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: May 2018

Convictional Minority

Ed Stetzer, the executive director of the Billy Graham Center at Wheaton College has articulated a helpful concept for living in post-Christendom – “Convictional Minority.”  Christendom assumes that a Christian worldview is the accepted view of culture.  This is no longer true. Peter addressed his first letter to “Strangers in the world” (I Peter 1:1), calling them “aliens and strangers in the world” ( I Peter 2:11).  Being a stranger today takes on a whole new meaning for me in comparison to my coming of age spiritual during the Jesus movement of the early 70’s.  “Let’s put this into the facts that we know about our population,” Stetzer suggests. “If the percentage of people who are nominally Christian is shrinking and nominal Christians become Nones, then we are dwelling in an increasingly secular land.”

Being part of a  conviction minority means we will be missionaries in a neo-pagan culture.  This can be a new and radical perspective for some men reading this blog.  The word “pagan” suggests we are living in occupied territory, where the essence of the gospel is unknown.  Knowing that we will be hate, Jesus prays that we will be protected from the evil one. “And the world hates them because they do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world.  I’m not asking you to take them out of the world, but the keep them safe from the evil one” (John 17:14-15)

Stetzer exhorts us to develop “gospel clarity.”  “Being labeled Christian,” notes Stetzer, “no longer means a ‘social Christian’, but instead it is someone who’s been changed by the power of the gospel.”  We are to live as soulful men rescued by grace and being conformed in the image of Christ .  “I urge you as strangers and exiles to abstain from sinful desires that wage war against the soul.  Conduct yourselves honorably among the pagans, so that when they slander you as evildoers, they will observe your good works and will glorify God on the day he visits” ( I Peter 2:11-12).  A soulful man will respond with love.  “What matters is something for more interior: faith expressed in love” (Gal. 5:6 – Phillips).

We live says Stetzer, “in an age of outrage.” Jesus warned of this outrage. “A brother is going to betray his own brother to death, and a father his own child.  Children will stand up against their parents and condemn them to death.  There will come a time when the whole world will hate you because you are known as my followers. Yet the man who holds out in the end will be saved” (Mark 13:1213). Outrage is a normal response among pagans.

We should be engaging the culture observes Stetzer less with “you owe me” and more with “How can I engage the culture we are in via the mission we are on?”  We should expect to be tested in our faith. “I beg you not to be unduly alarmed,” Peter tells us, “at the fiery ordeals which comes to test your faith, as though this were so abnormal experience.  You should be glad, because it means that you are sharing in Christ’s suffering” ( I Peter 4:12 – Phil).  Don’t expect to be warmly accepted among the unbelieving majority..

Russell Moore’s view is that America has not become so much “post-Christian” but rather a society in a “post-pretend-Christian” state.  Today we have the opportunity to view ourselves as missionaries on a mission field that is “pre-Christian.”  “It may be,” says Russell, “that this land is filled with people who, though often Christ-haunted, have never known the power of the gospel yet.”  A soulful man has confidence in the power of the gospel to change lives.

Jesus in a Box

Recently I was asked to preach in my church on rather short notice.  It was Saturday morning and Sunday is coming real soon.  I  pondered on what I should preach.  I settled on the Transfiguration of our Lord, partly because of the notes I had from past preaching on the text.  I choose to focus on Luke’s account in chapter 9.  I was still not sure about the direction of my preparation.

But when I woke up on Sunday morning, I had the key concept for the sermon.  It evolved around my remembrance of the title of a book widely read during the days of the Jesus Movement in the early 70’s.  The tile was “Good Old Plastic Jesus.”  I had the burden for the church to deal with the concept of appearance vs. reality.  If our faith practice is only having more helpful knowledge of Jesus, or doing more good for him, we can easily miss the heart connection with him.  Jesus can then become an idol in our mind, appearing as  “Good Old Plastic Jesus” rather then the real person, with whom we enjoy deep rationality.  We need to be careful not to put Jesus into our religious box.

