Category Archives: Faith and Politics

O, Canada?

Ten years ago, on July 1, 2011, I was awakened by the Lord with a conviction that I was to help build the Lord’s house of prayer in my city (Ottawa) and nation. I had no idea how to go about this, but the calling to be involved in praying for the restoration of our nation has not gone away.  In truth, every nation is broken and in need of redemption. And so, the broken flag at the head of this post reflects my conviction – and the conviction of many – that the Canada we love is in a grievously broken condition.

I’ll be honest. I don’t really feel much like celebrating Canada Day this year. I’ll enjoy relaxing with family on that day, of course, but like many Canadians I have been deeply grieved by the recent discoveries of the burial places of hundreds of Indigenous children who died at residential schools that were operated on behalf of the government of Canada by ostensibly Christian institutions. Many Canadian Christians are especially pained not only at the reality of this sorry chapter in our nation’s history, but by the fact that these wrongs were done at the hands of people who claimed the name of Christ.

I won’t review the history here. Suffice it to say that the evidence is overwhelming.  At the very least it was a policy of forced assimilation, and there is evidence that for some politicians, the goal may have been genocide. Many families and communities were torn apart, and multiple generations were deeply traumatized.

Without a doubt, there were those among the white Canadian  Christian community – including missionaries – who dissented from such acts and policies. And yet, too many did not, and the critics were silenced.

How do we pray for our nation in the light of these revelations?

Perhaps we need to start with a simple Scriptural truth.  All have sinned, and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23).  That includes us. Every nation, every church and every individual is in need of humility and repentance. There are no exceptions.

Thankfully, our Scriptures also assure us that there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1), and that if we confess our sin, we can have forgiveness, and fellowship with God and our neighbour can be restored (1 John 1:7-9). And so, we can go forward in humility yet without condemnation, to do the work of reconciliation and restoration.

Nations, institutions and individuals have illusions about their own righteousness. It’s far too easy for us to say that if we had lived in those times, we would have done better. Such illusions do us no credit and don’t serve the purpose of genuine restoration. Instead of pointing fingers and attempting to expunge our history of the memory of leaders who were admittedly deeply flawed, we would do better to humble ourselves and learn to walk in justice, mercy and love in our present-day dealings.

Exactly what this will mean, in terms of concrete actions, will be different for each person. But the place to begin is with a broken and contrite heart.

One last word. Let us not be ashamed of the gospel of Jesus Christ (Romans 1:16-17). It was never the gospel that was the problem. I know several Indigenous leaders who are believers in Jesus, and while they grieve the painful, broken history of the colonizers’ attempts to assimilate and humiliate their people, they are profoundly grateful for the gospel.

As I was working on this blog, I read a recent newsletter from a ministry that reaches out to Muslims with the message of Jesus. It contained a most encouraging story about an Iranian from a Muslim background who came to Canada as a graduate student, met some white Canadian Christians and found Jesus. He had a beautiful testimony.   No-one forced anything on him – they simply served him in love, and Jesus was revealed to another hungry heart. The gospel still bears good fruit as His people live servant lives and testify to the truth.

Until He comes, let us continue to give ourselves to walking in the light and bearing witness to the goodness of Jesus with our lives – actions as well as words.

In the words of the little-known but beautiful fourth verse of O Canada :

Ruler supreme, who hearest humble prayer,
Hold our dominion within thy loving care;
Help us to find, O God, in thee
A lasting, rich reward,
As waiting for the Better Day,
We ever stand on guard.


Perspective on the eve of an election

Tomorrow the people of Ontario will choose a new provincial government.

This has been one of the most hotly-contested and tumultous elections I can remember. We live in a time of increasing social contention. Many people have strong views on the policies, promises, values and convictions of those who desire to govern us, and those views do not always align with others of equally strong conviction.

It’s right that we should take this decision seriously. The opportunity to choose who will govern us is a privilege that we ought not to take lightly. Wise leadership is in everyone’s best interest. One observer put it this way :

When a land transgresses, it has many rulers, 
    but with a [leader] of understanding and knowledge,
    its stability will long continue. (Proverbs 28:2 ESV)

So what if you “lose” – the government that emerges is not the one you voted for? Or what if you “win” – you get the government of your preference — but two years later you find them to be a disappointment?

