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: Wildman Journey (Page 1 of 78)

Jerry Seinfeld and Masculinity

I am always looking for voices calling our culture back from the brink of gender confusion regarding toxic masculinity and the  relentless attack on patriarchy. To my surprise, Jerry Seinfeld has been making his voice heard in the media.  It seems like he is calling us back to a “common  culture” of the early 1960’s, when gender roles were not so confusing.   He laments the decline of “dominant masculinity,” which he suggests has led to the disintegration of the clear social hierarchy that once maintained American culture.  He made these remarks on a town hall at SiriusEM Studios, hosted by journalist Bari Weiss.

Seinfeld noted that a “key element” missing in modern society is “an agreed-upon hierarchy,” which he said “is absolutely vaporized in today’s moment.”  He even had the courage to point out the decline of traditionally masculine men in today’s culture as “a symptom of the disintegrating social hierarchy.” Seinfeld noted that people who lean on the horn and drive in the crazy way  they drive is because they have no sense of hierarchy.  “And as humans” he believed, “we don’t really feel comfortable like that.”

While he admired traditional masculinity, Seinfeld admitted he did not epitomize such traits.  Looking back at his youth, he admitted, “I’ve always wanted to be a real man. I never made it.” He looked up to men like John F. Kennedy, Muhammad Ali, Howard Cosell, and Sean Connery as examples of a real man.  He admits what he called “the toxic thing,” while still still having admiration for a real man.  Seinfeld also talked about “toxic masculinity” with Bill Maher on his podcast, during which Maher ascribed the decline of men in part to rampant perverted pornography.  

Seinfeld, who is usually not overtly political, has complained recently about the far-left “woke” culture destroying entertainment and pushing people from comedy because it is not policed by anyone.  “‘This is the result of the extreme left and PC crap,” he lamented, “and people worrying so much about offending other people.”  

At a recent 2024 commencement address at Duke University, many pro-Palestinian students walked out in protest of the Jewish comedian.  Seinfeld told Weiss that such display against he were silly, noting, “These people should focus their frustration over the geopolitical situation and those individuals who have control over the decisions.”  

As a male, striving to have a biblical view of reality, and a male who also lived through the 60’s and 70’s with Jerry Seinfeld, I have experienced the disappearance of male leadership in our society.  I am especially grieved that the young men of Generation Z and the Millennials have so few exemplars of wholesome male models.  I felt as I read several accounts of his interview with Ms Weiss, that Seinfeld was longing for the old days.   

Those days are gone.  But men are being called again to embrace a God given hierarchy, expressed in a divine order of authority.  In the beginning, “God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it” (Gen. 2:15). Man was first. Then the Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone.  I will make a helper suitable for him” (Gen. 2:18).  Eve was to be his helper.  They lived in harmony without conflict or competition.  “The man and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame” (Gen 2:25).

Exemplary living starts with men being under authority.  “Young men, in the same way be submissive to those who are older.  All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another…..” (I Peter 5:5).   

 

God is a Warrior

In Isaiah 42:10-17 we are urged to celebrate all things being made new by singing a new song .  God is depicted as a warrior in this new song.  He is the warrior who causes all things to become new through his refining warfare.  “The Lord will march out like a mighty man, like a warrior he will stir up his zeal” (Isaiah 42:13).  God is first called a warrior in Exodus 15:3-4, where he rescued his helpless people by destroying the chariots of Egypt.  “The Lord is a warrior; the Lord is his name.  Pharaoh’s chariots and his army he has hurled into the sea” (Ex. 15:3-4).  When God comes as warrior there is no uncertainty about the outcome.  

Psalm 24:8 asks, “Who is this King of glory?”   The answer: “The Lord strong and mighty, the Lord mighty in battle.”  The people of Israel were told that God would fight for them.  “‘Do not be afraid.  Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today.  The Egyptians you see today you will never see again.  The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still'” (Ex. 13:14-15).  When Joshua was bidding  farewell to the Israelites, he reminded them, “It was the Lord your God who fought for you” (Joshua 23:3). When the people of God were rebuilding the city walls of Jerusalem, Nehemiah told them, “Wherever you hear the sound of the trumpet, join us there.  Our God will fight for us!” (Neh. 4:20).  

