Counting Present Sorrow as Future Joy

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

Psalm 71:14-15

I remember as a child in the church being led in song and the leader telling us not to sing if we couldn’t honestly affirm the words. On the surface that seems fairly harmless instruction, and in some cases this might be wise, but I have come to see many songs, and some of what is written in scripture, as what I would call “aspirational statements.” 

When we aren’t feeling what we wish we did, we can still aspire to feel rightly according to God’s word. We can proclaim what we know to be true even when our feelings lead us in the opposite direction. Psalm 71:14 strikes me as that kind of statement: “But I will hope continually and will praise you yet more and more.” 

King David often felt hopeless, but he aspired to hope continually, and this increased his ability to hope. 

And we can do the same. We can proclaim the truth that this darkness will not last, even as we despair that it seems to have no end. We can rejoice in our trials and sufferings not by coming to somehow “enjoy” them, but by being obedient to this command, with the truths of scripture as the fuel of our obedience.

When I meet trials of various kinds I often find it difficult to rejoice in the clear light of truth and so easy to get lost in the labyrinth of despair. But in those times I remind myself of this: “Count it all joy, my brothers and sisters, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” (James 1:2-4)

By faith, we can count present sorrow as future joy, and this can bring that future joy into the present for us to enjoy.

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Getting Through Leviticus

If you’re reading through the Old Testament this year, you’re probably in Leviticus right now and finding that a bit of a challenge. Here are some helpful resources to aid you in your understanding.

“I’m going to take a chance,” says Collin Hansen, “and suggest that delight is not the first word that comes to mind. Perhaps drudgery would be more accurate. How many well-intentioned Bible reading plans have crashed and burned in this book filled with detailed descriptions of how Israelites could worship and what they could eat and wear? Yet as Christians we understand that Leviticus is God’s word for our good. Indeed, we believe that Leviticus—like the rest of the Old Testament—helps us understand the work of Christ.”

I’m using a plan from The Bible Project to read through the OT, which means there are helpful videos that go along with each book. Below is the video for Leviticus.

Here is some more helpful insight, courtesy Charles R. Swindoll:

“In Genesis, we see humanity ruined by the fall. In Exodus, God’s people are redeemed from bondage. In Leviticus, those people are revived through worship. Being the least popular of the first five Bible books, Leviticus is frequently passed off as an unimportant document of out-of-date details. Because the book is directly related to Israelites under the Mosaic Law, many Christians today choose to ignore its contents. But God has preserved Leviticus for a particular purpose. As is the case with other Old Testament books, it is filled with pictures of the Lord Jesus Christ. Without exception, every offering and every feast provides a vivid portrait of Christ, God’s sacrificial Lamb, “who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). To study Leviticus apart from these portraits painted by the Spirit is to be bored with an ancient series of regulations. But when we see all of this in light of Christ’s provision at Calvary, it becomes both interesting and enlightening.”

If you’re looking for more info, insights, and commentary, try this site.

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If the World Hates You…

“Except in rare cases and for relatively short periods, the Christian is always out of step with the spirit of the age. If we find that we are in close step with the spirit of the age we should ask ourselves how close we are in step with the Spirit of Christ.”

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

1 John 3:1

The world does not know Christ, but it often knows us because we are more like the world than we are like Christ. 

Consider all the clamouring we do, so desperate to attract the eyes of the world to the uniqueness of our gifts, our talents, our “brand.” The demand imposed upon us by this type of attention-seeking is often the minimization of the less palatable parts of the gospel. And this leads not only to a failure to know God and be known by him but to the additional catastrophe of preventing others from doing the same.

In John 15:18-19, Jesus says that “if the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.”

Strangers or Citizens – or Strange Citizens?

We should not seek to be hated or to create animosity where there is none, but we will inevitably encounter some level of disdain if we speak about and demonstrate the truth of God’s revelation in Scripture. If we find this is not the case, if we never feel like strangers in the world, it is because it has become a comfortable home, a place where we live in false peace because we have made peace with “the elementary principles of the world.” (Gal. 4:3) 

Except in rare cases and for relatively short periods, the Christian is always out of step with the spirit of the age. If we find that we are in close step with the spirit of the age we should ask ourselves how close we are in step with the Spirit of Christ.

To Celebrity or Not To Celebrity

What does this mean, then, for our desperate attempts to attract the world’s attention and thereby receive the acceptance and affirmation we so crave? It means these efforts are a foolish pursuit, a chasing after the wind. If we are faithful to God, and if we allow him to determine the level of our exposure and any resulting “celebrity”, as it were, we can be free of the craving for attention and the many burdens of obtaining it.

Would you like to be well-known? Love God. 

