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.

Category: Brother Al (Page 1 of 40)

The ‘M’ Word

Mark Regnerus, a leading Christian sociologist has done extensive research on marriage.  In a recent article he observed  that among many academics, marriage, “is now considered the ‘M’ word, almost in the same category as other dirty words.”  He has found, “the institution of marriage is under severe strain.”

Regnerus warns, “marriage is getting rarer.  Fast.”  It is declining even among conservative Christians.  “Studying the demise of marriage, ” writes Regnerus, “has been live watching a invasive fungus slowly destroy a stately old oak tree.  Despite all this bad news, though, there is reason for hope.  The oak will not perish.  In fact, marriage will increasingly become ‘a Christian thing,’ which means the church will bear increasing responsibility for an institution with an uncertain future.” 

What is expected  of marriage today has changed profoundly, while what marriage  actually offers has not.  Men, he gives us a challenge that we should take to heart.  “It’s time for the church to re-demonstrate to the world what marriage is.  We have on our side a timeless and transcendent motivation for matrimony.  The task is not a glamorous one.  But it just might work.”  The challenge – is our modeling of marriage going to make a difference.  

He wonders if the West is not, “living off the fumes of countless sacrifices” of Christian marriages of the past.  He sees marriage as being, “a corporeal and spiritual act of mercy…..The West’s successes have been built upon this family social structure.”  

After 55 years of marriage and being in the last quarter of our journey, Judy and I can testify to the blessing of  our marriage.  But it has not always been a “bed of roses.”  Marriage is a covenant gift of God. A man and  woman are invited into relationship with the triune God of grace.  But there is a lot of “death and resurrection” in such a covenant.    Russell Moore sees marriage becoming more, “a vehicle of self-actualization” rather than  “self-sacrifice”. 

 I personally praise God for the  gift of my wife and the strength I have found through our life together.  Her support, encouragement and spiritual counsel for her “ragamuffin” husband has been a continually source of thanksgiving to the Lord for my soulmate.  She has been truly “bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh” (Gen. 2:23).  In other words, I would not be who I am in the Lord without my “suitable helper” (Gen. 2:20).    

Regnerus  warns against two trends  that we need to avoid in “this hard-but-hopeful space” of modern marriage in which we have all the “raw materials for reviving marriage.”      

The first trend is among young Christians having, “a high expectations for matrimony and a low tolerance for sacrifice.” Today younger believers see marriage as a capstone on a successful young adult life, rather then a “foundational hallmark of entry into adulthood.”  A capstone puts the finishing on a structure, while a foundation rests on a lot of work.  I agree marriage is sacrifice and work. “In the foundational vision, being newly married and poor was common, expected and difficult, but often temporary.” 

The second trend is expecting too much of a marriage partner.  One psychologist called this the “suffocation model.”  Tim Keller has said, “people are asking far too much in the marriage partner.”  Fewer people are interesting in participating in demands of marriage.  It is more then sharing affection.  Regnerus points out that marriage, “still concerns the mutual provision and transfer of resources  within a formalized sexual union.”  Younger adults shy away from the “specialization and exchange” expected in marriage.  Demand too much without giving and there will be disappointment.  

  

 

  

 

 

My Constant Lover

I have been reading the memoirs of my mentor, James Houston.  God has given him a rich and rewarding life as leader in the Evangelical spirituality movement.  He is now 98 years old. His books and recordings have impacted my life, just when I needed the wisdom and insight he was able to offer.  I am eternally grateful for the influence of Dr. Houston at the right time in my life.

At the beginning of his book he shares a previously unpublished poem from John Innes.  I want to quote the whole poem, because it reflects so much of my journey with Jesus.  I hope it will be an encouragement for someone reading this blog.  

“Dear love! Your love, that flows through Calvary, springs through my heart – like fountains in the night. Flushes clean the dawn, lifelines my drowning plight, breaks loose my weighting chains and buoys me free

Great Mystery! I can but ask, “Why me, a savage soul, whose life of fumbling flight, crept underground in catacombed delights,  remaining shamefully where none could see?”

