When anyone asks me to marry them I will always agree to have at least one meeting, to learn about the couple, see where they are spiritually, get to know one another and see if we (officiant and couple) are a good fit. It’s a no-strings attached informal info session. At the very least it is an opportunity to share of the Christian vision of marriage and most importantly the Gospel. If we decide to proceed the couple commits to biblical premarital counselling.
Sometimes, sadly, because of sin and an unwillingness to do things God’s way on the part of the couple, I, by conscience and conviction, cannot proceed beyond this first conversation. This is of course done respectfully and charitably but must nevertheless be done. For example, I cannot marry same-sex or trans-gendered couples. Adultery, fornication, divorce and remarriage are also things that must be seriously explored. If the couple are not Christians I ask why a Christian marriage and will invest in a couple seriously interested in the ways of the Lord versus those interested in a Christian wedding simply because the Church has a centre aisle. I believe holy matrimony to be a sacred institution and so I am quite comfortable stepping outside of the common lens of seeing it as a form of evangelism (it is primarily an opportunity to disciple and not to evangelize, though in some cases this may be a positive side benefit). As someone who is lawfully allowed to officiate over wedding ceremonies I take the opportunity with all seriousness likening the responsibility to James 3:1, not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness.
You may have noticed that I left out one sort of couple, the blended couple, or a Christian seeking to marry a non-Christian. Should a Christian even entertain marrying a non-Christian? Should a Christian officiant preside over a mixed-wedding? Though some would argue it is a great opportunity to convert the non-believer, a work the Christian spouse can finish up, the classic evangelical response and consensus has been, and still is, “no.” The remainder of this blog will unpack “why.”
The why centres around what the Bible clearly says. This is not an ambiguous area where there is some degree of flexibility, the Scriptures are quite clear on the matter. Let’s build from the less clear to the clear passages:
Whether you are considering marriage for the first time or are in a situation of remarriage, resolve today to be obedient to the Lord and only “marry in the Lord.” This should be the number one criterion you have in finding a spouse.
If you find yourself in a mixed-marriage, confess and ask the Lord to strengthen your faith and save your spouse. Surround yourself with a good church and strong Christian fellowship and may your brothers and sisters in Christ prayerfully support you.
As always, would love to chat if this or any blog generates an biblical or situational questions. These are difficult matters, let us wrestle with them before the Lord and with His help.
 If you cannot find a Christian spouse it is better to wait upon the Lord than settle for something less. He will honour your patience.
 Though I have met a select few upon whom the Lord had mercy and the spouse was converted, this shouldn’t fuel disobedience nor foster wishful thinking.
No I’m not referring to some sexual sin, or any other matter Christians can sometimes be silent on, but the sin of spiritual laziness or slothfulness, historically known as acedia, a sin which is rampant and largely unaddressed in contemporary Church culture.
In Cover to Cover we’re in the period of the Kings, which is characterized by this roller coaster of spirituality, sometimes a nearness to the Lord and the associated blessings and sometimes a departure from him and the related consequences.
As a pastor, zealous for the honour of the Lord, desirous that His people would glorify and enjoy Him, and that others would be led to do the same, it pains and even deeply grieves my heart when I see the sin of acedia in the world, but especially when it creeps into the visible church.
A past sermon on the ant in Proverbs 6:6–11 (July 27) taught us the vital spiritual lesson of Christian industry. The ant is our teacher on industry, initiative, purpose, and ultimate satisfaction or reward in our work. Like our Creator we were created to create. Like our God who is Spirit, we too are designed to be spiritual. Are we busy about our souls and winning and nurturing the souls of others? Do we have to be told, prompted or reminded to seek the Lord? Is He the sole purpose of our life? Are we storing up treasure in heaven? If we are like the ant—spiritually speaking—we will answer a hearty, “Yes.”
Do we take advantage of the spiritual means of grace that He has provided His people and Church?
Acedia is quite possibly the greatest sin of our age, yet its unspokeness makes it all the more dangerous.