Revelation depicts Jesus as a warrior.  “I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True.  With justice he judges and makes war.”  But king Jesus is also portrayed as the Lamb of God.  In a counterintuitive declaration, Revelation declares, “They will make war against the Lamb, but the Lamb will overcome them because he is Lord of Lords and King of Kings – and with him will be his called, chosen and faithful followers” (Rev. 17:14). 

The Lord is depicted in this new song as being aroused from silence: “For a long time I have kept silent, I have been quiet and held myself back.  But now, like a woman in childbirth, I cry out, I gasp and pant” (Is. 42:14). The ESV Study Bible notes, “As a woman cries out after finally going into labor, God at the time he knows is best, will exert himself to bring his purpose to fulfillment.”  Nothing in creation will stand in his way (v. 15).  

God will deliver his people.  “But I’ll take the hand of those who don’t know the way, who can’t see where they’re going.  I’ll be a personal guide to them, directing them through unknown country.  I’ll be right there to show them what road to take, make sure they don’t fall into the ditch.  These are the things I’ll be doing for them – sticking with them, not leaving them for a minute” (Is. 42:16 – Message). 

Men, it might seem like God is silent.  But in his time he will act with zeal.  God will lead the blind, while turning the darkness into light, making the rough places level.  Jesus, the mighty warrior is also the Lamb of God, who defeated evil on the cross.  His enemies will one day cry out, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb. For the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand” (Rev 6:16).  But we will overcome,  “by the blood of the Lamb” (Rev. 12:11) and by the word of our testimony.  

Tortured Poets

This is the title of Taylor Swift’s latest album.  I read a revealing article in First Things by Isabella Clarke,  entitled, “On Tortured Poets, Taylor Swift Dreams of Marriage.”  I have never listened to Taylor Swift’s music, but I am very aware of her worldwide influence as a pop singer.  What I find interesting in Clarke’s review is  Swift’s desire for marriage.  Clarke notes, “Despite its increasing fragility and lack of permanence in the modern West, Swift still desires marriage, which she invokes as the ultimate symbol of enduring love and commitment.”  Swift, who is thirty-four, seems to be giving a voice to many women in their thirties.  “The ‘waste’ of youth is inherently more cutting for women than for men.”  

Swift views her new Album as “female rage, the musical.”  Clarke observes, “She increasingly gives voice to her anger at the inability of men to match her desire to pledge lifelong loyalty … In Swift’s world, it isn’t her career that gets in the way of marriage, but the men who made grand declarations only to ‘ghost’ her when things get too real.  These experiences make Swift’s songs relatable to many younger women.  ‘Ghosting,’ the Peter Pan syndrome, and men who want “long term, distance, low commitment, casual” girlfriends are common in today’s modern dating scene.”

In The Prophecy, which the reviewer sees as the most poignant track on the album, Swift turns her eyes upward and begs an unspecified higher power to change her fate:  “A greater woman wouldn’t beg / But I looked to the sky and said / Please I’ve been on my knees / Change the prophecy / Don’t want money / Just someone who wants my company.”  “This album,” suggests Clarke, “reveals that even individuals as powerful and successful as the Taylor Swift can desire the validation of marriage.”  Clarke closes her review by saying, “Swift, on Tortured Poets, makes it very clear who she blames for thwarting her dream, namely the men who ‘didn’t measure up / in any measure of a man.’  Perhaps the culture, who raised these men to take women and talk of marriage so lightly, ought also to bear some of the blame.” 

Wow!  This review seems to beg for a reply from an older man, who has been married to the same woman for 59 years.  To me it is a sad testament to our confused culture that a young woman of the stature of Taylor Swift felt the need to be so open and transparent about her apparent desire for permanency with a man.  I find it very telling that inThe Prophecy Swift seems to be calling out for help from heaven.  What do the words “change the prophecy” imply?  My take is that Swift sees little hope except that God would change what could be her future –  one without a fulfilling marriage.

