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: August 2018

Mere Sexuality

“Mere Sexuality” is the title of a book  by Todd Wilson.  His aim is to rediscover the Christian vision of sexuality. Mere sexuality refers “to the themes that have characterized the Christian vision of sexuality down through the ages….what most Christians at most times in most places have believed about human sexuality – in other words, the historic consensus.”  For me this implies subscribing to historic orthodox Christianity.

Being created male and female is our identity, a gift from a personal, relational, loving God.  “Contrast this with our culture’s messaging,” notes Wilson, “which tells us that we are who we desire sexually – turning sexual desire into an idol that has power to name us in a way that should be left to God.”  Feminist Camila Paglia has observed, “There is something fundamentally constant in gender that is grounded in concrete facts.” God did not create  solitary individuals, but a complementary pair to reflect his image.

The #EvolveTheDefintion movement is an attempt to legitimize our ability to label our sexual identity.  How will the definition evolve?  Is there a model or guide? Will there ever be a consensus on what is masculine?  I have tried in my blogs to define masculinity from a biblical perspective as a follower of Jesus.  My contention is that Christian men need to do their own soul work together, hearing the voices and stories of other men to be able to embrace their masculine souls..

The #EvolveTheDefintion movement is a good example of an attempt to redefine what it means to be a man.   My concern is for men who become confused, threatened or uncertain regarding their unique masculine identity.  While this movement has good intention in wanting to  help men with their male identity, there is the  danger of being influenced by “pervasive interpretive pluralism,” with no  consensus on what the Bible teaches on matters of sexuality. Listed below are some of the assumptions made by this movement that are questionable to anyone who subscribes to “mere sexuality.”

First, masculinity is a acquired identity. The differences between the sexes is not a matter of  “constructs,”‘  but rather a  “given” reality, going back to the orders of creation in Genesis.  We dare not impose our will and choice on what God has created. Personality type, spiritual gifting, family background, training, etc. will all help shape a man.  But each man’s  uniqueness is found in being addressed by his heavenly Father

Secondly, the need to expand the meaning of masculinity.  I agree that cultural norms and sensitivities change.  For example being “tough and tender”  rather then exhibiting a macho image is much more winsome in the MeToo era.  But beware of the influence of  the “peevish, grudging rancor against men” ( Paglia).

Thirdly, the need to be more inclusive.  I get nervous when ever the world “inclusive” is used.  What characteristics should be included and who is making the list.  I acknowledge being nurturing and sensitive is necessary for men.  But these are compliments to their essential masculinity.

Fourthly, there is no one way of being a man and there never has been one. I agree.  Each man is unique.  But beware since  – “Leaving sex to the feminist is like letting your dog vacation at the taxidermist’s” (Paglia).

Fifthly, concern for the narrow definition of masculinity.  Beware if this assumption being based on the mantra that “men are aggresors, women are victim, and patriarchy is to blame.”  The natural strengths of the masculine cannot not be discarded without damaging the relationship with the feminine.. “If civilization had been left in female hands, we would still be living in grass huts” ( Paglia).

#EvolveTheDefinition

Recently I was watching  sports on TV, when I saw the #EvolveTheDefintion TV spot.  The first image was the word “masculine,”  as an adjective: “having qualities or appearance traditionally associate with men, especially strength and aggression.”  Some of the synonyms  recited by various men included, macho, manly, muscular, well-built, red-blooded, strapping, strong, brawny, powerful.  A young man appears who said in a rather confused manner, “none of these sound like me.”

The ad was created for Bonobos, which claims to be the largest clothing brand ever built on the web in the US.  The name comes from Bonobo, formerly called the pygmy chimpanzee, which is now an endangered great ape.  In the attempt to sell men’s clothing, Bonobos intends to offer the best shopping experience in the world.  “Your search for the perfect fit ends here” is their claim.

