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: March 2019

Culture of Contempt

I am becoming more and more saddened by the political and social discourse in our nation.  Those who study our culture are giving us fair warning to the dangers of a nation deeply divided.  Arthur C. Brooks in his new book, “Love your Enemies: How Decent People Can Save America form the Culture of Contempt,” observes, “America is addicted to political contempt.”

This is his description of what is taking place:  “While most of us hate what is doing to our country and worry about how contempt coarsens our culture over the long term many of us still compulsively consume the ideological equivalent of meth from elected officials, academics, entertainers, and some of the news media…. we have an insatiable craving for insults to the other side…..We indulge our guilty urge to listen as our biases are confirmed that the other guys are not just wrong, but stupid and evil.”

Contempt he believes  is “anger mixed with disgust.”  “Contempt,” insists Brooks, “represents not merely an outburst following a moment of deep frustration with another but rather an enduring attitude of complete disdain.”

Wow. I’m convicted. I want to  resist getting caught in the increasing cycle of contempt of our day.  How about you?  I might not say it, but I want my side to win, even if it  has total disregard for Jesus’ words on the Sermon on the Mount. “I’m telling you,” Jesus  warns us, “that anyone who is so much as angry with a brother or sister is guilty of murder……Thoughtlessly yell ‘stupid!’ at a sister and you are on the brink of hellfire.  The simple fact is that words kill” (Matt. 5:21-22 – Message).  Opponents are killing each other daily.

We are also reminded about our treatment of those who we consider our enemies. “I’m telling you to love your enemies.  Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst.  When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the energies of prayer, for then you are working out of your true selves, your God-created selves” (Matt 5:43 – Message).  What a challenge – allowing our enemies to bring out our best, showing our true self in Christ.

Here are four relational postures I work on continually in my new apartment community.

First and foremost I want to be a humble, loving follower of Jesus, who is part of the kingdom reign of Jesus.  Jesus taught us to pray, “Your kingdom come and your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.

Second, my attitude is one of being a servant, putting others ahead of myself, especially when they think differently and are opinionated..  Jesus is my example. “I am among you as one who serves” (Luke 22:27).

Thirdly, let my words be seasoned with salt.  “Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasone with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone” (Col 4:6).

Fourthly, learn to listen well.  Show interest in the other person’s story and opinion.  “All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another” (I Peter 5:5).

Fifthly, live in forgiveness. I can easily be offended. “Be even-tempered, content with second place, quick to forgive and offense.  Forgive as quickly and completely as the Master forgave you” (Col. 3:13 – Message).

Finally, in a culture of contempt, I am learning to lament and cry out for God to have mercy on our nation.  “In this time of our deep need, begin again to help us, as you did in years gone by.  Show us your power to save us.  And in your anger, remember your mercy” (Habakkuk 3:2 NLT).

Jagged Edges and Unpublished Chapters

I have been reading a book on contemplative prayer by Martin Laird.  He has been very helpful for me on this stage of my spiritual journey.  In the preface  he observes, “Jagged edges abound in even the best-lived lives, and we each have chapters of our lives that are better left unpublished.  The arms of the past reach into the present. ‘The past is never dead.  It’s not even past'” (Faulkner).  Although we may not wish to revisit these jagged edges, these unpublished chapters, they serve the purpose of letting in light and love.  We are made real by love.

God wants us to be real, not our carefully fashioned false self.  God can not have a relationship with an illusion we have created.  He desires to relate to our real self; the good, the bad and the ugly.  We would rather present a self  we have worked  hard to construct with our spiritual improvement projects.  This is a false religious self.  Part of the motivation for doing so, is to protect ourselves from really knowing who we are, thus preventing us from experiencing God’s love.

We are made real, our true self,  by love.  I can testify that when I came to know that God loved me unconditionally in my shame and vulnerability, I was able to open deeper parts of my soul, what John of the Cross called “the caverns of the heart” to God without fear of rejection or condemnation.  The words of I John 4:18 took on new meaning for me. “There is no fear in love.  But prefect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment.  The one who fears is not made perfect in love.”

