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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The Rise and Fall of Mars Hill, Giving God Room, and What It Means to Be Quarrelsome – Points of Interest  for April 4, 2022

Jonathan Leeman – An Ecclesiological Take on “The Rise and Fall of Mars Hill”

“Pragmatism is a results-driven orientation, especially results that can be measured, like dollars in the plate or bodies in the pew. It throws overboard almost everything else the Bible says about being a church in pursuit of those numeric goals. Little by little, churches value leaders more for their giftedness than their faithfulness, their charisma more than their character.”

Rebekah Matt – Give God Room

“Rather than trying to control and manipulate a situation in order to bring an end to our problem, we’re to give God room in order to work in his own perfect timing.”

“Examples abound in the Bible of those who impatiently attempted to orchestrate a solution to their problem, even though they knew they ought to wait on the Lord: Abraham, Jacob, Saul, David, and others, including Sarah… Clearly, the Bible tells us we’re not to respond to challenges with worry or a desire to manipulate or control … but how, then, do we glorify God in the midst of difficult situations and great stress?”

Will McKinney – What Does Paul Mean By “Quarrelsome”?

“Simply put, a quarrelsome man argues about foolish controversies. He doesn’t have the sense to realize that what he is talking about will not be profitable. He continues to tread into conversation topics that breed division, not unity. He focuses on secondary or tertiary issues of the faith in an argumentative fashion; he frequently wants to argue and discuss these things.”

“At times, it’s important to discuss controversial or challenging topics. How a man addresses these topics will show his character. When they’re discussed, they should be done while showing consideration for others (Titus 3:2).”

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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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My Dumb Phone, Avoiding Mis- and Disinformation, and the Dawning of the Metaverse — Points of Interest  for March 28, 2022

Dru Johnson: Spiritual Lessons from My Dumb Phone

Despite much evidence that our use of smartphones is really REALLY bad for us, many – and I include myself – struggle to consistently manage our usage. Articles like one from an early adopter of reversing the current trends are helpful. Check out the whole thing and challenge yourself to make real changes.

“Scripture commands weekly stillness—Sabbath. Our bodies are designed for the daily stillness of sleep, where we trust the sovereignty of God to uphold all things together… And yet, my phone was becoming my main source of mental burden. It’s always on.

The number one benefit for me [of switching to a ‘dumb phone’] became clarity of mind and time to think. A month in and I feel much more coherent in my own headspace. After my body fully realized that there’s no need to pull out my phone for anything, I began attending to smells, sounds, and sights more than before. My prayers have also increased, and more in the mode of intercession than pleading for personal favors… In unremarkable ways, moving to a low-tech phone eased my terror of stillness by forcing quiet into a dozen little junctures of my day.”

Patrick Miller: How to Avoid Misinformation and Disinformation Online

Wedded to our smartphone usage is our obsession with social media. This combination of hardware and software is dominating our lives. Many seem hopelessly addicted. Take note…

“Every social media algorithm is designed to pinpoint successful posts (i.e., posts that attract engagement such as comments, likes, or shares) and put them in front of as many people as possible. This keeps users on the platform longer, which means more ad revenue. Emotionally gripping posts are great for business. Who cares if they’re true?”

“‘I can’t trust anything’ cynicism is not the answer to the abundance of untruth online. Instead, we must love truth by seeking it out. Christians should be known as those who seek to understand context in the face of decontextualization, who seek truth in the face of disinformation.”

Gene Veith: The Goal Is to Make the Metaverse our “Primary” Reality

You may be hearing talk of the “metaverse”. If you’re not sure what the metaverse is, there’s some good info here. The following quote is from a board member of Mark Zuckerberg’s company, Marc Andreessen:

“Reality has had 5,000 years to get good, and is clearly still woefully lacking for most people; I don’t think we should wait another 5,000 years to see if it eventually closes the gap. We should build — and we are building — online worlds that make life and work and love wonderful for everyone, no matter what level of reality deprivation they find themselves in.”

This is frightening stuff. We already know that living virtually is destroying our humanity and yet our digital overlords are intent on making our use constant and all-encompassing. Will we go along?

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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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Repentance is the Daily Substance of Christianity

“Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.”

Luke 15:7

Repentance results in joy in the realms of heaven. When someone turns away from sin and toward God, heavenly rejoicing follows. When what was lost is found, when a wanderer returns home, there is rejoicing in heaven. 

When you picture the repentance that leads to heavenly joy, what do you see? Do you see the hardened lifelong sinner, crushed by the weight of guilt, in need of the Saviour? Or do you see yourself, already a child of God, but prone to wander, prone to walk in the opposite direction of the God you love? We should see both.

We may believe the joy in heaven applies only to that initial repentance when a person who was a slave of sin becomes a slave of righteousness. That indeed is a glorious thing, but this rejoicing in heaven applies to all our repenting, not just our initial repentance. 

“Turning from sin and trusting in the good news that Jesus saves sinners aren’t merely a one-time inaugural experience but the daily substance of Christianity. The gospel is for every day and every moment. Repentance is to be the Christian’s continual posture.”

David Mathis

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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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