“But if anyone loves God, he is known by God.” (1 Cor. 8:3)

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Harry Potter, Exercising Caution in Our Online Words, and The Confessions of Mark Heard – Points of Interest for February 7, 2022

This is a weekly roundup of pieces I read on other sites around the web. Click on the titles to open the articles in a new tab. Happy reading!

The Strange Fate of Hamilton and Harry Potter | Carl R. Trueman 

“Years ago, when teaching at seminary, I used to tell the students that moral relevance in the modern world was a cruel and fickle mistress. However much Christians accommodated themselves to her demands, sooner or later she would want more. Christian morality and the morality of the world simply could not be reconciled in the long term… Today, moral tastes have too short a shelf life for that. Indeed, embracing the moral spirit of the age is now more akin to having a one-night stand—and that with somebody who kicks you out of bed in the morning and calls the police.”

An Unexpected Reply | Phil Cotnoir

“We have far too easily divorced our online words from the stringent commands about our speech that we find all over the Scriptures. Something about the disembodied nature of the digital medium offers a kind of veil that blinds us to the spiritual significance of our words. And so the digital world is not only a far less human place because it is necessarily disembodied, but also because that disembodiment encourages us to dehumanize others as well.”

The Confessions of Mark Heard
If you’ve never listened to the music of Mark Heard, please spend some time with the playlist below.

“Heard had an ear for melody and a voice full of yearning, but it’s his lyrics that make his songs resonate so deeply for many. He sang of the complexities of human life — the wistfulness of nostalgia, the spectre of death, the joys and ambiguities of romantic love, the quest for truth and permanence in a culture that values neither — while pointing beyond those things to a transcendent hope, however and wherever that hope is found.”

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What If Jesus Asks You To Go For Broke?

“This story is not a call for all Christians to sell what they have and give it to the poor. It is a call for all whose hearts are enslaved by the idol of materialism to smash that idol so they can follow Jesus.” Continue reading…

Jesus tells the story in Luke 14:16-24 of a man who is throwing a great party. He is disappointed to find that the people at the top of his guest list seem uninterested in attending. They make one excuse after another and ask to be excused. The party is not their priority. He then sends invitations to those who are poor, crippled, blind, and lame. With space still remaining, he casts the net even wider and keeps inviting people until his house is full.

The story serves as an illustration for people who are apathetic towards the kingdom of God because they have carved out a comfortable place for themselves in the kingdom of the world. These people are generally wealthy and warm and can’t imagine a better life than the one they possess at present. (You might say they are living their best life now.)

Where is Your Trust?

Now, I do not believe that Christians must be poor in order to be holy. I do, however, believe that we are sometimes in danger of turning from God by placing our trust in our efforts, our income, and our possessions. It happens slowly and with great subtlety, but it does happen. And we are in danger, living as we do in a time of unparalleled prosperity.

Jesus came to his own and was rejected. The Messiah, the one for whom they claimed to be waiting had come to them, but they were too wrapped up in the things of this world to take notice. Not only did they not take notice, they rejected him and had him crucified because he threatened the comfortable status quo.

The Rich Ruler

In Luke 18:18-25 Jesus provides a case study for the earlier party story. A wealthy ruler asks him how he can be saved. After some preliminary conversation, Jesus offers him a way to obtain what he seeks. “One thing you still lack,” Jesus says, “Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” The man becomes suddenly sad because he is extremely rich. 

Jesus gives many warnings about riches, in one place calling money deceitful. It can be a lure that looks enticing but hides the enslaving hook. And yet he never says that it is a sin to be wealthy, only that being wealthy comes with its own set of hazards. 

Two Kinds of Wealthy People

Some wealthy people work hard in a chosen field. They are determined to honour God, encourage people, and practice generosity. These people are often blessed by God with even more wealth, which they use not to feed their egos but to honour God and help those in need. God has blessed them with wealth and they, in turn, use that wealth to bless others.

Others make grand financial goals – they desire to be rich for the sake of being rich – and then pursue whatever means will lead to that end. These also often become quite wealthy, but in the end, they are destroyed by what they accumulate. These people rarely bless others, unless appearing to do so will somehow further benefit them financially. In the process, they do not honour God and are not blessed themselves. They can appear to be very moral people, but they are condemned by their love of money, which has become more important to them than God himself. 

The Idol of Money

This was a problem for the rich ruler in the story. Money had become his idol and it was necessary for him to destroy that idol if he wanted to follow Jesus. This story is not a call for all Christians to sell what they have and give it to the poor. It is a call for all whose hearts are enslaved by the idol of materialism to smash that idol so they can follow Jesus. Jesus calls us to follow him, laying down our lives and possessions at his feet for him to use for his glory. 

What if he asks us to go for broke? 

Are we willing to place our trust fully in him to provide? 

