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: September 2018

Standing at the Crossroads

At a recent congregational meeting at my church, I read from Jeremiah 6:16-17 – Message:  “Go stand at the crossroads and look around.  Ask for directions to the old road, the tried-and-true road.  Then take it.  Discover the right route for your souls.  But they said, ‘Nothing doing,  We aren’t going that way.’  I even provided watchmen for them, to warn them, to set off the alarm.  But the people said, ‘It’s a false alarm.  It doesn’t concern us.'”  These words could describe the passive attitude of many Christian men who, being unaffirmed and not having a sense of well-being in Jesus, capitulate to the dominant narrative they absorb every day.

Jeremiah’s words reflects the concept of “apatheism,” which answers the God question with a  shrug and a calm “whatever.”   Ben Sixsmith and Paul Rowan write, “With roots in the practical atheism and deism of the Enlightenment, ‘apatheism’ is embodied in French philosopher Denis Diderot’s famous remark that ‘it is very important not to mistake hemlock for parsley, but to believe or not believe in God is not important at all.'”  They go on to write about the “unholy trinity of apatheism” – a lack of reason to believe, a lack of motivation to believe and a lack of will to believe.

In a culture that is growing skeptical and ever more hostile to a biblical worldview, we will be tempted to compromise our core beliefs and fall victim to “apatheism.”   Are you committed to the truth?  Are you tempted to compromise the truth in your private life?  Are you  indifferent and unwilling to speak the truth?  Peter  challenges us,  “Don’t give the opposition a second thought.  Through thick and thin, keep your hearts at attention, in adoration before Christ, your master.  Be ready to speak up and tell anyone who asks why you’re living the way you are, and always with the utmost courtesy” (I Peter 3: 14-15 – Message).

You might be standing today before a crossroad  in your life journey, one that may compromise your core beliefs. Be warned! Compromising will bring cracks into the foundation of your character.  Jeremiah invites you to stand and look around.  This implies not being in a hurry.  Slow down, while asking for directions in finding the “old road, the tried-and-true road.”  The NIV says, “the ancient paths.”  This is why we all need a “band of brothers,” who provide “the mutual consolation” of other like-minded men.  Find other mature men who have walked on the “ancient paths.”

Men, when you stand at the crossroads or that fork in the road, you and you alone will have to choose.  At the core of the masculine soul is the call to “orientation, direction, order and responsibility.”  That is, make the right decision and stick with it. Mark my words, you will be tested in your resolve to follow through on taking the initiative.  Don’t let self-pity, self-hatred or anger get the best of your discernment.  The choices you make bring you into the frontlines of the battle in our culture over truth, order, integrity and honesty.  Your voice and character are needed right where you are, in our sphere of influence.  Don’t join those around you saying, “Nothing doing.  We aren’t going that way.”

In the process, “You will find rest for your souls” (v. 16 NIV).  You will be able to walk through the chaos, uncertainty and mistrust all around you.  God will provide watchmen to warn us, setting off an alarm.  Don’t be caught saying, “It’s a false alarm. It doesn’t concern us.”

“Clean Your Room”

This is a piece of no nonsense advice directed to  young men by Jordon Peterson.  Millions of men listen to Peterson because he is like a father figure, representing a man who cares for them, who is concerned for their well-being and speaks with authority into their lives.  He express deep empathy for their plight in the cultural wars.  When they are told men are dangerous, of little use to society and needing to deal with their “toxic masculinity,” Peterson is a breath of fresh air, tapping into an inner void of  immature, passiveness in men, who are confused, needing affirmation in their masculine souls. .

Shane Morris wrote a piece about the earnestness of Peterson observing how he speaks to men without a trace of irony, mockery or pretense of superiority. “You know what?  You’re not a monster, and you’re not an idiot, and you’re not what’s wrong with the world, and I understand you’re feeling lost and don’t know what to do with your life.  But resentment and blaming other people is not going to get you anywhere.  I’m here to help you find your way out of the black hole of impotence and I want you to start by cleaning your room.”

