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.

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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)

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)

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God’s Plan Was Better Than My Plan

 As we read through pages of the New Testament, we uncover stories of the lives of the first Christians and discover that even when people are clearly called by God to a specific mission, this doesn’t guarantee the kind of success they hope to have. This is still true: God calls us to a mission, but he doesn’t always call us to tangible or predictable results. 

I imagine Paul and others were, like we are, sometimes a bit discouraged about this. “Yes, I have my clear calling from God! I know what his plan is for me! This is going to be great!” And then the dreams you dreamed about how everything would go don’t come to pass. You discover that God has ways of bringing about his plans that are very different from yours. 

God’s Plans and My Sanctification

When God called me into full-time ministry 15 years ago, I had no clue what I was in for. I was not the Lead Pastor then but the Pastor of Worship, a role I thought would have me playing music, doing coffee, and generally spending pleasant time with people. And there was all of that, but I didn’t know at the time that our church was heading into a period of unprecedented upheaval. 

I didn’t know that I would see the highest highs and lowest lows of the church’s life. 

I didn’t know that I would be wiped out by a burnout that would take 8 weeks of rest and intense counselling to recover from. 

I didn’t know that I would experience almost constant anxiety over the state of the church and its people. 

I could not have anticipated the slander and opposition and spiritual warfare that awaited me. 

I didn’t know that there would be so much pain. 

But it’s also true that while all of that was happening, I didn’t see how God was using every moment of that pain to draw me closer to him and help me to become more like Jesus – a process that is still underway and one that progresses more slowly than I would like.

I didn’t know any of that. 

Answering the Call

All I knew was that God had – out of the blue – called me to become a pastor, and as I followed that call it led me to a place. It wasn’t a place I expected to end up, but in retrospect, I have no doubt that it was what God had planned for me. And despite all the hardship, I do not regret answering the call.

The same kinds of things will happen to you as you answer God’s call. And although you can’t see it while it’s happening, his plan will accomplish far more for him and in you than your plan ever could. 

These two things are true for anyone who wants to pursue God’s mission: First, God IS calling you to serve him; that is not in doubt. If you are a follower of Jesus, you have a mission. Second, you should know that if you follow where he’s leading you will find yourself in hard places and difficult situations. 

We Need Not Fear

But here is what’s also true: Jesus knows the fears of our hearts, even the unspoken ones. He knows the anxiety, the discouragement, the cynicism that creeps in, the sin that seeks to trip us up and bind us, and he speaks to all of that with a comforting precision. He loves us; we are his and we need not fear because he is with us.

Armed with this affirmation, this reassurance, this ultimate security, we should continue to go boldly forward with the mission to which he has called us. 

In the words of Elisabeth Elliot: “The will of God is never exactly what you expect it to be. It may seem much worse, but in the end, it’s going to be a lot better and a lot bigger.” 

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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)

Deconstructing My Deconstruction

“How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I take counsel in my soul and have sorrow in my heart all the day? How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?”

Psalm 13:1-2

Look at all those questions! While in the New Testament we find more propositional statements, in the Psalms we find many questions and displays of uncertainty. It is a restrained uncertainty that retains its core of faith, but it is uncertainty nonetheless. 

Deconstruction Stories

For many years I have been a student of deconstruction stories. Deconstruction in a religious context is the taking apart and examining of one’s faith, sometimes then reconstructing it but often not. This has become quite a mainstream phenomenon in our day.

At its heart, deconstruction is taking apart your existing engine, inspecting the components, cleaning up or replacing the parts that are worn out or not working, and then putting the engine back together again. It’s like taking apart an elaborate Lego structure that has been built up in pieces and sections over years, laying all the pieces on the table, and then putting all the parts back together, getting rid of some and adding others, into a more coherent structure. 

Some decide the entire engine or Lego structure is a sham and they need to start from scratch. In some cases, that’s not a bad idea; in others, a lot of good components are needlessly discarded.

Are My Questions Welcome?

It saddens me that what is often mentioned in stories of deconstruction as the fuel for the journey is some version of being raised in a church where questions were not allowed. Questions were dangerous and needed to be put on a shelf. In reality, based on my experience, this was often the advice of Christians and church leaders who have not themselves contemplated many of the deeper aspects of their faith. 