In order to appeal to all men, Bonobos created #EvolveTheDefintion as a project, “that uses the voices of real people to start a conversation around the narrow definition of masculine, its limitations, and how we can expand it to be more inclusive.”  Men are encouraged to, “add [their] voice and help create a world where every man fits…….Masculinity isn’t a fixed thing, but an acquired identity.  There is no one way of being a man and there never has been one.”

Remember advertising on TV is carefully crafted after much research and careful evaluation as to what the popular culture believes about a subject.  From the first blog I wrote almost nine years ago, my concern was to articulate a Christian perspective regarding the masculine soul  in contemporary life.  This ad is proof positive that masculinity is in crisis.  We have lost confidence in the masculine in the West.  Striving to be more inclusive will only bring more confusion.

I write to reassure any man reading this blog who might be questioning his masculinity.  I strongly reject the notion of masculinity being “an acquired identity.” We are created in our uniqueness to be masculine.  Writing at The Gospel Coalition, Brett McCracken writes, “Men and female are not fluid, easily interchangeable constructs we fashion from below.  Rather, they represent a complementary unity from above: one that goes beyond bodily or even gendered polarity.  It is a complementary unity that reflects the structure of the wider world and the God who created it.”

We read in Genesis 5:1-2, “When God created man, he made him in the likeness of God.  He created them male and female and blessed them.  And when they were created, he called them ‘man.'”  “Gender,” C. S. Lewis observes, “is a reality, and a more fundamental reality than sex…..Masculine and Feminine meet us on planes of reality where male and female would be simply meaningless.”  God has created you in all of your glorious uniqueness to be a man.  Your gender is masculine.  Celebrate that reality as you also celebrate the opposite; the feminine.

I have learned through much trail and error the wisdom of Leanne Payne.  Masculinity is bestowed more than taught.  What has this meant for me?  First, I accept myself, with all my warts, as uniquely created in God’s image as a male.  Secondly, I have found affirmation for my masculine soul, knowing that I have a Father in heaven who delights and is fond of me.  Thirdly, I continue to open my soul to the work of the Spirit in bring healing to my wounded masculine soul so that I can stand confidently in my uniqueness as a man.   Fourthly, I learned years ago to be among godly, affirmed men, so that I might “taste” their godly male presence.

Volunteering For Your Death

I begin this post by quoting Galatians 2:20 from the amplified version.  “I have been crucified with Christ [that is, in Him I have shared His crucifixion]; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me.  The life I now live in the body I live by faith [by adhering to, replying on, and completely trusting] in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.”  The expanded Bible put it this way.  “I was put to death on the cross [have been crucified] with Christ, and I do not live anymore – it is Christ who lives in me.  I still live in my body [flesh], but I live by faith in [or because of the faithfulness of ] the Son of God who loved me and gave himself to save me [for me; on my behalf].”

The amplified tells me that I have shared Christ’s crucifixion, while the expanded says “I was put to death on the cross.”  Sometimes this is hard to practice, especially when you are blindsided.   Francois Fenelon, a 17th century spiritual guide talks about volunteering for your own death.  He informs me that “I don’t need to be cured but killed; that is, brought to death…..When God aims to kill my self-nature, He touches the tenderest spot.”  This can be very painful.  His advise – “Never be discouraged with yourself.  Despondency is not humility.  Actually despondency is the despair of your wounded pride.  Your faults may be useful to you if they cure you of the vain confidence you have in yourself.”

I share Gal 2:2o and Fenelon’s perspective on spiritual  death because of a recent incident I had with one of my children’s annual family visit to the lake.  After my wife, my greatest concern spiritual is for my family.  With all my heart, I desire to be a loving, caring presence for my teenage grandchildren.  Well, I blow it royally.  I got angry and had to walk away from a particular situation.  I was despondent.  Yes, it was the despair of my wounded pride. It was painful.  Fenelon reminds me, “……sensitivity points out that there is still something alive within that has not died to self.”  I knew I was wrong in my behavior.

