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: September 2019

The Crucifix

As I have mentioned in previous blogs, I am auditing a composition honors class at the local junior college.  Our first major essay was to write on an object.  I chose the crucifix for a couple of reasons.  First it has significance for me and secondly, I want to continue to share the “good news” with young people.

So here is  part of what I had said about the crucifix.  Because the audience has different opinions regarding Christianity, I did not include bible verses.  I will simply quote from the essay

“I grew up Lutheran and eventually became a Lutheran pastor.  In my religious tradition a “dead” Jesus on a cross is almost a denial of the resurrection….I came to value the Crucifix, while learning from Leanne Payne.  Leanne had a significant healing ministry in which the Crucifix played a major role.  She has written, “Christian reality is diminished for us because it has been reduced to an abstraction…we need to be reminded that a crucifix is more than a valid symbol of truth, it is and always has been a central one.”  Then I stated, “I found healing for my wounded soul, in part, by focusing on Jesus dying on the cross.  I visualized him taking my pain and sins into his body.”

I write of wanting to make three points about the Crucifix.  “First, the cross depicts a compassionate and loving God, who has demonstrated the extend to which he loves humanity.  He was willing to suffer and die for the failures of each of us. I would like to reimage the Crucifix, not as a bloody portrait of a good man, with all the misconceptions surrounding the death of Jesus, but rather as ‘good news’ in a culture that is crying out for help. Briefly stated – Father, Son and Holy Spirit have lived in a loving relationship from all eternity.  At one point in history a loving heavenly Father, sent His Son to die for the failures of the human race.  The Holy Spirit is the presence of God in our hearts, making this reality a present  truth, bringing healing to our wounded souls.

Secondly, the story of Jesus and his death on the cross as a historical event is meant to provide a way home.  We have all wandered from home, that is, away fro a loving relationship with our heavenly Father.  Jesus came to provide a way back, through his death on the cross.  In a day when many in our culture struggle with issues of identity,  significance, belonging and loneliness, the cross boldly declares, “here is a way home.”

Thirdly…. the Crucifix represents a place where I can go with my problems and pain.  I visualize Jesus bearing them in his suffering for me.  Of equal importance is how I have been able to help others, by going with them to the foot of the cross to find healing for their wounded and broken souls. In simple terms – we can lay our problems at the foot of the cross.

I am simply telling my story and the significance the Crucifix  continues to have in my life.  I know of no other symbol that is more important to me.  That is why I tell my story.  I close by quoting one of the most familiar verses of the Bible.  This is a quote from the Message.  “This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son.  And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life” (John 3:16).

Kidspeak

I am enrolled in an honors composition class at the local Junior College.  My reasons are twofold: first, getting to knowing gen X students and 2) improve my writing skills.  It has been both interesting and challenging thus far.  Recently, we were asked to write a paper on  writing a perfect sentence.

One of the assigned paper was entitled ‘Why Grown-ups Keep Talking Like Little Kids.” The author, John McWhorter, notes, “More and more, adults are sprinkling their speech with the language of children.”  What is surprising is his contention that with “the rise of kidspeak, we are actually witnessing English’s enrichment.”  I see it more as a surrender, due to adults not living with integrity, thus cheapening the use of words.  Paul exhorts us in Eph. 4: 15 to speak the truth in love.

“The horrors of the real world,” McWhorten observes, “are enough to make a person seek the safety of childhood by any means including linguistic ones.”  I wrote in my reflections the following; “Really, do we actually need new words to hid behind in order to protect ourselves from the scary world.”

McWhorten cited a study by April Smith, a psychology professor at Miami University, in Ohio, indicating that young people have become newly fearful of reaching adulthood. Students seemed to be agreeing with statements such as “I wish that I could return to the security of childhood” and disagreeing with such statements as “I feel happy that I am not a child anymore.”  “A generation understandably spooked by ‘adulting,'” McWhorton concludes, “may well embrace the linguistic comfort food of childlike language.” My question – “How long can one survive on linguistic comfort food in a conflicted society.

In a class of 18, including myself, made up of students all in their late teens and 20’s, I shared my reflection on the paper. I suppose I am viewed as a curious grandfather to the 17 others.  As I spoke up, I admitted feeling awkward and insecure.  I told the class that I had issues with what I called “the dumbing down” of the language.  I agreed that we live in a difficult time.  The blame for this is not their, but that of my generation. As for myself, I wanted them to know that I desire to speak clear, loving words,  as I have always done with my children and grandchildren.

I came away from that class with these three impression for myself.  First, a new perspective on their dilemma.  My classmates  looked at me and listened intently.  There is a 50 year gap between us.  These students are bombarded with hateful speech every day through social media.  I want to be a male voice speaking to truth in love, not a voice of accommodation.

Secondly, I am more committed then ever to simply being a humble, loving follower of Jesus among my classmates. I want to listen intently and discerningly.  I hope to win the right to speak.  But I will  speak as an adult man, who speaks the truth in love.  No kidspeak for me.

Thirdly, I want to act with integrity among my classmates.  I am sure there are hurts, disappointments and sorrows with grown up men in their lives.  Through my words and attitude I want to point them to a God who loves them and is waiting for them to come home.  I can do this by speaking as a grandpa who has learned a lot on the journey.  I don’t need to revert to kidspeak.

Drew Brees

I am sure that most of the readers of this blog have heard about the media controversy Drew Brees, the quarterback for the New Orleans Saints got into recently. In a short video, Brees encouraged students to participate in Focus on the Family’s ‘Bring Your Bible to School’ emphasis.  In his comments he never once mentioned sexual orientation or gender identity.