If the seeking or worship of the Lord is our great call then not to be zealous in that pursuit, to not love Him with all our heart, soul, mind and strength is indeed criminal and injurious to our soul.
Oh the joy that Christ has in store for His people if they would but, in faith, be spiritually industrious! Acedia breaks my heart every time I see an instance of it; yet to the contrary, when I see spiritual industry my joy is made complete for the joy the other knows through their obedience to Christ's promises and commands.
If you are zealous for the Lord would you please join me in making the Psalmist’s prayer your prayer:
Will you not revive us again, that your people may delight in you? (Ps 85:6)
 From the Greek, an inert state without pain or care.
 A means of grace is a way that God has appointed through which, when trusted in faith, the believer derives His unmerited favour, or untold spiritual benefits.
One of the undesirable consequences of Covid-19 for many churches and Christians has been the infrequency of which Communion, the Lord’s Supper or the Eucharist has been remembered, celebrated, observed or taken.
How regularly should I taken Communion and why?
Some Christians take it weekly, others monthly (like us—the first a.m. service and third p.m. service), some quarterly and some even yearly.
What was the practice of the early Church?
Sadly, both ordinances of Baptism and Communion can be undervalued, however, below are 9 reasons why we ought to observe the Lord’s Supper and do so regularly:
It is hard to believe that August 19th marked one year since we arrived back in Ontario from the UK and August 30 will mark one year as residents of Grey County.
On Thursday I went on a retreat to reflect upon the past year as pastoral-elder of MBC—a great privilege—and also to pray about the way forward as Jennie (our border collie) and I hiked 20 km of the Bruce Trail around the Beaver Valley.
2019–20 represented a positive challenge: reintegrating into Ontario culture, saying farewell to our Chapel family but gaining a new one; preaching (including Cover to Cover); restarting weekly Life Groups, beginning an evening service; and, very importantly, getting to know the congregation through visitation. We also accomplished many property projects, some of which had been in view for a while and some of which were new initiatives.
We also navigated through Covid-19, one of the few churches in our area to livestream and keep the “doors” of the church open.
Added to all this teaching at Toronto Baptist Seminary, renovating an old farm house and raising a little boy, I can positively say this was all only possible with the help that comes from abiding in Christ, and from His people working together.
I pray that as we live out the Great Commandment and seek to fulfil the Great Commission over the next year we will be led mightily by the Holy Spirit, that He would make us know the way we should go, and that we will stand ready to do every good work that He calls us to.
What is forgiveness?
Many people have some very confused views on what forgiveness is and is not. For example, many think it is simply treating something as “water under the bridge” or “letting go.” These, and many other false notions, are not what forgiveness is. What then is forgiveness? Biblically, it must be understood in at least 4 different ways, but first we’ll consider its broad definition:
Forgiveness: If you asked Mr. Oxford it would say: “to stop feeling angry with somebody who has done something to harm, annoy or upset you.” I suppose the reason why so many people struggle to truly forgive someone in the world today is because on what basis can you do that? Forgiveness is very difficult. Older dictionaries have much more robust definitions: to grant, remit, pardon a debt, give up. In fact the old English word for forgive is a compound word that combines “completely” & “give.” As such older dictionaries defined the word as “to give up desire or power to punish.” This definition is at least heading in the right direction (and similar to the Greek- to send away, release, permit to depart, remit, etc), but again, upon what basis?
To build a definition of Biblical forgiveness, one must see the different contexts in which forgiveness is spoken of, along with the acts which it is based upon.
Seeking God’s forgiveness
Because we have offended God, dishonoured Him, profaned His holy Law, each human being stands in need of God’s forgiveness. Indeed, in light of this reality (Ro 3:23) we ought to actively pursue it. Though speaking of Christians sinning 1 Jn 1:9 stands as a faithful promise for all who would repent and seek God’s forgiveness—His promise to forgive.
If anyone sins He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1 Jn 1:9).
