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: October 2018

Being an Overcomer

Are you an Overcomer in the spiritual battle raging between  evil and the kingdom of God or are you being overcome?  Men, we need to be reminded that the lack of civility and the hateful rhetoric of our day is due to the father of lies – Satan.  Jesus identifies him as, “a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him.  When he lies, he speaks his  native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies” (John 8:44).  When truth and integrity are missing in our public discourse, brought about by the murderer, the result is character assassination on a broad scale.

When discerning  the cause of the discord, hatred and anger in our nation, we need to see it as a  battle between the forces of Satan and the reign of Jesus’ kingdom.  Paul  gives the right  perspective, “For our fight is not against any physical enemy: it is against organizations and powers that are spiritual.  We are up against the unseen power that controls this dark world, and spiritual agents from the very headquarters of evil” (Eph 6:12 – Phillips).  Are you ready to face hate, bigotry, and irrational reactions.

As a follower of Jesus, you can be expected to be hated, whether you like it or not.   Jesus warned us that we would be hated.  “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first.  If you belonged to the world, it would love you as it own.  As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world.  That is why the world hates us” (John 15:18-9).  “All men will hate you because of me,” Jesus tells us, ” but he who stands firm to the end will be saved” (Mk 13:13). The distain for the followers of Jesus is evident in the cultural wars.  This hatred can be irrational. “They hated me without reason” ( John 15:25).  “Do not be surprised,” John reminds us, “if the world hates you” (I John 3:13)

It is hard to be an Overcomer if we respond with  hated in your heart. Remember the hatred will  only  intensify in the days to come.  Don’t allow yourself to be over come with anger or resentment.  In Jesus you can be an Overecomer.  “I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me.  Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows.  But take heart, because I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).

Revelation gives us a glimpse into the intensity of the present day hatred.  We  read of a loud voice in heaven, saying, “Now have come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Christ.  For the accuser of our brothers, who accuses them before our God day and night, has been hurled down” (Rev. 12:10).  Then we are warned, “But woe to the earth and the sea, because the devil has gone down to you!  He is filled with fury, because he knows that his time is short” (Rev 12:12).

Men keep  your heart open to the awareness of Jesus presence at the center, in your soul.  John give us this wonderful promise. “You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you greater than the one who is in the world” (I John 4:4).  We can learn to think like Jesus. “Since Jesus went through everything you’re going through and more, learn to think like him.  Think of your suffering as a weaning from that old sinful habit of always expecting to get your own way” (I Pet. 4:1-2 – Message)

From the Inside Out

Psalm 139 begins with  “O Lord, you have examined my heart and know everything about me” (Ps 139:1).  I thought of these words while reflecting on thoughts from spiritual writer, Louis Evely. “This activity [God’s loving power] of His most often occurs in a place we can’t enter, at the root of our being, for that’s where God reaches us, where he operates, molds us, and ceaselessly perfects His work in us.”  This loving power know us from the inside out.  “God along knows us as we are inside and He alone loves us even though we lose all our qualities, because He loves, not our qualities, but us.  Only He will put up with us forever.”

When it seems nothing is being done by us, much may have been done in us. Teresa of Avila observed that we would be surprised at what God is doing in our soul.  God is at work in  our depths far beyond what we can imagine or comprehend. Our part is to surrender to the process. “The Spirit also helps us in our present limitations.  For example, we do not know how to pray worthily, but his Spirit within us is actually praying for us in those agonizing longings which cannot find words. He who knows the heart’s secrets understands the Spirit’s intention as he prays according to God’s will for those who love him” ( Rom. 8:26-7  Phillips).

Knowing that God,  “alone loves us even though we lose all our qualities,” we can pray, “Investigate my life, O God, find out everything about me; Cross- examine and test me, see for yourself whether I’ve done anything wrong – then guide me on the road to eternal life” ( Ps 139:23-4 – Message). We can pray with confidence because of the Spirit within, “operates, molds us, and ceaselessly perfects His work in us.” This is transformation – God changing us from the inside out. “Now to him who by his power within us is able to do indefinitely more than we ever dare to ask or imagine…(Eph 3:20).  God is doing much more than we can imagine.

God  loves us not for our qualities, but for who we are.  “To us, the greatest demonstration of God’s love for us has been his sending his only Son into the world to give us life through him.  We see real love, not in the fact that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son to make personal atonement for our sins’ ( I John 4:10-11 – Phillips).  This is condescension – not our reaching out to God, but God coming all the way down to where we are.  God loves us as we are not what we think we should be.  “Yet the proof of God’s amazing love is this: that it was while we were sinners that Christ died for us” ( Romans 5:8 – Phillips).