In the 22-second video titled “Shout Out From Drew Brees” the 12-time pro-bowler encouraged students to “celebrate religious freedom and share God’s love with friends.”  He referred to II Cor. 5:7 as his favorite verse in Scripture.  “So I want to encourage you to live out your faith on ‘Bring your Bible to School Day'” Brees said, “and share God’s love with friends.”

But because the video was sponsored by Focus on the Family, which endorses traditional Christian teaching on marriage and sexuality, the liberal media characterized Brees as being anti-gay.  Brees later tweeted, “Love, respect, and accept ALL.  I encourage you not to believe the negativity….I do not support any groups that discriminate or that have their own agendas that are trying to promote inequality.”

Focus on the Family’s Jim Daly posted a video on You Tube.  “Our goal is to say, ‘Jesus loves you, cares for you, no matter who you are – your race, your creed, your sexual orientation.  Jesus died for every one of us’  That’s the message we want to get out.”

I really appreciate what John Stonestreet over at Breakpoint had to say about this controversy.  Referring N.T. Wright who asks “What time is it?” in the redemptive history from the creation to the new creation, Stonestreet asks, “What time is it?” in regard to the cultural  moment  we live in?  “What is being asked and expected of people of faith now, in this time and in this place.

“The gatekeepers of the LGBTQ movement have moved on, and are now demanding that everything….from football to business to education to politics has to be about this [sex].”  So what time is it?  “It’s a post-sexual revolution, a time in history in which nearly everyyhing about life and our life together, from our understanding of right and wrong, to our understanding of what it means to be human, has been reimaged along the lines of sexuality.”

That sure is the lesson from the “Bring your Bible to School.”  It had nothing to do with sex, but the liberal media made it out to be a matter of sexuality.  So don’t believe that falsehood that Christian are obsessed with sex.  But also be aware of how you speak about theultural issues, such as sexuality, in a time such as this.

Here are a some things to consider from this “dust up” over Drew Brees and a plain, straightforward encouraging word to teens that so desperately need hope and how it was turned around to be about sex by the liberal media.  First, keep you comments and focus on the love of God.  I am learning this with the young people I meet in my college class.  Secondly, don’t get caught up in negativity.  What helps me is to say to those I am in dialogue with, “I am a humble, simple follower of Jesus.  He loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life.”

Thirdly,  above all else don’ get defensive when confronted with charges of hatred and bigotry.  We must all get used to the fact that sharing the Good News” of Jesus’ love is more like being on a mission field were we would expect opposition and ever hostility.  Jesus never said it would be comfortable.  He said we would be hated.

A well of sadness

Nathenial Hawthrone is quoted as say, “Everyman has his secret sorrow which the world knows not; and often times we call a man cold when he is only sad.”  Recently I have been experiencing a well of sadness that has unexpectedly surfaced.  The combination of a new living environment and my desire to allow God’s love to penetrate deeper into my heart, seems to have triggered this sadness.  I am learning not to be “cold,” that is, indifferent to inner pain, but rather process the pain.

The inflow of God’s love into my heart confronts my  egocentricity, exposing my focus on self rather than the Lord.  My sadness is that of the wounded ego. My frail ego, turned inward feeling sorry for myself. “This is real affliction,” writes Ruth Burrows.  She maintains, “what we do almost always inflates the ego.  True affliction deprives us of every vestige of self-complacency.  It is often low-keyed, miserable, something we are ashamed to call suffering.”  Those last words, “ashamed to call suffering.”  When I see people  around me who suffering much more than myself, I have to confess that I am ashamed to be aware of my pain.

I am learning to identify my shame, as part of my fragile ego not making “the grade” spiritually. I am hurting because the spirit of God has exposed vestiges of my false religious self. Pain from being self absorbed in my walk with God is hard to accept. ” God will not protect them [men] from their lives” observes Donald Bisson. He goes on to say, “Men must learn that God desires to enter into their experiences, even when they are filled with ambiguity, pain and struggle.”

The Psalmist is a good model for finding help in expressing our pain.  He tells of his experience. “”The pressure never lets up; all the juices of my life dried up.  Then I let it all out; I said, ‘I’ll make a clean breast of my failures to God.’  Suddenly the pressure was gone – my guilt dissolved, my sin disappeared.” (Ps 32:4-5 – Message).  Men, there is no need to go digging around in your inner life to identify your failures.  Instead listen to what the Spirit of God wants you to become aware of in your heart.

Listen again to Donald Bisson.  “Men feel deeply. They feel so deeply that they fear to let any of these feelings out; they fear they will be engulfed by them.  The most profound feelings are associated with grief.”  Boy, can I identify with this insight.  I sometimes get overwhelmed at what the Spirit of God is exposing in my soul.  It goes back a ways in my story, exposing my well of sadness.

My testimony to any man reading this blog who is in a battle of not wanting to identify and be exposed to his sadness, is to trust in faith that God loves you in all of your stink.  God loves you unconditionally.  What you are experiencing is the inflow of his love.  In order to know this love on an ever deepening level, we are called to expose the dark caverns of our heart to the Lord.

Remember again the wonderful promise in I John 4:18: “Such love has no fear because prefect love expels all fear.  If we are afraid, it is for fear of judgment, and this shows that his love has not been perfected in us. Men, focus on the love God has for you, not on the pain of exposure.

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