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.