Long before we speak about forgiveness amongst humans we need to recognize the forgiveness we stand in need of before God. This begins with repentance. No repentance no forgiveness.
Seeking other’s forgiveness
Scripture also makes clear our obligation to seek the forgiveness of others. Mt 5:23–24 says:
23 So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24 leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.
Reconciliation involves forgiveness, both the seeking and extending. We’re a hypocrite if we think we’re ok with God but aren’t ok with our neighbour (so far as it depends on us, Ro 12:18). If we know we’ve sinned we’re called to own up to it both to God and to others. In fact, in Mt 6:14–15 Jesus goes so far as to say not to do this will become an impediment to God forgiving us:
14 For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, 15 but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.
If we have been forgiven of our sins by God we will naturally forgive others, much.
(Still on what basis can we or God forgive?)
God’s forgiveness of sinners
Here we finally answer the question on what basis God can forgive a sinner. Eph 1:7 says:
In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace.
God cannot wishfully pretend our sins away. Sin is real. For justice to be done sin must be atoned for. So for God to let go of the believer’s sins someone had to pay the price and that someone was Jesus (atonement means an act that enables us to become at one with God). Jesus needed to die the perfect death, His righteous blood needed to be shed so we might know life instead of death. He did this all out of sheer unmerited favour. Our need of forgiveness is so great no human work can suffice, only a work of God is capable of removing the sin of the penitent believer (and indeed in bringing us to that place).
Our forgiveness of others
This final exploration is perhaps most interesting. Upon what basis must I, as a believer, forgive someone else? After all we’re commanded to forgive our brothers and sisters on the basis of Christ’s forgiveness of our sins (Eph 4:32), and indeed others (see above).
Yet our forgiveness cannot absolve them of their sin, what good is it? Our forgiveness is not on the basis of the Cross, for one must appeal to Christ directly for that. So what use is my forgiveness and on what basis? Here Romans 12:14–21 is most helpful. It reads:
14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. 16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. 17 Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honourable in the sight of all. 18 If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. 19 Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” 20 To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
Our call to forgive and love our enemies and those who have done us harm (even forgiving those who do not ask for forgiveness) is not based upon our ability to forgive but in trust and obedience to Christ’s command and that He alone is judge and will execute justice upon the guilty. It is a call to stop playing Judge. Therefore, by entrusting the situation to Him—itself a work of the Spirit— we are enabled to have peace from anger, being liberated to live our lives and love others. It is in letting justice for the situation go to God, a giving of it away to His justice, that we see a glimpse of some of the older definitions of what forgiveness means and the benefit it brings to the one forgiving.
Through our withholding of forgiveness we often think we can inflict deserved harm upon those who’ve harmed us, yet ironically, it is only by forgiving that we can “heap burning coals upon their head.” Our higher road of faith in the Lord is the very thing that sinners will detest most, and we pray will be the thing that brings them to the repentance they so desperately need.
The radical nature of this forgiveness is vividly portrayed in the film The End of the Spear, which recounts the wives of slain missionaries continuing in their mission to reach the very tribe who murdered their husbands.
May the Lord help us seek His forgiveness, that of others, and also to extend forgiveness too.
This past Lord's Day I shared about troubling developments in another Baptist organization in Ontario, the CBOQ (Canadian Baptists of Ontario and Quebec or Convention Baptists). This is the family of churches I grew up in yet, their doctrinal drift has troubled many evangelicals.
Paul Carter offers a helpful summary of what is going on within the denomination: https://ca.thegospelcoalition.org/columns/ad-fontes/what-in-the-world-is-going-on-with-the-cboq/
Last week I was blessed to have some time to work on house renos. Purchasing a fixer-upper of an old farm house has meant some very interesting renovation finds. This trend continued as I began renovating the old summer kitchen off of the back of the main house. While the main house was structurally sound and true (meaning level or straight), the old summer kitchen was another matter. A combination of a poor foundation, improper work on load bearing walls (all now fixed btw), etc, the centre of the summer kitchen bowed considerably meaning new level windows looked as if they were out (an optical allusion). To give you an idea of just how crooked the old summer kitchen was, its walls were 1” out of level on the vertical over 4 feet and the centre of the wall sagged 3–4” from the ends.
