These are some good observations by my friend Darryl Dash. I can attest to the fact that, as Darryl says here, suffering helps. It is never pleasant but it always accomplishes whatever God has sent it to accomplish.
“The only one way to develop a soul that has anything to offer is to walk with God through the ups and downs of life, faithfully participating in the ordinary means of grace for a long time. Such a soul comes from experiencing God’s sanctifying work in your life for years. Suffering helps. So does growing old, but even that isn’t enough. God will work in you through his Spirit, and you must respond to that work in faith and obedience. You can’t microwave or hack your way to this kind of growth. When it comes to ministry, everything you offer is a result of that deep walk with and delight in God, and no shortcuts exist to get there.”
It is amazing, but not surprising, how quickly the heated rhetoric about the convoy has subsided in light of the Russia-Ukraine conflict. This is good on some counts, as it has lowered the temperature on a situation that was in the early stages of exploding, but it is bad on others since there was progress being made by way of these heated discussions among those having them.
I really hate the phrase “Nobody’s mind is changed by arguing!” There is indeed a type of arguing that is fruitless, but who has ever changed their mind about anything without hearing an argument that was different from what they already believed?
To that end, I thought David Hood did a fine job in his article of balancing praise and cautions. Although quite long, the entire article is worth reading. Key quote:
“True freedom is living the way we were meant to with the One we were created for, and that freedom is only found in Jesus Christ. That freedom requires no laws, no judges, and no governments to uphold it. It is upheld by God in heaven and it exists regardless of earthly circumstances. We can have all of the political freedoms on Earth and still be slaves. We can have absolutely zero political freedoms and still be the freest we’ve ever been.”
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We live in a dark period of Canadian history. These last days have broken my heart as I’ve watched the many on-the-ground live streams and news reports about what was happening in Ottawa.
I have experienced a mixture of anger and lament that has overflowed into tears more than once.
I Love Canada
You see as far as kingdoms go, my primary loyalty is to Jesus and his Kingdom. Canada is a distant second but nonetheless still second. And after observing my reactions to recent events, I wonder if perhaps my country is a closer second than I thought! Canada is a nation I love so much that I have been brought to tears.
We are not large in population, but I am not sure any other nation is known for having hearts as big as ours.
We keep the peace and exude humility.
In other countries, displaying our flag makes us instant friends.
Even as I write, moments of personal Canadian pride well up in my eyes. I love Canada; I am proudly Canadian.
But the tears I shed over last weekend were of a different kind because what I saw did not match the detailed character profile I have assembled in my memory from my innumerable positive and, to this point, very common and normal Canadian experiences.
Canada is a nation that is respected around the world for many good reasons. Many of us take this for granted and seem to more often focus on Canada’s failures and imperfections than on its many honourable traits.
But we should seek to be honest and to say all the words – the words of criticism and the words of appreciation.
In 2 Chronicles 7:14, God says that “if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.”
This was a promise made to Israel as a nation, not to Canada as a nation; Canada as a nation is not “God’s chosen people.” But within this nation are people who belong to the Kingdom of God. And if those of us who claim to belong to that Kingdom will humble ourselves, pray, and seek God’s face and turn from the paths that lead in the opposite direction, God will hear from heaven and forgive our sins.
And if we do this, inevitably, healing will follow. We are going to need A LOT of healing in the years to come. That means we are going to need agents of healing, and of peace, and of reconciliation. And if there is to be repentance and healing and unity in our nation, it should start in its churches.
And yet we find ourselves in a moment where new divisions are still taking shape. How many of us are at odds with someone right now that we never thought we’d be at odds with?
What’s worse, I sense that we are not even finished hurting each other yet, which means that healing cannot begin. We cannot let this become the new normal in the body of Christ.
Long-standing friendships are cracking under the strain of immense pressure from all sides.
Agreeing to disagree seems to have been taken off the table of options.
Neutrality on any issue is now considered cowardice on every issue.
Grief and Lament
What I am experiencing most these last four weeks is the deep sorrow of grief, and that is now working its way out into lament, which is a passionate expression of the same.
So here is my attempt at public lament, while trying to avoid the trap of side-taking and the who’s right-and-who’s-wrong warfare that seems to have overtaken every moment of time in the public square for the last four weeks.
There are certainly issues involved where one must take a side and clearly, one side is more correct than the other on any number of points. I don’t mind discussing, debating, and processing those, but not here and not now. Here and now is the time to lament the drama, damage, and division that the last two years, and especially the last four weeks, have brought upon us.
