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: June 2019

The Man Box

David French recently wrote about what he called a “man box.”  “…… increasingly boys and young men are being taught that there is something wrong with their essential nature.  That it is their task to deny it and suppress it.  That their nature is incompatible with modern life, and that it’s dangerous, especially to women and girls.  And that, since not everyone is the same, arguing that there’s even such a thing as a male norm is inherently oppressive.  It creates a man box.

Men seem to be  more insecure  in their interpersonal skills, either avoiding or totally neglecting relationships with women.  This reluctance  in men is making it more difficult for women to become wives and mother.  If boys don’t become good, dependable men, they can’t become good, dependable husbands and fathers.  The result is not a shortage of males in our society, but of responsible adult males.  Young men do not seem to be  ready for marriage and family.

Anthropologist David Gilmore has noted, “…manhood ideologies always include a criterion of selfless generosity, even to the point of sacrifice.  Again and again, we find that ‘real’ men are those who give more than they take away; they serve others.  Real men are generous, even to a fault.  Non-men are often those stigmatized as stingy and unproductive.”  Not being secure in a distinctive masculine way of relating,  men are  simply bailing out of  responsibility.

So how do we recover the masculine in our culture, since it is both a obvious biological and cultural component in interpersonal relationships.  While womanhood comes naturally because of a the female’s biological make-up gives the message about what she is and what she’s becoming, it is not the same regarding manhood.  Womanhood is natural, but manhood is not.  It must be taught, caught and affirmed by other mature men.

George Gilder in his book, “Men and Marriage” writes, “Unlike a woman, a man has no civilized role or agenda. ….His transition into manhood can only come into being with significant, intentional work by other men.  As a behavior, manhood must be learned, proven, and earned.  As an identity, manhood must be bestowed by a boy’s father and the community’s larger fraternity of men. His mother can only affirm it.  She cannot bequeath it.”

Men, don’t let yourself be caught in the “man box.”  Our affirmation as men comes from our heavenly Father, who delights in us.  Don’t let the anti-male sentiment cause you to question who you are. It is our task to “rise up” and  pass on a godly example of the masculine to the next generation.

God told the Israelites to have  wholehearted commitment to the commandments and to pass them on to their children. “And you must commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these commands I am giving you today.  Repeat them again and again to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are away on a journey, when you are lying down and when you are getting up again” (Deut. 6:6-7 NLT).  In other words, model a godly life before your children in daily life.  Be a godly exemplar.

In turn, God instructs a son to listen to his father’s instructions “My Son, do not forget my teaching, but keep my commands in our heart, for they will prolong your life many years and bring you peace and prosperity” (Prov. 3:1-2).  In other words, honor your Father.  Proverbs 20:20 gives a warning for not doing so. “If a man curses his father and mother, lamp will be snuffed out in pitch darkness” (Prov. 20:20).

Hymn to a Good Wife

This is the title the Message gives  verses 10-31 of Proverbs 31  in praise of a good wife.  It begins with, “A good woman is hard to find, and worth far more than diamonds” (v 10)  and it ends with “The woman to be admired and praised is the woman who lives in the Fear-of-God” (v 31).  Today (June 11th) is our 54th wedding anniversary.  Here are a few reflections on my wedding anniversary.

First of all, marriage is a gift given to a man and woman to celebrate.  God said to Adam, “It is not good for a man to be alone.  I will make a companion who will help him” (Gen. 2:18 NLT).  If this is true, then a man can trust God to provide a “companion.” Paul’s advise, “it is better to marry then to burn with passion” was meant for me.  Judy, has been a God given “companion” for me.  Her companionship means more to me now when  we are older.  I praise God for the gift of her companionship.  I tell her many times a day how much she means to me.  I could not make the journey without her.  Don’t allow your bride to think she is “a spare tire” in your journey together.  Let her know how much you need her.

Secondly, men learn to be open and vulnerable before the Lord and your bride.  Adam did it wrong when he hid. He replied to God in the garden, “I heard you, so I hid.  I was afraid because I was naked” (Gen 3:10 NLT).  It is not easy to  be spiritually and emotionally vulnerable before the Lord and then your wife.  My advice after 54 years – be transparent before the Lord in the presence of your wife.  That mean a  willingness to express fears and insecurities,  confession of  shortcoming in marriage and being dependent on the prayers of your “helpmate.”  Never, never take her presence in your life for granted. This is so easily done by hiding emotionally in our stubborn, willful “man cave”

Thirdly, men you will have to die daily to your own plans and desires.  Remember the words of Paul, “I myself no longer live, but Christ lives in me” (Gal 2:20 NLT).  Nothing will keep you more humble then your relationship to your wife and kids.  I put it as  straight forward as I can – you have to give up your ego each day. Don’t expect your wife to surrender her ego first. If you are tempted to take control or retreat let the words of Paul be burned into your soul.  “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself for her” (Eph. 5:29 NLT).

Fourthly take responsibly.  Again don’t follow the example of Adam.  When God asked Adam about eating fruit from the  forbidden tree he said, “Yes, but it was the woman you gave me who brought me the fruit, and I ate it” (Gen 3:12 NLT).  Not only did Adam put the blame on Eve, but he was even blaming God for his marriage saying to God, “you gave me” Eve.  Men, we are to stand and face the winds of adversity when they appear in our marriage.  There will be times when you will want to run and hide.  Don’t do it.  God will give you strength to stand tall.

Fifthly,  never, never take your marriage for granted.  Work at your relationship as though it were the most important task in your life.  Peter reminds us, “….you husbands must give honor to your wives” (I Pet. 3:7 NLT).  This means that at all times she is first in our life after the Lord.