Every time I went to fix something I kept saying, “It shouldn’t be this way!”
The Bible says much about crookedness. It speaks of crooked speech, poverty as better than being crooked yet with great riches and of a crooked generation (Dt 32:5; Acts 2:40, 13:10; Phil 2:15). However, talk of “crookedness” usually refers to something or someone being out of plumb with God’s Law or intended design. It is twisted, perverted, crooked. This imagery is frequently employed in Wisdom literature. Three examples will suffice:
And like my summer kitchen, we look around at the world and see it too is crooked. It is not as it should be. Unlike my renovations which seek to mend or fix up an old structure, that is not the promise of the Gospel. In the Gospel, Jesus promises by His Spirit to make us new, to transform us—language far more powerful than a mere makeover or renovation. We need forgiveness for our crookedness and His Spirit’s renewing power, otherwise when the chief building inspector comes on that Great Day, with the measuring tape of His Law, who will be able to stand when His just judgement falls? Certainly not the crooked, they will collapse under the weight of His wrath. However, the righteous, the straight, the believer in Jesus, he will stand on that great day, Christ bearing Him up and being the righteousness he could never be.
May we look to Christ with the promise of being made straight and true in accordance with His truth.
Even though the rainbow is such a beautiful aspect of Creation and a reminder of God’s covenant with man to never flood the earth as a judgement for our sin again, it has been hi-jacked of late to represent a double godlessness in the spirit of Isa 5:20 and Ro 1:32.
The month of June was labelled “pride” month and the rainbow flag, taken up as a symbol of the LGBT+ community (there is an irony here), was flown from many school and government flag poles, hung in residential windows, etc. Those who fly it symbolically encapsulate Isaiah’s charge to ancient Israel, who celebrated calling “evil good and good evil.” Yet this flag represents more than simply the diversity of expression within this community (itself not a hegemonic movement either), it is coming to be a representative flag of our times.
The rainbow flag is not simply being flown during the month of June; it is gaining a popularity far beyond those who support the LGBT+ movement or sympathize with them. The pride flag is growing in popularity because it stands for the values of the age: post-modernism, diversity, difference, acceptance, “tolerance,” etc. In effect it is the new symbol of moral anarchy, that everyone can believe and do what they like and no one can tell them otherwise. It is the warrant to be licentious. It is an embrace of the pride of the diversity of sin. Now, someone need not be LGBT+ or even support this precise cause, the flag is taking on a new meaning as a symbol of your support for the right of others to sin so that you yourself may do as you please: Though they know God's decree that those who practise such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practise them. (Ro 1:32).
As such the rainbow flag has become the flag of our times.
 The irony is that the very symbol they have taken up is actually related to a great judgement upon the world over its sinfulness.
 For example, many who identify as gay men or women, resent the fluidity expressed by the transgendered community. While the media presents the wider community as unified it is anything but.
 Here we see the intolerance of tolerance. Tolerance used to mean disagreeing with someone respectfully, but now it means accepting those of similar belief’s so long as you don’t challenge them.
Covid-19 has been a challenging time for many visible churches.
During lockdown many closed completely, some for want of means of continuing virtually (etc), while others persevered into varied forms of creative ministry, gathering and worship. We continued to hold our worship services through live-stream, Life Groups and leadership meetings via Skype and Zoom and Facetime and communicated congregationally through our print and e-newsletter (along with many other means).
From June 12 places of worship in Ontario were permitted by the government emergency order to emerge from the lockdown returning to physical worship services at 30% building capacity. We safely re-opened our morning and evening services on the Lord’s Day, June 14, also continuing our live-stream for those at risk or still uncomfortable; a few other local churches did the same not long after. However, there are many, many visible churches that remain closed with all or most of their ministries shut down. Many of them cite health concerns for this, which is something genuine to assess, however, “where there is a will there is a way” (i.e. if you have a reason to meet and a purpose to exist you will labour to find a safe means to accomplish it. See also: 2 Ti 1:7). A participant of one such church confided in me his dismay at their church’s decision wondering if anyone would return come September?