O Grace! I breathe, inhaling you in me, exhaling sighs of thanks for your invite.   You, touching me, dis-covering me of fright , transforming lonely ‘I’ to glorious ‘We.’

Entombing deadness darkness rolls away,  reviving Life in Love’s embracing way.”

I must confess that I am not drawn to poems.  But for some reason this poem has spoken to my heart.  Here is what it is saying to me.

First stanza –  “Thank you, Jesus for freeing me from myself!”  The love of God, demonstrated by Jesus suffering on the cross, is a fierce love flowing and reaching out to rescue me.  My heavenly Father desires that His love would fill the emptiness of my heart.  “Like fountains in the night,” I do not have to preform or understand, just learn to receive this inflow.  This inflow “flushes” me clean, recuses me from my “plights,” “breaks loose” the chains within, and  “buoys” me in freedom.  “I thank you Jesus for the new found freedom in me.”

The second stanza – “Thank you, Jesus for coming to my deepest place and rescuing me from myself!” The “Great Mystery” is the deep, deep love of Jesus for me.  In fact He actually likes me.  He “crept underground” into  my “savage soul,” to those dark and shameful places within my heart, shedding His  bright, flaming love for me.  The great wonder is that he was not surprised at what he found.

Third stanza  –  “Thank you, Jesus for the infilling of your spirit!” I receive the grace of God.  It is as simply as “inhaling”  life moment by moment.  Then in “exhaling” I give eternal thanks for knowing He always welcomes me home. Jesus you touched me at my deepest place, while I was in “flight,” fleeing in my shame and insecurity.  Indeed you transformed a “lonely ‘I'” to a “glorious ‘We.'”

Finally- “Thank you, Jesus for calling me out of my tomb!”  You broke through the years of misunderstanding and neglect, that entombed me in my “deadness” and “darkness.”   The door to my tomb “rolled away.”  You brought me out into the bright light of you overflowing love.  Your loving embrace, brought life to this sick, dying soul, and made me new.

I “thank you, Jesus” for reaching deep within, allowing me to live for you, not by my effort or knowledge, but knowing you have turned my lonely “I” into a glorious “we.”  You did what I could never do.

Many my interpretation of this wonderful poem set a fellow pilgrim free to live for Jesus.  

Thomas Merton

Years ago, as a young pastor I became acquainted with the writings of Henri Nouwen.  A quote from a book about Thomas Merton, has stuck with me  through all these years.  It certainly applies to our day. 

“Bitterness is the reaction of one who expects some thing from another without daring to look into his or her own heart, and therefore, become quickly disappointed.  Merton know only too well that the sin, evil and violence that he found in the world, were the same sin, the same evil and the same violence that he had discovered in his own heart through solitude, silence and prayer.  The impurity in the world was a mirror of the impurity in his own heart.”

I honestly desire to be loving to all people, regardless of race.  But I know the seeds of prejudice are lodged in my own heart.  Jesus is speaking to me today, when he says, “How can you think of saying, ‘Let me help you get ride of that speck in your eye,’ when you can’t see past the log in your own eye? Hypocrite! First get rid of the log from your own eye; then perhaps you will see well enough to deal with the speck in your  friend’s eye” (Matt. 7:4-5 NLT). 

But I will not be intimidated by the voices that cry out “racist.”  I will remain respectful, being aware of my fallen condition, yet wanting to  show love and respect.   I will continue to keep my eyes on the Lord.  I will grieve in my spirit for all the hate and bitterness that has sprouted up in this last month.  I will humbly admit that I am a flawed man, deeply in the need of grace and mercy.  

Most of all I will take my stand at the foot of the cross.  I hold to Paul’s words  in Ephesians 2:14-16, “For he himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility…….His purpose was to create in himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace, and in this one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility.”  Only through the cross will there be true peace and reconciliation. 

Here I will take my stand with all who genuinely want the peace of God to rule in their hearts.  I will not compromise or forsake the message of the cross.  For Jesus died for such a time in which we are now enduring.  Make no mistake, we are in a intense battle for the soul of our nation.  The powers of darkness are wanting to put out the light of the good news in Jesus.  