Eight days after telling the disciples that he would die in Jerusalem and then rise again, Jesus took his inner circle, Peter, James and John, “onto a mountain to pray.” As Jesus was praying, “the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes become as bright as a flash of lightening” ( Luke 9:29).  Matthew tells us, “His face shone like the sun” (Matt. 17:3).  Jesus was transfigured. The glory of his divine nature shone through his human nature. Moses and Elijah appeared in “glorious splendor” taking about Jesus departure after his death. This was truly a glorious event.

Did Jesus know this would happen to him?  Knowing his disciples were perplexed concerning  his impending death in Jerusalem and his call for them to lose their life, in order to find it, Jesus was drawn to be with his Father.  The three disciples were deeply impacted by their experience on the mountain.  Later Peter wrote, “we were eyewitnesses of his majesty.  For he received honor and glory from God the Father when the voice came to him from the Majestic Glory, saying, ‘This is my Son, whom I love, with him I am well pleased'” II Peter 1:18).

At the time of the Transfiguration, Peter took charge.  “‘Master, this is a great moment!  Let’s build three memorials, one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.’  He blurted this out without thinking” Luke 9:33 – Message).  What was Peter doing?  He was, in a sense, building a box for Jesus.  The disciples didn’t want Jesus to die.  They weren’t sure what Jesus meant when he said, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me” (Luke 9:23).

“While he was babbling on like this, a light-radiant cloud enveloped them.  As they found themselves buried in the cloud, they become deeply aware of God.  Then there was a voice out of the cloud: ‘This is my Son, he Chosen! Listen to him” (Luke 9:35).  When the sound of the voice died away, the disciples saw Jesus there alone.

The implication for us as men is this – beware of  your spiritual improvement projects when we use Jesus, rather then let him be Lord.  The voice is saying to us, listen to Jesus.  He is my Son.  Out of love for you, God will place you in “The Cloud of Unknowing” for your own good.  Stay there and listen.  Don’t act on your own understanding.  It could be another religious box.

A Sibling Society

Back in 1996 Robert Bly wrote a book entitled “The Sibling Society” in which he portrayed our culture as  being obsessed by youth, suspicious of  authority, intent on wanting to destroy “vertical” culture, especially any sense of patriarchy. Their desire was to  replace it with a  “horizontal” culture expressed by pop music, movies, TV, student-style politics and in our day, the social media.  For better or worse, the watershed moment was 1968.

“The sibling society stands  in contrast to what preceded it,” observed John Waters, “the father-oriented society in which authority was unafraid to speak or to be despised by the young for so doing.”  He defines authority as “the capacity to endure unpopularity in the interests of the good.” Authority expressed in fatherhood invited resentment and rebellion.  “The father” notes Waters, “was the guarantor and custodian of civilization, and even malcontented youth looked to him for guidance, free to remonstrate in the knowledge that affection would not be withdrawn.”  But today the father figure is mostly absent or suspect, leaving a hole in the souls of young men, now being invaded by the demons of a anti-Christian culture.

The Jordon Peterson phenomena comes to mind when there is talk of a “father figure.”  Peterson is speaking to the soul of  young men, who are looking for a strong, confident masculine voice to give them direction in a culture that has given the masculine little hope of finding a sense of being. There is much to disagree with, in regards to Peterson’s personal theology and spirituality, but I thank God that he is willing to confront the cultural narrative regarding young men.  I admire him for his courage and insight.

Many of those who are his sharpest critics, were themselves a product of the 60s culture of peace, love, dope and an anti-establishment mentality.  I agree with Waters when he says, “They are…..the worst kind of people to be running anything requiring even a modicum of authority, having themselves grown up thinking that youth values ought to trump experience, wisdom and tradition.”

Where are the elders who behave like grown ups in our culture.  It needs to  start with fathers and the right view of authority.  I remember well all the years  I taught confirmations classes to junior hi youth.  We would study the 10 commandments.  “Honor your father and your mother that your days may be long in the land which the Lord your God is giving you” was the fourth commandment.  What does this mean?  “We should fear and love God so that we do not show contempt for our parents and superiors, nor provoke them to anger, but honor, serve, obey, love and esteem them.”

