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: December 2018

Ingrained habits of sin

Spiritual writer Louis Evely makes this observation about the spiritual life. “Genuine sincerity consists, not in concluding that we’re bad, but in affirming that we’re a blend of good and bad and aren’t happy about it.” Earlier in my walk with the Lord, I would not have understood this statement.  Now it feels liberating.  What brought about the change?

I slowly learned my spiritual life consisted of what John Sandford called “performance orientation.”  It is defined as, “The constant tendency of the born anew is to fall back into striving by human effort.  Our minds and spirits know the free gift of salvation, but our hearts retain their habit to earn love by performing.  We live unaware that motives other than God’s love have begun to corrupt our serving through striving, tension and fear.” I was striving with the “ingrained habits of sin” in my life.  My mind know the right theology, but it had not reached my heart.

Jesus observation of the Pharisees spiritual condition could have been applied to me. “You’re like whitewashed graves, which look very fine on the outside, but inside they are full of the bones of the dead and uncleanness of every kind.”  I sure didn’t want to expose this condition to anyone.  I first of all had to come to terms and admit to myself that I was like a whitewashed grave.  Heini Arnold described my condition, observing, “As long as we think we can save ourselves by our own will power, we will only make the evil in us stronger than ever.”

At this stage of the journey I can honestly  acknowledge that I am “a beloved sinner.” I don’t necessarily agree with spiritual guides who encourage us to disavow being of sinner. I rejoice that I am a new man in Christ, affirmed in knowing the love of the Father. I identify with Paul when he declares, “I’m not saying that I have this all together, that I have it made.  But I am well on my way, reaching out for Christ, who has so wondrously, reached out for me.  (Phil 3:12 – Message).

Here are some principles that have brought me some “genuine sincerity” about my spiritual journey.

1) Lordship of Jesus – First and foremost, I have always wanted Jesus to be Lord in my life.  In my early days the image from the Campus Crusade tract with the two thrones was helpful for me.  While there were times when I crawled down off  the throne, my heart’s desire was for Jesus to be on the throne.  That meant a life of continual  confession, repentance and surrender

2) Light of the Word – The authority of Scripture in all matters of faith and practice was fundamental to my worldview.  This meant that exposure to the God’s word through study and mediation was not optional.

3) The work of the Holy Spirit –  In the early 60’s Judy and I got involved in the Charismatic movement.  We welcomed the Holy Spirit into our lives.

4) The indwelling presence of God – In the 80’s I finally coming to the awareness that God’s presence was within me. It was life changing

5)  The double knowledge –  I learned this from Dr. James Houston.  Augustine summed it up – “Let me know thee, O God and let me know myself.  That is all.”

6)  Finally, being God’s beloved.  I learned to rejoice in having a Father in heaven who delights in me.  This has become my passion – to help men know that they are loved by God in the midst of all their shame, guilt and vulnerability.  I was liberated to be myself.  I want to share this truth with men.

John the Baptist

The  Advent season has prepared us for Jesus’ arrival at Christmas.  We need the reminder of Advent to prepare our hearts to receive Jesus anew, since  so much of  the meaning of Christmas has been erased from our national consciousness.  Fleming Rutledge reminds us, however, that we are not awaiting a helpless baby Jesus, but a powerful and righteous judge.  John the Baptist,  one of the central figures of the advent season, uses apocalyptic language in the call to repent and fleeing from “the wrath to come.”

She reminds us that Advent, “in spite of its reputation as a season of preparation for Christmas, is that its emphasis really does not fall on the coming of Jesus as a baby in Bethlehem, but rather on the coming Jesus as the Judge of all things at the end of time.” The watchword of Advent is “Maranatha” which means “come, Lord Jesus.”  Rutledge astutely points out, “It is certainly not a prayer for Jesus to come again as a helpless baby; it is the longing cry of God’s people for him to return in power and glory.”

John the Baptist prophetic message creates a clash  between the world’s resistance to kingdom of God in our midst, and the irresistible force of the One who is  about to come.  John’s voice is being heard today through the witness of Scripture. “You brood of vipers!  Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?…Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees.  Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire” (Matt. 3:7,10).

John doesn’t seem to fit into the softer, more gentle image of the baby Jesus in a manger.  John the Baptist was in the grip of what Rutledge called an “apocalyptic transvision,” – “that vision given to the church that sees through the appearances of this world to the blazing power and holiness of the coming of the Lord.” Jesus warned us of what will happen. “This is war, and there is no neutral ground.  If you’re not on my side, you’re the enemy; if you’re not helping, you’re making things worse” (Matt. 12:30 – Message).