Paul encourages us to live in the light and not be intimidated  by the darkness of our day. “But friends, you’re not in the dark, so how could you be taken off guard by any of this?   You’re sons of light, daughters of Day…….So let’s not sleepwalk through life like those others.  Let’s keep our eyes open and be smart……Since we’re creatures of Day, let’s act like it.  Walk out into the daylight sober, dressed up in faith, love and the hope of salvation” (I Thess. 4:4-8 MGS).

Jesus gives us a warning,  “So, whatever you do, don’t go to sleep on the switch.  Pray constantly that you will have the strength and wits to make it through everything that’s coming and end up on your feet before the Son of Man” (Luke 21: 36 MGS).

  

 

Danger with E-Worship

Theologian N.T. Wright has expresses a concern about the danger with e-worship.  He detects a societal shift toward Christianity as being a “private” movement that would have no place in public life.  He sees a danger in virtual church gatherings giving the impression of church as a private club only for the like-minded, cordoning it off from the rest of society.  “Public worship of the Triune God,” he maintains, “in a public place – observing whatever security measures are appropriate – has always been a major part of sending out that signal to the watching world.”

How will church life be different when we get back to normal?  Will some believers prefer to stay home and be content connecting with the church on line?  Will the church “triumphant” become more invisible and private in the days to come,  just when the witness of the good news will be needed more than ever? Even more importantly, how will believers receive soul care?  Will men tend to become “lone rangers” in the post coronavirus era, believing they can manage their spiritual life on their own?

Men, I exhort you to take the lead in making sure you and your family connect  with flesh and blood believers.   You are going to need the strength that comes from being “a part of” rather than being “disconnected” from fellowship.  Who will stand with you in the days to come?  The battle will be great.  There is going to be confusion and outright despair about the future.  We need to “man up.”

Paul has some strong words for us men.  “No prolonged infancies among us, please.  We’ll not tolerate babes in the woods, small children who are easy prey for predators.  God wants us to grow up, to know the whole truth and tell it in love – like Christ in everything.  We take our lead from Christ, who is the source of everything we do.  He keeps us in step with each other.  His very breath and blood, flow through us, nourishing us so that we grow up healthy in God, robust in love” (Eph 4:14-16 MSG).   We need the nourishment that only comes through life together. 

Being on line for our Sunday church service has been a new experience for Judy and I.  We long for face to face fellowship. Like you, we are part of the body of Christ.  “The human body has many parts, but the many parts  make up only one body.  So it is with the body of Christ…..Now all of you together are Christ’s body, and each one of you is separate and necessary part of it” (I Cor 12:12 & 27 NLT). 

Recent data from Barna has revealed a new cultural reality and spiritual landscape in our nation caused by the disruption of the coronavirus pandemic. With churches featuring digital formats, among practicing Christians approximately half have been steaming their regular church online.  Around one-third have been streaming a different church, and the rest have done neither and have taken time out from church.  Men, don’t fade away.

David Kinnaman of Barna maintains that the coronavirus, “has merely accelerated the disruptions  that were already occurring in culture, accentuating a sense of a deep cultural chaos, which is impacting many spheres of society.”  He warned, “We’re not going back to normal.” 

He asks a very searching question: “The COVID crisis is going to accelerate many needed changes for the church.  How is is that we are going to show up in an anxious moment for an anxious generation, for an isolated generation, for people that are struggling with questions but maybe aren’t all that hungry for spiritual answers.”

 

The Mural

My wife grew up in south Minneapolis.  Much of our courtship took place in the area where George Floyd was killed.  It is hard see pictures of the destruction that has taken place.  In the midst of the ruins is a mural.   At the corner of East 36th Street and Chicago Avenue, on the wall of a local business, is a large mural dedicated to the memory of George Floyd.

A group of local artist came together to paint the mural.  One of them said, “It provides people a place to process.  I think having a place for people to come and cry or scream or pray or do whatever they need to do is really important.” The artist went on to say, “I think a mural is a good format [for] saying, ‘Don’t look away from this any longer.'”  