I told those young teens that parenting was like putting a loving fence around the children.  As teen agers they would bump up against that fence and get frustrated, anger, etc.  This is normal for young people.  I reminded them that parents in their love for children would get bruised and battered from their behavior.  Then I asked, “What would it be like if there was no fence to confront.’  They usually said that they would be on their own.  Waters is right when he says the “snowflake” problem today “is the result of an absence not so much of adulthood as of grown-ups.”

“Today’s university students seek to apply the most natural and tired method of young people since the time of Cain and Abel, by pushing their elders until someone let a roar of ‘enough.'” (Waters).   Men stand in the gap.  Ask God for grace to say “enough.”  It is your place to do so.

Camila Paliga and Men

Here is a quote from my favorite feminist, Camila Paglia, “….male identity is very tentative and sensitive – but feminist rhetoric doesn’t allow for it.  This is why women are having so much trouble dealing with men in the feminist era.  They don’t understand men, and they demonize men.  They accord to men far more power than men actually have in sex.  Women control the sexual world in ways that most feminists simply don’t understand.”

Camila is right in her observations.  Having been happily married for 52 years to the same woman, I have grown in my understanding of the feminine.   Nothing keeps me more humble then my soulmate relationship with WOMAN.  Relating to my wife and the feminine will always be a challenge.  Remember Paul said the two being one flesh is “a profound mystery.”  I feel sorrow for the rhetoric  expressed by the new generation of feminists. They disavow any sense of mystery when it comes to the masculine in relation to the feminine.

The most fruitful place to grow in the understanding of WOMAN is in  committed, faithful marriage.  I wonder how many angry feminists, who espouse “toxic masculinity” have a loving, committed marriage to a MAN.  Since the beginning man and woman were meant to be one flesh, not to be split apart.   Jesus warned us, “Since they are no longer two but one, let no one split apart what God has joined together’ (Matt. 19:3).

I agree –  male identity is very tentative and sensitive. Men have  frail egos. Genesis 2:20 tells us, “But for Adam no suitable helper was found” (Gen 2:20).  Adam was not complete alone.  He needed someone to stand with him, being his supporter and bringing encouragement in his dominion of the garden.  I would never had made it through my years as a pastor without my wife being my greatest support.  Every man needs  a ” help mate.” It is lonely without one.

Feminist rhetoric lacks understanding of the masculine.   This is due to the fall. After the fall Genesis tells us, “At that moment their eyes were opened, and they suddenly felt shame at their nakedness.  So they sewed fig leaves together to cover themselves” (Gen 2:7).  Male and female fig leaves prevent us from truly knowing one another.

Because of the fig leaf, men are being demonized.  God made humans in his own image.  “In the image of God he created them; male and female he created them” (Gen 1:27).  Both are equal before God.  You can’t demonize the image of God found in the masculine, without destroying the relationship.  After God created Eve out of the rib of Adam we read, “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother, and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh” (Gen 2:24).  Today we are witnessing a war between the sexes.

Yes, women have power in sexual relationships. The first part of Proverbs warns against the  seductive power of a wayward women. “”So she seduced him with her pretty speech and enticed him with her flattery.  He followed her at once, like a ox going to the slaughter” ( Prov 7:21-22). Pornography can destroy a marriage, when a man fantasies with a wayward woman.

I thank God for my relationship with my “Proverbs 31  wife.”  “Who can find a virtuous and capable wife?  She is more precious than rubies” (Prov. 31:10).  Judy is God’s greatest gift to me.  “An excellent wife is the crown of her husband” (Prov 12:4).  My wife is a crown in my life, not burden..  She is my “graceful dove.”  “She is a loving deer, a graceful doe.  Let her breasts satisfy you always.  May you always be captivated by her love” (Pro 5:19).  I call Judy “my bride.”

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