Surrendering to love has allowed me to loosen my grip on my well constructed false religious self.  This can be painful, since it exposes more of my jagged edges and some of the unpublished chapters of my life.  As love exposes more jagged edges in my character, I can acknowledge my shortcoming and find healing for life long patterns of sin.   There will be more  unpublished chapter to  discover, exposing what has been hidden for years.  How wonderful when I allow God to rewrite the script of my story. I will continue to learn how my “life is now hidden with Christ is God” (Col. 3:4).

Dealing with my jagged edges and unpublished chapter will bring forth more of my  true self in Christ.  In the process I find more freedom to just be me, and to live a more authentic life before God and others.  This has been difficult for me, since I am the kind of guy who always has a thermostat extended into my surroundings.  I have been plagued by what people think of me.  But as Love makes me real, from the inside out, I find freedom to just be me.

Expect your jagged edges and unpublished chapters to be exposed as you grow in intimacy with the Lord.  Remember He can have a relationship only with the real you.  The real you is brought forth the more you know you are loved by God in all of shame and vulnerability.

Men of Straw

G. Shane Morris in an article for Breakpoint entitled “Men of Straw,” gives real help for dealing with the public dialogue  about “bad” and “good” masculinity.  He began  by pointing to a means of writing on the subject of masculinity  “1.) Pick a typically masculine trait (say, strength).  2) Create a false dilemma between this trait and an approved trait (say, gentleness).  3.) Pen an article expounding this false dilemma by using corruptions and exaggerations of the masculine trait to prove its incompatibility with the approved trait (for example, ‘traditionally strong men cannot be gentle’).  4) Redefine the masculine trait as equivalent to the approved trait (e.g., ‘The strongest Men are gentle’)”.  You end up with men of straw.

Men, we always have to come back to the creation story to get our bearings as we face the gale force winds of “toxic masculinity.” The storm creates  confusion, fear, mistrust and insecurity for men. How is a man to behave?  Remember our maleness is not a social construct.  We are created in the image of God.  “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” (Gen 1:27).  Verse 31 tells us, “God saw all that he had made, and it was very good.” (Gen. 1:31).  We live in a time, when we have to pay a significant price for the failure of men to adequately reflect the image of God as being “very good.”

Morris’ comments can be helpful as godly men navigate the cultural minefields  we will face in the coming days.

First,  don’t let others categorize you by their definition of what it means to be a man. Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, in our likeness…”(Gen. 1:26).  Each man is uniquely created by God to reflect his image.  This is a matter of God’s design, not a social construct.  Remember your heavenly Father said it was “very good.”  Only God can affirm each of us in our masculine essence.   It vital for each man to find affirmation from our heavenly Father.  Only then can a man rest in his true masculine self.

Secondly, there is absolutely no reason why a man, affirmed in his masculine soul can’t not be gentle.  But, a this is important – a man’s tenderness and compassion comes through his affirmed  masculine soul.  It is not expressed through feminized man, that is, a man who is not at peace with his masculine soul.  Each affirmed man will express his tender side in a unique manner.  Be assured a strong man can be tender and compassionate.

Thirdly, readily acknowledge that men have failed miserably in being the male image of God, thus not being “very good,” but in some ways “very bad.”  It is now described as toxic.  The irony of our time as expressed by the Babylon Bee is that the “least masculine society in human history decides masculinity is a growing threat.”  I believe godly men who are affirmed in their masculine souls have a golden opportunity to demonstrate within the culture how a man can be both “tough and tender.”

Fourthly, reject outright the redefining of the masculine by those who are feminists and those who are feminized as men.  They have no idea what it means to be a man standing straight and erect before his heavenly Father, coming in Jesus’ name and hearing by the presence of the Spirit deep in his soul, that he is “God’s beloved.”

Oh, God raise up a new generation of affirmed men!!!

The Lion of Judah

We read in Jeremiah 20:11, “But the Lord is with me like a mighty warrior; so my persecutors will stumble and not prevail. They will fail and be thoroughly disgraced; their dishonor will never be forgotten.”  In our gender confused society, talk of men as warriors is suspect. Yet God is often referred to as a warrior.   The Psalmist declares,  “With God we will gain the victory, and he will trample down out enemies” (Ps 60:12).   Men, God is a warrior who will fight for us.