1. I lament the kingdom confusion that is present in the hearts and minds of many Christians.
To ply the old cliche: this might be where we live, but this is not our home (John 18:36; Phil. 3:20; Heb. 13:14). Even so, I do not lament those fiercely patriotic Canadians whose hearts are committed to the Kingdom of God while also loving the nation of Canada.
Even if Canada falls into ruin, the true Kingdom to which you belong will not have shrunk one bit. It will still be the same eternal and glorious Kingdom it has always been.
2. I lament the deep divisions that have formed in families and churches.
Satan has successfully agitated; he has baited us in opposite directions and we have taken the bait and are now being pulled apart by forces we don’t fully comprehend. It is not too late for any of us to apply the supernatural love of Christ to this natural strife.
3. I lament the excessive force used by my government and the excessive defiance of some of my fellow citizens.
I do not lament all use of force by my government because the use of force is a duty given by God to those in authority (see Romans 13). I know that those in authority will answer for every misuse and misappropriation of this delegated authority.
Neither do I lament every expression of defiance by my fellow citizens. We are commanded to speak the truth in love (Eph. 4:15), and we are not exempt from practicing this command under any circumstances. But those who defy lightly and speak carelessly will answer for every word (Matt. 12:36).
4. I lament the labelling and the unrestrained anger of both the Prime Minister and the Prime Minister’s fiercest opponents.
Our Prime Minister has viciously berated those he is called to serve, addressing them with a disdain that is unbecoming of a man in his position. In the streets, many have flown the flag of disdain in response, and this is no better.
I do not lament the many genuine Christians who attended the protests to speak the truth in love and pray for all involved, equally for those in the streets as for those in the seats of parliament.
But if you consider the Prime Minister your enemy, show him the love he is not showing you, as you are commanded to do (Matt 5:44). Show him honour even as he dishonours you, as you are commanded to do (1 Peter 2:17).
“Know this,” the biblical writer James says, “let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God” (James 1:19-20).
Unrighteous anger will never move the dial in the right direction but the grace of Christ can transform the hardest heart.
What Are You Lamenting?
I cannot help but think I am not alone in this lament. Will you join me in lament and prayer for Canada and the churches within Canada?
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Michael Krahn is the Lead Pastor of the EMMC church in Aylmer, Ontario, where he has served for the last 13 years. He has been married to Anne Marie for almost 27 years and together they have three daughters (19,18,15). You can find more of Michael’s writing at www.michaelkrahn.com or connect on social media at @Michael_G_Krahn (Twitter), pastor.michael.krahn (IG), and Michael.George.Krahn (Fb)
Asleep in the storm, the disciples accuse Jesus of not caring that they are about to die. Despite this accusation, Jesus rebukes the cause of distress rather than rebuking those in distress. He is sovereign over the weather; they should know this by now.
He then asks them why they are so afraid and immediately diagnoses the source of their fear: they still lack faith. After all that they have seen him do, after what he has just done, these obvious miracles before their eyes, they still lack faith! And even after this miracle and a direct challenge from Jesus, it says they were immediately filled with great fear.
Why Are We So Afraid?
We may wonder or even chuckle at the thick-headedness of the disciples, but aren’t we the same? We have seen God’s repeated interventions on our behalf yet we constantly wonder how and if he will come through for us again.
Christian brother or sister, Jesus is going to rebuke the storm that threatens you! Even if the storm continues to rage it will not rage forever, and he may even use the storm to transport you to your eternal home.
Either way, he is with you and he is for you. He is sovereign over every storm, literal and metaphorical, and we can place our faith in that!
“The official response to the truckers protesting COVID restrictions is one of the most disgraceful political episodes in the history of Canada as an autonomous country… The truckers can win this confrontation by exposing Trudeau’s pompous posturing and his slander of the truckers as a fraud. But they can’t win by trying to intimidate the government and by so inconveniencing the public that they demand the government make concessions to end the truckers’ protests… The truckers are right to rail against authoritarian mandates, but they should remember that they have no mandate from anyone to do anything, and their hold on public support is tenuous.”
“When we come to Christ, we are grafted in by the Spirit to one body, Jesus Christ, and members one of another, so that the command in Ephesians 4 is to ‘maintain the unity.’ Don’t create it — show it to the world… the public effectiveness of our unity is when unbelievers see on the ground attitudes and acts of love among believers.”