I  had to leave.   So I got on my four wheeler and went for a long ride.  I wanted to cry. I was confused, angry and as usual, spent time beating myself up.  I ran into my neighbor, Randy.  I asked him to be my confessor.  I confessed my anger towards my grandkids and asked God to forgive me.  Randy pronounced the absolution allowing me to hear I am forgiven and even more important, that I could forgive myself.  I went back to the family, forgiven with peace in my heart. I was able to ask my family and especially the grandkids forgiveness.

Here is what I am continuing to learn.  First, God will use very unexpected circumstances to keep me humble.  This always sends me back to “square one” knowing how dependent I am on the grace and mercy of God to be able to live a crucified life.  Secondly, I get less despondent when I fall short in front of my family.  For that I am thankful.  “Your failures,” notes Fenelon, “don’t make you displeasing to God.  He sees your deepest feelings.  It is a long process toward being completely dead to your selfishness.”  Thirdly,  I am grateful that I can share my faults with all who read this blog.  I can’t tell you how liberating it feels.  “God loves me in all my stink.”  Amen!!!

Failure to Launch

According to Pew Research, in 2016, men aged 18 to 36 were more likely to still be sharing a roof with their parents than living alone or with a roommate or partner.  Nearly 40 years ago, only 6.3 percent of prime-age men did not work at all over the course of a year.  In 2016, it was nearly double that.  More and more young people are getting stuck in the transition between childhood and adulthood.  We are seeing the “Peter Pan Syndrome” among younger men.  Karol Markowicz calls this phenomena, “the failure to launch.”  She quotes a 2010 study that found that boys have “higher rates of suicide, conduct disorders, emotional disturbance, premature death and juvenile delinquency than their female peer, as well as lower grades, test scores and college attendance rates.”

I got to reflecting on how I got launched.  I will soon be 77 years old.  I have live my life as a man.  I have had my share of struggles in getting launched and learning to live as a loving, responsible and faithful man.  Upholding my launch and journey as a man has been the Lordship of Jesus.  I testify with Paul,”I resolved to know nothing…..except Jesus Christ and him crucified” (I Cor 1:2). Jesus has been first in my life since my early conversion at age 18. I owe all to Jesus. Here are some bench marks to my launch and journey. May it be of some help to men reading this blog.

First, family of origins. I came to honor and respect my mother and father, while learning to separate emotionally.  Jesus said, “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two will become one flesh” (Matt 19:5).  I never forgot the warning of Proverbs 20:20, “Whoever curses his father or mother – his lamp will go out in deep darkness.”  Men, I can not stress the importance  living in a spirit of forgiveness toward  your parents.  Show gratitude as you love and respect them as your parents.  It is absolutely foundational to getting properly launched.

Second, getting married.  The words of Eph 5:25, “For husbands, this means love your wives, just as Christ loved the church” became the guiding principle in my life.  If I was to become one flesh with Judy, I would have to love her as my own body.  This soulful relationship, continues to be the biggest challenge to my growth as a man.  I am what I am in relationship to my wife.  The launch into marriage will become the measure of a man.

Third, becoming a father. I was ill prepared for this part of my launch. I was confronted with my selfishness.  After my commitment to my wife, being a father was most important in my life.  This included my career as a Pastor.  I soon realized that my three kids had only one father.  They needed me.  Now as a grandfather they still need me; especially prayer.  Ps. 127:3-4 tells us, “Children are a gift from the Lord, they are a reward from him.  Children born to a young man are like arrows in a warrior’s hands.”

Fourth, service to the King. I have desired all my adult life to give humble, loving service to King Jesus.  I give full allegiance to him, even though the culture opposes the King and his Kingdom.  I testify with Paul, “I calculate everything as a loss, because knowing King Jesus as my Lord is worth for more than everything else put together” ( Phil 3:8 – Wright).

Fifth, becoming an elder.  Now I have the joy of passing it on.  I take comfort in Ps 92:14, “Even in old age they will still produce fruit; they will remain vital and green.”

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