Jesus’ love for us will endure to the end. “I’m  absolutely convinced that nothing – nothing living or dead, angelic or demonic, today or tomorrow, high or low, thinkable or unthinkable – absolutely nothing can get between us and God’s love because of the way that Jesus our Master has embraced us” (Romans 8:37-39).  God’s unconditional love give us confidence to keep reaching out to Jesus and keep moving onward.  With Paul we declare, “But I am well on my way, reaching out for Christ, who has so wondrously reached out for me…..By no means do I count myself and expert in all of this, but I’ve got my eye n the goal, where God is beckoning us onward – to Jesus.  I off and running, and I’m not turning back” ( Phil 3:13-14 – Message).

Head Above Water

Pop-rock pioneer of the 2000’s, Avril Lavigne, after an absence of five years has produced a worship song that reveals her cry to God for help after encountering a near-death experience.  She has been battling Lyme disease since 2014.  Her new single,  “Head Above Water,” depicts her struggle.

“God keep my head above water/ Don’t let me drown/ It gets harder/ I’ll meet you there at the altar/ As I fall down to my knees/ Don’t let me drown/ Don’t let me drown” are the words of the chorus.  She apparently had a experience of meeting God in an experience she describes as being on her knees at the altar.

I down loaded her song because her heart felt lyrics are  words I could identify with when I have felt like being underwater.  There was a time in the early 2000’s when I was on the verge of depression.  My wife told me that if I didn’t get out of my “pit,” she was going to take me to our personal physician so I could get a prescription for depression.  I was able to climb out of the pit, only by keeping my spiritual eyes on Jesus and crying out for mercy.  My experience made me appreciate those believers who fall into the pit and struggle to get out.

Ms Lavigne’s words are heart felt.  “And I can’t see in the stormy weather/ I can’t seem to keep it all together/ And I can’t swim the ocean like this forever/ And I can’t breathe.”  At the time, I had been a pastor for 30 years, having been in a lot of stormy weather.  But I was not keeping it all together.  I was underwater, having difficulty breathing spiritually. I was simply going through the motions, not allowing anyone to know how weak and fragile I felt. Life  was like stormy weather.  It was frustrating for my wife.  But thank God, she prayed me through the storm.

Avril shares her story of almost giving up.  “God, keep my head above water/ I lose my breath at the bottom/ Come rescue me, I’ll be waiting/ I’m too young to fall asleep.”  I wanted to be rescued, but I did not now how it would happen.  I had to wait.  The issue was my perspective of myself and God.

Psalm 40, while not giving the image of being under water, but rather of sinking into a “slimy pit,” gave me a picture that I could hang unto in my struggle. “I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry.  He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand” (Ps. 40:1-2).

The one image that has stayed with me is the sense that I was down in a pit, with my hands griping the opening above me, while a shaft of light streamed into the gloom of the pit.  I had to keep my focus on the opening above me.  The only thing I could do was to hang on and cry out for God to be merciful to me.  I had to do this for myself. Either my wife and the few other guys who I had allowed into my life could help.  Eventually the Lord placed me on a rock.  As a result I had “a firm place to stand.”

So my advice to anyone feeling underwater or in a pit – hang on by simple trust in  Jesus and cry out continually for mercy.  You have not be abandoned.  You will be stronger because of your trail.  You will also have empathy for others in the pit.

A White Male

As an older white guy in the Northwoods, I have a concern for the status of young, white, males in America, especially those who have given their allegiance to King Jesus and His kingdom reign in America.  Has the dominant national  narrative begun to abandon the idea of a man being innocent until proven guilty by due process?  Has the #metoo movement gone to far?

Listen to what an army mom and house schooling mother of four boys had to say: “I cannot accept a world in which my sons will be raised under the tyranny of a lawless, vindictive society that wants to subdue and oppress men in the name of equality for women.  It’s time to take a stand.  Mammas, we have to fight for our men, because they are in danger……Your father is, your husband is, and your sons are.”

Contrast her comments with those of Georgetown Professor C. Christiane Fair in a recent twit.  “All of them [men] deserve miserable deaths while feminists laugh as they take their last gasps.  Bonus: we castrate their corpses and feed them to swine? Yes.”  Today, notes R R. Reno, “The rage over sex is perhaps the most powerful in our body politic today.”  We are at a crisis point.  Are we witnessing an intensification of the “gender wars?”

