Today is Remembrance Day; the banks and post offices are all closed and people are encouraged to attend their local cenotaph to remember all those who have served, and died, for the civic freedoms we enjoy, past and present. We owe it to them to remember, we owe it to ourselves to remember, lest we fail to learn from the horrors of conflicts past and present.
The cost of many conflicts and the terrors many individuals and families endured, have led a great many to believe that to die for “king and country” is to gain immorality. This was certainly the case as communities grappled with the Great War (1914–1918). This is captured on a local cenotaph which reads:
They died as few men get the chance to die, fighting to save a world’s morality, they died the noblest death a man may die, fighting for God, and right and liberty, and such a death is immortality.
Now aside from the cult of Imperialism inherent in this quote and some less than qualified statements (some of which are true in part), the last line is very unsettling to me as a Christian.
“And such a death is immortality.”
When we wrestle with trials greater than our comprehension, we ought not to create our own truths and false assurances but to turn to the truth and clarity of Scripture and the promises it offers concerning immortality, through which alone we can find a blessed assurance. Sadly, theological liberalism and nominal Christianity compounded during the Great War to lead many to foolishly embrace such sentiments as expressed on this war memorial.
Truly, to selflessly lay down one’s life for the good of one’s country and “right and liberty” is a noble form of death, but “noble” and salvific are two very different things. The Bible is very clear that salvation and immortality come only through faith and not works, even of the noblest kind:
And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. (John 17:3)
So may we remember the fallen today, but may we remember the greatest death of all, that of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the peace He won that day, in the great spiritual conflict of our age, so all those who believe might be saved and so find peace with God, eternally.
The Lord’s Sweetest Blessings,
The highest church building in England is that of Brentor, Devon. Build atop a large Tor on the edge of Dartmoor the church rises hundreds of feet above the village below. Until a new church was built in the village in the 1800s worshippers literally had to “go up” to the house of the Lord.
Such was the case in ancient Israel with the Temple. The Temple Mount actually sits atop Mount Moriah which itself is overshadowed by higher hills around it. It is a sort of hill within a ring of hills. It is this image of having to ascend from the valley below to the Temple that the pilgrim had in mind in Psalm 122:1 when he said:
I was glad when they said to me, ‘Let us go up to the house of the LORD!’
Under the Old Covenant the Temple was the centre of the sacrificial system for making atonement for sins and the presence of the LORD on earth. His public worship, as prescribed by countless commandments, was therefore centred around the Temple where the Israelites were “to go up” to benefit from these two primary functions. Though under the New Covenant the function of the Temple has been replaced by the Cross and the Holy Spirit, “to go up” is still relevant for it refers to the act of Christians gathering together for public worship.
Whilst Christians are to worship the Lord through every aspect of their lives, and can also do so privately, to gather together for the public worship of the Lord on His appointed day is a chief form among them all. To enter into His presence, sing His praises, hear from His Word, have the ordinances (baptism and communion) administered and fellowship with other believers; these are all reasons to attend public worship (duty) and do so with gladness (delight). “To go up” means the process can be demanding of us in some way, but that any ardours melt away when we consider the end of our worship, the LORD, and when are efforts, or rather our faith in this means of grace, is rewarded with untold spiritual blessings. The Lord and not the location or building, the pastor or the people, is the object of this act of worship and the reason for going. He is the centre and spring of all of our gladness along with our desire to go. If we love Him, we’ll love “to go up.”
The Lord’s Sweetest Blessings,
We all need encouragement from time to time. Though the God of the Bible is far more than a crutch to make it through life's difficulties He nonetheless condescends to us in His love to offer us encouragement.
Such was the case with Joshua. Joshua faced an immense task: to lead the people of God into the Promised Land as Moses' successor! He did so valiantly as a man of faith, however, the prospect of His call would have caused any man (or woman) of faith to fret. God in His mercy gave Joshua this promise and by trusting in it Joshua overcame his greatest fears.
"Do not be afraid or discouraged, for I, the LORD your God, am with you wherever you go." (Joshua 1:9).
Whether it be something the Lord is calling you to, an illness, persecution, relationship troubles or temptations, all Christians are susceptible to fear and in need of encouragement to trust the Lord.
