Books Worth Reading: “The Pastor’s Justification”

“A different set of traits is needed for pastors than for the business world’s management culture. Paul writes, ‘But we were gentle among you, like a nursing mother taking care of her own children  (1 Thess. 2:7).’ This is not exactly the pastoral image that is most popular today. In an age when machismo and ‘catalytic, visionary’ life-coaching dominate the evangelical leadership ranks, the ministerial model of a breastfeeding mom is alien. There is a patience, a parental affection, a tender giving of one’s self that Scripture envisions for the pastor’s role in leadership. In 2 Corinthians 12:15 Paul announces, ‘I will most gladly spend and be spent for your souls.’ That is the pastor’s heart.”

Jared Wilson, The Pastor’s Justification: Applying the Work of Christ in Your Life and Ministry

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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 27 years and together they have three daughters (19,18,16). 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)

Yes, You Should Meditate

Other forms of meditation seek to empty the mind; Christian meditation has as its purpose to fill the mind with the words of God. This is not to say that there’s no value in clearing our minds, but as Christians, an empty mind is not the end goal.

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In 2009, during the heady days of the so-called “Emerging Church” movement and the counter movements and hyper-discernment watchdog “ministries” that followed, I was at a denominational meeting where a presentation was made in which the word reconciliation was used. Afterwards, the opportunity was given and a man who was visibly agitated stood up with a question. “I hear you using the word reconciliation,” he said, “and that’s a word that Rick Warren also uses. Is that where you got that word?”

Due to his apparent low opinion of Mr. Warren, reconciliation was now a “bad word” and shouldn’t be used. But there was an obvious problem with his reasoning: the word reconciliation was a Bible word long before it was a Rick Warren word.

Meditation
It seems silly, but we tend to do the same with other words as well. One of those words is meditation. Growing up in a post-Beatles Christian sub-culture the word meditation carried only negative connotations. Meditation, as we understood it, was something practiced by other religions in an attempt to appease or discover their gods, and so we were to have nothing to do with it.

But regardless of the baggage the word has accumulated or your discomfort with it, if you are a follower of Jesus, you must look into God’s word to see what he has to say about it. And when we do that we see that dozens of times, the Bible uses one of the two Hebrew words that convey the idea of meditation.

As it turns out, meditation, just like reconciliation, is a thoroughly biblical idea.

Meditating Day and Night
Psalm 1 tells us that the blessed person’s delight is the law of the Lord and that he meditates on this law day and night. What does this meditation look like? Is the blessed man sitting with legs crossed, fingers intertwined, emptying his mind of all thoughts, waiting to receive a serving of “cosmic energy”?

No. There is a difference between Biblical meditation and other forms. Other forms of meditation seek to empty the mind; Christian meditation has as its purpose to fill the mind with the words of God. This is not to say that there’s no value in clearing our minds, but as Christians, an empty mind is not the end goal.

Distraction is the Enemy of Meditation
From the moment we wake to the moment we go to sleep we are surrounded by sounds and images – distractions for our eyes and ears and minds. And distraction is the enemy of meditation.

Christian meditation is the practice of focusing intently on the words of God, but distraction is always seeking to pull our thoughts in a hundred different directions. We live in a culture of noise and distraction.

Puritan preacher and author Thomas Watson reminds us that, “Without meditation, the truths which we know will never affect our hearts… As a hammer drives a nail to the head; so meditation drives a truth to the heart.”

Don’t avoid meditation simply because of its tainted associations. You will hinder your own spiritual growth if you do. Practice meditation as God intended you to. Meditate on his word day and night. Read it, process it, reflect on it, think on it, and apply it.

Photo by Michael Krahn on Unsplash

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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 27 years and together they have three daughters (19,18,16). 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)

The Struggling Pastor’s Best Friend, Why Are Teenagers So Sad and Anxious?, and High Praise for Songwriter Mark Heard – Points of Interest for August 15, 2022

John Calvin: The Struggling Pastor’s Best Friend

“Since unceasing spiritual battle is the reality of ministry, all who would be pastors “should carefully consider with themselves, whether or not they were able to bear so heavy a burden.” Ministry will always be filled with difficulties and sufferings, so the frank assessment of one’s ability to bear those difficulties is an essential part of examining one’s call to ministry.”

“Pastors who look to the love of Christ will be enabled to forget their comforts and reputations and be able to persevere in a work that so often costs them those comforts and reputations.”

Why Are American Teenagers So Sad and Anxious?

“Kids need millions of experiences of conflict, getting lost, struggling with something, failing in a low-stakes environment. That’s what play is all about, play is what develops our brain. But what we did beginning around 2009 was we put all of our kids on experience blockers.”

Mark Heard: Treasure of the Broken Land

I quite enjoyed this essay on one of my favourite songwriters, the late Mark Heard. I made a playlist of some of my favourite songs. Have a listen.

