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: July 2018

Conspiracy

In my study of the prophet Isaiah, I am intrigued by God’s word to the people in Is. 8: 11-13 regarding conspiracy.  “The Lord spoke to me with his strong hand upon me, warning me not to follow the way of this people. He said,  ‘Do not call conspiracy everything that these people call conspiracy; do not fear what they fear, and do not dread it. The Lord Almighty is the one you are to regard as holy, he is the one you are to fear, he is the one you are to dread…..’.”  Phillips translation reads,  “Pay no attention to the rumors of this people, and do not be afraid of what they fear nor be in dread of it.”

The footnote in the NIVZSB give this insight. “Two different understandings of history:  1) Give God the central place that only the Holy One must have, or 2) explain historical events as the result of human conspiracy, with the constant dread of the unknown that this view engenders. Yahweh counsels Isaiah that if he is going to dread something, it ought to be the Lord Almighty (cf. Matt. 10:28).”  Isaiah declares, “He will keep you safe “(14).

For those  fearful of the rumors, “The Holy can be either a Hiding Place or a Boulder blocking your way, the Rock standing in the willful way of both houses of Israel, a barbed-wire fence preventing trespass  to the citizens of Jerusalem.  Many of them are going to run into that Rock and get their bones broken, get tangled up in that barbed wire and not get free of it” (Is. 8:14-16 – Message).  By not trusting God’s purpose in history the people of Jerusalem would be blocked by a boulder and run into a barbed-wire fence.  This can be our fate if we loss our trust in Jesus. The future is full of uncertainty when we are swayed by rumors.

For the people of Judah, fear of invasion was a constant threat. Some of the people regarded Isaiah’s message of non-involvement with Assyria as treasonous, part of a conspiracy.  But Isaiah was not being political, rather he was exhorting the people to fear and trust  the Lord.  Fear caused by rumors can be a real enemy to  our faith and a deterrent to our peace of mind.  Isaiah did not know what the outcome would be, but he was confident in God.  His advice was to  wait and hope in God. “Then I will wait for the Lord, who is hiding his face from the house of Jacob, and I will rest my hope in him” (v. 17 – Phillips).  Even though God was bringing judgment on his people, Isaiah was determined to wait for the Lord.

Men, I find it hard to  wait and trust the Lord.  Like you, I try to make sense of the political, social and cultural issues of our day.  I find that I can be swayed by rumors.  Ultimately I don’t know who to trust with any degree of confidence.  I become fearful concerning the direction of our country. When I let myself project into the future, there are days when I feel an awful dread.

Isaiah visualizes a level road while  we wait for God’s judgments. “The road of the righteous is a level road, you smooth out the way of the righteous.  We have waited in the path of your judgments, Lord, longing in our hearts for a sign of you” (Is. 26:7-8 – Phillips). Isaiah gives those who wait for the Lord hope in the unexpected work of God.  “For since the world began, no ear has heard, and no eye has seen a God like you, who works for those who wait for him! (Is. 64:4).

Learning to Lament

In Isaiah 59:9-12, the prophet offers a prayer of confession appropriate to the spiritual condition of the people of God. Rather then blaming God or the culture Isaiah  identifies with the people, lamenting “there is no justice among us, and we know nothing about right living” (Is 59:9 NLT).  He prays further: “We look for light but find only darkness. We look for bright skies but walk in gloom.  We grope like the blind along a wall, feeling our way like people without eyes.  Even at brightest noontime, we stumble as though it were dark.  Among the living, we are like the dead.  We growl like hungry bears; we morn like mourning doves.  We look or justice, but it never comes.  We look for rescue, but it is far away from us’ (Is. 59:9-12  NLT).

Bible scholar Barry Webb says of this passage: “It is hard to imagine a situation more desperate in the life of God’s people than the one described here…..there is still one element of hope, and that, is the lament itself.  As long as there are people who weep, apostasy is not total.  The faithful few hold the door ajar, so to speak, for God to enter the situation again and drive the darkness back.”  Men I suggest lament as a helpful spiritual practice in our day.

In the collective consciousness of our nation, I wonder if there is not the sense that we are “‘groping like the blind along a wall” responding like dead men walking, “knowing nothing about living.” Even at noontime we still stumble as though it were darkness.  It seems like the ‘lights have  gone out.” But as followers of Jesus we are walking “in the light of the Lord” (Is. 2:5).  While fixing our gaze upon Jesus, we  can learn to lament as we continually cry out for God to be merciful toward  our  nation.  We have lost our way, and only the Lord can help us find our way back.

Isaiah living among and identified with the people he led to  confession of their sins.  His prayer comes after his discerned the human condition all around him to be  desperate, knowing  the people were not capable of  needed change.  The mood was like that of an angry trapped bear, along with a mourning similar to that of the dove. It is one of sullen anguish, expressed today in lack of civility, expressed in accusations on all sides.  Isaiah’s listeners  kept looking  for “justice” but to no avail. The unhinging of the culture could not be changed.   They hoped  for “rescue” but it was not within reach.  They felt trapped with no way out.