My testimony: Nearly every morning I say to my wife, “Thank you for staying with me for these 59 years.  You are a long suffering woman.”  What is implied in these words?  1) I take no credit for the blessing of 59 years with Judy.  Marriage is a gift from God.  My wife has responded to me in a very godly manner.  For that I am very thankful.   2) My marriage is the greatest gift given to me by the Lord, other than my salvation.  3)  I am truly thankful for Judy’s companionship, support and genuine love.  I don’t deserve this gift.  4) I only pray that I might continue to reflect the love of God through my marriage. 

In days such as ours, a godly marriage can actually be a prophetic statement to a hurting culture.   

Faith, Fatherhood, & Masculinity

“Faith, fatherhood, and masculinity” was the title of a panel at the recent National Religious Broadcasters convention. The focus was on the needs of families in today’s increasingly hostile culture.  In her remarks, Mary Eberstadt summarized the 20th century in six words, “Men are at war with God.”  She contended, “Men and women are at war with God over the first question in history, which is ‘Who gets to direct creation?'” 

She believes the major social issues of our day can be traced back to the sexual revolution.  “It loosened the bonds of family, the bonds of community, patriotism and love of community.”  As a result, Eberstadt contends we have three “crises of paternity.”  They are: “1) The crisis involving our Supernatural Father, and our relationship to Him.  2) The crisis involving our earthly fathers.  3) The crisis involving patriotism, our love of country.  She maintains, “If we understand that these three crises are interrelated, we’ll have taken one step towards starting to address them.”

Also on the panel was Nancy Pearcey, author of “The toxic war on Masculinity.” “Certainly one of the tragedies of our day is the way fathers are ridiculed and mocked in the media today,” Pearcey noted.  She gave several examples including an article in The New York Times, which said in part, “One of the most frustrating problems in evolutionary biology is the male, specifically, why doesn’t he just go away?”  Another from The Atlantic – “The bad news for dad: There is nothing objectively essential about his contribution.”

Pearcey counters such widely held sentiment regarding the masculine,  by referring to examples in modern research and data that disprove the toxic masculinity point of view.  First, she cited anthropologist David Gilmore.  He found that all cultures affirm that good men do three things: provide, protect and procreate.  Secondly, Pearcy cited research that shows, “Christian men who are authentically committed, and attend church regularly, are actually the most loving and engaging husbands and fathers.”  

Thirdly, Pearcy cited Brad Wilcox, author of “Get Married: Why Americans Must Defy the Elites, Forge Strong Families, and Save Civilization,” who found that, “the happiest of all wives in America are religious conservatives.  73% of women who hold conservative gender values, and attend church regularly with their husbands, have high-quality marriages.”  Lastly, Pearcey noted that contrary to popular claims, fatherhood is not a “social invention.”  Psychologists have found what they call, “the dad brain.”  “There is a nest of neurons that are activated when a man becomes a father….. God has literally given men a biochemical boost to bond with their children.  So, the facts are in, men are wired for fatherhood.  It’s not a cultural invention.  God has designed the neurochemistry of men to be engaged and loving fathers.”  

This is all “good news” for embattled fathers (and grandfathers like myself).  Here is reinforcement for men both young and old to stand as exemplars of a godly father in an age of tragic fatherlessness.  In Psalm 10, the Psalmist asks why do the wicked succeed? Although God may seem to be hidden at times, we can be assured that he is aware of every injustice.  He sees the plight of the fatherless.  “The victim commits himself to you; you are the helper of the fatherless” (Ps. 10:14).  As men we can pray, “You hear, O Lord, the desire of the afflicted; you encourage them, and you listen to their cry, defending the fatherless and the oppressed, in order that men, who is of the earth, may terrify no more” (vv. 17-18).

 “A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling. God sets the lonely in families (Ps 68:5-6).

 

God is Going to Invade

The title above comes from a quote attributed to C.S. Lewis in The StreamGod is going to invade, all right, but what is the good of saying you are on His side then, when you see the whole natural  universe melting away like a dream and something else – something it never entered your head to conceive – comes crashing in; something so beautiful to some of us and so terrible to others that none of us will have any choice left?”

“For this time it will be God without disguise; something so overwhelming that it will strike either irresistible love or irresistible horror into every creature.  It will be too late then to choose your side.  There is no use saying you choose to lie down when it has become impossible to stand up.  That will not be the time for choosing; it will be the time when we discover which side we really have chosen; whether we realized it before or not.  Now, today, this moment, is our chance to choose the right side.  God is holding back to give us that chance.  It will not last forever.  We must take it or leave it.”  