Like most of you  I have given thought to this senseless death and the chaos it has brought to our country.  The words, “I can’t breathe” have become a rallying cry for many demonstrations.  Those words were upsetting for millions of people who watched the video.  It depicted a man suffocating, because he could not breathe.  He cried out “please.”

Harold Floyd was not able to physical breathe.  He died a horrible death on the street.  But what about spiritual breathe.  By all accounts, Mr Floyd was a believer, a flawed pilgrim like the rest of us.  At the bottom of the mural were these liberating words, “I CAN BREATHE NOW.”

In the midst of a tragedy that has gripped to nation, we find words of life pointing to the ultimate reality.  George lost physical breathe,  but was able to breathe spiritually.  We read in Ecclesiastes, “Yet God has make everything beautiful for its own time.  He has planted eternity in the human heart” (Eccl. 3:11). 

George Floyd, the one in whom the spirit of the living God lives, has now been release to be with Jesus.  In Genesis 2:7 we read, “and the Lord God formed a man’s body from the dust of the ground and breathe into it the breath of life.  And the man became a living person.”  Paul picks up on this when he reminds us, “The Scriptures tell us, ‘The first man, Adam, became a living person.’  But the last Adam- that is, Christ – is a life-giving Spirit” (I Cor 15:45). 

To the Philippians, Paul shared that he really wanted to leave and be with the Lord.  He was hard pressed. “For to me, living is for Christ, and dying is even better.” (Phil 1:21)  Then he says “I’m torn between two desires; Sometimes I want to live; and sometimes I long to go and be with Christ.  That would be far better for me, but it is better for you that I live” (Phil 1:23-4).

I pray that those we read about or actually see the mural will consider their spiritual state.  Are they ready to die?  Are they afraid of death?  How will they die?  These are all questions we all ask.  George Floyd died a tragic death.  But where is he now.   With Jesus.  Many don’t have the assurance of this hope. 

Listen to these wonderful words from Paul.  “For our present troubles are quite small and won’t last very long.  Yet they  produce for us an immeasurably great glory that will last forever.  So we don’t look at the troubles we can see right now; rather, we look forward to what we have not yet seen.  For the troubles we see will soon be over, but the joys to come will last forever” ( II Cor 4:17-18). 

 

  

My Ordination

I received an unexpected surprise yesterday (May 26th) when the mail arrived.  It was an certificate, acknowledging my  “50th anniversary of ordination” into the Holy Ministry of Word and Sacrament.  I was ordained on May 24,  l970 in my home town of Negaunee, Michigan.  

Why do I mention my ordination certificate?  It is a symbol of God’s faithfulness and mercy.  “The unfailing love of the Lord never ends!  By his mercies we have been kept from complete destruction.  Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin fresh each day” (Lam 3:22-23 NLT).   

In my Cambridge New International Version, I have Ps. 71:18 marked  “my retirement (5/11/10),” the day I retired from full time ministry.  These words have become my guiding light as I now approach my 79th year.  “Even when I am old and gray, do not forsake me, O God, till I declare your power to the next generation, your might to all who are to come.”   Men, this is why I write!

Isaiah 46:4 has been a great encouragement in these later years. “I will be your God throughout your lifetime – until your hair is white with age.  I made you, and I will care for you.  I will carry you along and save you.”  Every morning when my bride and I pray together I thank God for how he has cared for us for almost 55 years.

So men, here is a brief testimony.   “Here’s a word you can take to heart and depend on: Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners.  I’m proof – Public Sinner Number One – of someone who could never had made it apart from sheer mercy” (I Tim 1:14-15 MGS). 

First and foremost,  God loves you unconditionally.  I am a “beloved” sinner.  It took me many years to let this reality sink into my heart.  Remember you are love in all your stink! You are loved as you are – period. Take it from me – you can only receive this by faith.  “There is no fear in love.  But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment” (I John 4:18).   Receiving God’s love for you is foundational to all the rest of your spiritual journey.

Second, trust Jesus.  Sounds simple.  Trust means to lean totally on Jesus.  There have been times, when all I could do was to cry out to God for mercy, as I wallowed in my darkness and despair.  When you trust Jesus fully, you can cry out for help and be met at your point of need.   Jesus tells us, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart!  I have overcome the world  (John 16:33). 

