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: April 2018

GQ’s View of the Bible

Did you know that GQ Magazine has named the Bible one of the most overrated books in history.  The Bible is ranked No. 12 on the magazine’s list of 21 books you don’t have to read before you die.  “Some are racist and some are sexist, but most are just really, really boring,” noted the editors.  “We’ve been told all our lives that we can only call ourselves well-read once we’ve read the Great Books.  We tired.”

The magazine goes on to say the Bible,  “is certainly not the finest thing that man has ever produced.”  The Bible, they claim,  “is repetitive, self-contradictory, sententious, foolish, and even at times ill-intentioned.”  The best they can say is there are “some good parts,” all the while mocking those, “who supposedly live by it.”  Instead of the Bible, GQ recommends reading Agota Kristof’s The Notebook, “a marvelous tale of tow brothers who have to get along when things get rough.

In fact the Bible narrates for us the greatest story ever told.  God loved the world so much, that he sent his only Son to die for a fallen human race.  It is the Good News the world needs to hear.  Todd Starnes gave this rebuttal to the editors of GQ.  “And it’s also the best-selling book of all times – more than 5 billion copies sold, according to Guinness World Records, which also reports that the whole Bible has been translated into 349 languages and says at least one book of the Bible has been translated into 2, 123 languages.  Statistics Brain estimates even more Bibles has been printed – just over 6 million.”

Whether GQ realizes it or not, they are only confirming how Scriptures is viewed in our day.  “For the time is coming when men will not tolerate  wholesome teaching.  They will want someone to tickle their own fancies, and they will collect teachers who will speak what they want to hear.  They will no longer listen to the truth, but will wander off after man-made myths” (II Tim 4:3-4).  When the editors, out of sheer ignorance, say the bible is boring and they tired of reading it, they are only confirming the books listed “tickle their fancy” leading them into man-made myths, rather than knowing the truth that could set them free.

When I read of GQ’s attitude toward Scripture, I thought of the words of Isaiah 66:4, “This is the one I esteem: he who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at my word.”  When the people of Israel gathered at Mt. Sinai, we are told they all trembled. “On the morning of the third day there was thunder and lightening, with a thick cloud over the mountain, and a very loud trumpet blast.  Everyone in the camp trembled” (Ex. 19:16).  When the exiles returned to the promised land, they heard scripture being read to them.  We read of their response “Then all who trembled at the words of the God of Israel came and sat with me [Ezra] because of this outrage committed by the returning exiles” (Ezra 9:4 )

Men, remember that the Bile has authority because the authority of the triune God is exercised through its words. That is why we believers  tremble at God’s Word, rather then mock it authority.   N. T. Wright observes, “Scripture itself points – authoritatively, if it does indeed possess authority! – away from itself and to the fact that final true authority belongs to God,  now delegated to Jesus Christ.”  In a great line, Wright writes, “When John declares that “in the beginning was the Word.” he does not reach a climax with “and the word was written down” but “and the word became flesh.”

“Your Truth”

During this year’s Golden Globes, Oprah Winfrey gave an acceptance speech stirring the audience regarding the #MeToo movement.  “What I know for sure is that speaking your truth is the most powerful tool we all have.”  Later, she added, “For too long women have not been heard or believed if they dared to speak their truth to the power of those men.  But their time is up.”   Why is there a phrasing between “your truth” and “the truth.”  Your truth is a convenient way of “undermining the possibility of agreed-upon facts in favor of privatized, separate versions of reality.”

From the biblical perspective, there is no room for a privatized, individual, subjective notion of truth.  At Jesus’ trial, Pilate asked, “What is truth?” (John 18:38).   The Christian faith points to Jesus as the truth and that truth is found in relationship with Jesus, who declared, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life” (John 14:6).  Archbishop Charles Chaput reminds us, “Truth exists, whether we like it or not.  We don’t create truth; we find it, and we have no power to change it to our tastes.”  “The essential feature and necessity of life,” observes Malcolm Muggeridge, “is to know reality which means knowing God.”  Truth is found in a person and is supremely relational.

Jesus tells us, “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:38).  Men, I cannot stress  how vital it is to commit to putting your lifestyle and worldview under the  authority of Scripture, “For the Word that God speaks is alive and active; it cuts more keenly than a two-edged sword: it strikes through to the place where soul and spirit meet, to the innermost intimacies of a man’s being: it examines the very thoughts and motives of a man’s heart” (Heb. 4 :2 – Phillips).  We desperately need to know the truth about ourselves, even when it is painful.

The Word of God is a dynamic force that reveals the truth not only of outward reality, but also of our inner life.  Men pride themselves in being objective.  But let’s not kid ourselves.  When it comes to our inner life we live with uncertainty and confusion.  What we don’t understand, we tend to ignore, attempting to repress any impulse of the Holy Spirit that would bring awareness to the ignoble parts of our inner life.  David  declares, “O Lord, you have searched me and you know me” (Ps. 139:1).