When considering politics I am often reminded of the words of the Psalmist,

Do not put your trust in princes,
in human beings, who cannot save.
When their spirit departs, they return to the ground;
on that very day their plans come to nothing.
Blessed are those whose help is the God of Jacob,
whose hope is in the Lord their God. (Psalm 146:3-5


It is indeed a privilege to be able to choose our leaders. But even as we do this, let’s remember that they are just as weak and fallible as we are. They may have many excellent qualities but they are still very imperfect, as are we. Whether we are pleased or disappointed in our current – or subsequent – government, let’s remember that our hope for a truly just society rests not on the abilities of the current crop of politicians, but on the character and promises of a covenant-keeping God who has promised to bring in His Kingdom at the end of the age.

There’s great peace in remembering who is ultimately on the throne. When He comes, he will make everything right.  In the meantime, while we wait for that Day, let’s remember to pray for the leaders we elect. And let’s remember that civic virtue and social justice are everyone’s business. It’s up to you and me to improve the society we live in, remembering even as we do our best that our hope is in the Lord, not in ourselves. And so, no matter the outcome of the election, we can always be full of hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

God bless you as you vote !



My dream date with Justin Trudeau

A few nights ago I had a dream. It wasn’t one of those confusing dreams that you can only half remember. The main lines of it were crystal clear.

In my dream, I was at some sort of public event (a dinner or conference of some sort) with Justin Trudeau. At this event, I had an opportunity to talk with the PM face to face. He made time to chat with me at some length. My dominant impression of him was that of a sympathetic, respectful, idealistic, engaging and likable man, who took what seemed to be a genuine interest in me and my concerns. 

As my conversation with the PM came to an end and he moved on to other things, I realized with some chagrin that throughout this conversation my focus had been entirely on myself and my own goals and concerns. I had taken time to talk with the PM about my views on various matters (I don’t remember details of what I said), but I had not offered to pray for him or asked him about his needs or concerns, or the needs of his family, so that I could pray for him with more insight.

On realizing this, I tried to contact him again so that I could ask him about his needs and how I might pray for him, but his attention was now elsewhere and I no longer had access to him. My opportunity for direct contact was over and I realized that if I wanted to offer to pray for him, I would have to send an email, which would almost certainly be handled by a member of his staff and would probably not get his personal attention.

Then my dream came to an end, and I awoke.

I knew that this dream was significant, so I asked God for insight, and He spoke to me with unmistakable clarity.

My dialogue with the Lord about this dream follows.  Some of this input from the Lord came immediately, as I journaled the dream that morning, and some came on further reflection. I have added links to Scripture references that undergird what the Lord showed me about this dream.

Father, what do you want to say to me about this? Why did I have this dream?

Because I want you to prioritize prayer for Mr. Trudeau and not focus on trading or expressing negative views of his leadership with fellow political conservatives. Like most people, your tendency is to think of the Prime Minister in terms of his office, not as a man. You think of what he can do for you and what you want him to do differently. You do not think about his personal needs, especially his need for salvation and a relationship with Me.

Many of your concerns about his leadership and his policies are justified, but I don’t want you to focus on this. That is not what My people are called to. You are called to pray. The governments of this age will inevitably fall short, but he is a man who has very genuine spiritual needs and he is spiritually open and hungry and has a soft heart. So pray for him. Pray for him as if it matters. Don’t just pray that he will change his political views. Pray that he will see Me for who I am, and turn to Me in genuine humility and repentance. When Paul the Apostle had access to the governor and the king, he testified. He didn’t plead his own case or try to influence the governor’s policies. His concern was for the salvation of the men in whose presence he found himself. So should yours be. Pray for your Prime Minister. He is first of all a man like you. Pray that he will put his hope in Me. That is all that ultimately matters. If Justin turns to Me, many other things will change as well. But I don’t want you to focus on that. I want you to focus on cultivating a heart of mercy towards him as a man – a man whom I love, a man for whom I gave My Son’s life, a man who is despised and mocked by many of My people who should instead be praying for him as a man in need of My salvation. 

I knew that I had been rebuked by the Lord. Over the past few days, His rebuke and his appeal to my heart have prompted the following further reflections.