When I'm afraid I often sing to myself. I don't just sing any old thing but usually either a lyric from a Christian song or a portion of Scripture. Ps 119:11 instructs us to hide God's Word in our hearts. That is why I wrote the song displayed above. When my wife was in labour, when I have a difficult pastoral task, etc, I sing this song to myself or another to remind us of the promise of God; that through faith He helps overcome the difficulty and the discouragement.
If you have never trusted Jesus Christ as your Saviour, first trust in Him for salvation, but then know that an immeasurable number of promises are yours in Christ Jesus, among them encouragements such as: Ps 145:18- "The LORD is near to all who call on Him, who call on Him in truth." Cry out to Jesus, who is the truth, today and receive not only salvation from sin but His calming presence.
The Lord's Sweetest Blessings,
One of the most patriotic things you can do for your country as a Christian is to pray. We as believers have special access to the throne of grace to plead on behalf of our nations and their leaders.
[Pray] for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.
That is what Paul instructs Timothy to do in 1 Tim 2:2. Bearing in mind Paul’s earthly king was Caesar, a man who stood for everything contrary to what Paul stood for, it is an incredible thing that he commanded Timothy to pray for the Emperor and all those leaders in the Empire (and is in itself a reminder we ought to be sincere and not cynical towards our leaders, regardless of whether we agree with them). Central to why Paul prayed this was so the Christians could live in peace, but also for the peace that allowed Rome to exist, which enabled the Christians to share the Gospel throughout it. Certainly one prayer we ought to pray is that righteousness would prevail in our land and that the government might seek to foster that which would bring ultimate benefits as well as blessings from the Almighty. Canada, and our leaders, certainly need many prayers from His people to this end.
Proverbs 14:24 reminds us, “Righteousness exalts a people, but sin is a reproach to any people.” History bears this out. When nations have perused righteousness they have been blessed by the Lord. When they’ve hardened themselves to doing good and seeking Him the Lord has brought them low. Doing what is good and pleasing to God (righteousness), it lifts up a people, yet when we do what displeases God (sin) that is a reproach, that is a great statement of disapproval and disappointment. In other words if we glory in His ways then we will be glorious!
At present, our national anthem (originally part of a Protestant hymn), says, “God [the Christian God] keep our land, glorious and free.” Now one way to look at “glorious” and even “free” is to link them to the glory of the land, that is its beauty, natural resources, etc, and free meaning free from tyranny. Yet I would suggest the author probably had in mind Prov 14:24. That he prayed that as our land pursued righteousness we’d be glorious as we reflected God’s glory and were blessed because of it. That we’d be free as we walked in the Way of liberty as revealed in Scripture, and not be bound to sin and its awful effects.
It is a prayer every Christian should unite in praying today, that our nation would be true to its foundation as expressed in the—neglected—preface of our Constitution (1982): “Whereas Canada is founded upon principles that recognize the supremacy of God and the rule of law.” We can do our Patriotic duty and pray for our leaders, and pray the Lord would have mercy upon our land and turn us all back to Him, before we cease to be glorious or free because of the reproach of many sins.
The Lord’s Sweetest Blessings,
This is how I would define the following two words, one of which I believe is healthy for a Christian to espouse and the other not:
Nationalism: To strongly identify with one’s own nation and interests, viewing it and its interests as superior to all others (extreme).
Patriotism: Being proud of being a part of one’s country (moderate).
Why am I writing about these? It harbours back to my last election post, that Christians are ultimately citizens of heaven and not our place of earthly residence (Phil 3:20).
This means that nationalism is a form of idolatry, where what we worship and serve is the shiny idol of our state or nation. That is not something a Christian ought to be caught up in. Patriotism, on the other hand is something Scripture affirms, so long as we recognise our ultimate citizenship is in heaven. Here are three Biblical examples:
a) During the exile the Old Covenant people of God were called to establish themselves in the cities where God had put them (Jer 29:5, 28). He further commanded them, “Seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you…” (Jer 29:7a).
b) At Pentecost (Acts 2), the Spirit brought into the Kingdom Jews who had become members of many different nations as a result of the Exile. They then went back to their countries to live as members of those communities but ultimately to point people to Christ and the greater citizenship they could have in Him. This missionary result of Pentecost reminds us of the Great Commission and that Heaven will be filled with believers from every tribe, nation and language.
c) In Ro 10:1–2 Paul prays for the salvation of his fellow ethnic Jews, lamenting that concerning their Messiah they are misguided, yet still loving his kinsmen and desiring what is best for them.