Much of the negative reaction to Peterson is prompted by a culture that has become more rights-centered rather than responsible-centered. Dennis Prager wisely notes, “It is not good for either sex to be rights-preoccupied, but it is particularly devastating to developing men, as men are supposed to be obligation-directed.”  He asks the question, “Is America still making men?” We might also ask, “If you think tough men are dangerous wait until you see what weak men are capable of.”

As young men listen to Peterson  he gives them direction and sense of purpose to their lives.  Many are not able to bring order into their daily lives.  Peterson tells them to simply start by “cleaning up their rooms.”  Men who are drawn to Peterson live like orphans in a wasteland of conflicting points of view, leaving them unable to move forward with any conviction of making a difference in their lives and others.  Peterson doesn’t give easy answers.  “To be fully human and fully worthy of responsility is to fight your entire life to bring order to chaos, to make an imprint upon the world in some meaningful way.”

While Peterson is not a follower of Jesus, he gives advice that speaks to the inner reality that every man faces.  Life is hard, we have to choose.  He speaks with earnestness and passion. He can be misunderstood.  For example  – “It’s very helpful for people to hear that they should make themselves competent and dangerous and take their proper place in the world.”  In other words, if we are going to stand for something, we need to be willing to sacrifice.  You could become dangerous.  Jesus said, “If anyone wants to follow me, let him deny himself, take up his cross and follower me” (Matt. 16:24).

The essence of the masculine is taking the initiative; speaking and acting according to the truth. Peterson’s words  remind me of many of the exhortations found in the first chapters of  Proverbs.  For example, “Listen, my son, to a father’s instruction; pay attention and gain understanding.  I give you sound learning, so do not forsake my teaching” (Prov. 4:1-2).  His sincerity is felt as he sees the wreckage of the lives of young men without direction today.  Later on in Proverbs 4 we read, “But the way of the wicked is like deep darkness; they do not know what makes them stumble” (v19).

Just Do It

A new Nike ad features Colin Kaepernick.  Kaepernick, the former San Francisco 49ers quarterback who sparked controversy by kneeling during the national anthem to protest racial injustice, will be the face of a Nike advertising campaign for the 30th anniversary of its ‘Just do It’ motto.  The ad features Kaepernick, the Nike logo and “just do it” slogan as well as the quote: “Believe in something.  Even if it means sacrificing everything.”

You can be certain of Nike’s intends to profit financially from this ad.  They are calculating that Kaepernick’s fame will exceed the money he is being paid. Nike is an “calculated company – They’ve never known their customer better.” “We believe Colin is one of the most inspirational athletes of this generation, who has leveraged the power of sport to help move the world forward,” Nike executive Gino Fisanotti told ESPN.  “We wanted to energize its meaning and introduce ‘Just Do It’ to a new generation of athletes.”

The appeal is to young men searching for a cause and identity.  Nike sees Kaepernick as an icon of resistance.  Jemele Hill notes, “He represents the very culture that Nike wants to continue to monetize” His style of rebelliousness and outspokenness is an activism that has become a powerful brand. Nike’s best customers are active, high-earning young people, who give 62% approval to protests during the national anthem.  Lynde Langdon astutely observed, “Nike has just leveraged some of the strongest emotions of its most valuable customers in its favor.”

I do not want to take sides regarding kneeling during the National Anthem at NFL games. But I do wonder how the ad will, “help move the world forward.”   I  want to use the Kaepernick ad as a “trumpet call” for wild men to help move forward under the Lordship of King Jesus.  The wording  of the slogan lends itself to various interpretations.  Here is mine.

First the word “Just.”  Just is an adjective for behavior that is morally right and fair.  It can mean to act “now.”  “Just” is an urgent call for men to join King Jesus in furthering his kingdom reign in the earth.  The call is urgent for courageous men to fight in the spiritual battle between good and evil (Eph. 6:10-11).  This is the ultimate battle.