By and large, most North American Christians have drifted far from the spirit of the New Testament in the way we relate to the governments of this age. When we see unwelcome changes in our culture, or when we have concerns about the direction of the nation, our tendency is to find fault with the government of the day and those who hold influence in our society. And indeed, at one level there may be much to criticize. But what Biblical support can we find for this posture? None whatsoever.

We are instructed to honour rulers, to pray for them, but not to put our hope for change in them. Our hope for change lies in the coming Kingdom of God in which Jesus our King will rule a restored earth from Jerusalem. Most of us don’t live as though we actually believe this. We live as though we believe that it’s up to us to rule the earth now, and we become offended when the government of the day doesn’t cooperate. But this is not New Testament Christianity. It is something else.

I believe the end of the age is approaching, and the Lord is purifying His people and calling us back to our true identity. Part of that identity is that we are a people of prayer whose hope is in the Son of David, the Messiah of Israel who is coming to rule the earth. When our hope is in Him, then we are free to love others without becoming offended with their failings. This includes government leaders. Our first responsibility towards them is to love them and pray for them.

I know all these things – I have known them for years – but I am guilty of allowing myself to be influenced by the political spirit that characterizes so much of the North American church. There is so much bitterness, resentment, anger and judgment in the attitude of many Christians towards government. Many of us are fearful of the changes that we see in society, and we have allowed our fears to influence our thinking, instead of keeping our hearts anchored in the peace that comes from God’s sure and certain promises.

I believe it is time for the church to renounce our idolatry of political power, repent of having placed our hope in the governments of this age, and place our hope once again in the Jesus of the New Testament. It’s time for us to be imitators of Him – to devote ourselves to His ways of prayer, servanthood and love. That is our true identity and calling.



What does ISIS have to do with us?

Many Westerners probably think of the current war in Iraq as an unfortunate but far away conflict that has nothing to do with us, and no effect on our lives apart from higher oil and gas prices.

The reality is that ISIS, the group behind the conflict, is far more than just a band of terrorists. This is a highly-religious Islamic jihadist army whose goal is to establish an Islamic Caliphate (empire) in the Middle East, in the conviction that this is a key step in preparing the way for the return of the Mahdi, the Islamic saviour.

In response to a recent ISIS recruitment video, now apparently no longer available, Joel Richardson writes in his blog

What modern Christian movement or expression matches the zeal and commitment of this Satanic movement? Its going to take a prayer and missions movement unlike anything we have seen to date. Its going to take a return to the early Church theology of the cross and martyrdom. Its going to take a genuine Global Jesus Revolution.

In the West, most Christians are dulled and lulled by the comforts and cares of every day life. I understand this very well – I battle with it myself on a daily basis. We have grown used to a domesticated, Westernized, comfortable, compromised Christianity – a far cry from the gospel of Jesus. Our hearts cry out for intimacy with Jesus, but we can only have genuine intimacy with Him if we understand who He really is, and the true nature of His Kingdom and the battle in which we are engaged. The only way to fight is to keep our eyes on Him. When we speak of seeing the Lord’s House of Prayer established, we are not just crying out for personal intimacy with Jesus (though that is undoubtedly very important). We are crying out for His return as openly-acknowledged King.


Truth, humility and righteousness

The past few months have been a less than glorious chapter in the annals of Canadian politics and government.

Even the most devoted Conservative partisans must be feeling a tad uncomfortable by now, as the list of unanswered questions and seeming contradictions in the PMO’s handling of the Senate expense scandal grows steadily longer. Yet our Prime Minister continues to refuse to take any personal responsibility for this sorry spectacle.

You may recall that not so many years ago, Mr. Harper came into office on a platform of accountability and integrity, after having pilloried then-Prime Minister Paul Martin and his predecessor Jean Chrétien for their involvement in the equally lamentable sponsorship scandal. Deceit, it seems, knows no party boundaries.

It is easy to grow cynical about the spectacle of moral failure in government. The evidence that such corruption exists is hard to ignore. Nor can it be tied to any one political party. Leaders of all political stripes are susceptible to the tantalizing lie that their positions of power and privilege give them the right to do whatever they want.

Yet there is another side to the ledger, one that is too often forgotten.