Passages such as these teach us it is right to love one’s people, yet wrong to see them as greater than our ultimate citizenship and the worship that is due the Lord. There are many reasons why I’m proud to be a Christian-Canadian (like pumpkin pie and the great outdoors). There are also many reasons, which I began to be conscious of in 2005, for which I am not (for righteousness exalts a nation but sin is a reproach to any people, Prov 14:34).
Christians are called to love the good in our culture and abhor the bad (Ro12:9).
Christians are called to live within our societies as outstanding civic members (1 Pet 2:13–17).
Christians are to be the most patriotic members of their country, remembering that the most patriotic thing to do for one’s country is to promote that which is spiritually best for it, that is the Kingdom of God.
The Lord’s Sweetest Blessings,
This week Andrew Scheer announced he was a dual citizen, Canadian and American. The Christian, however, is NOT a dual citizen of Canada and the Kingdom of God. This post is an attempt to help us remember this.
But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ. (Phil 3:20).
Paul wrote these words to the Christians in Philippi (the first church in Europe, where Lydia and the jailer had been converted, etc). This city became a Roman colony in 42 BC and became inhabited largely by army veterans. To be a colony of Rome meant that you were a little Rome outside of Rome. Citizens had special privileges like significant tax exemptions and rights to rich agricultural lands. The city also had everything you would expect in Rome (a theatre, forum, etc). Citizenship brought great blessings, as well as responsibilities. It could be something a Philippian Christian could see as so important that they placed greater emphasis on their identity as a citizen of a Roman colony than on their membership in the Kingdom of Heaven.
In Phil 1:27 Paul reminded the Philippian Christians “only let your manner of life as citizens be worthy of the Gospel of Christ.” As Canadian Christians our greatest allegiance is not to be to Canada but to Christ. Our model of behaviour is also likewise not to be found in Canadian culture but in Christ. This is how we should view our identity and this greater reality should inform our allegiance, values and decisions. Augustine noted the tension between being in the world but not of the world (c.f. Jn 17:16) in his book City of God, where the Christian has the reality of participating in two realms. In fact I would suggest we should not even view ourselves as Canadian citizens, though by virtue of being in the world we are Canadian “citizens.” Rather we should view ourselves for what we are—citizens of heaven. We belong to a different kingdom with a different King (though we still engage in society here and respect the authorities). The Bible emphasises we are ambassadors (2 Cor 5:20); we represent one kingdom in another kingdom. We are like a little heaven outside of heaven. More radically it even says we are aliens, foreigners or sojourners (1 Pe 2:11; just passing through this kingdom en route to our home country in the New Heavens and New Earth.
As such, rather than seeing ourselves as dual citizens (Canadian-Kingdom of Heaven), we ought to see ourselves as residents of Canada who are citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven. When I lived in the UK as a permanent resident I had some rights and responsibilities, but I was Canadian. The same is true for us as Christians. We are residents, but our citizenship is in heaven. Let us not forget this vital truth about our identity.
The Lord’s Sweetest Blessings,
Yesterday I called my uncle, it was his birthday. He turned 82. I’ve been close to my uncle my whole life and even as an adult still refer to him as my uncle, even though most of my cousins now refer to him by his first name. Am I odd to continue this tradition of titles and reverential respect to a family member who is older than me? The egalitarianism of today would say, “yes,” but the Bible says otherwise:
You shall stand up before the grey head and honour the face of an old man, and you shall fear your God: I am the Lord. (Lev 19:32)
Here the respect of those older than you, particularly the elderly, is commanded. Why (other than God said so)? While Jewish commentators interpret this law very literally there are even deeper principles present here. Progressing toward the ultimate truth, here are some possibilities:
1. We ought to honour the wisdom of the aged (Job 12:12). While this may be often the case there are many examples of elderly people who are as immature as a young person (or more!). This cannot be the complete reason.