When I read this quote I was reminded of the times in scripture when God is called a warrior.  In Exodus 15:3, after crossing the Red Sea, the people of Israel sang, “The Lord is a warrior, the Lord is his name.”  Before the people  prepared to cross, Moses had told them, “Do not be afraid.  Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today.  The Egyptians you see today you will never see again.  The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.” (Ex. 14:14).  In Psalm 24, the psalmist asks, “Who is this King of glory?”  The answer: “The Lord strong and mighty, the Lord mighty in battle” (Psalm 24:8).

In Deuteronomy, Moses reminds the people how the Lord fought for them and carried them.  “Do not be terrified; do not be afraid of them. The Lord your God, who is going before you, will fight for you, as he did for you in Egypt, before your very eyes, and in the wilderness.  There you saw how the Lord your God carried you, as a father carries his son, all the way you went until you reached this place” (Deut. 1:29-31). In Zephaniah, the people sang of God’s victory: “The Lord your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves (Zeph. 3:17).  

We need to pray passionately for God to arise and do battle for us.   Psalm 78:65 declares, “Then the Lord awoke as from sleep, as a warrior wakes from the stupor of wine.” We could now be experiencing the anger of God as a warrior.  The prophet Isaiah describes Jerusalem drunk from the cup of God wrath (Is. 51:21-23).  She staggers through the streets and falls to the ground in a drunken stupor (vv. 17-19).  But then God changes direction, as he removes the cup from her hand and forces her enemies to drink from it (vv. 21-23).

We can pray with the psalmist, “Arise, Lord, in you anger; rise up against the rage of my enemies.  Awake, my God decree justice” (Ps. 7:4).  God declared in Isaiah 63:5-6, “I am amazed to see that no one intervened to help the oppressed.  So I myself stepped in to save them with my strong arm and my wrath sustained me.  I crushed the nations in my anger and made them stagger and fall to the ground, spilling their blood upon the earth.”

Remember: “If God is for us, who can be against us”  (Rom. 8:31). 

 

 

 

 

Why Marriage Matters

Daily Citizen recently published a good article on marriage entitled Why Marriage Matters: Understanding its place in the beauty of the Christian story.  The article encourages us to appreciate how profound marriage is in God’s story, especially since marriage is undervalued in our culture.  Quoting from Genesis, Paul wants us to see marriage at the heart of God’s divine plan to save us.  “‘Therefore, a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’  This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.” (Eph. 5:31-32). 

Back in Genesis 2:24, God declares his intention for humanity and marriage.  The first thing God does with Adam and Eve is create them male and female so as to complement and complete each other.  Then he joins them together as husband and wife.  First, Adam and Eve bear the image and likeness of God as male and female.  Then, after their creation, they are made husband and wife. In Genesis 1 we read, “God blessed them and said to them, ‘Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it'” (Gen. 1:28).  As the article states, “God performed their wedding … called them to live as husband and wife, be fruitful, start a family, fill the earth, and engage all of creation.” 

Later in Genesis, Adam declares the beautiful advent of women, “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called ‘woman,’ for she was taken out of man” (Gen. 2:23).  Then God declares what Paul quotes in Ephesians 5: “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. ”  The article’s takeaway is this: “Marriage is central to God’s plan for humanity and his divine purposes … What God created in marriage from the start for man and woman is also intimately and mysteriously related to the beautiful truth of Christ and His Church.”  As Paul himself states, “This is a profound mystery – but I am talking about Christ and the church” (Eph 5:32). 

Marriage is thus central to the whole story of the Gospel from Genesis to Revelation.  In the prophets God pursues his unfaithful bride.  The Song of Songs is an allegory of the marriage relationship with Christ and his Church.  Jesus tells us He is the bridegroom, seeking His beloved bride.  Revelation speaks of the wedding feast of the Lamb. “Our marriages have been an imperfect signpost pointing to this glorious nuptial truth of Christ and his Church.”

The article ends with this: “Marriage is a beautiful thread running consistently and significantly through God’s divine narrative from the first page to the last … it is true that one cannot really tell God’s story of his divine plan for humanity and the Gospel itself without speaking deeply and intimately of marriage.  Marriage does matter, more than we can ever know.”