Yesterday morning I was privileged to attend the Ottawa Civic Prayer Breakfast. The purpose of the event was to publicly honour and pray for our municipal councillors and first responders (police, fire fighters and paramedics). We were reminded of how much pressure these people are under every day, and how much they need our prayers. We heard from a paramedic, a police officer, a fire fighter and two members of Ottawa’s city council. Several of them spoke of the reasons why they had entered their chosen line of work. All of them expressed their gratitude for the encouraging words and prayers offered on their behalf by people of faith. It was an inspiring morning.

I have no doubt that most of those who choose to serve in politics, police work or some other aspect of public service do so because they genuinely want to make a difference, to make life better for the citizens of their city or their nation. The vast majority of public servants do their best to carry out their responsibilities faithfully and at considerable personal cost year after year.

The stench of corruption that currently surrounds our federal government should be no cause for rejoicing by those who happen to support a different political party. Rather, for believers in Jesus it ought to serve as a reminder of our common human frailty (As it is written, “None is righteous, no, not one”), and a call to prayer. Those who enter politics are stepping into a pressure-cooker environment in which they are daily assaulted with powerful temptations to compromise on issues of integrity. Psalm 45, a poem in praise of godly kingship, depicts the ideal king as one who rides forth in defence of truth, humility and righteousness. These admirable character traits, so valuable in God’s sight, are keys to leading with integrity. Yet politicians, sadly, are expected by the party machine to buy into a win-at-all-costs mindset that is absolutely fatal to the servant leadership taught in Scripture and modelled by Jesus. Even people who enter politics with the best of intentions are flawed human beings who are not immune to these pressures.

As I reflect on the crisis of trust that is currently plaguing Canada’s government, I am reminded that only leaders who cultivate humility can walk in truth and righteousness. It is humility that keeps those in positions of power from becoming corrupt liars who serve only themselves. It is also humility that keeps the rest of us from pointing fingers when our leaders disappoint us. Our leaders – and we ourselves – will one day have to answer to a holy and righteous God. Though full of mercy and quick to forgive, His eyes search out the hidden motives of every heart and hold us all to account. That fact alone ought to drive us to heartfelt prayer for our nation and its leaders, for all public servants, and for ourselves. If you, Lord, kept a record of sins, who could stand?

Lord, teach us to pray.






Reflections on Jack Layton’s death

Jack Layton, leader of Canada’s New Democratic Party, has died after a hard-fought battle with cancer.

As I observed Jack Layton over the past several election campaigns, my respect for him grew with each campaign.  He was an effective campaigner and a man who seemed to be able to connect with both English and French speaking Canadians.  He was also a man with an indomitable spirit, who demonstrated a great deal of courage and optimism in his struggle with cancer.

Tommy Douglas (the NDP’s  founding leader) was a man whose political values were grounded in Scripture.  Sadly, as the party developed it seemed to move farther away from its Biblical roots, defining justice more in ideological terms than Biblical ones.  Consequently, I found myself lamenting the party’s stand on some issues even as I was grateful for its contribution on others.  Still, since this is a time for appreciation rather than critique, let me say that even though I did not vote for the NDP in the recent federal election, I concurred with Jack’s passionate support for the concerns of  the elderly and the economically vulnerable.  I was surprised and pleased to learn a few months ago that Jack grew up in a family that had an active church involvement, and that his concern for social justice stemmed from a sense of being called by God.

When leaders or public figures die, especially when their lives seem to be cut short sooner than we expect, it raises all kinds of questions for us.  Is God good?  Why did this happen?   Where is our hope?  Am I next?

Just as Jack Layton did, all of us have hopes and dreams for our own lives and families.  We also have hopes and dreams for our community, our nation and the world.  Sometimes those hopes seem to get cut off or crushed.  I don’t know all that is going to happen to me in the months and years to come.  Neither do you.  But I do know that if my confidence is fixed on Jesus, ultimately my hope will not be cut off, because I will share in His resurrection life in a world made new.

This morning, after hearing the news of Jack’s death, I found myself re-reading these words from the Book of Psalms

I will praise the LORD all my life;
I will sing praise to my God as long as I live.

Do not put your trust in princes,
in human beings, who cannot save.

When their spirit departs, they return to the ground;
on that very day their plans come to nothing.