Isaiah is pointing the people to look to God.  They are to  humbly confess the waywardness of their nation.  “For our offenses are many in your sight, and our sins testify against us, our offenses are ever with us, and we acknowledge our iniquities” (Is. 59:12 NLT). Attempting  to walk in the light amidst the ever increasing darkness, I have come to make these words a continual prayer, as I try to make some sense out of heated political and social discord in our nation.

Like Isaiah I live in a culture, where we, “stumble as though it were dark.”  I claim the promise of Isaiah 60:1 spoken by God through the prophet, “Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord rises upon you.”  This light will never be overcome.  We have the promise: “The Light shines on in the darkness, and the darkness did not understand it or overpower it or appropriate it or absorb it [and is unreceptive to it]” (John 1:5 – amplified).

Nobody is Perfect

At the recent MTV Movie & TV awards, Hollywood superstar, Christ Pratt was awarded the Generation Award. After receiving the award he told fans to “listen up,” because he was speaking “as your elder.”  He used the occasion to recite what CNN called his “Nine Rules for Living.”  Among his rules were: “You have a soul.  Be careful with it.”  “God is real.  God loves you. God wants the best fro you.  Believe that, I do.”  “Learn to pray.  It’s easy, and its’ so good for your soul.”

Film critic Titus Techera noted that Pratt was trying to turn celebrity worship upside down. “The best celebrities can do is bear well the burden of our wrong-headed worship – not to throw it of, but gently and humorously  point us in the direction of what’s truly divine and thus worth worshiping.”  This is what Chris Pratt was trying to do  with his nine rules. In recent years, the actor has become increasingly candid about his faith.

This was his 9th rule.  “Nobody is perfect.  People are going to tell you’re perfect just the way you are.  You’re not!  You are imperfect.  You always will be.  But there is a powerful force that designed you that way.  And if you’re willing to accept that, then you will have grace.  And grace is a gift.  And like the freedom we enjoy in this country, that grace was paid for with somebody else’s blood.  Do not forget it.  Don’t take it for granted.”  The video of Pratt’s comments when viral.

The producers switched from one camera to another after Pratt’s reference to “a powerful force that designed you that way.”  Since the program was prerecorded, it could be that an explicit reference to Jesus was edited out.  While one might quibble with how Pratt articulated  his theology, he sent a clear message to a generation of young people who have come to believe the lie about their being just fine the way they are..  David French observed that Pratt was, “speaking to a generation of young people who know that something is very deeply wrong.  It’s a generation wracked by depression and anxiety in spite – or perhaps because – of the fact that they’re told time and again how perfect they are.”

As I am writing this blog, I have been listening to a new song by Lauren Daigle, entitled “You Are.”  I am weeping as I listen to the words and the passion of the music.  Please listen to it if you are feeling lost, lonely, or overcome by the negative message of our culture with regards to who you are.  It is beautiful.  Give the song as a gift to your children.  It is a prophetic message to a lost generation.  Here are a few lines: “Remind me once again of who I am because I need to know –  You say I am loved, when I can’t feel a thing  – You say I am strong when I think I am weak  – You say I am held, when I am falling apart  – when I don’t belong You say I am Yours.  – Oh, I believe what you think of me.”

Men, remember the story of Jesus and the one lost sheep.  “Does he not leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it?  And when He finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home” (Luke 15:4-5).  The Lord tells us, “Can a mother forget the infant at her breast, walk away from the baby she bore?  But even if mothers forget, I’ll never forget you – never.” (Is 49: 15-16 – Message).  He will not forget us.

Don’t get taken out!

Stephen Mansfield in his book, “Building Your Band of Brothers” makes this observation: “Men are made to protect the territory assigned to them and to assure that everything within that territory fulfills its God-ordained purpose.”  “Manly men tend their field” is a vibrant theme in Mansfield’s work with men.  It is based on II Cor. 10:13,  where Paul defines the boundaries of his responsibility. “We, however, will not boast beyond proper limits, but will confine our boasting to the field God has assigned to us, a field that reaches even to you.”   Men, how well are you protecting your field.  Many men are missing in action,  having surrendered their responsibility.

This blog comes as a “Wildman alert.” “Don’t get taken out!” Don’t let the evil one take you out as manly man. “The thief,” Jesus warns, ” comes only to steal and kill and destroy” ( John 10:10).  Men, we are warned, “Be sober [well balanced and self-disciplined], be alert and cautious at all times. That enemy of yours, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion [fiercely hungry], seeking someone to devour” ( I Peter 5:8 – Amplified).  Satan is cunning and cruel.  “He attacks when least expected and desires to destroy completely those whom he attacks” (Amplified  footnote).