This article impacted my thinking of marriage in several ways:

  • Marriage is central to God’s intentions for the inhabitants of his creation.  Marriage has not  evolved by human necessity or thought; rather, it is at the heart of God’s story and plan for the men and women.  I dare not tamper with his intentions.
  • Marriage is the greatest gift given to us, other than God’s salvation in Christ.
  • Marriage has survived the ups and downs of history.  God’s intention is for our marriages to reflect his glory in the earth.
  • Because of this, esteem and honor marriage.  The enemy our our souls, Satan himself, wages constant warfare on our marriages.  

 

Checklist for an Older Man

Some time ago, I read an article by Matt Fuller entitled “Reclaiming Masculinity.”  I took some notes as he expressed in the article that men should “take responsibility to lead, be ambitious for God’s kingdom, use your strength to protect the church, serve others, invest in friends and raise healthy ‘sons’.”  As I read Fuller’s challenge anew, I found myself being inspired to finish strong, but also feeling regret for missing the mark way too often over 60 years of trying to follow the Lord. 

So, I went over Fuller’s checklist to see how I have developed as a man.  After 58 years of marriage, I tried to be honest as I looked in the rearview mirror:

1) Men and women really are different – but not THAT different.  I had no idea what I was getting into when I got married.  I failed miserably, not appreciating the strengths and abilities of my wife.  I have learned a lot about being married to a “woman.” God has given me a great treasure in Judy; “she is far more precious than jewels” (Prov. 31:10).

2) Take responsibility.  Being a firstborn son, I carried the world on my shoulders. So, early on I was more concerned about “saving the world” than being present for my wife and children.  My spiritual life begins at home. 

3) Be ambitious for God.  As a pastor, I have always been “all in” for God’s kingdom.  I knew I was called to this ministry.  But I prioritized this too much, and didn’t place my wife and family first.   

4) Display thoughtful chivalry.  It took me years to really practice chivalry and truly honor my wife.  She is my “lily among thorns” (Song of Songs 2:1).  Opening doors, giving eye contact, seeking her input, and speaking well of her in public – these I had to learn.  I’m still learning to “cherish” Judy and practice chivalry. 

5) Use your strength to protect.  I assumed the role as head and protector quite naturally; I was the one who “drove the train.”  But in the process I was not sensitive to the needs of my wife and children.  I had to learn to humble myself, put their needs before mine, and ask for forgiveness when my ego got in the way of my family’s needs.

6) Invest in friendships.  Being a heart guy, I have always been relational by nature.  But when it came to developing closer relationships with other men, I had little to go on.  In my later years, I have come to value closer male friendships that make me more accountable.  I am very thankful to have Dan and Bruce in my life.

7) Raise healthy ‘sons’.  I raised two sons and have mentored other young men. They are very different  from me and from each other.  I should have listened more intently, asked better questions, and given them more of my time.   

My wife did much better in her role as my wife.  She put up with my preaching for 40 years.  And she did it wonderfully.  She is a “total, natural woman” – integrated and authentic.  She has aged much better than I, while I’ve been more like a yo-yo: up and down. 

Despite all this, I’m grateful for God’s grace in my life.  And I take heart in Paul’s struggle with his “thorn in the flesh.”  For the Lord told him, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in your weakness.”  I, like many of us,  can respond like Paul, “Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me” (II Cor. 12:9).   

  

The Desecration of Man

To mark the 80th anniversary of C.S. Lewis’s book The Abolition of Man, Carl R. Truman wrote an article for First Things entitled The Desecration of Man.  Lewis wrote about a world losing its sense of what it means to be human: “Modernity was abolishing man.  It represented nothing more than a crisis of anthropology,”  The abolition of man as Lewis describes it took place against the background of “its disenchantment and its accelerating liquidity.” Modernity has pushed religion and the supernatural to the margins of life, stripping our lives of mystery. With liquidity, life is in endless flux with no solid place to stand.