I must ask myself these questions on a regular basis to test the resolve of my heart. I have so much to be thankful for. Am I thankful? And am I holding my life and possessions loosely so that Jesus can use what he needs at the time of his choosing?

“How difficult it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!” May we never assume those words were spoken only for other people and not for us. 

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Dark Hearts and Glowing Faces

“I’ve heard people say that churches are full of fakers, and that is occasionally true. Each one of us has gathered with others for worship at one time or another with a sad heart but an outward smile, with a dark heart and a glowing face. In some assemblies, there is a known but unspoken requirement to make a good show of things when the corporate body is gathered.”

Continue reading…

“So for the sake of your tradition you have made void the word of God. You hypocrites! “

Matthew 15:6-7

Jesus says here not that traditions are evil, but that they can become too precious. They can become so precious, in fact, that they make void the word of God. What begins as a good, faithful, and repeated practice can harden into a mandatory legalistic habit that hinders our worship.

However, we can find innumerable examples of good traditions as well, traditions that enhance our experience of God’s goodness and are therefore faithful aids to us in the journey of life.

We must never discard traditions lightly. Instead, we need to evaluate all our traditions with this in mind: Does the tradition serve the purpose of glorifying the work of God, or has it become merely a mechanism by which people are glorified in their strict adherence and enforcement of it?

Honouring God

Jesus goes on to say:

“Well did Isaiah prophesy of you, when he said: ‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me,  teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’” (Matthew 15:7–9)

Who is he talking about when he mentions people who honour God with their lips while concealing a heart that is far from him? Who are those who worship in vain, making man-made commandments into doctrines? In the immediate context, of course, he’s talking to the Pharisees.

But just as with other warnings and sayings of Jesus that were issued to religious leaders of the day, we tend not to apply these sayings to ourselves. But we fool ourselves if we think these sayings cannot apply to us.

Full of Fakers

I’ve heard people say that churches are full of fakers, and that is occasionally true. Each one of us has gathered with others for worship at one time or another with a sad heart but an outward smile, with a dark heart and a glowing face. In some assemblies, there is a known but unspoken requirement to make a good show of things when the corporate body is gathered.

And so on some Sundays, we honour God with our lips while our hearts are far from him. He would be more honoured if we confessed and lamented the condition of our hearts and cried out for grace and mercy – even, at times, in front of everyone. 

We also don’t think of ourselves as those who “teach as doctrine the commandments of men,” but a quick look at some of the sacred cows (figurative ones, I hope!) in our churches reveals that we sometimes take as absolute what was merely assembled out of certain preferences and points of pride about our history, culture or heritage. 

These are not always bad in themselves, but when we raise them to a level of importance equal to doctrine, we are on a dangerous path.  

Do you have any favourite traditions that enhance your experience of God’s goodness?

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Today’s featured image is available as a photo or canvas print. Please visit my store on Facebook for details.

Top 10 Photos (Jan. 2022)

I spend a lot of time writing, thinking, and talking to people but I do have a hobby: photography. Here are the fruits of my labours for January 2022. Enjoy!

I’m at www.instagram.com/michaelkrahnphotography/ and www.facebook.com/michaelkrahnphoto if you’d like to follow along.

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Tim Keller, Bill C-4, and the Breakdown of Civility Among Christians – Points of Interest for January 31, 2022

Tim Keller, Bill C-4, and the Breakdown of Civility Among Christians – Points of Interest for January 31, 2022

This is a weekly roundup of pieces I read on other sites around the web. Click on the titles to open the articles in a new tab. Happy reading!

Tim Keller on the Church Crisis That He Never Had to Face as a Pastor—But You Do

“In virtually every church there is a smaller or larger body of Christians who have been radicalized to the Left or to the Right by extremely effective and completely immersive internet and social media loops, newsfeeds, and communities. People are bombarded 12 hours a day with pieces that present a particular political point of view, and the main way it seeks to persuade is not through argument but through outrage. People are being formed by this immersive form of public discourse—far more than they are being formed by the Church.”

Have you seen this in your own church?

Bill C-4: History, Concerns, and Response – The Gospel Coalition | Canada

Good words here from Pastor Paul Carter:

“I fully recognize that a day may well come when there is a heavy price to pay in this country for faithfully preaching what the Bible has to say about human sexuality and gender. If it comes – when it comes – I will count it an honour to suffer on behalf of Christ. Until that time, and as long as the Lord gives me life and breath, I will continue to use every opportunity I have to reach out in love and Gospel concern to my fellow Canadians.”