The voice of John echoes in today’s spiritual wilderness, challenges us to be open to the movement of His Spirit in our lives.  “I’m baptizing you here in the river, turning your old life in for a kingdom life.  The real action comes next: The main character is this drama – compared to him I’m a mere stagehand – will ignite the kingdom life within you, a fire within you, the Holy Spirit within you, changing you from the inside out. He’s going to clean house – make a clean sweep of your lives.  He’ll place everything true in its proper place before God, everything false he’ll put out with the trash to be burned” (Matt. 3:11-12 – Message).

Many years ago, I remember singing a praise song based on Ps 108:13.  “With God we will gain the victory, and he will trample down our enemies.”  When the Israelites were trapped at the Red Sea, fearful of being over taken by the Egyptians, God said to them through Moses. “Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today…The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still” (Ex. 14:13).  Men, God will fight for us.  Jeremiah was reassured of God presence when he said, ‘But the Lord is with me like a mighty warrior; so my persecutors will stumble and not prevail” (Jer. 20:11).  During Advent welcome Jesus as a warrior who will fight for us.

Joseph’s Song

During this Advent season I have been reminded of an older Michael Card song (1991) entitled “Joseph’s Song.”  The chorus goes like this: “Father show me where I fit into this plan of yours/How can a man be father to the Son of God/Lord for all my life I’ve been a simple carpenter/How can I raise a king, How can I raise a King/He looks so small, His face and hands so fair/And when He cries the sun just seems to disappear/But when he laughs it shines again/How could it be”

I often cry when I listen to Michael sing this song.  I am not quite sure why.  I think it has to do with the humble obedience of a simple carpenter. Joseph was the most unlikely man to be the earthly father of Jesus.  He could have been overwhelmed by the prospects of being the human father of our Lord.  Instead, he accepted the responsibility.  He willingly provided a “spiritual covering” for his very young family.  Imagine what lay ahead for Joseph as he cared for  Mary and the baby she was now carrying.

Men, how willing are we to take spiritual responsibility for our families. Your wife and children need you to provide them protection. They are vulnerable to spiritual attack.  Joseph was young and inexperienced in family life, yet he was obedient. God spoke to Joseph in dreams. Joseph’s  heart was open to the leading of the Spirit of God. In three of the four accounts “an angel of the Lord” appearing to him in a dream.

The first reassured Joseph to go ahead with his wedding plans.  Imagine hearing these words from an angel, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit” (Matt. 1:20).  Joseph needed to hear “do not be afraid.” He could still get married.  Remarkably, Joseph obeyed.  “When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife” (Matt. 1:24). God will give you the strength to follow through.

The second dream came when there was real danger.  The angel said, “Get up take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him” (Matt 2:13).  Men, I want to both warn and reassure as you provide covering for our family.  Satan will attack your family.  God will provide the way of escape as you are obedient to the Spirit.  Don’t lose the covering.

The third dream 0ccured after wicked Herod died, freeing his young family from danger.  “Get up, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel, for those who were trying to take the child’s life are dead” (Matt 2:20). Like Joseph, God asks us to act – “Get up.” It was hard traveling with a baby.  Joseph, “took the child and his mother and went to the land of Israel'” (Matt. 2:21).  Ask yourself – “What is God asking me to do in order to protect my family.”

The fourth dream came when Joseph was fearful about going back to Judea because of Archelaus, who had succeeded Herod as king.  “Having been warned in a dream, he withdrew to the district of Galilee, and he went and lived in a town called Nazareth” (Matt. 2:22).   Don’t be surprised if God asks you to do something you would not otherwise do to protect your family.

Remember no one came take your place as the head of your family!!!  God will hear as you cry out to him for mercy.

The “Wimp Factor”

Our nation recently mourned the death of George H. W. Bush, our 41st president.  My favorite memory will be the presidential train traveling from Houston to College Station.  I remember the four years of President Bush and especially how he handling of first Iraq war.  He advocated for a more “gentle and compassionate world” with his emphasis on the 1,000 lights of hope.  During his time in office the press would refer to the “wimp factor” in his character, claiming that he was “too niece” in his role as leader of the free world.

David French, in a column, noted, “It’s a sign of our fallen world that all too many people misinterpret the presence of manners as a lack of manliness.  It’s destructive to our culture and body politic that all too many people interpret kindness as a lack of conviction.”  In response to the charge of being too niece, President Bush said the following:

“I equate toughness with moral fiber, with character, with principle, with demonstrated leadership in tough jobs where you emerge not bullying somebody, but with the respect of the people you led.  That’s toughness.  That’s fiber.  That’s character.  I have got it.  And if I happen to be decent in the process, that should not be a liability.”