Third, Jesus is Lord.  Keep your eyes on Jesus.  Always have that up and out posture, as you seek to follow Jesus.  “My heart says of you, ‘Seek his face!’  Your face, Lord, I will seek” (Ps 27:8).  All authority has been given to Jesus in heaven and on earth.  He will see you through anything that comes your way

Fourth, live in daily repentance.  Humbly see yourself as ”an unfinished follower.” “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble” (James 4:6).

Fifth, make sure that you are a kingdom man.  Jesus reigns and already has won the victory for us.  We read in Revelation, “You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth (Rev 5:10).   We know the rest of the story as we follow Jesus. 

I could say a lot more, but if I were talking with one of you, this is what I would want to know from someone ordained to be a pastor 50 years ago. 

   

Michael Jordan

Like many of you men, I have watched “The Last Dance” on ESPN, chronicling the basketball career of Michael Jordan.  It brought back many memories of watching those play off games.  I have, however, been disappointed with the language allowed.  I agree with those who say Michael Jordan is the greatest basketball player who ever has played the game.  

One of the sports writers in the Twin Cities, Jeff Day wondered if MJ was looking for acceptance in allowing his story to be filmed.  He surely was one of the most competitive persons in all of sports.  Maybe to competitive.  “….for 22 years,” notes Day, “people have said that even if he left, he simply could not say goodbye – to the competitiveness, to the court, to the stability of the game.”

What caught my attention was a quote from MJ’s biographer: “Most people struggle to be present.  People go and sit in ashrams for 20 years in India trying to be present.  Do yoga.  Meditate.  Trying to get here, now…..Most people live in fear because we project the past into the future.  Michael is a mystic.  He was never anywhere else.”  Day asks, “I had to wonder: He may have never been anywhere  else, but did he ever get to leave.”

 I have written about the being a mystic and learning to be in the present moment.  It was truly amazing to see how focused MJ could be even when he played with food poisoning.  Scottie Pipen thought of it “as turning on another switch.”

 MJ, the mystic,  was all about himself, while getting his teammates to buy in.  He had the amazing ability to focus on the game.  All his energy was directed towards winning.  It was like being in a trance.  The ultimate goal was conquest of the other team, irregardless of the cost to those around him.  

But a biblical mysticism is very different.  I believe it will rescue many men from despair and spiritual brokenness in the days to come.  Remember “mystic is someone who is deeply in love with Jesus.”  Its all about love.  It is a matter of having a comfortable walk with Jesus. Jesus promised, “I will not leave you orphaned” (John 14:18)

First it is all about Jesus.  It is a relationship based on God’s word, not the wishful thinking.  We are to live in the present moment.  The focus is Jesus, our faithful companion, who already lives within our hearts.  At each moment we are aware of his presence with and in us.  It is, “the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory” ( Col. 1:27).  

Secondly, this relationship is a matter of surrender; not of control.  In the presence of Jesus we surrender totally to his will for our lives.  This is very difficult for men.  We want to be in control our circumstances.  “Letting go” will be essential in the days to come  

Thirdly, we then are in a position to receive whatever God has for us.  We are to be vulnerably open as a little child,  as we learn to rest in the unconditional love of God for us in Christ.  “….unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 18:3).  There is no place for fear.

Fourthly,  dwelling with Jesus, we can live in the present moment, where we find peace.  “Peace I leave with you; my peace  I give to you. (John 14:27).  Giving the past and the future to Jesus, we can live in the present.

Remember biblical mysticism is always about an intimate relationship with Jesus.  

A Blizzard or Winter

I recently read a very insightful article by Andy Crouch entitled, “Leading beyond the Blizzard: why every organization is now a startup.”  He and two others assume the following: “The novel coronavirus is not just something for leaders to ‘get through’ for a few days and weeks.  Instead, we need to treat COVID-19 as an economic and cultural blizzard, winter, and beginning of a ‘little ice age’ – once-in-a lifetime change that is likely to affect our lives and organizations for years.”