God’s Word is like a  mirror helping us see ourselves as we really are. It helps reveal the  truth about ourselves – not simply “our truth.”   “The man who simply hears and does nothing about it is like a man catching the reflection of his natural face in a mirror.  He see himself, it is true, but he goes off without the slightest recollection of what sort of person he saw in the mirror. But the man who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and makes a habit of so doing, is not the man who hears and forgets.  He puts the law into practice and he wins true happiness” (James 1:23-25 – Phillips). In walking away we choose to live with our illusions, creating our version of the truth.

The soul can only flourish in reality.  When we prefer illusion (our truth), the soul does not receive the light and energy necessary to sustain the spiritual life.  Men, don’t live on the crumbs of your truth.  Embrace truth even when it hurts. “The Spirit can make life,” Jesus declared. “Sheer muscle and willpower don’t make anything happen.  Every word I’ve spoken to you is a Spirit-word, and so it is life-making” (John 6:63 – Message).

Facebook and the San Damiano Cross

Franciscan University of Steubenville (Ohio), a catholic college, explained recently on its website that it had posted a series of ads to promote its MA Theology and MA Catechetics and Evangelization programs, including one image featuring the San Damiano Cross with a crucified Jesus.  The administrator of the page received a notification from Facebook explaining  the image was banned: “Your image, video thumbnail or video can’t contain shocking, sensational or excessively violent content.”

The college acknowledged that the crucifixion described a man “executed God.”  It added, “It was shocking, yes: God designed to take on flesh and was obedient unto death, even death on a cross’ (Phil. 2:8). Obviously Facebook has little regard for a central tenant of historic Christianity.  Rather Facebook would see the cross as foolishness,  choosing to reject the symbol of a crucified Jesus.  Paul warned us, “The message of the cross is foolish to those who are headed for destruction! (I Cor. 1:18)  But he adds, “We who are being saved know it is the very power of God” (I Cor. 1:18).

Paul insisted that he would  “preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles…. for the foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man’s strength (I Cor. 1:23 & 25).  Writing to the Corinthians he vowed, “I decided that while I was with you I would forget everything except Jesus Christ, the one who was crucified” ( I Cor. 2:2).  Corinth was a very cosmopolitan city with all the notoriety of a port city, widely known for prostitution and other vices.  There was even a verb in Greek, “to act like a Corinthian” that referred to sexual immorality.

In this milieu, much like life in  contemporary America, Paul proclaimed Christ crucified.  It  was the “Good News” they needed to hear.  For Paul was convinced that, “Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God” ( I Cor. 1:23).  The evidence was found in Jesus’ death on the cross.  “This foolish plan of God is wiser than the wisest of human plans, and God’s weakness is stronger than the greatest of human strength” ( I Cor. 1:25).

Men, Facebook’s rejection of the cross is clear evidence of how much our culture has lost awareness of the “Good News.”  The bad news is observed daily on Facebook, especially in the portrayal of broken relationships.  There can be no Good News without a violent crucifixion.  Without the substitutionary death of Jesus on the Cross, there would be no hope for the human condition.  But God, by entering fully into the human condition in Jesus, took upon himself  the awful burden of sin, providing us salvation.  “And he personally bore our sins in his own body on the cross, so that we might be dead to sin and be alive to all that is good.  It was the suffering that he bore which has healed you” (I Peter 2: 24 – Phillips).

This incident with Facebook should actually be an encouragement to followers of Jesus.  Our culture is longing for some good news.  Is there a  solution to  our human predicament that seems only to be getting worse?  Like the Moravians, we are followers of the lamb who was slain.  God sacrificed his only Son, so that we might have good news to share.  “The whole outlook changes – sin used to be the master of men and in the end handed them over to death; now grace is the ruling factor, with its purpose making men right with God and its end the bringing of them to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” ( Rom. 5:21 – Phillips).

I Can Only Imagine

My wife and I recently went to see the movie, “I can only imagine.”  The film is based on the true story of how the lead singer for MercyMe, Bart Millard was lead to write the song after his father’s death from cancer.  The song has become the most played Christian radio single ever.  Since its release  on March 16th the movie has already grossed $60 million worldwide, making it one of the most successful Christian movies to date.  I strongly encourage the readers of this blog to see the movie.  I wish every young dad could see this moving  story of reconciliation between father and son

I have been a fan of MercyMe for many years. They are  real and authentic. The lyrics speak to the real life of men and their struggles.  It has a certain masculine tone compared to the “fluff” of much Christian music.  The fluff reaches  mostly the mind and emotions but not the soul, due to the absence of spiritual substance.  While driving on long trips I spend time being ministered to by groups such as MercyMe.  Recently “Even If” has ministered to my soul.