President Bush was obviously not a “wimp.”  He enlisted in the Navy at age 18, becoming one of the youngest aviators, and was shot down over the Pacific.  He oversaw the Iraq war and saw the fall of the Soviet union. In public life he was a unassuming.  A favorite verse was Prov. 27:2: “Let another man praise you, and not your own lips.”

I bring up the “Wimp Factor” label given to our 41st president by the media to show how a “Tough and Tender” man can be misunderstood in our culture.  It is instructive to compare the public perception of president Bush to that of our current president.  President Trump’s aggressive nature is often viewed as the kind of “alpha” manliness we need in the public arena.  His course language in naming those who oppose him and his past behavior make him out to be  a tough guy.  I have been critical of this kind of behavior in past blogs.

While I agree that liberalism in general has  feminized much of our public discourse, causing young men to act out when their view of maleness is being questioned, we don’t have politicians in our day like President Bush leading by example. The comparison with President Trump is a good example of  the struggle in our society with what is the true masculine.  The above comment by President Bush equate toughness with moral fiber, character, decency and principle. These are qualities that can be demonstrated while respecting others and being a decent person.

David was  a “tough and tender” man.  He played the harp, wrote heart moving Psalms and was a warrior. He was willing to face the giant with his staff and five smooth stones, having learned to kill lions and bears with his sling. He told the king, “Your servant has killed both the lion and the bear; this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, because he has defied the armies of the living God.  The Lord who delivered me from the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine” (I Sam. 17:36-37). Men,  first face your lions and bear courageous with your five smooth stones and God will make you a “giant slayer.”  President Bush learned first to kill lions and bears, before he took on his political opponents and the hostile press.

“Toxic”

Oxford Dictionaries has choose “toxic” as its international word of the year.  It was chosen from a shortlist that included politically inflected words such as “gaslighting,” “incel” and “techlash.”  Originally, Oxford had considered choosing “toxic masculinity,” until it realized how widespread “toxic’ had become.  So many different issues in our culture today seem to be tied together by the word.  The word of the year reflects “the ethos or preoccupations” of a particular year, and how it highlights the change in English.  The Oxford folks  believed  “toxic masculinity” to be a  preoccupation of our times.  Simply being a normal, healthy male can be viewed as being “toxic.”

Toxic is derived from the Greek “toxikon pharmakon,’ meaning “poison for arrows.”  In its first few centuries, toxic referred to literal poisons.  But in our day as concern about literal toxins expanded, so did the metaphorical uses of “toxic.”  “Toxic” began to be used more frequently in the 1980’s in many self-help books.  But more recently there has been an explosion in the use of the phase, “toxic masculinity.”  The only grouping that has occurred more frequently over the past year in online news sources and blogs as been “toxic chemicals.”  Be warned, men, to be masculine is to be considered poisonous.

Mona Charen in her indictment of modern feminism argues that Second wavers “were determined to change what women wanted altogether…..The worldview of second -wave feminists was completely wrong about women, history and human nature – and left a lot of wreckage in its wake.” Part of the fallout was “toxic masculinity.”  John Stonestreet has observed, “much of contemporary life, especially our public discourse, is, if not literally poisonous, then spiritually, culturally, and emotionally poisonous.” This includes toxic masculinity.

In the light of this wreckage, Dennis Prager asks, “Is America still making men?”  Every society has to ask, “How do we make good men?”  Young men who are tutored early in life, will be taught how to channel their natural drive and aggression in a positive manner to make the world a better place.  But if maleness is already seen as “toxic,” how is a Christian man to live in our present cultural climate?  Here are a few suggestions.

First, admit to being “toxic” in having inherited our sinful nature from Adam.  David declared, “Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me” (Ps 51:5). For me, this mean that I have to be vigilant in keeping my heart open to the Lord.  I can appear to be clean, but their is toxicity within my heart.  Jesus said, “What comes out of a man is what makes him ‘unclean.’ For from within, out of men’s hearts, comes evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly.  All these evils comes from inside and make a man ‘unclean” (Mk. 7:20-22).

Secondly, don’t waste your time defending the enculturated views of maleness.  Learn to walk humbly as a follower of Jesus.  Allow the Spirit of God to model godliness in your life.

Thirdly, learn to simply practice the presence of Jesus in all circumstances.  Let the light of his presence shine through your words and actions.  Strive to live an integrated and authentic life.  Live in repentance, praise and gratitude.

Fourthly, live as a servant of  others, attempting to put others first at all times.  For me this has meant being truly interested in story of others.

Fifthly,  continually cry out to God to be merciful towards our nation. Pray that you might be an instrument of healing between men and women, especially in your extended family.

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