Recently I was mediating on Mat 24:42-ff, where Jesus tell us to “keep watch” and to be ready.  “If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into” (Matt 24:43).  I had been going through some “emotional and spiritual turbulence” with my lovely bride.  I was withdrawn in my spirit causing me to neglect my wife.  Then I woke up to the realization that I had allowed the enemy to break into my spiritual house.  He was robbing our marriage of its usual harmony and oneness.  I cried out for mercy, repenting of my attitude and rebuking the enemy’s presence in my marriage. I had almost been taken out.

Men, our primary assignment is tend and protect our home, that is, our marriage and family.  The enemy wants to take you out. I was missing in action, licking my self-righteous wounds, justifying my attitude and finding ways to blame my wife for her behavior.  When I stood and rebuked the enemy, I immediately felt a heaviness lift and a new energy to engage my wife on a more intimate level.  I had to confess to my wife my selfish withdrawal from her.  I had not been alert.  The enemy had gotten me with his “flaming arrows.”

Here is what I want you to know from my experience of almost being taken out.   First, don’t let your guard down. We need to be awake.  That means practicing the presence of Jesus.  Live in his presence throughout the day, no matter what you are doing.  His Spirit will alert you to the dangers of the enemy.  It came to me in a flash of a moment. I knew immediately why there was such “spiritual turbulence” in my home.  Secondly, stand in the strength of the Lord.  Your wife and kids can not do this for you.  You are responsible for protecting your family.  Ask Jesus for his help.

Thirdly, tend your field. Being AWOL is not an option.  God asked Adam, “Where are you?”  What do you have to say about tending our field?  Fourthly,  the enemy will attack you.  He wants to take you out of action.  Above all else, stay engage spiritual.  That means making your relationship with the Lord central to all you do.

The Incel Movement

I have only recently become aware of “The Incel Movement.”  On April  23, 2018, a van allegedly driven by Alek Minassian, drove onto a sidewalk in downtown Toronto, killing ten people and wounding eighteen others.  On his Facebook page, Minassian pledged allegiance to the “Incel Rebellion.”  “Incel” stands for ‘involuntarily celibate.” As Vox.com explains, the “rebellion” is “not an organized militant group but rather an idea developed by…An online community of men united by their inability to convince women to have [intimate relations] with them.”   David French observed the movement, “essential blames women for being attracted to strong or rich men.  And it’s a theory that’s steeped in sexual entitlement, the belief that men somehow have a right to have sex.”

The frustration and loneliness  felt by younger men is only a natural consequence of the sexual revolution.  Ross Douthat wrote in his column “the culture’s dominant message about sex is still essentially Hefnerian……a message that frequency and variety…..is as close to a summum bonum as the human condition has to offer…..virginity and celibacy are at best strange and at worst pitiable states.”  The reality for some young men is the expectation and  entitlement concerning sex cannot be fulfilled in the real world. “Sometimes, to love someone…..you gotta be a stranger” is a typical sentiment.

Here are a few of my thoughts as I celebrate 53 years of marriage (June 11) to the same woman, who is like good wine – better with age.

1) Don’t forget to check with the creator of sex.  Jesus reminds us that from the beginning, “God made them male and female…Since they are no longer two but one, let no one split what God has joined together” (Mat 19:4 & 6).  The sexual revolution of our day has rejected God’s design for man and woman being joined together in life long commitment.  God patterned human love on his love for us.  To be fulfilled it is best to consult with the creator.

2) The Incel Movement is the result of the wide consumption of pornographic activity on the internet.  Young men especially have found a safe, hidden place  to indulge their sexual fantasies without absolutely no emotional investment.  Any man, who has a happy, fulfilling marriage, will attest to marriage being what the early monks called a ” white martyrdom.”  The fullness of sexual intimacy involves the hard work of establishing emotional intimacy and spiritual oneness before the actual act.

3) These are broken men who believe sexual relationships with a woman is a right.  But fulfillment comes not in the getting but in the giving to the other.  The sexual revolution made personal pleasure and fulfillment the norm.  Thus lonely, frustrated and confused young men demand that others fulfill their fantasies.  “Ideas have consequences,” John Stonestreet notes, “and bad ideas have victims.”  These young men are victims.  The incel movement proves that the sexual revolution was full of bad ideas.

4) Disorder desires make for “bent sexuality.”  It is our disordered desires that lead us astray. The sexual revolution elevated the sexual experience to a kind of quasi-religious status.  Every spiritual man reading this blog is aware of “the tiger in his tank.”  Many years ago I took Paul’s advice to heart. “It is better for them [young men] to be married than to be tortured by unsatisfied desires” (I Cor 7:9 – Phillips). White martyrdom with my bride has helped me deal with my disordered desires.

5) One final thought, which is revolutionary in our day  Sex is holy.  It a  search for union.  Sexual union finds its meaning ultimately in union with Christ.  Paul tells us, “The marriage relationship is a great mystery, but I see it as a symbol of the marriage of Christ and his Church” (Eph. 5:32 – Phillips).

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