Blessed are those whose help is the God of Jacob,
whose hope is in the LORD their God.

Psalm 146:2-5 NIV

In the end, our hope cannot be in any political leader.  The hope of the earth is Jesus the Messiah, who was crucified for us and raised again, and whose coming again in glory we await.  Scripture declares that He is the one who will establish justice and righteousness on the earth.

So I will thank God for everything that was good in Jack Layton’s life, leave the final assessment of his life in the hands of God, and take this event as a reminder to live my life with my hope set on Jesus, who was, and is, and is to come, who is the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and who is sovereign over the kings of the earth (Rev 1:4-8).


What kind of Canada?

I am writing this on the eve of Canada Day.  Prince William and his bride Kate have just completed the first day of their highly-anticipated  visit to our land.  Here in the nation’s capital, the Canada Day crowds are expected to be much larger than usual.   Many people are eagerly looking forward to getting a glimpse of the newly married royal couple. In part, I believe, that’s because William and Kate represent the hope of a new beginning for the royal family which has seen such turmoil ever since Charles and Diana’s marriage began to come apart.

Tomorrow’s Canada Day festivities will be a chance for Canadians to show our affection not just for the royal couple, but also for our country.  Our Prime Minister has taken to sometimes ending speeches with the words “God bless Canada”.  Just as most Canadians seem to genuinely wish this young couple well and want their marriage to work out, so most also genuinely want our nation of Canada to be a happy, successful, blessed land.

Though many may think of God’s blessing as something akin to good luck — you either have it or you don’t, but you can’t do much about it — the Bible does not support this view.   The blessing or favour of God is sovereign — that is, we can’t control it, we can only receive it as a gift — but it is not random or arbitrary.  God’s word makes it very clear that the choices we make, as individuals and as a nation, have everything to do with the extent to which we experience the blessing of God.

Several weeks ago, a team of young runners set out on the One Nation Run, a cross-Canada campaign to raise awareness and funds towards the elimination of child poverty in Canada.  By all accounts, the run is going well.  The runners are encouraged, support is growing, and donations are coming in.

Like any physical exercise, running is exhilarating, but it’s also hard work, requiring a considerable amount of self-discipline.  Why do they make the effort? They are inspired by a vision of  a more just and compassionate society.  These young runners are devoting their time and energy to promoting a Biblical value – they are speaking up for the weakest and most vulnerable in our land.  They are depending on God for their strength, and I believe their righteous cause attracts his favour.

In total contrast to this purposeful and selfless activity stands the chaotic and senseless behaviour of the violent, alcohol-fuelled mob that torched vehicles and looted businesses in the streets of Vancouver a few weeks ago after the Canucks lost to the Boston Bruins in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup finals.  These events prompted much agonizing and soul-searching, everyone wondering aloud what makes people behave in such a destructive, senseless manner.  I mean, aren’t Canadians basically good, decent people?  Other nations might be perverse, greedy and selfish – but not us.  Canadians are good – right?

In the aftermath of the riots, I found myself disturbed by the many expressions of anger and even hatred towards the rioters.  The parents of  Nathan Kotylak, the young water polo player who was suspended from the national team for his part in the riots, found it necessary to leave their home and shut down their business temporarily as a result of the many threatening and abusive messages they received.  This was in spite of the fact that their son publicly confessed his part in the mob activity and openly acknowledged how wrong his actions had been.

Why were people so angry with the rioters?  Don’t get me wrong.  I’m not saying the rioters’ behaviour was right — far from it.  I’m just saying that most Canadians are living under the illusion that we are basically good people and that Canada is basically a good country, populated by good, decent people like us.  The riots totally violate this illusion, so to reinforce our false image of ourselves as a good nation populated by good people, we portray the rioters as perverse exceptions to the essential goodness of the Canadian (or Vancouverite) character.

The Bible paints a very different picture of human nature.  It’s not a popular view these days, even among Christians – but the Bible clearly portrays human nature as thoroughly corrupted by sin, and says that until we are born again and our hearts are restored, we are not capable of being good.  We can only consistently produce the fruit of righteous behaviour by the cleansing power of the blood of Jesus, the instruction of the word of God and the leading of the Holy Spirit.