You see, if something stops for a week because of a snow storm, it is not terribly life changing, but the moment you speak of ceasing to do something for weeks and months and seasons, it becomes habit forming and life altering (for good or ill).
This raises two important and interrelated points:
ONE. If a church’s god is the only God, perfect, almighty, all-wise and most holy, sovereign, loving, gracious, merciful, long-suffering, abounding in truth and goodness, the rewarder of those who seek him and the judge of all who don’t (I’m referencing the 2nd London Baptist Confession, 2.1) and if you know this God through faith in Jesus Christ then YES, absolutely, you have a reason to bring Him the corporate worship He has commanded and to fellowship together with other believers. Nothing, not persecution, or want or pandemic will stop you from doing this. If this is NOT the case, then naturally why would you gather to worship a God who you think is not really real or worthy, or immanent or knowable or known by you?
TWO. If a church, made up of redeemed or purchased people—bought by the blood of the lamb—has been commanded by their Saviour to publish Good News to all people, a message of repentance and transformation, to glorify Him in all they do, a life lived in gratitude to their King, then YES we have a purpose to exist for we have a Great Commission to fulfil and God to glorify. If this is NOT the case, if church is only a social club or a good works hobby, couldn’t I spend my time better somewhere else?
IF you answered yes to the above questions but are still not gathering and labouring as part of your local church, then appeal to your church leadership, grant leave to gather with a small handful in your home or outside, or temporarily worship with another church.
IF you are still watching the live-stream from home and not personally and physically worshipping and serving and don’t have a legitimate health risk (i.e. you’re going to the grocery store, shopping, eating out and visiting family but not participating in your church) then it is time to lay down your excuses and do so. Live-streaming is a great outreach and it was and can be a short-term substitute, but it is a long-term compromise from the real thing; don’t grow comfortable with it.
Among many other things Covid-19 is affecting on the church and spiritual landscape of our land is the separation from the wheat and the chaff; with some churches being pruned and others experiencing growth. The churches that will continue post-Covid will have these two things in common: a reason to meet and a purpose to exist.
Though our ultimate citizenship is in heaven, Christians ought to pray for their earthly country, its leaders, and ultimately its salvation. Did you know Canada used to be a Christian country, though now a conservative estimate is that only 3-4% are born again. In fact at the turn of the last century Ontario was one of the most Christianized lands in the world! Though there is cause to hope for brighter days, as it was Canada day this week it is relevant to look back to our Christian heritage as an encouragement to look forward.
Here are just three marks of our Christian past (point people to these when doing evangelism):
-Our coat of arms. Did you know the Latin saying on our coat of arms is taken from Ps 72:8 and expressed the Christian vision for Canada: Et dominabitur a mari usque ad mare, et a flumine usque ad terminos terrae or "He shall have dominion also from sea to sea, and from the river unto the ends of the earth." And don’t forget the cross at the top of her majesty’s crown!
-Our national anthem. Originally part of a larger Christian hymn, one line says it best: God keep our land glorious and free. It is God we need to look for to keep us glorious and free, a freedom and blessing which comes from faithfulness to the Gospel.
- Our Charter: While many forget this or dismiss this all together, the defining line of our Charter comes at the very beginning: Whereas Canada is founded upon principles that recognize the supremacy of God and the rule of law.
Sadly today we can only beg God’s mercy (“Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people.” Pr 14:34). Any hope of future blessing can only be found in the Gospel re-reaching our land. Not that Canada would look the same in the past if this were so in the future, but we need to point people back to the founding person of Jesus Christ if we are to remain glorious and free: “ask for the ancient paths, where the good way is; and walk in it, and find rest for your souls.” (Jer 6:16)
Author: Chris Crocker
Pastor, historian and beekeeper.
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