“Heard’s reputation is built primarily on his last three albums. That’s where his poetic promise flowered and he finally shook loose of the Christian music industry that had never wanted much to do with him anyway.”

Pray for the foothills
Home to the drones of power lines and rock doves
Mountains gray as velvet
Field for dots of yucca, white with jacarandas
Facing the sky as the day burns away is a desert in mourning
Sheltering the dead stones
Cradle of the lost bones
Home of eternal comings and goings
(“Another Day in Limbo”)

“When an artist dies in his prime, the temptation is to mourn the art he never had a chance to make. And that’s doubly true for Heard, who’d really come into his own as a singer and songwriter only a few years before he died. But we should be thankful for the music he left behind…Heard’s work will stand the test of time, I am sure, even if only a few thousand people ever hear it.”

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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 27 years and together they have three daughters (19,18,16). 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)

Books Worth Reading: “Present Shock – When Everything Happens Now”

“Our society has reoriented itself to the present moment. Everything is live, real time, and always-on. It’s not a mere speeding up, however much our lifestyles and technologies have accelerated the rate at which we attempt to do things. It’s more of a diminishment of anything that isn’t happening right now—and the onslaught of everything that supposedly is.”

― Douglas Rushkoff, Present Shock: When Everything Happens Now

Deep Sorrows Are Rarely Overnight Guests

There are periods in our lives when we experience little comfort, when refuge seems out of reach, when “but joy comes in the morning” seems but a faint hope. Joy always does come on some morning, but it does not come every morning, and we should not try to pretend that it does.

In Psalm 88, unlike many others, there is no silver lining, no bright light at the end of the dark path; it is sorrow and woe from beginning to end. The cause of these morose reflections appears to be a loss of friendship. “You have caused my companions to shun me; you have made me a horror to them” (v8), and “You have caused my beloved and my friend to shun me; my companions have become darkness” (v18).

The psalmist suffers in anguish: “For my soul is full of troubles, and my life draws near to Sheol” (v3); “Your wrath lies heavy upon me, and you overwhelm me with all your waves” (v7); “my eye grows dim through sorrow” (v9). And then in one final exasperated utterance:

O LORD, why do you cast my soul away?
Why do you hide your face from me?
Afflicted and close to death from my youth up,
I suffer your terrors; I am helpless.
Your wrath has swept over me;
your dreadful assaults destroy me.
They surround me like a flood all day long;
they close in on me together. (v14-17)

Deep Sorrows

Deep sorrows are rarely overnight guests and the anguish of enduring a disaster-in-progress is sometimes an experience of months or even years. We sit watching as if we are captives – gagged and bound with eyes propped open – powerless, defenceless, hopeless.

Often when this happens we tend to make self-condemning declarations. We indulge in the self-pity of believing that we are to blame for every small negative detail of a complex situation. Indeed, we may be partly to blame for our predicament, but we must guard against taking undue credit.

For in this frame of mind, we would look at the man born blind and tell him he must have sinned – either him or his parents. We would sit with Job and offer long monologues of very bad advice. These responses betray a lack of faith in God’s sovereignty and a deficit of trust in his clear promises to us.

Enough Already?

As I make my way, reading and reflecting, time and again through the psalms, I sometimes think, “Isn’t it enough already, all these reflections on sorrow and weakness and trouble? On feeling alone and abandoned and low? On the betrayals of friendship and on sins of my own?” But I write only in response to what I read, and the psalms are full of these themes. 

Not only should we learn to expect these emotions to surface in our souls, but we should embrace them as often as necessary; we should not suppress them the way we sometimes do. Rather, we should use the psalms as the starting points for our expression and conduits for our own sorrow. 

We need to learn to sit in the sorrow, to let God do the chisel work he intends to do without constantly trying to dodge the bevelled edge. What does that look like? On many days, I’m still working that out.

  • I know it means applying faith to my anxieties, thus halting the endless cycling of my negative thoughts. 
  • I know it means denying the false relief of digital distractions to alleviate my tired mind. This only makes my mind more tired.
  • I know it means to cease striving for comprehensive self-invented solutions and admit that I cannot change the hearts of those for whom I pray. What I can do is ask God to change my heart and then comply with the often painful process.

How Does This Add Up?

In John 9, where we find the story of a man born blind, Jesus says the purpose of his blindness was so that the works of God might be displayed in him. In John 11 he says something similar about Lazarus: “This illness does not lead to death. It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.”

Blindness, sickness, and all manner of disorders and diseases – who does not want to be relieved of such afflictions? But Jesus, then and now, has full authority and is capable of arranging these events in such a way that our faith is strengthened as God is glorified. 

The events of our lives may seem paradoxical or sometimes even counterproductive to us. They often may not seem to add up, but Jesus knows and understands exactly how they do.

Photo by Michael Krahn on Unsplash

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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 27 years and together they have three daughters (19,18,16). 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)

A Christian View on Psychedelics, Should Pastors Have Friends?, and How to Spot a Wolf – Points of Interest for August 8, 2022

Pastors Should Have Friends in Church. Do They?