I was captivated by the story line.  It tells the story of  Bart’s struggle with being able to be reconciled with his Dad before his death.  Early on the movie portrays the physical and emotional abuse Bart experienced from his father.  He leaves home a bitter and angry young man.  He find himself as the lead singer in a traveling band.  However he is challenged by his manger, Scott Brickell to become more real, performing from his heart.  Brickell asked Bart, “What are you running from.”  Bart realizes it was the abuse he experienced from his father.  He is told that he must face his pain.

Bart eventually is reconciled with his father and goes on to have a  successful career as lead singer for MercyMe.  The story took me back to my early days as a pastor, when I was in my early thirties.  I had to forgive my father for not being there during my formative years,  when he was struggling with alcohol.  I had a hole and ache in my soul that no one could fill, not even my wonderful wife.  Through forgiveness, I learned to let my father go.  I came to love him for being my dad.  I never did receive the affirmation I craved from my Dad.  But through inner healing I came to an inner awareness  that I had a Father in heaven, “who was very fond of me.”

Because of my personal experience the themes of masculine affirmation and healing in the masculine soul have been  vital in my story.  At my age, visible position in ministry and energy to do ministry has faded.  But within I still have the  spiritual drive to reach the younger generation of men, with the healing message of Jesus and his kingdom.  Leanne Payne’s teaching on the masculine soul has been instrumental  in my healing and restoration.  In her last book “Heaven Calling” she wrote, what I consider prophetic words, “There is no greater need today than for knowledgeable and noble men in authority everywhere, capable of courageously speaking the truth both in the church in the public square.”

I take my  directive from the Lord in Ps 78:5-6, “For he issued his laws to Jacob, he gave his instructions to Israel.  He commanded our ancestors to teach them to their children, so the next generation might know them – even the children not yet born – and they in turn will teach their own children. So each generation should set its hope anew on God, not forgetting his glorious miracles and obeying his commands.”

The Forgotten Father

Leanne Payne in her  book “The Crisis of Masculinity,” quotes Thomas Wolfe:  “[T]he deepest search in life, it seemed to me, the thing that in one way or another was central to all living was man’s search to find a father, not merely the father of his flesh, not merely the lost father of his youth, but the image of a strength and wisdom external to his need and superior to his hunger, to which the belief and power of his own life could be united.”  Many men are without a father spiritually, even though Jesus taught us to pray, “Our Father who art in heaven.”

Donald Miller writes about growing up fatherless.  He confessed in his book “To Own a Dragon,” “I need to allow God to father me.  I needed to acknowledge him as Father and submit…..this meant admitting I wanted autonomy from God, admitting I wanted my own way and asking Him to change my heart.”  Have you allowed God to father you?

Men, you have a loving, gracious Father waiting to affirm you, wanting you to hear his words of affirmation, “I am very fond of you.”  In other words, through thick or thin, your heavenly Father is for you, waiting to guide you on a journey through life, planned from the foundations of the world.  “Long before he laid down earth’s foundations, he had us in mind, had settled on us as the focus of his love….” (Eph. 1:4 – Message)  Have you forgotten your heavenly Father on our journey?

I wonder if there are men reading this blog who feel fatherless, with a sense of being all alone, drifting without meaningful purpose in life.  Last week I wrote about the two son in Luke 15:15-32  The parable also give a wonderful description of  our heavenly Father.  Here are some characteristics.  Allow them to speak to your confused, searching and longing soul.  May it allow you to come home to the father.

First, the father understood the heart of his son.  The Father probably had known for some time that his son was unhappy under his roof.  He could not change his heart. The son had to come to his senses  the hard way.

Secondly, the father is gracious.  It was difficult to allow the son to leave with his inheritance. But the son left with no strings attached, thinking he knew better.  The father must have felt great sorrow for his son, knowing he would waste his inheritance in the far country.   But he had to let him find out for himself

Thirdly, the father waited.  The text tell us the father saw him, “while he was still a long way off.” (Luke 15:20).  The implication is that he looked every day, waiting and praying that his wayward son would turn towards home.  From a broken heart,  he grieved daily for his son

Fourthly, he had compassion for his son. “His father saw him and was filled with compassion for him” (Luke 15:21). There was no condemnation, shaming or lecturing.

Fifthly, the father was demonstrative toward his son.  “He ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him” (Luke 15:2o). The son must have been overwhelmed by his father affection.

Sixthly, the father  welcomes his young son home.  The son can’t even finish his rationale for coming home. He was received with open arms.

Seventhly, the father was affirming of his son.  “For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found” (Luke 15:24). He was still his son.

Finally, the father had a  celebration. “Let’s have a feast and celebrate” (Luke 15:24).  He dresses his young son in the finest attire,  removing any shame and humiliation.

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