The Vancouver riots shouldn’t surprise us.  They are the inevitable outworking of a society that has – for the most part – turned its back on God.  Conscience has to be shaped, and in the absence of a relationship with Jesus, one’s conscience will inevitably reflect a mixture of truth and falsehood.   I have atheist friends who maintain that they can be good without God.  I maintain that whatever goodness and idealism they display comes mostly from being raised in a culture that is based on Biblical values, whether they realize it or not.  To take just one example, whereas those raised in a Biblical value system place a high priority on truthfulness,  there are belief systems (including Islam, although it’s not politically correct to say so) in which deception is seen as acceptable and even admirable.  My point is that the farther our culture gets from God, the more it seems natural to us to do and approve those things that the Bible calls evil.  But since we still have some sense of right and wrong, and we don’t want to think of ourselves as unrighteous, we are quick to condemn those – like the Vancouver rioters – who do things that even our weakened consciences can recognize as evil.

On the stones of the Peace Tower three verses of Scripture are inscribed.  One of the verses, Proverbs 29:18, declares: where there is no vision, the people perish.  Another translation puts it like this: where there is no revelation, the people cast off restraint.   The rioters on the streets of Vancouver found it relatively easy to cast off restraint because they are the products of a society that has chosen to ignore the self-revelation of God in Jesus Christ.  By contrast, the runners in One Nation Run – as well as all others who have chosen to live as disciples of Jesus – have a vision and a revelation to live by.  Because Jesus has opened their eyes and brought them from death to life, they have the power to resist evil and let His light shine through their lives (Philippians 2:14-16, Matthew 5:13-16)

So, what kind of country do we want to live in?  Do we want to be part of a nation that has cast off all restraint, where everyone does as he sees fit?  Many would say this is freedom, but the Bible declares that in fact it is bondage.   Or, do we want to live as citizens of a different Kingdom – the heavenly Kingdom that is coming to earth – in which Jesus rules and his Spirit instructs our hearts in His ways?

I know what kind of country I want to live in, and which Kingdom I want to belong to.  Do you?


What is good government?

Well, here we go.  A federal election campaign is underway here in the Truth North Strong and Free, and I feel compelled to reflect on what I believe to be the most critical issue facing our nation.  No, it’s not the deficit, or unemployment, or the environment, or the needs of the poor and the elderly, or the potential legalization of euthanasia, or the government’s alleged contempt of Parliament – even though all those issues are important.

In my view, the most critical issue facing our nation is the absence of credible leadership.

I have voted in every federal election since I was of voting age, but I have no particular allegiance to any party and no interest in persuading you to choose one of them over the others.  I do have an allegiance, but it’s not to any of our political parties or their leaders.  My allegiance is to the Kingdom of God as proclaimed and embodied by Jesus the Messiah.  I want to share with you some reflections on what Jesus had to say about leadership.  Whether or not you share my faith in Jesus, my prayer is that these reflections will help bring clarity and insight to your own thoughts about the type of government that Canada needs.

The various political parties all want you to think that good government begins with a vote for them.  The Conservatives want you to believe that you should vote for them because they are the only ones who can manage the economy properly, while the other parties are all irresponsible spendthrifts who would form a coalition and ruin the country.  The Liberals want you to believe that you should vote for them because they are the only real alternative to the Conservatives, who disrespect Parliament, are arrogant liars, and have lost the right to govern.  The New Democrats want you to vote for them because they are the only ones who truly care about the people.  The Greens want you to vote for them because they are the only ones who truly care about the environment, and the Bloc wants you to vote for them (at least, if you live in La Belle Province) because they are the only ones who truly care about Quebec.

So, whichever party you support, the message of each party leader – although it seems to be different – is the same in at least one respect.  Each leader says,  “I am the one you should trust; I alone can deliver good government – so vote for me.”

According to the Genesis creation account, God created human beings for the purpose of governing the earth on His behalf.  A look at human history shows that this hasn’t worked out so well.  That’s not because God had a bad plan, but because humans turned away from God and became obsessed with themselves.  Ever since our first parents fell into this trap, some human governments have been better than others, but even the best ones eventually seem to stumble over the same old stumbling block of pride, whether it manifests itself in a naked lust for unbridled power, or in more subtle forms such as the age-old human desire to impress others and make a name for ourselves.  Religious institutions are often no better – in fact sometimes they’re even worse.  Century after century, these destructive tendencies of the human heart have proven to be enduring obstacles to good government, whether in nations, religious institutions, families, or any other entity with a governing structure.

