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: January 2019

Gender Roles Vs. Gender Souls

John C. Richards, the managing director of the Billy Graham Center at Wheaton College,  speaking to believers, caught my eye with this statement. “Unfortunately, we’ve spent way more time discussing each gender’s role than we have each gender’s soul.”  He was writing  about a summit at Wheaton on sexual violence: calling men to listen well.

He pointed out how women in the West have been the backbone in the churches.  I sure can testify to this observation in my years of parish ministry.  The involvement of women was always greater then that of men. Every church I served had an active and well organized women group.  None had a similar group for the men. I worked hard at getting men’s ministry started. But over the past 30 years there has been shift.  A 2016 Pew Survey highlighted the narrowing gender gap in religious service attendance between 1982 and 2002.

In 1982, over two times the number of women attended religious services at least once a week than men.  Over the 30 -year period, however, the gender gap has decreased from a 13-point gap to a 6-point gap.  Similar trends occur among religiously affiliated women.  The Pew Research found that the rise of Religious Nones and behavior changes among women who say they are religious contributed significantly to that decline.

Richards wonders, “If 81% of women and 43% of men have experienced some form of sexual harassment at some point in their lifetime, then the church needs to be equipped to confront all forms of harassment and abuse.”  It  very well could be the result of the frustration, disillusionment and disappointment women have experienced in churches because of harassment, along with emotional abuse.  Could it be that men in the church need to be more affirming of women and the deep-healing needed around gender issues.

Richards challenges men to, “think through ways in which some have unknowingly created cultures conducive to the forms of abuse that Scripture condemns….we need to hear the pain others have felt, often suffering in silence before now.”  I agree with his observation of “soul care.”  “Soul care is much more important than role care.  When our sisters hurt, we should hurt too.”

If soul care is more important then a focus on roles, I realize I cannot remain silent. This will mean moving beyond my comfort zone.  I desire to be a man who is “safe,” enabling women to share their pain regarding men. I am willing to accept blame for way men have treated women in the past. “Stoop down and reach out to those who are oppressed.  Share their burdens, and so complete Christ’s law.  If you think you are too good for that, you are badly deceived” ( Gal 6:2-3 – Message).  I will need to keep the following priorities in mind.

First, I need to continually examine my heart for any distorted view of the feminine that has been lodged in my soul from experience with women, starting most importantly with my mother.

Secondly,  I need to be ever vigilant in my relationship with my wife treating her as my equal on the spiritual journey.

Thirdly, I am committed to practicing the presence of Jesus with all the women in my life

Fourthly, I must be keenly aware of the wounds women have regarding men.  As a man I will face rebuke, anger and prejudice.  In lovingly absorbing the feminine rejection, I may serve as an instrument of healing in the hearts of other women

Fifthly,  I understand that my priorities, based on a biblical worldview will clash with the culture.  I accept this reality, and ask the Lord to help me to walk humbly and respectfully among all the women who are in my circle of influence.

“The Best A Man Can Get”

Gillette has decided to put a new spin on its 30 -year tagline, “The Best A Man Can Get,” by asking in a new ad, “Is this the best a man can get?”  The company ran an online commercial that implies the history of American masculinity as being filled with sexual harassment, bullying and cruelty -and suggest that a new masculinity is needed to overcome all the male transgressions of the past.

A Gillette spokesperson explained, “We are taking a realistic look at what’s happening today, and aiming to inspire change by acknowledging that the old saying ‘Boys Will Be Boys’ is not an excuse.  We want to hold ourselves to a higher standard, and hope all the men we serve will come along on that journey to find our ‘best’ together.”  Rather than finding our best, many men with be intimidated by the ad.  To take offense at the message  is to be labeled as part of the problem.

David French observed, “the masculinity wars are about more than unquestionably bad acts.  They veer into the very nature of masculinity itself.”  While condemning toxic masculinity the ad has no idea of what healthy masculinity might be.  What must be rejected is the “woke” version of masculinity, which puts all men in the same box.  A  “good” masculinity can be found in our  identity with  Christ.  This means dying to the elements of “bad” masculine that are part of our fallen nature, so that we might raised to live  in the “good” masculine.  Paul says, “For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God” (Col 3:3).  The true masculine is hidden in every man.  In Christ it can come forth, through death and resurrection.

When actress Jessica Chastain thanked Gillette, “for the reminder of the beauty of men,” saying further, “I’m so moved by your call to action,” she has no idea of what a good man is like nor what action he needs to take. Could it be that the call for action is politically and economically motivated. In my opinion it will take godly men modeling a healthy masculinity to make a difference in the gender debate of our day.

Thankfully there has been a rather strong backlash as evidenced in the online debate.  Pankaj Bhalla, Gillette brand director for North America, in responding to the controversy noted  Gillette’s intention is a redefining of  Gillette’s longtime tagline, “The Best A Man Can Get” in different ways.  “Our ultimate aim,” he states, “is to groom the next generation of men, and if any of this helps even in a little way we’ll consider that a success.”

The Gillette ad will do little in helping groom the next generation of men, especially for men who are desiring to be lead by the Spirit of God.  There will be more ads in the future.  They are driven by  hidden agenda of wanting to please the politically correct crowd and with an eye on the profit margin. It will bred more confusion, anger, and resignation to many men.

My advice – listen again to the word of Jesus. “Haven’t you read that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female’ and said  ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh'” Matt. 19:4-6).  Come openly before the Lord and allow him to bring forth your “good” masculine self.  Paul encourages us, “continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you and to act according to his good purpose.” (Phil. 2:12-13)

Pathologizing Masculinity

When I first started this blog over nine years ago, I began using  the word “masculine” in a very intentional manner.  I have been influenced greatly by Leanne Payne and her cry for the healing of the masculine soul.  Back in 1985 she wrote a book, entitled “Crisis in Masculinity.” It brought healing and peace to my masculine soul. I came to rest in who I was as a man created uniquely by my heavenly Father.  In my opinion, she was prophetic in her insights about the condition of the masculine soul and the future of our society.

