A Good Leader Must Possess Certain Assets

In 1 Samuel 16:1-12, as Saul’s time as king is coming to an end, God reveals to Samuel what’s next. He sends Samuel to a man named Jesse, for, God says, “I have provided for myself a king from his sons.” Samuel follows God’s instruction and when he arrives on the scene he assumes which of Jesse’s sons God has chosen based, apparently, on his appearance and height.

“When they came, he looked on Eliab and thought, ‘Surely the Lord ’s anointed is before him.’ But the Lord said to Samuel, ‘Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him.’”

Humans seem hardwired to see people who are physically attractive and give the appearance of great strength as good leaders. We often look more at appearance than substance. If someone is attractive and has a decent level of charisma, we assume they will be a good leader. Many – MANY – disasters have followed in the wake of choices made by those metrics!

This is one of the many reasons God’s word gives us character qualifications for leaders. We ignore these to our own peril. We are easily impressed and then led astray by deceitful people of low character who possess charm and charisma.

God goes on to tell Samuel that he “sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.” We, of course, cannot look on the hearts of potential leaders the way the Lord does, but we are to do our best to discern the Lord’s choice of leaders based not on their outward appearance or the amount of charisma they possess, but on the marks of character that are readily apparent as they follow Christ.

And yet in this scene, God looks on the heart of David and sees a man of faith, but David is also physically attractive. “Now he was ruddy and had beautiful eyes and was handsome. And the Lord said, ‘Arise, anoint him, for this is he.’” (V12) From this, we learn not to overcorrect in the opposite direction; physical attractiveness and charisma can be assets, so we should not discount someone’s leadership potential just because they possess these traits.

In the end, the lesson is this old cliche: don’t judge a book by its cover. Look at the contents of the book and discern whether or not it is worth reading. A good leader must possess certain assets. Those assets are not found in the pages of GQ but in the pages of God’s word. 

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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)

Looking For Approval in All the Right Places

Have you ever done something in order to be liked? It is a truly wonderful feeling to be accepted and admired, but chasing that feeling can lead to much trouble. There is a select group of people who seem to like being hated, but this is rare; our default is to seek affirmation and approval. 

That’s not a bad default, but those desires must be turned in the right direction. 

Listen to the words of Jesus in Luke 6:22-23,26:

“Blessed are you when people hate you and when they exclude you and revile you and spurn your name as evil, on account of the Son of Man! Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven; for so their fathers did to the prophets… Woe to you, when all people speak well of you, for so their fathers did to the false prophets.”

Jesus says that we are blessed if people hate us, exclude us, angrily insult us and reject us with disdain, calling us evil – IF they do all these things on account of our commitment to follow him. Not only are we to accept this, we are to rejoice when this happens – to the point of leaping for joy! 

We will be the recipients of great rewards, BUT these rewards come later, and we are not good at waiting. 

Knowing this, Jesus offers a warning: there is no blessing in seeking the approval of the masses, even though there may be some pretty sweet instant rewards. 

When we are hated for the sake of Christ, we are blessed, but if we continually forsake Christ in order to gain widespread approval, we will be eternally cursed.

Where are you seeking approval and affirmation today?

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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)

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Our Lives as a Home Renovation Show

“And you shall remember the whole way that the Lord your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness, that he might humble you, testing you to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep his commandments or not.”

Deuteronomy 8:2

If we look for parallels between those “forty years” and the past twenty-four months (and counting) we might understand the last two years a little better.

The Lord has continued to lead us in ways that encourage our humility, but are we any more humble than we were two years ago?

The Lord has tested us to see what is in our hearts. What has been revealed?

To be honest, there is a whole lot in my own heart that I wish had remained concealed. And this seems, broadly, to be the case. 

The evidence of an increase in the fruits of the Spirit seems far less than the evidence of the increase of anger, slander, selfish ambition, deceit, deception, rebellion, and conceit.  

If our lives over the last two years were a home renovation show, “the reveal,” in many cases, has been a serious disappointment. We were quite capable in the demo phase, but the debris of our demolitions still lies scattered about, and any hope of reconstruction seems hopelessly delayed. Where reconstruction was possible, instead we’ve seen further demolition.

Many people’s lives and our society at large seem to be in ruins and heading for more of the same. It doesn’t look like this renovation show will end with the usual awestruck celebration. 

And yet, somehow, for those who are in Christ, it will. 

The timeline will be a little longer and certainly less tidy and predictable than the tightly scripted thirty-minute renovation shows, but regardless of how much destruction we bring on ourselves, each other, and the world, all that we see before us will be made new...

“And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.’