The following quote from Dorothy Sayers  is a reminder of Jesus being a  mighty warrior, The Lion of Judah. “The people who hanged Christ never, to do them justice, accused Him of being a bore – on the contrary; they thought Him too dynamic to be safe.  It has been left for later generations to muffle up that shattering personality and surround Him with an atmosphere of tedium. We have very efficiently pared the claws of the Lion of Judah, certified Him ‘meek and mild,’ and recommended Him as a fitting household pet for pale curates and pious old ladies”

In a day when political correctness causes men to be measured in their responses to the “hot button” issues  generated by third wave feminists, who have no regard for a strong masculine response, it is good to reminded of Jesus not only being the Lion of Judah, but  also the lamb of God.  In this description we see Jesus as both strong and tender.  In Revelation 5:1-6 we have the reassuring vision of Jesus having authority to open a scroll symbolizing his lordship in history.  We read, “Then one of the elders said to me, ‘Do not weep! See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has triumphed.  He is able to open the scroll and its seven seals (5).”

Then John sees a Lamb, who had been slain, taking, “the scroll from the right hand of him who sat on the throne (7).”  Those around the throne sang, “You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased men for God from every tribe an language and people and nation.  You made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth (10).”  As John looked, he saw a great multitude, singing in a loud voice, “Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise (Rev 5:12).

Remember it is Jesus who will fight the battle for us.  From the Message we read, “Stay alert.  This is hazardous work I’m assigning you.  You’re going to be like sheep running through a wolf pack, so don’t call attention to yourselves.”  (Matt 10:16).  In such a divided society as our, we need to  practice a subversive spirituality, knowing we are on the winning side.

Remember when the people of Israel were trapped at the Red Sea with Pharaoh’s army coming after them.  Moses reassured them, “Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today.  The Egyptians you see today you will never see again.  The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still” (Ex. 14:13).  God  is a mighty warrior who will fight for us.

You can’t outrun grace (or God)

In a recent interview, David Crowder talked about his newest album entitled, “I Know a Ghost.” “The story that I’ve told over and over from  these three records is pretty redundant,” noted Crowder. “It doesn’t matter where you are or what you’re done, you can’t outrun God and you can’t outrun grace.”  I like the idea of not being able to outrun grace.  Crowder believes, “Those who follow Jesus can make a real impact by offering grace in spaces where grace is generally the last thing offered.”

As Judy and I go about building community in a Senior Apartment complex with such a wide array of folks, we pray for each other in our desire to practice the presence of Jesus with those we come to know.  We desire to be a “Christ-like fragrance” in our new relationships. “Now he uses us to spread the knowledge of Christ everywhere, like a sweet perfume. Our lives are a Christ-like fragrance rising up to God” (II Cor. 2:13-14 NLT).  Being the fragrance of Christ is another way of  being an expression of God’s grace.  In all of our relationships we pray that there might be a scent of the aroma of Jesus so that others might be open to the love of God.

As men, we each have our sphere of influence in which God will help us forget about ourselves, while having a servant’s attitude toward others.  Men, we have a wonderful opportunity to be the salt and light of the gospel in dark places, where others live in suspicion and protective defensiveness, not wanting to risk being hurt and misunderstood.  Judy and I have no idea what will happen in our relationships, but we already have had chances to share with others in a soulful manner.  People don’t natural go there, even in familiar surroundings.

Remember you are also salt. “Let me tell you why you are here,” Jesus tells us. “You’re here to be salt-seasoning that brings out the God-flavors of this earth.  If you lose your saltiness, how will people taste godliness?  You’ve lost your usefulness and will end up in the garbage” (Matt. 5:13 – Message).  Our conversation and demeanor are to be seasoned with salt.  Don’t expect quick results.  Sometimes it takes years. You might be the only authentic witness in life of another.

We are also to be a light.  “Here’s another way to put it: You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world.  God is not a secret to be kept.  We’re going public with this, as public as a city on a hill.  If I make you light-bearers, you don’t think I’m going to hide you under a bucket, do you? I’m putting you on a light stand. Now that I’ve put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand – shine!  Keep open house; be generous with your lives.  By opening up to others, you’ll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven” (Matt. 5:14-16 – Message).  Pray to be generous with those who come to know you.

Where does God want you to be salt, bringing the favor of the gospel as you spread the fragrance of the Lord?  Where does God want you to keep open house by being open and generous?  Remember others can not  out run the grace of God.

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