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: April 2019

“Rise of the Warrior Monk”

I was intrigued with a recent article entitled, “Rise of the Warrior Monk,” by Christian Chensvold in National Review.  I think of myself as a “closet” monk here in the north woods.  My spiritual instincts would classify me as a spiritual warrior,  who is a truth-teller (prophet).   The truth teller sees things more black and white, while speaking the truth. But being more intuitive and feeling in personality, I usually fight with a “velvet glove.”  I identify with the “Tender Warrior” as a blend of “tough” and “tender.”

Chensvold makes reference to “men going their own way.”  “Whether these men are middle-aged and embittered from divorce or lifelong rejection, or in the prime of life but prematurely disillusioned,” notes Chensvold, “these male dropouts share the view that contemporary society is soulless and effeminate, increasingly demonizing men for all of their natural instincts.”  He wonders if men who are dropping out are not “reviving a long-lost archetype, the warrior monk.

If the Warrior Monk is to have an meaningful voice today he will need to have a gentle spirit to counter the “toxic” label.  Jesus encourages us to take his yoke and learn from him, “For I am gentle and humble in spirit.”  Paul tells us, “Let your gentleness be evident to all.”  He exhorted the Colossians to, “clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience” (Col. 3:12).  Gentleness is also a fruit of the Spirit.

Chensvold  quotes  Robert Moore and Douglas Gillette, who have written on men being “hard wired” as king, warrior, mentor and friend.  “The psyche of the man who is adequately accessing the Warrior is organized around his central commitment.  This commitment eliminates a great deal of human pettiness.  Living in the light of lofty ideals and spiritual realities such as God….so alters the focus of a man’s life that petty squabbling and personal ego concerns no longer matter much.”  This would be a man who stands and fights  for the truth.

Chensvold wonders if, “today’s warrior-monks might very well end up discovering their feminine side…..not the feminist-approved, socio-political kind.” Once again we go back to the creation story.  We read, “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).  Here we learn that masculine and feminine are opposite and complementary qualities.  They are like darkness and light, being two extremes on a continuum.  Both are found in the soul of men.

“The more nearly we function in His image, the more nearly we reflect both the masculine and the feminine in their proper balance – that is in the differing degrees and aptitudes appropriate to our sexual identities as male and female” (Payne).  Men need to be affirmed not only in their masculine, but also in their feminine side. Each man as he is being transformed will learn to walk in the proper  balance.  He will be affirmed in his true masculine soul, while being complimented in  the feminine.

So Chensvold is unto something as he journeys in our confused culture.  The Warrior Monk will express the essence of the masculine, which is taking initiative, standing for the truth.  But it will need to  be supplemented by the feminine response, which is characterized by gentleness and response.


Have you ever attended  a foot washing service on Maundy Thursday during Holy Week?  Or have you had your feet washed by others on a special occasion. I have experienced both.  The most memorable occurred when I was about to leave one of the churches I served as pastor.  I had an emotional farewell with the worship team.  During our sharing time, one of the members of the team went and got a basin of water and a towel.  The team took turns washing my feet.  I came unglued.  I will never forget the experience.

The incident of Jesus washing the feet of his disciples on the night before his death is found in John 13:1-17.  John tells us, “Jesus knew that the time had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father.  Having loved his own who were in the world, he now showed them the extent of his love” (v. 1).  The Message reads, “…..he continued to love them right to the end.”

On this last night with his disciples, Jesus used the very humble task of foot washing to demonstrate the depth of his love for the disciples.  Why foot washing – because the disciples could only sit and receive this deep expression of love by the Son of God.  Jean Vanier notes, “We begin to discover who Jesus is.  Jesus loves us utterly; he knows that we are afraid of being loved; afraid of love, and that we are afraid of God.” In the humble act of washing their dirty feet, Jesus is attempting to express love that needed to move from head to heart, so they could say, “I know that I am his beloved.”

One of the great liabilities for men is the movement of  God’s love  from head to heart. Imagine yourself  in that room having your feet washed by Jesus.  Could you freely receive his expression of love. Or like an ordinary man, would you want to do something in return or simply say I don’t deserve this kind of attention – “Just skip me.”

It was Peter, of course, who spoke up.  The closer Jesus came to Peter the more nervous he became.  He was not going to have his feet washed.  But when Jesus said that washing was necessary, Peter wanted a full bath. Jesus reminded him that he was already clean.  “If you’re had a bath in the morning, you only need your feet washed now and you’re clean from head to toe.  My concern, you understand is holiness, not hygiene.  So now you’re clean” (v 10 – Message).

Peter, like so many of us, want a “quick fix.”  We want to be clean.  We are clean in the sense that we are secure in Jesus, cleansed by his blood.  But there is a lot of cleansing that has to be done because of our fallen nature.  This will take time.  We will need strong doses of God’s unconditional love.

Peter obviously go the message.  The humility of Jesus and our need for cleansing is expressed by Peter. “All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, ‘God opposes the proud, but give grace to the humble.’  Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.  Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you’ ( I Peter 5:5-6).

Let Jesus love you in your stink. “For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love” (Rom. 5:5).


Confluent Love

Mark Regnerus is sociologist with a strong Christian worldview.  He has had to pay a price, among his peers for some of his opinions.  Recently he said, “We find ourselves in a liminal spot, one between long-taken-for-granted traditional relationships anchored in marriage and the future relationship system characterized more consistenly by ‘confluent love.’  There will not be two dominant systems.”  Which one will prevail in our nations is yet to be seen.  Marriage will not disappear, but in Regnerus’ opinion it may become a minority practice.