This is an oft-reported problem in churches. I am grateful that I pastor a church in which so many of the congregants are also my friends. Clearly, this is how it should be, but too often it is not. Give this article a read to understand why.

“Yes, pastors and their wives should have close friends within the church, but this doesn’t mean they will. Such a sentence is hard to write; it is an even harder reality to face. Friendships within the church are so often difficult for pastors and their families. The loneliness is even enough to drive some to despair.”

A Christian View on Psychedelics

There is increasing interest – and therefore conversation – about the use of psychedelics. This article takes a look at the phenomenon from a Christian perspective.

“The Judeo-Christian heritage… teaches us that there is danger in such things, and that practices such as the ingesting of psychoactive substances put us in contact with a world of spirits that is not our assigned place. And yet Christianity fully validates that longing for a connection to the spiritual. The Scriptures make clear that this God-given hunger for the transcendent is meant to be satisfied by God himself, through Christ his Son, as mediated by the Holy Spirit.”

How to Spot a Wolf: Three Signs of False Teachers

Any seasoned pastor will find much to affirm in this article. When you see the signs listed below (and in the rest of the article) ring the alarm bell until somebody notices. You may be seen as the “bad guy” in the situation at first, but you will end up saving the church a lot of time and hurt in the long run.

“Watch for a pattern of pursuing church leadership positions that seems unhealthy. Watch for a charming charismatic personality that in the past has left a disproportionate number of disillusioned and wounded people in its wake. Watch for claims to and apparent demonstrations of the kinds of spiritual power valued in the church, but which encourage a troubling dependency on and loyalty to the leader(s). Watch for a group forming around a leader, noticeably comprised of susceptible, spiritually weak members, that begins to manifest distrust in godly church leaders. Watch for a pattern of conflicts with godly leaders and resistance to submit to leaders in general.”

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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 27 years and together they have three daughters (19,18,16). 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)

Books Worth Reading: “The Coddling of the American Mind”

“A culture that allows the concept of ‘safety’ to creep so far that it equates emotional discomfort with physical danger is a culture that encourages people to systematically protect one another from the very experiences embedded in daily life that they need in order to become strong and healthy.”

– Lukianoff, Greg; Haidt, Jonathan. The Coddling of the American Mind (p. 29). Kindle Edition.

Trust the Process – Even When It’s Painful

Although he is a younger man, Elihu is the one wise advisor to speak to Job in his time of trouble. (There is an excellent article written by John Piper on Elihu here.) One of Elihu’s challenges to Job is this: 

“Why do you contend against him, saying, ‘He will answer none of man’s words’? For God speaks in one way, and in two, though man does not perceive it.”

Job 33:13-14

Do you see that? God answers us in ways we cannot perceive, although we often perceive and comprehend (and express gratitude!) for these answers later.

We rage against him when the unimaginable becomes a full-blown reality. “Where are you, God? I demand answers!” we cry. And he is answering “in one way, and in two” though we do not perceive it. Sometimes it is not for us to know at the time but it is always for us to submit to God’s timing, his plan, and his wisdom.

And yes, we can cry out and question and struggle and wrestle with all of this in the meantime. If you are crying out to him today, he is undoubtedly answering – sometimes in the moment, but often in ways you cannot perceive.

You asked him to humble you but didn’t expect humiliation.

You asked him to save your son or daughter but you didn’t expect a prodigal period to be part of the plan.

You asked to be financially blessed but didn’t expect bankruptcy to be one of the stops along the way.

We want shortcuts but he wants what’s best. We want immediate relief from our struggles but he is shaping us by way of our trials. We want to be sanctified, but we don’t want the chisel of providence chipping away at the hard parts of our hearts.

Trust the process – even when it’s painful.

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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 27 years and together they have three daughters (19,18,16). 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)

Our Fumbling Steps as Faithfulness

Psalm 3:6 contains one of many aspirational statements we find in Scripture: “I will not be afraid of many thousands of people who have set themselves against me all around.” We should not hesitate to make similar declarations. 

King David at times did have many people who had set themselves against him. He was afraid for his life; he was not always calm under pressure. His faith was not perfect. He sometimes struggled to see the value in his afflictions. He pleaded for vindication from God when he was falsely accused and judged. 

But through all these experiences he kept striving for and desiring perfect faith and full trust. God described David as a man after His own heart, not because David was the most perfect human who ever lived – he certainly wasn’t! –  but because he kept pursuing God’s heart.

Even our fumbling steps in God’s direction are counted by him as faithfulness. 

On the day we receive our commendation, he will not say, “Well done! You completed the course perfectly and in record time!” He will say, “Well done, you faithfully pursued me. You clothed yourself with the righteousness of my Son. You repented when you sinned and cared for those in need. Enter your rest.”

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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 27 years and together they have three daughters (19,18,16). 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)

Photo by Possessed Photography on Unsplash