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: December 2019

“They”

Merriam-Webster announced recently that its Word of the Year is “they.”  The company, which publishes dictionaries and reference books said that online searches for the word increased 313% in 2019 over the  previous year.  The plural pronoun “they” according to the company, may now be used as a singular pronoun.  

Merriam-Webster also stated that “they” should be used for individuals who are “gender-nonconforming” or “nonbinary” and prefer the plural pronoun to refer to themselves, instead of “he” or “she.”  

As a number of observers have noted, Merriam-Webster has acquiesced to a gender theory which says that there are multiple “genders” rather than two sexes; that people may shift from one sex to become the other; and that gender is an internal sense, rather than a biological reality.

Men, when our culture loses a sense of transcendence, in which life has its source in a supreme creator, who created us in his image, our existence is reduce to a small horizon and narrow space.  We are then limited in making sense of our very personhood. We live with an enclosed self.  We don’t know who we are.  We then come to the place today where an individual human being is to be addressed as “they” since they claim to be “nonbinary.” 

It is vital that you get your basic biblical anthropology  straight.  Are you a new man in Christ, created in God’s image to live in fellowship with your heavenly Father and others?  Or are you something else?  Do you know who you are in Christ?  

I intend to stand firm as a male, affirmed in my masculinity, by a heavenly Father who delights in me.  I am a “new man” in Christ. “What this means is that those who become Christians become new persons.  They are not the same anymore, for the old life is gone.  A new life has begun” (II Cor. 5:17).    

Again we have to go back to Genesis.  “When God created people, he made them in the likeness of God.  He created them male and female, and he blessed them and called them ‘human'” (Gen 5:1-2).  We were not created as “they” but as a person in relationship to the creator.  We also rejoice in being made new in Christ. 

I want to  give you the following quote from Fenelon.  He is celebrating his new life in Christ.  “The first of God’s gifts, the foundation of all others, is what I call self.  He gave me myself.  To him I owe not only all I have, but all I am……the mind of Man can not understand the infinity of such a gift.  The God Who made me, gave me myself, the self I love …..I owe to His goodness, and that God should be in me and I in Him, seeing I derive myself from Him.  Without Him I should not be myself, without Him I should not have the self I love nor the power of loving it, neither the will to love nor the thoughts whereby I know myself.  All that I have and am is given me”

It is a profound reality, when a man, comes to the awareness that God love him as he is in Christ, allowing him to love himself, to love God in return, as well as others with the love that God has for him.  What is so needed today in our culture are men, who know they are loved by God, who can love others with the love of Christ. 

 

Volunteer for your death

Sometime ago I came across this quote from Francois Fenelon, a spiritual writer and guide from the 17th century. “Volunteer for your own death, for God will only accomplish his work to the extent that you let him.”  I don’t know about you, but I don’t like the thought of  volunteering for death, even if it means spiritual death.   My old nature is so familiar.  I’m comfortable with who I am, especially my “religious” self.       

But the Lord knows what needs to be brought to the cross. Like Fenelon, I cringe at “the very thought of the cross coming to work in me.”  The Lord seeks out and desires to destroy the roots of self-love within my soul.  The deeper the roots the more His work is done in secret.  But I will feel the pain of something being uprooted.    

 The process of bearing the cross, that is, being crucified, can is slow and painful.  I will need to embrace the cross repeatedly for the same pattern of sin in my life. The deeper and more hidden a pattern of sin, the more painful it can be.  I simply don’t want to give up and die.  But God is patient in the process.

The process of bearing the cross and being crucified is  continuous.  Jesus made this clear when he said, “If you refuse to take up your cross and follow me, you are not worthy to being mine” (Matt 10:38).  Taking up the cross and following means a willingness to accept the work of the cross in our lives.   

The Amplified translation of Gal 2:20 puts it in stark words.  “I have been crucified with Christ [that is, in Him I have shared His crucifixion]; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me.”  Men there is no instant fix for getting rid of those “ingrained patterns of sin.”  When God deals with our old nature, Fenelon give fair warning, “He heads straight for the center of all that you hold most dear.”  

Again listen to Fenelon. “Often when  you suffer, it is the life of your self-nature that cause you pain.”  But Fenelon reminds us, “When you are dead you do not suffer.”  So guess what!  When you and I feel the pain, we are still holding on to our old patterns.  