2. We are to honour them because they have gone before us, that is they existed long before we were born and experienced life long before we ever did, and all this is a mark of blessing from God. John Gill said,
“And this respect to ancient persons is due to them from younger persons, because of their having been in the world before them, and of their long continuance in it, and because of the favour and honour God has bestowed upon them in granting them long life, as also because of the experience, knowledge, and wisdom, they may be supposed to have attained unto.”
That we honour them because they preceded us is similar to why we honour our father and mother in the 5th Commandment, because they gave us life.
3. Yet there is a greater reason that many Christians have seen as the root reason that may be found in the words “I am the LORD.” By honouring the aged we honour God who is “the Ancient of days” (Da 7:9, 13, 22; Mic 5:2) who was, is and always will be. He is everlasting and is to be revered above all.
So the next time you think about disrespecting those older than you or hear other who dismiss seniors as irrelevant or unimportant to society, think again and remember Leviticus 19:32 and take care to show respect.
The Lord’s Sweetest Blessings,
 Egalitarianism, from the same root as the word equal, suggests that all people, regardless of evident differences, are equal, not only in worth, but in all respects.
In an army mess there are two subjects that you are to avoid: politics and religion. When I served as a military chaplain I certainly couldn’t avoid the latter! As contemporary Christians, while we ought to be respectful of the personal political decisions of fellow believers, politics is not a realm to which the Bible is silent, nor is it one we shouldn’t come openly to Scripture as a Church. In this mini-series for the Canadian election of 2019 I hope, not to instruct you how to vote, but to reflect on Biblical principles that might inform your civic awareness. In case you’re still not at ease as to my being neutral and therefore able to objectively write on the topic I’ll declare that I’m a-political, my kingdom is not of this world, it is spiritual and its benevolent King is Lord Jesus.
Many seek the face of a ruler, but justice comes from the LORD. (Prov 29:29)
Many Christians in the West still look to politics to solve or sort out society. They think politics can “save us.” They place a lot of hope in the political process or their party (is it any wonder they are never satisfied! C.f. Ps 121). Promises are broken, politicking trumps principles and at the end of the day little has changed. Indeed, the failure of mainstream politics in the West to deliver is why many groups on the extreme left and right are flourishing.
In ancient days a monarch, usually a king, was both the law maker and the judge. Many people, from the nobles to the commoner, would seek his face, or audience, in the hopes that their financial gift or earnest plea might bring them into favour with the ruler so that what they hoped for would be secured. Just like today, in ancient days many sought a ruler to find salvation.
The beauty of this verse is that is reminds us that salvation (“justice”), the thing we look for from politicians, can only be found in the Lord. Whether it be a moral, economic, social or justice matter, if we put out ultimate hope in politics we will be a hopeless person. Whilst we should seek to influence the government as Christians for good, to put our ultimate hope there is misguided. As Canada has entered into the era of “post-Christianity” many Christians have come to wake up and smell the coffee and notice that we are not in Kansas anymore. No political party represents a Christian worldview any longer. People no longer believe the very preface of our Charter- “Whereas Canada is founded upon principles that recognize the supremacy of God and the rule of law.” It is any wonder then that conservatism, liberalism, socialism, etc, do not wholly stand for truth, but only aspects of the values of Biblical Christianity. Conservatives seek to be sound fiscal stewards but no longer stand for moral issues nor care for the poor. Liberals may give invest in often misguided social projects but have godless ideological moral principles and are not prudent financially. The NDP are very much like the liberals, just more radical on some points. The Greens want to care for Creation (though they don’t use those words), which is good (Gen 2:15), but are like the Liberals and NDP on many other matters.
A recognition that all of the “isms” of politics won’t save us, prepares us to do at least two things that can make real change: prayer and evangelism. Seeking justice for our country from the Lord through prayer can be used by Him to make real change in society (1 Chr 7:14). Sharing the Gospel and transforming hearts, rather than a top down political approach, will be a bottom up grassroots transformation that will attune people with the Lord’s will, one heart at a time.