Secondly, the word “do.”  This is a call for men to take the initative by leading a life of godliness.  Our nation is filled with passive young men, who are void of meaning and purpose.  King Jesus invites men to give their whole life to kingdom living. He is asking men to “be all in.”

Thirdly, the word “it.”  What exactly does “it” mean?  It can mean anything.  That is the problem.  Men need direction.  What are they supposed to do.  The gospel is clear.  We are to pray and act upon –  “your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” (Matt 6:10).

A word about the slogan, “Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything.”  For what are men willing to make sacrifice?  Who is asking for the sacrifice? The King’s message is a clear and challenging.  “I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed.  But if it dies, it produces many seeds.  The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life’ ( John 12:24-5).  Paul said, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me” ( Gal 2:20). Jesus invites a man to come and die for him.  Are you ready for such a sacrifice?

Humanae Vitae

This summer marks the 50th anniversary of Pope Paul VI’s encyclical, Humanae Vitae. It has turned out to be one of the most influential and controversial religious documents of the 20th century.  Glenn Stanton, director of global family formation studies at Focus on the Family noted, “Humane Vitae is as powerful and prophetic as it is misunderstood and ignored….]it is] an uncompromising and unapologetically Christian view of male and female, conjugal love, and the wonder of marital sexuality. It calls us to remember there is an objective and divine moral law related to our procreative possibilities and the ends of marriage itself.”

In the section “Consequences of Artificial Methods (17), Pope Paul VI makes this prophetic observation, now finding fulfillment in the #MeToo  movement, as women find their voice concerning sexual harassment. “When men become accustomed to the use of contraceptive methods they may, forget the reverence due to women, and, disregarding her physical and emotional equilibrium, reduce her to being a mere instrument for the satisfaction of his own desires, no longer considering her as his partner whom he should surround with care and affection.”

Back in July of 1968 the pope’s words seemed a bit extreme for a culture experiencing a sexual revolution with the mantra of  “all you need is love,” meaning sex.  I was a young married seminarian, going to Fuller Seminary in Pasadena.  I remember well going to Griffith Park to observe what was then  called “love-ins,” where the freedom of expression was on full display.  For a young man from the northwoods of Michigan, going to see a “love in” with my parents from Upper Michigan was like visiting a alien culture and lifestyle.

As a young man, committed to marrying the love of my life in 1965, after a courtship of four years, I was  committed to sexual purity.  I am  thankful to God for his mercy towards me.  We married as virgins, but maintaining purity was not easy.  I remember well Paul’s admonition in I Cor. 6:18, “Flee from sexual immorality.  All other sins a person commits are outside the body, but whoever sins sexually, sins against their own body.” “….sexual union has a spiritual component, sexual activity outside marriage is a unique sin both against Christ ( I Cor. 6:15) and one’s own body (v 18)” (ESV Study Bible).  The Message says it very descriptively, “Adultery is a brainless act, soul-destroying , self-destructive” (Prov 6:32).

The Pope pointed out that “human beings – and especially the young, who are so exposed to temptation – need incentives to keep the moral law.” He spoke  like a father warning his children of the consequences of their choices.  He predicted, observed the Archbishop of Sidney that “the sexual and contraceptive revolution would lead to more infidelity than marital stability, to lower moral standards rather than greater virture, to a hyper-sexualized culture with all its attendant challenges and to the exploitation of women rather than their equality.”

Men, I cannot stress the vital need of Godly men to be exemplars of sexual purity.  Young men will look to you for hope and encouragement.  With such great sexual confusion in society, men young and old, need encouragement and loving accountability in the contempory sexual wilderness.  We need to celebrate and rejoice in God’s great gift of sex within marriage.  I Thess. 4:3-5 could be our watchword. “This is God’s will, you see: he wants you to be holy, to keep well away from fornication. Each of you shoul know how to control your own body in holiness and honor, not in the madness of lust like Gentiles who don’t know God” (Wright).

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