“O God, You Know My Folly”

There are two passages of scripture that regularly come to mind as I go about my life and work as a pastor. These are warning flags and reminders of the sacred trust and serious responsibility I hold due to the work to which I have been called. 

One passage is Hebrews 13:17, where it says, “Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account.” As church leaders, we carry a weighty responsibility; we will be held responsible for the spiritual well-being of those placed in our care.

The other passage that regularly comes to mind is Psalm 69:5-6:

“O God, you know my folly;
the wrongs I have done are not hidden from you.
Let not those who hope in you be put to shame through me,
O Lord God of hosts;
let not those who seek you be brought to dishonor through me,
O God of Israel.”

Accusations and Revelations

The news cycle in the Evangelical world of late seems like a never-ending series of painful revelations of past and/or ongoing grievous sin in the lives of those who lead churches. Some are not big surprises while others result in a wave of new doubt, anguish and grief because they are so shocking.

In Psalm 69, David pleads with God that his past follies and sins will not result in shame for those he leads. That those who seek God would be brought to dishonour on his account is a thought that grieves him.

Here he’s not asking God to prevent him from further folly and sin; he’s asking that no harm will come to those he leads and loves due to his past folly and sin. To be clear, he is not asking God to give a free pass to sins for which he has not repented, but to minimize the damage that might come from sins already committed, repented of, and forgiven. Elsewhere he asks God to restrain him from sinning in the future: “Keep back your servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me!” (Psalm 19:13); but that’s not his plea here.

Sinning Leaders

We are continually reminded of the sorrowful plight of churches, organizations and movements that are led by people of poor character and dark, even if subconscious, ulterior motives. Many are put to shame through the careless and often callous sinning of these leaders who will not heed warnings, receive correction or repent, even when they are found out and exposed.

Nevertheless, there are hopeful signs in some disgraced leaders’ post-fall stories. Tullian Tchividjian is known for, among other things, being a grandson of Billy Graham and a formerly prominent speaker and pastor in the Reformed Evangelical world. In 2015, he resigned from his church after admitting to an extramarital affair. More recently, he wrote of that experience with sober reflection:

“You would think that after all the damage my wickedness caused to myself and countless others I would fall down to my knees in confession. But I didn’t. Instead, I ran. I ran from honesty, I ran from repentance, I ran from God. Rather than feeling sorry for my sin, I was feeling sorry for myself. As is often the case when we get caught, things got worse before they got better. Flight from God oftentimes accelerates before it stops.”

The trajectory he describes is not uncommon; what is uncommon is to hear one who engaged in such denial and deception admit to it and express genuine remorse and repentance.

Now, not to be overly cynical, but who knows, he might currently be living one thing and writing another just like he did before. Only those who live in close proximity can validate this repentant tone. But it is a hopeful sign nonetheless, and a more refreshingly biblical response than the usual denials and obfuscations that often follow in the wake of a newly-revealed scandal.

Sober Reflection

Regular sober reflection will serve us well in preventing future catastrophes. As for follies already engaged in and sins already committed, we can do nothing more than confess, turn continually from ever doing the same again, and receive the forgiveness that Christ offers. 

We can pray for the Lord’s protection, as David did in Psalm 19:13: “Keep back your servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me!” And we can pray for the Lord’s grace in sparing others from any shame or dishonour that might come their way due to our past follies and sins. 

“O God, you know my folly;
the wrongs I have done are not hidden from you.
Let not those who hope in you be put to shame through me,
O Lord God of hosts;
let not those who seek you be brought to dishonor through me,
O God of Israel.”

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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)

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)

The Paradox of Christian Greatness

The paradox of Christian greatness is a thing to ponder. There is no room for pride when one can be the greatest and the least at the same time. 

Jesus said of John, “I tell you, among those born of women none is greater than John. Yet the one who is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he.” Luke 7:28

If we try to visualize this idea, it turns into an Escher drawing. People appear to be ascending to new heights, but reaching the top of the circular staircase they find they are behind those only beginning their ascent. 

This destroys all motivation for competitiveness and selfish ambition and conceit since greatness is connected to humility and not to accomplishment. 

This is a badly needed word in the structures of power in Christianity today. Churches are filled with worldly “corporate-ladder” thinking, with people trying to make their way to the “top” of the organization. 

And yet to really reach the “top” is not to live more and more like a king, but to live more and more like a servant. 

May our churches be filled with people who seek greatness by way of humility and not accomplishment.

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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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For Those Who Work Hard Every Day

The results of our efforts are in God’s hands. 

“And when he had finished speaking, Jesus said to Simon, ‘Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.’ And Simon answered, ‘Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at your word I will let down the nets.’ And when they had done this, they enclosed a large number of fish, and their nets were breaking.” (Luke 5:4-6)

We might fish for days and days and catch nothing, and then at his command, we might have more than we can take in.

We may be tempted to only fish on the days we think we’ll get results, but it is the daily discipline of fishing that puts us into the position to reap a harvest when the time is right. 

Apply this truth to whatever good it is that you do. 

If you have found your place in God’s kingdom, be it as a missionary, a factory worker, an accountant, a pastor, or a truck driver – if this is God’s assignment for you at this time, labour diligently. 

You won’t see magnificent results from your efforts every day – no one does. But if you remain faithful in applying yourself to his calling, a harvest is in store. God always blesses efforts made according to his will. 

So go once more to your assignment today and work hard. 

Perhaps this is the day you will lower your nets and be unable to raise them again due to the abundance of the catch.

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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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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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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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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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Jesus is Sovereign Over Every Storm – An Encouragement For Troubled Days

“He said to them, ‘Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?’ And they were filled with great fear…”

Mark 4:40-41

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!

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