Even Jesus had to deal with politicking among the members of his team.  They were all convinced that He was the promised Messiah who would eventually rule over the whole earth,  so the members of his staff began jockeying for positions in his impending government, and started an argument about who would get to be his right hand man.

Jesus’ response was interesting.  He didn’t say that they misunderstood him and he wasn’t really planning to be a king.  He also didn’t say that wanting to be a leader was a bad thing.  Instead, he challenged his men about whether they were willing to pay the price of leadership.  He told them that true leadership involves crucifying your own desire for power or recognition, and learning to be a servant.

His message wasn’t just empty words.  In just a few short weeks, he would give them a graphic object lesson of just how far he was willing to go down the road of servant leadership.  Although Jesus could have chosen a different path, he willingly offered his life on the cross so that we could be forgiven and reconciled to God.  Servant leadership, as modelled by Jesus, does not mean being whatever people want you to be, and doing whatever they want you to do.  It does not mean doing whatever it takes to stay popular.  It means walking a consistent path of obedience to the One who has called you and to Whom you belong, inviting others to join you on that path but leaving the choice to them, loving them no matter what they choose, and investing your life – even to the point of death – for those you are called to lead and to serve.  Here is a leader who is worthy of our trust!

God cares about government.   It matters to him.  One day He will replace all the governments of this earth with a government headed by Jesus.  In the meantime, good leaders are those who understand and imitate His example of humility, servanthood and integrity.

William Wilberforce, whose life was depicted in the movie Amazing Grace (2006), was such a leader.  He’s not the only example of a democratic politician who embodied true servant leadership, but he is one of the best.  One could say that he gave his life for the abolition of slavery in the British Empire.  His political career was an expression of his Christian convictions.  He had a massive impact for good on the society of his time.  He did not seek power for its own sake, but sought to use his power to embody the values of the Kingdom of God.

This is good government.  This is true leadership.  Lord, grant us such leaders in our day.


True Patriot Love

Yesterday was Canada Day.  As I was out walking the dog, a young man on the street wished me a Happy Canada Day.  I returned the greeting, of course, but it got me thinking.  What is Canada Day really all about?  Later on that day, we watched the festivities on Parliament Hill from the comfort of our living room, on high definition TV.  I was particularly struck by the words of the song Today I’m Going to Try and Change the World, by Scottish-born country singer Johnny Reid, whose family immigrated to Canada when he was fifteen years old.  His song spoke about the impact of daily choices on those around us, and I found it inspiring.  That evening, Marion and I went to sit by the Ottawa River in our favourite spot for viewing the fireworks on Parliament Hill.  The atmosphere on the streets was that of a gigantic party.  People were calling “Happy Canada Day” to each other.  We enjoyed the festive atmosphere, but I couldn’t help wondering what those words really meant to the revellers.  Is Canada Day just an excuse for a good party, or is it more than that?  On Canada Day, Canadians are passionate about their country – but what about the rest of the time?  Do we exhibit the true patriot love of which our national anthem speaks?

The founders of our nation gave Canada its name – the Dominion of Canada – based on a promise from God which is inscribed on the stones of our Parliament Buildings.  Indeed, the Scriptures tell us that not only Israel, but every nation on earth – including Canada – has been allotted its land by God, and has a specific purpose in God’s plan for the world.  Christians ought to be enthusiastic patriots, like singer Johnny Reid – people who are passionate about making our country a better place and seeing it fulfil its God-given destiny.  Yet I find that many Canadians – including Christians – often display a cynical, negative attitude towards our country and its government, and it’s all too easy to let ourselves be subtly influenced by this prevailing negativity.  I find that I have to remind myself regularly of the Scriptural admonitions to honour and pray for our nation’s leaders, and to seek the well-being of the land in which God has placed me.