Men And “Cuddle Groups”

Men continue to be told that they are “toxic” by nature.  With hashtag movements like #MeToo and ‘the future is female” making their continual claims of toxicity, masculinity has taken quite a beating. The dominant narrative is that men are aggressors, women are victims, and patriarchy is to blame.  The cry in the culture is to find new ways to reshape the masculine.  It can get weird at times

One of the latest attempts to address the toxicity of maleness are therapeutic Cuddle Groups for men.  Yes, Cuddle Groups for men.  A Cuddle Group is intended to help men cope with stress, trauma, and the desire to express a masculinity that is not inherently toxic. A Cuddle Group is meant to address men’s craving to touch and be touched.  One of the leaders of the movement observed, “We’re taught that to be an emotional stoic is the mark of manhood.  If you show any emotional weaknesses or vulnerability, that’s a failure to your title of a man.”

Cuddle Groups show how uninformed our culture has become in trying to address the issues of masculinity.  Let me say it plainly, any man dealing with toxic masculinity does not need to learn to cuddle.  What he needs is a strong male mentor, a godly father figure or a firm AA style  group in order to deal with his toxicity.  It is a strong, godly man, secure in his maleness, who will best be able to  help those who are confused and insecure in their masculinity.

Tony Evans, the producer of a Christian movie for men, entitled “Kingdom Men Raising” points to Acts 3, where Peter and John, healed a man who had been paralyzed since birth.  “If you’re a lame man, you need a couple of men in your life to pick you up,” Evans maintains.  “If you’re not a lame man, you need to be picking someone else up.” A lame man needs what Richard Rohr calls “a male mother” that is, a man who can care for a lame man struggling with his male identity.

Toxicity is simply a manifestation of the sinfulness of the male soul.  Men aren’t toxic in their masculinity because they’re poisoned by testosterone, but because they are corrupted by sin.  The redefining of maleness has caused men to question their God given roles as husbands and fathers. Men become confused, uncertain in knowing how to relate especially to women, for fear of being labeled as toxic.

I maintain that men need AA  type care groups.  In these groups there will be “male mothers” who will shepherd younger men by example. These are men like Jacob, who after wrestling with God walked with a limb.  After the encounter we read, “he was limping because of the injury to his hip” (Gen 32:31).  Like Jacob, our limp as men, is a lasting reminder of our dependence on God, with a willingness to show vulnerability.  By example we are to give men permission to cry and show emotions.  Men should be encouraged to have healthy outlets for a full range of emotions.

They certainly don’t need to be cuddled.  Rather men need to have a safe place in the company of  other men to express their emotions, that emerges from the pain of a hidden well of sadness found in the souls of men in our day.  Emotional integrated men, with a heart to pass on their life story, can serve as  role models helping men deal with their confused emotions.

Fueled by Grace

I have been reading James Bryan Smith’s book, “Hidden in Christ.”  He calls attention  to II Peter 3:18, “But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”  Smith says the following  about grace.  “I used to think that only sinners needed grace, but now I see that sinners need very little grace, because they are not acting in Jesus’ name.  The great saints consumed an enormous amount of grace.”  He quotes Dallas Willard as often saying, “Saints burn grace like 747’s burn jet fuel.”

This has been a liberating thought for me.  I desire my life in Christ to be fueled by grace, rather then by my initiative and effort. Grace is “God’s loving favor towards me a beloved sinner.”  When I was younger, less mature, full of self confidence  in my ability to life the Christian life, I lived less by grace and more by my spiritual self improvement efforts.

I concur with Paul,  “What we’ve learned is this: God does not respond to what we do, we respond to what God does” (Rom 3:27 – Message). I was caught up in “sin management” and “performance orientation.”  It was more of what I could do to improve my spiritual image and religious performance.  I would do the work and then expect God to reward me.  I spent more time monitoring my spiritual growth rather then learning to simply be.

Now I am desperate for grace.  I freely admit my inability to measure up. I need help each and every moment of the day to live for Jesus.  “But sin didn’t, and doesn’t have a chance in competition with the aggressive forgiveness we call grace.   When it’s sin versus grace, grace wins hands down.  All sin can do is threaten us with death, and that’s the end of it.  Grace, because God is putting everything together again through the Messiah, invites us into life – a life that goes on and on and on, world without end” (Rom 5:20-21 – Message).  I choose a spiritual life fueled by grace over spiritual death manufactured by my good intentions

Gregory the Great words are good for me to remember. “Lord, let me “deny myself” by beginning to be what I am not, and cease to be what I have been.”  I need to constantly be on guard for spiritual pride, forgetting my constant dependence on grace.   James Houston give this warning regarding pride. “Pride settles in when we lose knowledge of self and God’s grace.”

I am a work in progress.  I need to be ever vigilant regarding spiritual pride.  There is no room for boasting. When I’m stuck on self, I running on my own fuel not the abundance of grace.  We read in James, “But he give us more grace.  That is why Scripture says, ‘God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble” (James 4:6).  Oh Lord,  help me to be an ordinary Christian in spite of myself.

The more I die to my old self, the greater need I have for God’s favor.  I simply can’t enhance my new life in Christ.  It has to be all Jesus.  I want to be fueled by grace.  Jesus lets me know, “My gracious favor is all you need.  My power works best in your weakness” ( II Cor 12:8).  Al, keep your heart and spiritual eyes constantly on Jesus, so that you can be fueled by grace and not by human achievement.

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