Citing this, Truman proposes an additional category: the desecration of man.  “We have become cogs in the machine,” notes Truman “[and] it is because we built the machine.”  To make his point, Truman suggests that in the desecration of man, we need look no further than changing attitudes about sex and death. We are created in God’s image with a body.  The tendency of modern culture is to deny significance to the body.  “We think of ourselves,” points out Truman, “as primarily psychological beings, a notion reinforced by the frictionless, disembodied interactions of our online world, where we experience a battle against the authority of the body, specifically its sexual nature and its morality.”

Desecration helps us to understand the destruction of human exceptionalism and limitation as grounded in the image of God.  “Desecration is an assertion of power, reinforcing the greatest myth our culture, which likes to believe that we are the godlike masters of this universe.”  There can be an exhilaration in thinking we are gods.  “And there is no more dramatic way of being God than in waging a holy war against the God-given nature of embodied human personhood.”

With this desecration we are “divorced from the image of God and from personhood, [treating] the body is animate Play-Doh at best.”  We now use our humanity to dehumanize ourselves.  Augusto Del Noce calls this “a total revolution.”  Truman maintains our fundamental problem today “is not that man is disenchanted or turned into liquid, but that he has been desecrated, in part by the impersonal forces of modernity, but largely by his own hand.”  

Truman’s answer, first and foremost, is a theologically-informed liturgical one: “consecration.”  “The modern crisis of anthropology must find its solution among religious communities, worshiping in local contexts.  For it is in worship that human beings are brought into the presence of the God, in whose image they are made and who grounds their common human nature.”  Since this blog is intended for men, I take this to mean that men need to take the lead in living a life surrendered to God in word and deed, pointed to our heavenly father, in whose image we’ve been created. But we cannot do this alone.  We need to be in communities of faith, where Father, Son and Holy Spirit are worshipped.

Truman reminds us of the radical way the early Church affected Roman culture.  “Her vision of human beings as persons rather than objects and as possessing innate value was grounded in the notion that all were made in the image of God.”  This is our challenge today.  “The restoration of personhood and dignity to men and women requires the worshiping community of the church to grasp the greatness of the God in whose image we are made.”

The challenge for men: 1) Surrender to the Triune God of grace, 2) Adopting a scriptural worldview (II Cor. 10:4-5; Romans 1:16-32), 3) Involvement in a believing community and 4) Living intentionally as a follower of Jesus (I Peter 2:20-21).   

 

 

 

 

 

God’s “Strange Work”

In Isaiah 29:1-16 we find a recurring theme in the prophet’s message to the people of Jerusalem: If there is any hope for the nation, it will be after God’s judgment on the nation.  However, the popular narrative perpetuated by the religious leaders of the day was different.  The people as a whole, came to believed, since they were God’s chosen ones, they would be spared God’s judgment.  For them, hope meant avoiding judgment.  But as John Oswalt explains, “To all of this Isaiah said a resounding no.  The promises of God would only be realized through fire.” 

In Isaiah 29, the prophet declares God will both punish and save Jerusalem, even though the people in their hypocrisy tried to control God through false worship. This is relevant in our day, since so little thought is given to God’s judgment on our nation. But it is imperative for the church in America to realize that hope for any kind of revival would come after judgment.  For the church to have hope for the future even while experiencing God’s judgment is a message believers in our nation need to grasp as we witness the darkness slowly descending upon our nation.  There is light after the darkness.    

Isaiah refers to Jerusalem as “Ariel” (29:1-2, 7).   Ariel means “an altar hearth,” which is “the flat surface of the altar on which a fire was lit to consume the sacrifices” (Webb/Isaiah).  Ariel alludes to Jerusalem as the nation’s religious center, but the word used by Isaiah has terrible barb to it.  Ariel “foreshadows the judgment that the Lord is going to bring on the city … the Lord is going to light another kind of fire in Jerusalem, the fire of his judgment, and when he does so the entire city will be like a vast blazing altar hearth … Jerusalem was heading for flaming judgment because it was on a collision course with the Lord.” (Webb/Isaiah).  When judgment comes, the humbled and frightened people of the city would barely be able to speak (29:4).

In verses 5-8, Isaiah pictures Jerusalem surrounded by foreign armies. The Lord, however, would come like a powerful storm and sweep away the invaders.  While the invaders anticipated victory, they would suffer a humiliating defeat.  “They would be like a hungry and thirsty man who thinks he is eating and drinking, only to wake up and realize that it was just a dream.  This prophecy anticipates the Lord’s miraculous deliverance of Jerusalem in 701 B.C.” (Chisholm/Prophets).