“The Bible has to be our common authority. If you are reading Calvin more than you are reading the Bible, then you are part of the problem. If you are reading Rushdoony more than you are reading the Bible, then you are part of the problem. If you are reading Zahn, Boyd, McKnight, DeYoung, Keller or Carson more than you are reading the Bible, then you are part of the problem. Using a scholar as a guide or a conversation partner is wonderful – but using them as a lens or a cipher leads to tribalism.”
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In Genesis 50:15-21, we see that after Joseph expresses his forgiveness to his brothers, they still find it hard to accept and trust him. Believing it was their father’s presence that ensured their safety, they concoct a story shortly after his passing to deceive Joseph into treating them well. This deception is unnecessary since Joseph was completely sincere in his earlier expressions of forgiveness – as we saw in Genesis 45:5,15.
“I Can’t Forgive Myself!”
Not only did they find it difficult to accept his forgiveness, in terms of a phrase commonly used today, it also seems they weren’t able to “forgive themselves” for what they did to Joseph and were assuming that he would eventually take revenge on them. But can we “forgive ourselves” for sins committed against others?
In Scripture, we see forgiveness granted to us by God and by others whom we’ve sinned against, but we don’t see anyone “forgive himself.” (For further reading on this idea, see the article “Say No to the Gospel of Self-Forgiveness”) The truth is that not only do we find it difficult to forgive, but we also find it difficult to accept forgiveness. And both of these are manifestations of a lack of faith.
Jesus on Forgiveness…
Jesus was unwavering in his pronouncements about forgiveness: “For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” (Matt. 6:14-15)
When we refuse to forgive, we withhold what God has freely granted both to us and to others. We see that Joseph understands this when he says, “Do not fear, for am I in the place of God?” (50:19)
Saying “I can’t forgive myself” is really an admission that we are refusing to accept what God has freely granted to us. There may be many complex reasons for this, but for those who are stuck in the loop of repeating this phrase, faith in God’s forgiveness must steadily chip away at our reluctance to accept it.
We contradict God if we claim that what we’ve done is unforgivable, for who are we to withhold from ourselves what God has freely given to us for his glory and our benefit?
You can’t forgive yourself but you can be forgiven completely. God freely offers forgiveness for any sin you have committed. You don’t need anything more than that.
“We should never minimize our own trauma or that of others, and what we’ve experienced may take many years and conversations and much prayer to overcome, but we are not created to live as slaves to our past hurts.”
In the dramatic story of Joseph and his brothers, Joseph finally reveals himself to them and then says:
How many of us would find the hurdle of forgiveness easier to overcome if we took Joseph’s perspective as our own? This may not have been his outlook immediately after being sold into slavery by his brothers, and it may have taken some time for him to forgive them, but his trust in the ultimate goodness of God’s plan is something we should seek to emulate.
Too often people spend many painful years in bitterness and unforgiveness. Some even believe they need to “forgive God” for what he allowed to happen to them. But we find no such perspective affirmed in the pages of scripture. We find faithful servants (who are no doubt touched by the trauma of their experiences) proclaiming by faith that God is good and that he is sovereign over all things.
We should never minimize our own trauma or that of others, and what we’ve experienced may take many years and conversations and much prayer to overcome, but we are not created to live as slaves to our past hurts. Joseph was able to live a fulfilling and productive life because he was not bound to the hurts of his past. We can do the same.
I remember as a child in the church being led in song and the leader telling us not to sing if we couldn’t honestly affirm the words. On the surface that seems fairly harmless instruction, and in some cases this might be wise, but I have come to see many songs, and some of what is written in scripture, as what I would call “aspirational statements.”
When we aren’t feeling what we wish we did, we can still aspire to feel rightly according to God’s word. We can proclaim what we know to be true even when our feelings lead us in the opposite direction. Psalm 71:14 strikes me as that kind of statement: “But I will hope continually and will praise you yet more and more.”
King David often felt hopeless, but he aspired to hope continually, and this increased his ability to hope.
And we can do the same. We can proclaim the truth that this darkness will not last, even as we despair that it seems to have no end. We can rejoice in our trials and sufferings not by coming to somehow “enjoy” them, but by being obedient to this command, with the truths of scripture as the fuel of our obedience.
When I meet trials of various kinds I often find it difficult to rejoice in the clear light of truth and so easy to get lost in the labyrinth of despair. But in those times I remind myself of this: “Count it all joy, my brothers and sisters, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” (James 1:2-4)
By faith, we can count present sorrow as future joy, and this can bring that future joy into the present for us to enjoy.