“Death,” notes Fenelon, “is only painful to you when you resist it.”  I am at the place in my journey where I am willing to accept the pain.    His work in me is done beyond my understanding, in secret, so that it is all his work and not my attempts at self improvement 

What I especially don’t like about volunteering for my own death, is the humiliation of being aware of my faults.  What Fenelon observes is sure true for me. “The pain you feel at your own imperfection is worse than the faults themselves.”  

As you read this blog, you might be struggling with a hidden sin pattern in your life or you might be living with a kind of heaviness of spirit.  Is the Lord asking you to volunteer anew for your death.  Men there is no way around the spiritual reality that our walk with God is one of death and being raised to new life.  What God has for you is much better then what you strive to do on your own for him. 

 

 

 

Feeling like an orphan

Once a month Judy and I go to a prayer meeting.  The folks who attend are all interested in the healing ministry, which would include inner healing.  As Connie, the presenter was sharing about inner healing of family wounds, I suddenly became aware of my father, exposing as sense of inner loneliness and emptiness.  

The thought came to me, “my Dad left me orphaned as a boy.”  I thought that I had dealt with most of the wounds in my soul regarding my Dad.  A wound, which I was unaware of, was nowbeing exposed that had laid dormant in my soul. Let me give you fair warning men.  Some of the brokenness you  experience goes deep when it comes to a “distant” father.  

My father had his own abandonment issues.  I identify with Paul Auster, when he writes about wanting his father’s attention. “It was not that I felt he disliked me.  It was just that he seemed distracted, unable to look in my direction.  And more the anything, I wanted him to take notice of me.”  I know now that my father was not able or capable of reaching me at a soulful level. 

At my age, I have been going through some new and deeper times of loneliness.  Even though I have the most understanding and loving wife, I have struggled with loneliness.  It is hard to admit my sense of feeling abandoned.

My experience at the prayer meeting brought it all to the surface.  My father himself struggled with loneliness.  I sensed that when I visited him in his last days in a nursing home.  Now that I am older and in a sense, “set apart” because of age, I lament the feeling of loneliness.   Could it be true, when Auster observes, “You do not stop hungering for your father’s love even after you are grown up.”

I have been processing these feeling of  loneliness, due to my sense of being abandoned by my father.  I am reminded of Thomas Keating’s astute observation: “God simply moves downstairs, so to speak, and waits for us to come and join him.”  So what am I doing to meet God “downstairs.”

First and foremost, I confess and affirm that I have not been abandoned by my heavenly Father.  Jesus tells us, “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you” (John 14:18)  Jesus has come to bring me home.  He knows the way home for me and my loneliness.

Secondly,  my experience was exposing a deep wound that I never realized was present in my story.  I have to process the wound.  Without feelings of self-pity, I ask the Lord for guidance, so that I might be specific in praying through this wound. It has not been easy – the wound goes deep.

Thirdly, I have in my wife, a competent spiritual guide, who can listen to my deepest thoughts and feelings, while giving me the clarity I need to heal the wound. 

Finally, when these feelings of loneliness and abandonment surface, I have a place to bring them.  I lift them up, and take them to Jesus, asking him for for three things: 1) the grace to surrender such deep feelings to him, 2) strength to want to grow in my relationship to Jesus and 3) the patience to allow him to do the work within me soul. 

The J-Curve

I would like to introduce you to the J-curve. I read about this concept in a review of new book by Paul Miller, entitled “The J-curve,” with the subtitle “dying and rising with Jesus in everyday life.” I have not read the book as of now, but I sure like the thesis Miller presents. “It’s simple, it’s brilliant: The Christian life is shaped like a capital J.  You descend on the left and rise on the right.” 

Miller writes, “If rising is embedded in dying, then not running from the customized dying that God permits in our lives is essential for resurrection.”  Many years ago, when I was a young Christian, trying to find my way as a follower of Jesus, I was struggling with how I might be able to live a Christian lifestyle, after living for myself, during my first eighteen years.    

I remember being fully committed.  I was all in for Jesus. So the issue was not my desire to follow Jesus.  The problem was my old nature, what Richard Foster calls “habitual patterns of sin.”  I was new believer, who had a lot to overcome.  I remember reading a small book entitled “The Calvary Way.”  The author talked about being broken before the Lord.  I was convicted as I read.

