 9 tells us, “For he spoke and it came to be; he commanded and it stood firm.”  Since my conversion back in 1960, I have submitted my mind to the final authority of Scripture, which reflects “objective reality.”  I don’t want to get caught in the mudslide of relativism.

The second, “a range of choices, producing noncommitment and a “nonbinding preference for the moment.”  I have been fortunate to have men in my life who have modeled total commitment to the Lord.  They have challenged me to do that same.  I intend to finish strong.  I take heart in Paul’s final words to the Elder at Ephesus, “However, I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me – the task of testifying to the gospel of God’s grace” (Acts 20:24).

The third, “an unprecedented rapidity of change which turns modern life into a grand liquidizer of solidities.” Is there a solid firm place for a man to stand? Yes!  Years ago reading Corrie Ten Bloom’s book, “The Hiding Place” I took great comfort in Ps 32:7, “You are my hiding place; you will protect me from trouble and surround me with songs of deliverance.”  In Ps 91:1 the palmist describes being able to “rest in the shadow of the Almighty.”

Google and Jesus

Recently Google has had a hard time identifying Jesus.  Google’s popular virtual assistant  identified Allah and Buddha but not Jesus.   “Google, who is Allah?” one Google user asked on a now-viral Facebook video.  “According to Wikipedia, in Islamic theology God is the all-powerful, all knowing creator, sustainer, ordainer and judge of everything in existence,” the virtual assistant replied. But when she asked Google who Jesus Christ was, the devise replied, “Sorry, I don’t know how to help with that yet.”  And when she asked who Jesus was, the device responded, “Sorry, I’m not sure how to help.”

“The reason the Google Assistant didn’t respond with information about ‘Who is Jesus’ or ‘Who is Jesus Christ’ wasn’t out of disrespect but instead to ensure respect,” Google said in a statement.  Google  also said that content from certain topics can be vulnerable to vandalism and spam.  “We’re exploring different solutions and temporarily disabling these responses for religious figures on the Assistant” Google said.  I wonder if Jesus is a threat to Google?

Imagine a sophisticated tech company such as Google not having information on the most significant person in human history, Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, who came and lived among us. We read in Hebrews 1:3, “The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word.”  Paul tells us, “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation…..For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him” (Col 1:15 & 19).

How could Google be so ill informed about Jesus.  For almost 2000 years it has been the settled conviction and belief of millions of followers that  Jesus Christ, was indeed God in the flesh.  You might not like this idea, you might not want to have  Jesus influencing millions of devout followers, and you might even not like Christians.  But to say we can’t help, can only mean one thing: “We want to get rid of Jesus and his influence.”

This is a striking  example of what has happened so quickly in our culture.  The public square is now influenced by strong voices in the dominant media who want to erase the influence of Jesus Christ from the affairs of our nation.  Men, be warned.  Don’t let yourself be like the frog who was in the pot with the fire burning underneath, slowly bringing it to a boil.  The frog didn’t realize the great danger he was in, until it was to late.

Maybe Google has fixed this glitch in its “Google Home” smart speakers.  Personally,  I don’t buy the idea that this was an issue of respect.  To ignore the influence of Jesus, while acknowledging Allah, is certainly showing disrespect to millions of very devout followers of Jesus all over the world.  When I read of this incident, I thought of Paul’s warning to young Timothy, “The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and thing taught by demons” (I Tim 4:1)  Later  he describes the times in even more detail, “But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves…..rather than lovers of God – having a form of godliness but denying its power.  Have nothing to do with them” ( II Tim. 3:1 & 4-5).

Remember men, “The one enthroned in heaven laughs; the Lord scoff at them”  (Ps 2:4)  Who?  “The kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers gather together against the Lord and against his Anointed One” (Ps 2:4).  God says of Jesus, “I have installed my King on Zion, my holy hill” (Ps 2:6). God will have the last laugh, not google.

Ash Work

I have mentioned in previous blogs the influence  of Robert Bly’s book “Iron John” on my journey when I was in my mid 40’s.  In the Iron John story, the boy, whom we know to be a king’s son, leaves the security of his parents and rides off on Iron John’s shoulders.  On his journey the boy comes to realize that he doesn’t have any skills to support himself.  He ends up working for a cook in the basement of another castle, carrying wood and water, and taking out the ashes.  This was a dirty, humble, menial job.

Bly pointed out that there comes a time in a man’s life, usually at mid-life, when a man has to carry out the ashes.  This is the time of life when we face failure, disappointment, humiliation, tragedy, illness or some other experience that is humbling and disorientating.  I know for me, it was the collapse of a significant ministry in Des Moines, Iowa.  I felt defeated. The ministry in establishing a charismatic Lutheran Church all came tumbling down.   I gave up what I called, “The big Deal” because it had been more about me then the Lord.  I went to Northern Minnesota.  In Richard Rohr’s words, “I had built my tower and now God was asking me to jump of the tower.”  It was hard to be in “free fall.”.

Recently,  I read of Tiger Woods return to the golf tour at the Hero World Challenge.  ESPN writer Jason Sobel writes, “What he is ready for is the underdog role.  The guy who has endured so many surgeries he shouldn’t be able to walk….It’s as if his rigid exterior has melted, revealing a softening core.  He has stared career mortality in the face on multiple occasions.”  I’m not sure, but it looks like Tiger has carried out some ashes.  Has he turned to the Lord in the process.  We don’t know.  But he has been humbled.  That’s doing your ash work.

I seriously started carry out my ashes in Des Moines over 30 years ago in my 40’s.   As Rohr is fond of saying,  “A man has to eat his sin.”  I mark it as one of the two or three signature periods of my life.  The emotional pain was significant, while my spiritual orientation became like a “dark night of the soul.”  It last for about three years, before I could climb out of the “slim pit.”   It brought a comforting peace, a inner spaciousness and a willingness to just be myself without having to prove my spirituality.

For any  younger men reading this blog who is doing “ashes work,” take courage.  The darkness and disorientation is a necessary stripping away of your false religious self.  What hurts is the religious part.  No one was more invested in his false spiritual persona then I was, as a gun-ho evangelical, charismatic Lutheran pastor in a city church, that was thought of as a “lighthouse” ministry in the ELCA.  It all can crashing down. I had to face the humiliating fact that my spirituality was hallow, empty and without substance.

The Psalmist talks about it as being in a “slimy pit.”  “I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me, and heard my cry.  He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand’ (Ps 40:1-2).  My advice.  Don’t lose your focus on the Lord, no matter how much it hurts.  Allow yourself to be humbled, by others and your circumstance, and cry out to God for mercy.  He will rescue you from the pit.

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