“The major crisis today,” she wrote “is with men.  When men are healed, the healing of women will naturally follow.  There is an important reason for this. It is the father who affirms sons and daughters in their sexual identity and therefore – because gender identity is a vital part of personhood itself – as persons.  Masculinity…..is finally not a thing to be learned, but rather a quality to be tasted or experienced.  The masculine within is called forth and blessed by the masculine without.”  The “calling forth” of the masculine is at the heart of what the Wildman journey is all about.

Leanne further observed, “A crisis in masculinity is always a crisis in truth.  It is a crisis in powerlessness of the feminine virtues: the good, the beautiful and the just, in a culture and in an individual.  A culture will never become decadent in the face of a healthy, balanced masculinity.  When a nation or an entire Western culture backslides, it is the masculine which is first to decline.”  This is a prophetic insight that we see unfolding before our very eyes.

The recent report from the American Psychological Association should be awake up call for the need of Christian men to be affirmed in their masculinity.  In the APA’s new guidelines called “Psychological Practice with Boys and Men,” the guidelines claim “traditional masculinity” is psychologically harmful to boys and men.  Traditional masculinity is defined as “anti-femininity, achievement, eschewal of the appearance of weakness, and adventure, risk and violence.”  It is marked by “stoicism, competitiveness, dominance and aggression.”

Traditional masculinity is to be considered a social construct.  Real gender is “non-binary.”  Even trying to identify male sex with masculine gender reveals “heteronormative assumptions.”  In other words masculinity has no objective existence.  It is whatever we want to make it to be.  The report actually says, “Psychologists should help boys and men create their own concepts of what it means to be male.”

In these guidelines the real plight of boys and men coincides with our culture’s rejection of traditional masculinity.  The intent is to deconstruct masculinity.  The solution is not to reject masculinity as a disorder.  Rather we need to re-discover and embrace the true masculine, which God declared to be “very good.”  As John Stonestreet observed, “the trait and roles of real masculinity aren’t socially constructed.  They’re innate – created by God as an expression of His image complemented by and working in concert with femininity.”

Again, my cry is that men will turn their hearts toward home.  This means coming in our confusion, insecurity and brokenness into our heavenly Father’s presence and hearing in the depths of our heart, “You are my beloved.”  Only the compassionate and loving embrace of our heavenly Father can heal our wounds as men.  To this I am committed.  I pray God will give me the wisdom and compassion to write these blogs to this end.  I ask for your prayers, that together we might bring men back home to the Father.

Loneliness

Many  cultural observers have been calling attention to the loneliness being experienced in the West.  In Britain, for example, the government has now established a “minister of loneliness” in order to deal with loneliness as a serious and growing health problem.  It seems that even though we are more “connected” we have never felt as lonely.  According to a nationwide study of 20,000 people by the Cigna health insurance company, nearly half of respondents say they feel alone or left out always or some of the time.  56% reported they sometimes or always felt as if the people around then ‘are not necessarily with them.'”  40% said, “they lack companionship” and their “relationships aren’t meaningful,” resulting in feelings of isolation.

Writing in the opinion page of the New York Times, Arthur C. Brooks of the American Enterprise Institute wrote, “America is suffering an epidemic of loneliness.” Brooks wonders if lonely people increasingly fill the hole of belonging in their lives with angry politics.  He argues, “In the ‘siloed’ or isolated, world of cable television, ideological punditry, campus politics and social media, people find a sense of community in the polarized tribes forming on the left and the right in America.”

Brooks, reflecting on Senator Ben Sasse’s new book, “Them: Why We Hate Each Other” asks if the pervasive feeling of homelessness is not a big part of the problem.  Many Americans don’t have a place that is home – “a ‘thick’ community in which people know and look out for one another, while investing in relationships that are not transient.  We lack, Brooks maintains that “hometown gym on a Friday night feeling.” Brooks encourages us, “to intentionally invest in the places where we actually live,”  with a commitment to be a neighbor in the community that is home.  Brooks give this challenge, “Each of us can be happier, and America will start to heal, when we become the kind of neighbors and generous friends we wish we had.”

As Judy and I begin our new adventure, we are looking for that “hometown gym on a Friday night feeling.”  There is a sense of loneliness as we go about meeting new people both in our senior apartment and at church. Philippians 2:3-4 helps express our motivation as we go about creating a “thick” community for ourselves in Brainerd, Mn.  “Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others.  Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves.  Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too” (NLT).

How are we trying to live this out?  We are both intentional about connecting.  We share our impressions of the folks we are meeting.  We are taking the time and energy to be with people both in the apartment complex and at church.  The people we are meeting already have relationships.  We are willing to take the lowest place.  Jesus said, “But when you are invited, take the lowest place, so that when your host comes, he will say to you, ‘Friend, move up to a better place.’  Then you will be honored in the presence of all your fellow guests.  For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted” (Luke 14:10-11).

The following flows out of taking the lowest place. First, listen to the story of others. Ask questions and show a genuine interest in their story, making the effort to remember what they shared.  Secondly, take the posture of a servant. Put their interest ahead our own.  “Honor one another above yourselves” (Romans 12:10).  Thirdly, above all be authentic. Don’t pretend to be anyone other then yourself. Keep the focus on the other.  “Love from the center of who you are; don’t fake it” (Rom 12:9 – Message).

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