For the first time in understanding my new life in Christ, I realized that it would be a matter of death to my old self.  So the idea of “dying to self” and then “being raised with Christ” has remained an important foundation to my spirituality.  “You see” writes the author Roy Hession, “the only life that pleases God and that can be victorious, is His life…..we can never be filled with His life, unless we are prepared for God to bring our life constantly to death.”

Some have called it “the crucified life.”  Being asked to die is not something we men are naturally willing to embrace.  But that is exactly what the J-curve entails.  Remember men, Jesus calls us to come to him and die to ourselves.  “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must put aside your selfish ambitions shoulder your cross and follow me.  If you try to keep your life for yourself, you will lose it.  But if you give up your life for me, you will find true life” (Matt. 16:24-26)

Like I said, being asked to die and give your life to another is not easy.  But this is the way of  Jesus.  Like me, you will have your ups and downs with dying and being raised up.  I appreciate Miller’s illustration of  “the trapdoor.”  

We are not able to control the dying and the rising.  Miller says of himself, “I’ve had some long times when I was sure I was at the bottom.  I could begin to see some hope coming, and then there was a trapdoor, and I went down again.  Sometimes I’ve gone through a series of trapdoors and I keep thinking I’ve bottomed out.”

Take it from me, you are going to go through trapdoors when you least expect them.  You will know when you have fallen into one of them.  It is a dark, lonely space, void of peace, with little hope on the horizon.  Don’t fight it.  Surrender and die to your “selfish ambitions” and cry out to Jesus for mercy.  Remember to keep looking up and out as you cry for help.  He will hear you and rescue you.   

   

At The Table

This is another blog about the ministry of Zach Williams at Harding prison.  As I watch the video of Zach singing “At the Table,” it was moving to watch men in prayer and worship.  I couldn’t help but wonder how these hardened inmates were processing the invitation to come to the table.  The implication was that Jesus welcomes each one of them just the way they are. 

I was drawn to the story of Zacchaeus, the tax collector, in Luke 19:1-ff.  Being a short man and a disliked as a tax collector, Zacchaeus had a rather low view of himself when it came to being in the presence of Jesus.  He climbed up into a tree to just get a longing glimpse of Jesus as he passed by.

To his surprise, Jesus stops, look up at poor Zacchaeus and said, “Zacchaeus, hurry down.  Today is my day to be a guest in your home.”  We read, “Zacchaeus scrambled out of the tree, hardly believing his good luck, delighted to take Jesus home with him” (Luke 19:5-6 MSG). 

The locals could not grasp this kind of openness displayed by Jesus.  “Everyone who saw the incident was indignant and grumped, ‘What business does he have  getting cozy with this crook?'” (Luke 19:7 MSG).  Remember a performance orientated culture will never begin to comprehend the generosity and compassion of the love of God.

Zacchaeus is overwhelmed by the presence of Jesus.  It made him what to  change his ways.  Jesus tells us, “Today is salvation day in this home!  Here he is: Zacchaeus, son of Abraham!  For the Son of Man came to find and restore the lost” (Luke 19:9-10 MSG).  Zacchaeus was not Jewish, yet Jesus welcomed him as a son of Abraham.  His whole identity as a man was changed in that moment.

You might feel like Zacchaeus as you read this post.  Jesus is inviting you to the table.  Here is the words to the refrain of Zack’s song: “So bring it all to the table/There’s nothing He ain’t seen before/For all your fear, all your sorrow and your sadness/There’s a Savior and He calls/Bring it all to the table.”

I remember a table I used to sit at, way back when I was a young pastor in Babbit, Minn.  It was at the home of Woody Uppman.  Often on my day off, I would just go and hang out with Woody.  He was a retired miner who accepted me just as I was.  I felt like I could share my real self with Woody.  I was able to go back to my work as a parish pastor, better prepared, because Woody made me feel like I could do the job. There was always room at Woody’s table for a insecure, arrogant young man like myself.

Maybe you don’t have a older father figure, with whom you can just share your heart.  But just remember Jesus invites you to the table.  Come as you are, not as you think you should be.  

My advice is simple;  it comes from years of trying to impress Jesus.  Be real and honest not only  with your thoughts but your emotions and desires as well.  He already know them all.  Just tell it to Jesus. Then learn to be still and silent so you can hear him give you the words of affirmation.  You are his beloved, simply because he loves you for who you are and not what you do.  

Remember!  This could be for you today!  There is room at the table for you.  Jesus is waiting for you to come home.  

 

 

 

 

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