When Temptation Leads to Slaughter

In a scene in Proverbs 7:22-23, a young man is in thrall to an adulterous woman and we read that “All at once he follows her, as an ox goes to the slaughter, or as a stag is caught fast till an arrow pierces its liver; as a bird rushes into a snare; he does not know that it will cost him his life.

In the preceding verses (10-21), we see a taxonomy of scheming temptations. The woman has been pleading with him to succumb to her earnest appeals. And then “all at once” he follows her. This doesn’t mean he wasn’t tempted until this point, but that he feigned unwillingness – but it was all part of the dance. And now this persistent chipping away has exposed the wide fault lines of his weak dam of resistance.

This seemingly sudden surrender was sealed long before the temptations were applied. The young man had earlier ensured his fate by moving toward temptation instead of away from it. The narrator explains: “I have perceived among the youths, a young man lacking sense, passing along the street near her corner, taking the road to her house in the twilight, in the evening, at the time of night and darkness.” (v7-9)

We almost always lose our battles with temptation long before any physical action occurs. Temptations abound; if we don’t recognize and identify them, we will be gently led astray. And if we do, in fact, recognize them but walk toward them anyway, we should not fool ourselves and think that we too will not “all at once” be overcome by them.

Lust, gossip, slander, greed, or some other pernicious sin is at this moment “crouching at your door” (Gen. 4:7), preparing to invite you to abandon the path of righteousness and enter its false haven of pleasure, of finely covered couches and fragrantly perfumed beds.

Recognize this reality early and daily and walk in the other direction. Remain on the path of righteousness by doing as Paul instructs in Galatians 5:16: “But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.

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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.

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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)

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.

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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)

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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