The Brett Kavanaugh hearing have made this all too obvious in our national consciousness.  I am deeply concerned.  I  respect and admire Dr. Christie Blasey Ford for her painful, heartfelt testimony of being sexually assaulted as a teenager.  She is 100% sure it was judge Kavanaugh.  But the judge swears before God he is innocent.  He has many close friends who agree.

My issue is with the minority party in this particular instance.  They seem to be embracing the rage against men for betraying the sexual revolution by making sex dangerous rather than safe.  In my opinion they are using Dr. Ford for their own political advantage.  In the meantime they are ruining the life of a man who has not been given due process.  I am deeply disturbed that as a nation we are an audience to the destroying of the lives of  two individuals created in the image of God.

I very much appreciate the reminder given by John Stonestreet, when he was reminded of C.S. Lewis’ sermon, “The Weight of glory” in which he said:  “…..it is with the awe and the circumspection proper to them, that we should conduct all of our dealings with one another all friendships, all loves, all play, all politics.  There are no ordinary people.  You have never talked to a mere mortal.  Nations, cultures, civilizations – these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat.  But it is immortals whom we joke with, worth with, marry , snub, and exploit….”  Stonestreet reminds us, “people are ends; they are never means.”  I want to remember this as the Kavanaugh saga continues.

My advice, men.  Take your stand in Christ!  “Christ has set us free to live a free life. So take your stand!  Never again let anyone put a harness of slavery on you” (Gal 5:1 – Message).  Don’t let the dominant narrative, regarding male and female relationships, put you in a box. Don’t let the rage over sex intimidate you, since you have been set free in Jesus.  “In Christ’s family there can be no division into Jesus and non-Jew, slave and free, male and female.  Among us you are all equal! (Gal 3:28 – Message))  Remember, “…use your freedom to serve one another in love; that’s how freedom grows” (Gal. 5:14 – Message)

The Cultural Sandbox

I continue to be fascinated, inspired and amused by the “Jordon Peterson Phenomena.”  Most interesting has been the reaction  from social critics who have had some of their cherished assumptions about men and women challenged.   A quote from David French described well what is happening in  the social media regarding Peterson.  French observed, “Peterson stands out because he is playing in the Left’s cultural sandbox.  He’s disrupting an emerging secular cultural monopoly with arguments about history, tradition, and the deep truths about human nature that the cultural radicals had long thought they’d banished to the fringe.”

While Peterson’s orthodoxy is less than an evangelical guy like myself would hope for, he definitely has beliefs that favor a Christian worldview.  He gives clear guidance on morals and manners, he takes evil seriously and he values the church and traditional family values. Peterson in his writings, videos and public interviews is not attempting to reach a Christian audience.  What has been called “the Peterson Effect” describes Peterson’s effort to bring the findings of social science to bear on the cultural issues surrounding men and women.   His findings counter the progressive attempt of eliminating male-female differences.  “One ingredient in the astounding fame of Jordon Peterson,” writes Mark Bauerlein, “is his capacity to show just how lazy, obtuse, unprepared, smug, knee-jerk and prejudiced are many journalists at leading publications.”

Shame Morris in an article at Break Point reflects on Peterson’s earnestness. This is in evident when he speaks about young men.  He speaks with solemnity and gravity, being persuasive because he speaks with deep passion.  Without irony, mockery or pretense of superiority, Morris imagines Peterson saying to young men, “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 you 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 this black hole of impotence, and I want you to start by cleaning your room.”

The idea of earnestness in Peterson’s message has struck a cord with me.  I concur with Bauerlein when he speaks of his influence.  “To watch someone stand up to it [cultural smugness], to hear him cite clinical data and hold firmly against the party line they know is dishonest and coercive – that goes a long way to explaining the Peterson phenomenon.”  Peterson is willing to go public with his deeply held convictions, knowing that he will not be accepted.  Three  characteristics in Peterson’s demeanor are convicting to me.  First, his willingness to suffer.  He believes that life contains unavoidable suffering, that needs to be embraced.  Redemptive suffering, the call to carry the cross, and the need to sacrifice are in short supply in today’s church.  Jesus tells us, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me” ( Matt 16:24).

Secondly, Peterson speaks with passion.  He speaks with deep passion about his ideas, communicating with a sense of honesty and sincerity.  Paul reminds us,  “The Message that points to Christ on the cross seems like sheer silliness to those hellbent on destruction, but for those on the way of salvation it makes perfect sense” (I Cor. 1: 18 – Message).

Thirdly, Peterson can be confrontational not willing to accommodate the culture, while remaining respectful and level headed.  Young men are drawn to Peterson because he is a rock in the cultural swamp in which many men are sinking. Jesus tells us, “The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life.” ( John 6:63).

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