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If you’re reading through the Old Testament this year, you’re probably in Leviticus right now and finding that a bit of a challenge. Here are some helpful resources to aid you in your understanding.
“I’m going to take a chance,” says Collin Hansen, “and suggest that delight is not the first word that comes to mind. Perhaps drudgery would be more accurate. How many well-intentioned Bible reading plans have crashed and burned in this book filled with detailed descriptions of how Israelites could worship and what they could eat and wear? Yet as Christians we understand that Leviticus is God’s word for our good. Indeed, we believe that Leviticus—like the rest of the Old Testament—helps us understand the work of Christ.”
I’m using a plan from The Bible Project to read through the OT, which means there are helpful videos that go along with each book. Below is the video for Leviticus.
Here is some more helpful insight, courtesy Charles R. Swindoll:
“In Genesis, we see humanity ruined by the fall. In Exodus, God’s people are redeemed from bondage. In Leviticus, those people are revived through worship. Being the least popular of the first five Bible books, Leviticus is frequently passed off as an unimportant document of out-of-date details. Because the book is directly related to Israelites under the Mosaic Law, many Christians today choose to ignore its contents. But God has preserved Leviticus for a particular purpose. As is the case with other Old Testament books, it is filled with pictures of the Lord Jesus Christ. Without exception, every offering and every feast provides a vivid portrait of Christ, God’s sacrificial Lamb, “who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). To study Leviticus apart from these portraits painted by the Spirit is to be bored with an ancient series of regulations. But when we see all of this in light of Christ’s provision at Calvary, it becomes both interesting and enlightening.”
If you’re looking for more info, insights, and commentary, try this site.
“Except in rare cases and for relatively short periods, the Christian is always out of step with the spirit of the age. If we find that we are in close step with the spirit of the age we should ask ourselves how close we are in step with the Spirit of Christ.”
The world does not know Christ, but it often knows us because we are more like the world than we are like Christ.
Consider all the clamouring we do, so desperate to attract the eyes of the world to the uniqueness of our gifts, our talents, our “brand.” The demand imposed upon us by this type of attention-seeking is often the minimization of the less palatable parts of the gospel. And this leads not only to a failure to know God and be known by him but to the additional catastrophe of preventing others from doing the same.
In John 15:18-19, Jesus says that “if the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.”
Strangers or Citizens – or Strange Citizens?
We should not seek to be hated or to create animosity where there is none, but we will inevitably encounter some level of disdain if we speak about and demonstrate the truth of God’s revelation in Scripture. If we find this is not the case, if we never feel like strangers in the world, it is because it has become a comfortable home, a place where we live in false peace because we have made peace with “the elementary principles of the world.” (Gal. 4:3)
Except in rare cases and for relatively short periods, the Christian is always out of step with the spirit of the age. If we find that we are in close step with the spirit of the age we should ask ourselves how close we are in step with the Spirit of Christ.
To Celebrity or Not To Celebrity
What does this mean, then, for our desperate attempts to attract the world’s attention and thereby receive the acceptance and affirmation we so crave? It means these efforts are a foolish pursuit, a chasing after the wind. If we are faithful to God, and if we allow him to determine the level of our exposure and any resulting “celebrity”, as it were, we can be free of the craving for attention and the many burdens of obtaining it.
Would you like to be well-known? Love God.
“But if anyone loves God, he is known by God.” (1 Cor. 8:3)
“Years ago, when teaching at seminary, I used to tell the students that moral relevance in the modern world was a cruel and fickle mistress. However much Christians accommodated themselves to her demands, sooner or later she would want more. Christian morality and the morality of the world simply could not be reconciled in the long term… Today, moral tastes have too short a shelf life for that. Indeed, embracing the moral spirit of the age is now more akin to having a one-night stand—and that with somebody who kicks you out of bed in the morning and calls the police.”
“We have far too easily divorced our online words from the stringent commands about our speech that we find all over the Scriptures. Something about the disembodied nature of the digital medium offers a kind of veil that blinds us to the spiritual significance of our words. And so the digital world is not only a far less human place because it is necessarily disembodied, but also because that disembodiment encourages us to dehumanize others as well.”
“Heard had an ear for melody and a voice full of yearning, but it’s his lyrics that make his songs resonate so deeply for many. He sang of the complexities of human life — the wistfulness of nostalgia, the spectre of death, the joys and ambiguities of romantic love, the quest for truth and permanence in a culture that values neither — while pointing beyond those things to a transcendent hope, however and wherever that hope is found.”
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