John Stonestreet challenges us “to rethink how we communicate biblical sexuality both inside and outside the church.”  As Christian men, living and communicating a biblical view of sexuality can be an effective witness for our Lord.  Stonestreet believes, “Our culture has undergone more that a moral slip into debauched activites.  It’s undergone a worldview shift.  Our gut-level understanding of sex, relationships, love and marriage has changed dramatically.”

The changes between 2008 and 2018 have been more dynamic than most other decades.  Sex has become “cheap” according to Regnerus.  In the past sex was expensive in that women demanded more in return, such as marriage, love and fidelity.  Today women give sex away without expecting much in return, such as time, respect and faithfulness.  As a result men don’t feel they have to behave in an honorable manner.  Women,  notes Regnerus, “are hoping to find good men without supporting the sexual norms that would actually make men better.”

Regnerus looks at five narratives from the last decade, which have produced profound change in our most intimate relationships.  It shows evidence that America is confused and conflicted at a deep level regarding sex, sexuality and the social norms that should be guiding men’s and women’s intimate relations.  Ours is a sexually broken culture of confluent love.

First, same-sex marriage becomes law in all fifty states.  This is the most significant shift regarding sex and marriage, with two out of every three Americans approving of same-sex marriage today.

Secondly, transgender is trending.  The support for transgender issues is found primarily  among children, teenagers, and supportive parents.  It has produced a conflict over pronouns, bathrooms and sports teams.

Thirdly, “Queer” has gone mainstream.  Sexual fluidity is now in.  According to Regnerus, “The term ‘queer’ has now become a catch-all for the panoply of non-heterosexual options available today – identities, behaviors, relationships, preferences, and speech.

Fourthly,  marriage and cohabiting Americans are having less sex.  This may come as a surprise.  But the Archives of Sexual Behavior reported that on average, Americans have sex about nine fewer times a year than they did in the late 1990’s.  Regnerus wonders if the growing similarity between men and women might be part of the cause.

Fifthly, divorce rates are dropping (because marriage rates are dropping).  Americans are getting more pickier about marriage.  Marriage is no longer a shelter in which a man and woman commit to be faithful, but marriage is now seen as  a symbol, a luxury to be enjoyed in  successful adulthood, with children being optional.

How then should a man live.  Here are my priorites.  First, cry out for God’s mercy and grace to live with sexual purity.  Second, be faithful and devoted to my wife.  Third, purpose to live in moral integrity with all other women.  Fourth, come alongside younger men as they journey through cotemporary America.

While knowing that sex is holy and good,  I heed Paul’s admonition, “Keep yourselves from sexual promiscuity.  Learn to appreciate and give dignity to your body, not abusing it, as is so common among those who know nothing of God” (I Thess. 4:3-4 – Message).

Self-achieved Identity

I came across the concept of “Self-achieved Identity” in a quote by James Houston.  “What we face in the world today is a self-achieved identity.  As Christians, we believe in a given identity, not an achieved one.  The Christian is found in Christ.  The self-achieving identity is very fragile because we have to sustain it.  Nobody else is going to sustain it for me when I have built it up myself.  The result of this is a tendency toward narcissism, because there is a depleted sense of self.  This is not what God ordained that we should have for an identity.”

I see myself in this “self-achieved identify.  It is not easy to admit after all these years on the spiritual journey.  I hope my reflections can help some man reading this blog  caught the darkness of a depleted self

First, my true identity is in Christ.  The old is dead.  I am new in Christ. I have a new ego.  Scott McNight’s translation of Gal 2:20 tells us: “My Ego has been crucified with Christ.  My Ego no longer has a life, but instead Christ is alive as my New Ego.  The physical life my Ego now lives is a life of faith in the Son of God who loves this new Ego and gave himself for this new Ego. The Message reminders to me: “Indeed, I have been crucified with Christ.  My ego is no longer in control.  It is no longer important that I appear righteous before you or have your good opinion, and I am no longer driven to impress God.  Christ lives in me” (Gal. 2:20).  Remember, Al your new identity is a gift, not an achievement

Secondly, it take a lot of work  to keep up a self-achieved identity. It is fragile, so I have to continually maintain my image of self.  I can be sensitive, insecure and defensive about my image.  My focus in on myself and not Jesus and his kingdom.

Thirdly, no one is going to be able to help me sustain this self identity.  To my shame, I have at times even expected my wife to sustain me in my efforts to prop up my own image of self.  I need to continual ask myself, “In who and what are you looking for affirmation?” Remember you will be disappointed by those around you.   They can never give you what you want.

Fourthly, this will always involve narcissism, a turning inward to analyze how I am doing on  my self making project.  C. S. Lewis described  this self-enclosed movement well: “…..your thoughts merely go round and round a wearisome circle, now hopeful, now despondent, then hopeful again – that way madness lies.”

Finally, the  futility of living  with what Houston calls “a depleted self.”  Instead of being alive and present to the indwelling presence of the Lord, I can get caught in an endless circle of self-deprecating with endless self- loathing thoughts.  Cluttered thought continue in a closed loop, moving downward, as I sink downward in shame or prideful self-justification.  This is not a pretty picture of my depleted self.

To brake out of this downward spiral into self, I need to daily repent of the idolatry toward my old self, from pride, self-loathing and self- sufficiency and turn to Jesus who is the light and the truth.  I invite the Holy Spirit, who is the spirit of truth, to be lamp of the Lord searching my inward self and leading me out of darkness into his  light and freedom.  I keep looking up and out, to receive the healing Word that God is sending into my soul.

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