The Church On The Other Side: Anticipations And Concerns – The Gospel Coalition | Canada

Paul Carter (again):

“During a season of prolonged conflict, polarization, and civil unrest, moderate views begin to look like cowardice, restraint begins to look like abdication, wisdom begins to look like inaction, extremism becomes the norm on every side. The end result is a breakdown in civility and the loss of any inclination toward peace. That seems to be precisely what we are now observing in the evangelical church in Canada during the latter stages of this pandemic.”

This is something I’m really concerned about as well. All sorts of new dividing lines have been introduced over the last two years. People have been leaving churches for political reasons, something fairly common south of us but not common until recently here in Canada. 

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On COVID Restrictions, Vaccines, and Trucker Convoys

We cannot – and certainly will not – make peace by trying to minimize our love for Jesus for the sake of being at peace with those who do not love Him. But we do unnecessary violence to the cause of peace when we invent new points of division with other believers for the sake of unity with those who share our opinions but not our faith. 

Continue reading…

“Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household.”

Matthew 10:34-36

What Jesus speaks of in Matthew 10:34-36 sounds a lot like what many families – church families as well as biological ones – are experiencing right now. We have disputes about restrictions, division over vaccines, and disagreements regarding the trucker convoy. 

But Jesus is speaking here of the inevitable division between those who follow him and those who don’t, between those who believe the gospel and those who reject it as truth, and not about the unnecessary division between people with different opinions about COVID restrictions, vaccines, and trucker convoys.

Maintaining the Unity of the Faith

You can believe that restrictions were necessary or too extreme, that vaccines are crucial or unneeded, that the trucker convoy is a great good or a dangerous endeavour – you can believe any of these things and still be united in Christ with every other person who genuinely follows him. And in the interest of protecting this precious unity, regularly examine your own motives and words.

Are you making these secondary issues primary, thereby destroying the unity of Christ’s body for reasons not found in God’s word?

Are you making your personal opinions on these matters the measure by which other believers are judged unfaithful and unworthy?

Are you twisting the Scriptures, even subtly, to support your political aims?

Are you adding insult to disunity by slandering the very ones who follow Christ just as they do?

These practices must stop. 

Your Primary Unity

If you are someone who follows Christ, you are in unity with all those who also follow him. This unity with other believers must be primary over unity with anyone else. To adopt secondary issues as primary ones is to compromise your loyalty to the gospel. And to go further and elevate these secondary issues to primary ones is a betrayal of the gospel itself.

The coming of Jesus and the commitment he commanded is a necessary flashpoint in many families. The light of this flash should illuminate the truth that Jesus says we cannot follow him if our loyalty to any person, protest, movement or ideology is greater than our love and loyalty to him.

Let There Be No Fellowship of Light With Darkness

So when he who is the Truth divides one against another, we must choose to follow Him instead of making temporal peace with those around us. He alone can change their hearts. We cannot – and certainly will not – make peace by trying to minimize our love for Jesus for the sake of being at peace with those who do not love Him. But we do unnecessary violence to the cause of peace when we invent new points of division with other believers for the sake of unity with those who share our opinions but not our faith. 

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How is Your Bible Reading Plan Going?

It’s getting near the end of January and just like fitness club memberships, many people’s Bible reading plans are abandoned within the first two months of the year. Those resolutions felt so good to make at the time, but the grinding daily discipline required to fulfill your commitment was a bit harder than you expected.

Continue reading…

Don’t be discouraged, and please don’t give up! Just because you stopped doesn’t mean you have to keep stopping – and that goes for Bible reading plans as well as fitness club memberships. 🙂 

If you’ve given up or if you’re falling behind, I want you to print one of these sheets today. On this paper is one square for every chapter of the Bible. I want you to keep this in your Bible until you’ve checked off every square! When will that happen? Who knows, but eventually you will have checked off every square and you will have read the entire Bible. That will be exciting!

So if you started a plan on Jan. 1 and you only made it to Genesis 15 in the OT reading plan, check off the first 15 squares of Genesis, and then rejoin (or join) the group plan where it’s at. If you only made it to Matthew 10 in the NT reading plan – no worries! Check off the first 10 squares in Matthew and rejoin (or join).

I’m happy to have you join the reading journey at any point, and just because you didn’t start on January 1, 2022, doesn’t mean you have to wait until January 1, 2023, to start again. In this way, you’ll finish reading your Bible the way you finish a puzzle, piece by piece whenever you can.  

Click here to join (or rejoin) the NT Reading plan. 

Click here to join (or rejoin) the OT Reading plan. 

Click here to join the new 1 Peter reading plan (Starts Feb. 1).

To download and print off the checklist —> https://visualunit.me/2010/12/14/bible-reading-chart/

*By the way, as I read through scripture I also record my thoughts and observations about what I’m reading. If you’d like to read and interact with what I’m writing, just bookmark my site or use the form below to receive updates by email.

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