In conversing with atheists, initially around 2007 (when I was making my way through “The God Delusion” by Richard Dawkins) I discovered that there’s a bit of an unofficial test applied among atheists where within 4-5 questions they can stump and scare off most Christians. It’s a bit of a game and according to my atheist interlocutors, a game they most often win. These were fairly rudimentary questions about the Christian faith, the answers to which did not require even an undergraduate degree in philosophy.

Set Up to Fail

As with many other reasons people deconstruct and don’t come back, I am appalled at this one. But what did we expect to happen to a generation raised on shallow entertainment-based Christianity that often encouraged idolatrous and unholy alliances with politicians and their parties? What did we expect to happen to people who were given pools of theology to wade into that didn’t even rise to their ankles?

They asked hard questions of their churches and received a tsk-tsk, a finger-wag, and a “Don’t do that again!” in response. Many were not even given the courtesy of a reply they could disagree with. They turned elsewhere and received more information than they could consume – and off they went, often never to return. Sadly, they learned that there is precious little time for important theological questions when the bulk of your time is dedicated to winning a culture war.

And all of this has led to as much nominalism as it has apostasy. Well, maybe apostasy is not always the right word. People sometimes deconstruct what never should have been constructed in the first place, and that is not a bad thing. But often in their confusion and disillusionment, they end up throwing out what was good along with the bad. 

Deconstructing my Deconstruction

I had my own experience of deconstruction around 2005-2007. My journey was unlike those of many today. Rather than leading me out of the church, mine led me deeper into the church, but I was really out there for a while. I had all the pieces on the table. I took some pieces off the table and left them there and others I later put back on. It was a difficult time for me and my family, so if you’re on the same journey, I understand what it’s like!

In the end, I seemed to be mostly cured of my pervasive cynicism about Christianity. To be more accurate, I ceased to feel guilty about applying a cynical eye to the many intentionally shallow and bogus manifestations of Christianity that are commonplace today. This allowed me to see and embrace the more genuine and serious expressions of the faith that have been tested by time and found to produce disciples of Jesus who look like Jesus.

My confidence in Christ and his church grew – not because I looked at church history and refused to believe all the bad things that had been done in the name of Christ. Not at all. It was by taking an honest look and processing what I saw that my faith was nursed back to strength.

The End of the Middle of the Story

In the end, after years of hard struggle and deep contemplation, I was able to reconstruct the basic framework of my faith almost completely with the pieces I had been given by my parents. But now no longer was I living in my parents’ house; the house was now my own.  

The point is that all of this came about because I asked questions. I was never told that it was wrong to ask questions; I was encouraged to ask, to jump into the deep end and learn to swim.  

As a result, I became a strong swimmer – which is a good thing because I find that I still encounter deep waters and dark waves. 

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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)

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Be Brokenhearted on Purpose

“The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.”

Psalm 34:18

On my sabbatical last summer I spent a lot of time thinking about brokenheartedness and the kinds of promises God offers to those who are brokenhearted. You might consider this, as I did, a nice promise to have in your back pocket just in case your heart is ever broken. But these promises seem to indicate that God is especially near to us when we are in this state.

What I came to realize is that this state of blessedness is available daily. 

We don’t need to wait until circumstances impose brokenheartedness on us because there is no end in this world to the brokenness we might consider and grieve. If our hearts are not broken today due to dire personal circumstances, we should rejoice! 

But then we can find some other brokenness to grieve – our ongoing battle with the evil desires of our hearts, the sadness of a friend who has lost a spouse, the plight of young women and men who are trafficked for sex, the many who have perished in the pandemic, and so much more. 

We should not, of course, be morbidly obsessed with any of these, and we should be careful not to succumb to overwhelming despair, but every day we can surely find a reason to have a broken heart, and thereby draw God’s presence closer to us.

To be broken is to be blessed, but brokenness is not something we need to pursue. We need not pursue what we already possess; we are broken and we are surrounded by brokenness. By acknowledging this fact and humbly laying our cares before the Lord, we draw his mercy and blessings toward us. We can be brokenhearted on purpose.

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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)

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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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