In verses 9-16, the prophet denounces the religious insensitivities of the people.  He depicts them as blind, drunk, and asleep (vv. 9-10).  Isaiah’s prophetic vision remained like a sealed scroll, not able to be read.  Yet the people maintained a semblance of religion. Their worship was meaningless ritual devoid of devotion to the Lord. 

For this reason God would wake them up by doing amazing things (v. 14).  The people thought they could hide their evil plans from God. Isaiah shows how perverted their behavior was, comparing the people to pottery denying  the potter, who had created it.  The people would discover how ridiculous this attitude was.  “Though his ‘strange work’ (28:21) of purifying  judgment (29:21-22), God would demonstrate his sovereignty over the nation (28:14-29).  Then he would transform the nation’s spiritual condition,  demonstrating that true security can be found only in him (29:17-24)” (Chisholm/Prophets).   

This is an alert with significant spiritual themes for men to consider in our day.  These include: 1) Judgment comes before hope,  2) God will deal with evil, 3) Be alert to falling asleep spiritually (deep sleep v. 10),  4) We can’t hide our sin,  5) Be alert to the wonders of God’s work, and 6) Don’t allow your spirituality to become rote.

F3Nation

Have you ever heard of the F3Nation?  It was new to me.  I read an article in The Stream by Dr. Jeff Gardner about this new movement among men.  He noted how men are not doing very well today.  He gives this warning, “Although some feminists see the battle of the sexes as a zero-sum game, that is, what’s bad for men is good for women, the beat-down of the American male is trouble for both men and women.”  He believes, “The bottom line is as men go, so goes the country.  And as of 2024, things are not going well.”

He points to members of F3Nation, “trying to do something about the assault on the American male, helping their fellowman get back and on his feet.”  F3Nation was started in 2011 in Charlotte, North Carolina to encourage, “men to get together and exercise, usually a boot camp-style workout held early in the morning, always without charge and almost always outside.”  The movement, F3Nation, takes its name from three foundational elements that all men need: Fitness, Fellowship and Faith. 

The movement is intended to help men get out from under the “sad clown syndrome,” a mind set in which men seem happy on the outside but are depressed and dying on the inside.  “Men tend to process emotions by ‘doing something’ at work or at home,” observed one participant. “…but by the end of the day, many men feel alone, like their cup is empty and they have no one who understands them or what they are going through.” 

At F3, workouts lasts around 45 minutes and ends with what F3Nation calls “the circle of trust” (the COT).  This is a space where men can share their fears about things holding them back.  Men encourage each other to reflect on overcoming fears and self-limiting thoughts, to reach out and talk with one another, while learning to lean on each other.  Gathering together, doing the workouts, fellowship and the sharing of faith, reassures men of not be along in their struggles. F3Nation gives men a sense of stability and hope.”   

Adam, a faithful participant, shared, “F3 has helped put purpose back into those things [marriage, work, and life] by giving me a base of support, other men’s experience and wisdom that I can draw on……It helped me with discipline that I didn’t know I needed, like deciding to see a therapist about some anger issues that I was having.  I don’t think I would have done that without another men helping, even pushing me to make me better.”

In this blog I have promoted fellowship and faith but have not stressed fitness.  I give myself a pass, since I am 82 years old.  But upon more reflection, I see the value of men meeting to include fitness in their hour together.  The workouts are open and free to all men and function as a place where men find out just now resilient they are and how they can do hard things and succeed.   “By leading the workout,” said one participant, “each man has the opportunity to learn how to lead and then takes those skills back into his home, to his work, and into his community.”

At the website, F3Nation has this slogan, “Leave no man behind, but leave no man where you find him.”  When I think of fitness and exercise, I think of “initiative,” “effort,” and “discipline.”  Men can challenge each other in the challenges of life.  Life is hard; sacrifice is called for; endurance for the long haul is expected.  “Never be lazy, but work and serve the Lord enthusiastically” (Rom. 12:11 NLT).  Are we giving our best effort for the Lord?   

 

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