William Wilberforce came to this conclusion. He was frustrated as to why the British wouldn’t end slavery when everyone was “Christian.” It was because most were only nominally Christian. As an evangelical Anglican he became more and more involved in Christian affairs, even publishing the best-selling book Real Christianity (1797), which was such a challenge to nominal Christianity that the Lord saw fit to use it in the 18th Century revival, which saw the hearts of the masses changed for Christ. Then, and only then, was Wilberforce able to lead the British to end slavery in 1833. It took time and it took place from the bottom up. If we want to see real transformation in Canadian society it needs Jesus.
Want to really make a difference this election: prayer and share the Gospel.
The Lord’s Sweetest Blessings,
 You may enthusiastically support a mainstream political party, believing it holds the best solution to bettering the nation, but I hope this article may temper your enthusiasm; you may choose to vote for the lesser of the “evils”; you may vote on a single issue or for a local candidate and not a national party; or you may choose to register a vote of discontent (my default in post-Christian Canada). Because we live in a democracy, and because of passages such as Ro 13, 1 Ti 2:2, 1 Pe 2:13–14, I believe it is a Christians' civic duty to the Lord to vote and so I don’t see not voting as an option.
 That said, if I had to state my political leanings I would describe myself as a “red Tory”; someone who is morally and judicially conservative, fiscally sound and socially responsible. Such was William Wilberforce, but he had the luxury to sit as an independent and so vote with his conscience.
Even in our day and age when people don’t keep their commitments as much as they used to (or ought to); when we have a big appointment—a really big appointment—all other appointments become second place to that big appointment. Time centres around it.
As a Christian my entire week’s structure revolves around the worship of our Triune God each Lord’s Day (Sunday). Each week is spent in expectation of this big appointment as I prepare to worship my Lord, and each new week is grounded in the rest it affords. Failing ill health or a grave emergency, I never miss this appointment with my God and my brothers and sisters in Christ; vacation, family, work, nothing. It is my number one weekly priority which governs all others.
Hebrews 10:25 says as much,
Do not neglect to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.
The Lord’s Day is our big appointment, the Divinely appointed day for rest and worship and family. It is a passion of mine to encourage others to order their lives accordingly and receives its blessings.
Church tradition tells of John, the apostle, being bed ridden in his old age (he live until his late 80s or early 90s) and yet his desire to worship His Lord and be with his people was such that he requested to be brought to worship on a stretcher! I’ve know many dear saints who’ve done likewise, whose great desire it was to make this big appointment.
Our statement of faith expresses this sentiment: We believe that the first day of the week is the Lord’s Day, and that, in a special sense, it is divinely appointed day for worship and spiritual exercise.
The evangelical Anglican and abolitionist, William Wilberforce, summarized what my own experience has testified to be true: I can truly declare that to me the Sabbath has been invaluable.
The Lord’s Day is my big appointment, is it yours?
The Lord’s Sweetest Blessings,
"The LORD will provide" (Gen 22), that is the meaning of Jehovah Jireh. Scripture is full of instances that testify that this is true, the experience of many Christians likewise confirms this.
This past Lord's Day we touched on poverty, looking at what Jesus had to say to the poor in Christ in the Sermon on the Plain. For many poor brothers and sisters, and even wealthy brothers and sisters in their times of need, it is a great consolation that He gives us our daily bread, not only spiritually but also physically. He gives us what is needful (Prov 30:8b).
It is true that in God's providence there are times when He wills our time is ended and so he doesn't "protect us," or even when the poor in Christ might starve to death, all the while He keeps our spirits; yet countless promises of God point to the fact that the norm is that He provides for us in our times of want, often in His grace when we don't directly deserve it, but especially when we have faith and wait on Him as provider.
Psalm 34 is a wonderful chapter of the Bible. A number of verses within it touch on this theme. Consider just two:
Sometimes the provision we need will be of an immaterial kind, sometimes it will be a real physical need, either way, fear the LORD you His saints, for those who fear Him have no lack! He is Jehovah Jireh, our God who provides.
The Lord's Sweetest Blessings,