They write out of love for others and with humility in a time of considerable uncertainty.  “The creative potential for hope and vision is unparalleled right now” notes the article, “but paradoxically this creativity will only be fully available to us if we also make space for grief and lament.”  

The report ends with these  sobering words, “…… responsible leaders have no choice, today, but to assume that the winter is upon us, and an ice age of unknown duration is before us.  We are playing a game no one now living has ever played before.  We are, for reasons only God knows, on the front line, on the starting team.  Let us act boldly, today, to build as best we can, for the love of our neighbor and the glory of God.”

I am writing to men who have had their personal, family and professional lives radical altered in the last two months.  At present there is deep tension in our nation about how much longer the “lock-down” will last.  It very well could be that before we get to some new normal, we could see civil unrest.  Who will emerge with a plan for a new normal?  Men, we first of all need to look to God on how to rebuild.

My thoughts turn to the book of Nehemiah.  Nehemiah served as cupbearer to the powerful Persian king, Artaxerxes, who made him the governor of Jerusalem.  He lead the people in rebuilding the walls of the city.  Nearly a century after the  Jewish people had gone back to Jerusalem, Nehemiah learned of the deplorable condition of Jerusalem.  “The wall of Jerusalem is broken down, and its gates have been burned with fire” (Neh. 1:2).  The people were in deep distress.  

We can learn from Nehemiah.  It very well could be that we will need to “rebuild” after the virus.  There will be much left in the aftermath of  this pandemic that will need to either be repaired or built anew, in the social, political and economic areas of our life together as a nation.  The spiritual will especially need our attention.    “Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins and will raise up the age-old foundations: you will be called Repairer of Broken Walls, Restorer of Streets with Dwellings” (Is 58:12). 

Nehemiah was deeply moved by the deplorable condition of the city.  He looked to God in heartfelt prayer.  “Let your ear be attentive and your eyes open to hear the prayer your servant is praying…….I confess the sins we Israelites, including myself and my father’s house, have committed against you.”  (1:6).

God gave Nehemiah favor.  After he had surveyed the condition of the city, he told the people, “Come, let us rebuild the wall of Jerusalem, and we will no longer be in disgrace” (2:17).  The people replied, “Let us start rebuilding” (2:18).  Then we are told “they began this good work” (2:18)   To those who opposed the work, Nehemiah said, “The God of heaven will give us success” (2:20).     

View this time as having been refined in the fire, allowing cracks to be exposed in your foundations.  But together we can rebuild our spiritual dwelling in the Lord.    

 

 

 

  

 

 

 

“Free as a bird”

“We’ve flown free from their fangs, free of their traps, free as a bird.  Their grip is broken; we’re free as a bird in flight” (Ps 124:7 – Message).  These words express  what I have been experiencing in my soul.  Something deep within  needs to be released, but seems trapped in the deep caverns of my soul. I have been learning to wait and be open in faith, even in the darkness and confusion. 

It has to do with knowing God’s love.  It is beyond my knowing and understanding.   Many years ago (mid 80’s) I read a book entitled “Christian Mysticism.”  In those days I was struggling with the newly found description of  the Christian as a contemplative. Following Jesus was more about being than doing.   Intimacy with Jesus was the focus rather than achievement or knowledge.

The author, William McNamara, described the mystical experience as, “not the fruit of a direct and systematic effort, but is a gratuitous gift of God.  The aim of mystical contemplation is love.”  Simply put – a mystic is someone who is in love with Jesus.  

McNamara went on to say, “Our human  predicament may be described as a mystical or spiritual crisis, a crisis in contemplation.  Man’s natural mystical powers are seriously atrophied and must be reactivated.  Activity without contemplation is blind. …..Our contemporary preoccupation with  knowledge as possession leaves us dying from lack of communion.”

During those days a quote from a catholic theologian,  Karl Rahner stayed with me, even though I didn’t fully grasp the meaning.  He foresaw, “the devout Christian of the future will either be a ‘mystic’ one who has experienced ‘something’ or he will cease to be anything at all.”  Since those early days, I have come to understand a mystic, in biblical terms, as someone who loves Jesus.  My writing this blog is a way of saying, “the bird needs be set from within me” is a contemplative understanding of my journey with Jesus. 