And he who was seated on the throne said, ‘Behold, I am making all things new.’” (Rev. 21:3-5)

This future reality is no excuse to be careless, flippant, or detached from the present. It is an encouragement for the embedded people of God as they live carefully and seriously in a volatile and hostile world.

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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)

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Make Jesus Your Master, Not Your Mascot

“Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you?” 

Luke 6:46

These are among the most cutting words uttered by Jesus that we have on record. When we call him our Lord and Master but ignore his commands, we are every bit as hypocritical as the Pharisees.

Broadly

I can see this broadly: 

On one branch of Evangelical Christianity, there is a Jesus who is little more than a mascot for personal and political goals. God’s word is not taken seriously but small portions of it are presented forcefully as justifications for ungodly pursuits. This Jesus is all about contention, confrontation, and the harsh condemnation of those who refuse to get in line.

This is a portrayal of Jesus that many choose to reject, and this is not entirely wrong. But when I hear stories of people leaving the church and deconverting from this kind of Christianity, my heart still fills with sadness and grieving. It is not real Christianity that they are turning away from but in the process, they often turn from the real Jesus.

On another branch of Evangelical Christianity, there is a Jesus who never contends, confronts or condemns anyone. This Jesus never asks anyone to deny themselves, take up their cross and follow him. God’s word is not taken seriously here, either. Passages about sin, for example, are ignored, explained or reinterpreted to make a better fit with the world at the moment.

The Jesus of the Gospels contended when necessary, but he was not contentious. He could be confrontational, but he was wise in choosing his battles. He condemned those who knowingly worked against the purposes of God while offering grace to those who struggled to obey. 

Personally

But I can see this more narrowly as well, more personally: 

Why do I sometimes fail to do what Jesus clearly tells me to do? 

Why do I set up my own lesser and easier standards when the standard is already set by the one who knows all and laid down his life for me? 

Why do I repeatedly seek to set up my own kingdom as an impenetrable fortress when I already belong to a Kingdom in which I am infinitely loved and eternally secure? 

Why do I call him “Lord, Lord,” and not do what he tells me? 

In one word: selfishness.

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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)

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Impatience is a Deadly Sin

“Patience is one of the fruits of the Spirit and so its opposite, impatience, is a deadly sin.”

“And the people became impatient on the way. And the people spoke against God and against Moses, ‘Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and we loathe this worthless food.’”

Numbers 21:4-5

Patience is one of the fruits of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22) and so its opposite, impatience, is a deadly sin, as we see in Numbers 21.  

A Deadly Sin

Have you ever thought of impatience this way? What God has promised, he will accomplish. If we lose confidence in his ability or second-guess his timing, we reveal a lack of faith that will lead to other sins. Impatience is one of those sins. 

Israel had a promise from God and God was moving them forward in his plan. The problem is that while God’s plan is moving forward we often perceive it to be going backwards, sideways, or no place at all! 

We too have promises from God that are yet to be fulfilled but surely will be fulfilled, yet we struggle just as much as Israel did. We get impatient, we grumble against God, we tear down our leaders and our fellow Christians. And what we need is repentance. 

Wicked Ways

Impatience, grumbling, and tearing down are all components of the “wicked ways” God mentions in 2 Chron. 7:14. When we perceive these sins in our lives, we need to humble ourselves, pray and seek God’s face. 

I struggle with impatience often, but not as much as I once did. It took a few hard experiences to help me learn that God works in ways I would never consider working.

He can do everything that I cannot. He sees every person, action and thought in every circumstance in which I am involved, and I do not.

Compared to what he knows, I know almost nothing, and so I must pursue straightforward obedience and trust the promise of Romans 8:28 that despite what my eyes and heart perceive, he is working all things together for his glory and my good.

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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)

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My Love for Canada Is Overwhelmed with Lament

“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.”

(This article was originally published at The Gospel Coalition Canada)

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.

Repentance Required

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.

We should fight for Canada as as good citizens. Even while in exile we should seek the good of the nation in which we live (Jeremiah 29:4–5,7). But we must stop fighting for Canada as if it is our only hope for peace or salvation.

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)

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Overcoming the Hurdles of Forgiveness

“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:

“‘And now do not be distressed or angry with yourselves because you sold me here, for God sent me before you to preserve life…’ And he kissed all his brothers and wept upon them. After that his brothers talked with him.”

Genesis 45:5,15

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.

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Counting Present Sorrow as Future Joy

“But I will hope continually and will praise you yet more and more. My mouth will tell of your righteous acts, of your deeds of salvation all the day, for their number is past my knowledge.”

Psalm 71:14-15

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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Getting Through Leviticus

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.

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If the World Hates You…

“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 reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him.“

1 John 3:1

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)

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