I am prompted to write about the contemplative, because of an article by Dale Coulter in First Things, relating our present pandemic to what happened among Christians living through the Black plague, which struck Europe during the middle of the 14th century. The impact of that plague was seen as a warning to Europe of being under the judgment of God.  More than 30 percent of the total population of Europe was lost due to the plague.

“During and after this period [black plague]” notes Coulter, “Christianity saw a blossoming of an interior spirituality that had been forged in the reforms of the 12th century.  The crucified Christ, was seen as God’s entrance into human  suffering.  The pain of the ravaged soul turned many to interior prayer as they clung to Jesus,  who had been crucified.  While the church failed to lead, lay people turned to the simplicity of being a Christ follower.  Lay people began to meet in homes for prayer.” 

“Medieval writers” observed Coulter, “premised the turn to the interior life on a rejection of the external world.  This did not mean denying the goodness of creation ….. [But] as long as humans fixated on created goods, they would not make the ascent back to their true home……a constant outward gaze was simply a failure to reckon with who we are and where we are going.”  This turn to the interior life was seen as a movement “from meditation on the self to meditation on Christ and finally to meditation on God revealed in Christ.”

Could it be that in the days to come, men will discover “the contemplative” way with all the suffering, disinformation and hopelessness around us?   

 

 

 

   

 

 

Spiritual Junk Food

When I was a young pastor, in my zeal to preach biblical truth, I often referred to II Tim 4:3-4, “For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine.  Instead to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.  They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.”  Today we have a lot of itching ears.

In those days I never had The Message as back-up to make the point sink in with the congregation.  “You’re going to find that there will be times when people will have no stomach for solid teaching, but will fill up on spiritual junk food – catchy opinions that tickle their fancy.  They’ll turn their backs on truth and chase mirages.” Men, don’t be satisfied with “spiritual junk food.”

Recently Barna research group came out with this shocking data indicating how our nations is consuming “spiritual junk food.”  They found that just over half of Americans hold a biblically-informed view of God, a 22 % drop from 30 years ago.  The new report also showed that only 51% of Americans considered God to be “all-powerful, all-knowing, perfect and just creator of the universe who still rules the world today.”  In 1991, 73% of Americans believed that to be true. 

Even more shocking is the fact that only 52% believe “the Holy Spirit is not a living entity, but merely a symbol of God’s power, presence or purity,” while 56% believe that “Satan is not merely a symbol of evil but is a real spiritual being and influences human lives.”  Nearly half of those surveyed believed in a God who is an influential spiritual being but not full confident that He even exists. 

“The spiritual noise in our culture over the last few decades has confused and misled  hundreds of millions of people,” concluded Barna. “We can no longer assume that people have a solid grasp of even the most basic biblical principles.”  As a nation we have moved from upholding absolute moral truth to embracing “spiritual junk food.”  

Men, here is my counsel in light of these findings.  First, determine in your mind (thinking process) what you believe the bible to be.  It is the final authority in all matter of faith and practice.  It has to be the final word – period!  It’s a decision!

Secondly,  I plead with you to take at least 15 minutes a day to study, reflect and meditate on scripture.  It is solid food for our soul. Eugene Peterson reminds us, “Sound teaching is not junk food.  Nor it it comfort food.  It’s solid food.  Hearty and healthy and good for the soul.”  It’s a habit!

Thirdly, submit yourself to the instruction of the scripture.  Allow the truth of Scripture to form your world view.  Have the bible in one hand and the news report in the other.  It’s work!  

Fourthly, pay attention to the preachers and teachers who influence you.  Ask these two questions. First, do they submit to the authority of Scripture and secondly, does their lifestyle reflect an obedient heart.  Don’t be spiritually blind

Fifthly, let your family know, that God’s word is precious and true.  Do your best, by the grace of God and by his mercy in your life, to live according to the truth of Scripture.  Let your family see and know  how  the bible  orders your life. 

Sixth, one more thing.  Don’t expect others to teach your children the truth.  That is your duty as the head of your house.  Be their primary “bible-teacher.” 

« Older posts

© 2020 Canaans Rest

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