Last week Marion and I had an inspiring, first-hand reminder of what true patriot love looks like.  We were privileged to spend a few hours with Victor Wilson, a young man from Nigeria who came to Canada three years ago because of threats to his personal safety in his homeland.  As Marion and I listened to Victor talk about his homeland, his dreams and visions, I was inspired and moved by his love for his people, his story of overcoming adversity, and his desire to see his country blessed.  I’ve had the privilege of getting to know a number of African Christians over the past few years – brothers and sisters from Kenya, Uganda, Nigeria, Cote d’Ivoire, and Zimbabwe.  When Canadians think of Africa, it seems all we think of is problems, but most of the African Christians I have met are full of hope despite the many challenges faced by most of the nations in Africa.  Their hope comes from their lively confidence in God.  Victor is no exception.  He had been an evangelist in his native land before coming to Canada three years ago.  Although he has now made his home here, Victor told us of his conviction that God was calling him to get involved in the political process in his homeland, so that the wealth of Nigeria might be shared by all its people.  He spoke with heartfelt passion about his country and its potential, and told us with real excitement of the recent ascent to power of a new President, Goodluck Jonathan, a godly man who is determined to put an end to the corruption that has kept Nigeria’s people in poverty despite the nation’s wealth of natural resources.

Victor’s passion to see his nation blessed was a true inspiration.  I’ve asked him to do me and my readers the favour of using my blog as a vehicle to talk about his vision for Nigeria and his desire to serve God by working for transformation in his homeland, and he’s promised to do this in an upcoming post.  In the meantime, let me encourage you to throw off the cynicism and negativity that is so common among Canadians, and let God work into your heart a passion to see spiritual, economic, political and moral transformation in your neighbourhood, in your city or town, and in our nation of Canada.  As believers in Jesus and heirs of the faith of Abraham, we know that we are blessed to be a blessing.  The first followers of Christ were marked by a joyous exuberant faith and a way of life that made them visibly different than the world around them.   Although they were often persecuted, their faith and their way of life had an undeniable attraction for people who were looking for reality.  As a result, even though they had very little political power and were frequently persecuted, within a couple of centuries the Christian faith had infiltrated the Roman Empire and had a huge influence on society.  We have different gifts and different opportunities, and we aren’t all called to do exactly the same things, but all believers in Jesus are called to throw off passivity and be influencers, like the salt that preserves food and adds flavour, and the light that dispels darkness.  It may be “cool” to be cynical, but it’s godly to be enthusiastic and passionate about change.  Hearing Johnny Reid sing about changing the world, and listening to Victor Wilson talk about his vision for his homeland, has renewed my determination to love my country with true patriot love.  How about you?


What about the dark side?

First of all, for those who read my blogs semi-regularly, let me say that I am very flattered that some of you actually noticed that I hadn’t posted for over three weeks.   It has been a very busy stretch, what with company year-end bookkeeping, Marion being away for over a week, and the usual family, work and church commitments.  I’ve missed blogging and hope to resume posting on a roughly weekly schedule, although that depends partly on what topics suggest themselves – I don’t really plan these things very far in advance.   It’s nice to know that my blogs were missed by at least a few people!  Incidentally, two of my sons – Joe and Reuben – have recently started blogging and seem to be having fun with this new adventure.  Their blogs are very different from mine but I am enjoying them.

Much has happened in the world since I last posted.  In particular, there was a massive earthquake in Haiti on January 12.   Many of us probably know someone who was directly affected in some way.  Marion and I discovered that a friend from Russell — an Ottawa police officer with whom we had lost touch over the last few years — had been serving in Haiti for nine months as part of a peacekeeping mission and was there during the quake.  The leader of his mission was killed, and Martin (our friend) only escaped death because he had left his hotel a few minutes before the quake.   Although his scheduled time in Haiti had come to an end, he stayed on for several days to help with the relief effort and was profoundly moved by the experience.

How does one account for such devastation?  There’s no easy explanation as to why such things happen.  Jesus did warn his disciples that wars, famines and earthquakes would become regular occurrences in the years preceding his return, so if we are aware of the signs of the times we shouldn’t really be surprised by such things.  Yet our hearts cry out at the extent of the destruction, and we ask – if God is good, couldn’t He have prevented such misery?

This of course is a huge topic and I won’t attempt a complete answer, but let me say three things in response to this question.   First, from a Biblical perspective, the world as we see it today is not the perfect world that God created.  It has been marred by human sin and failure, and the Bible makes it clear that this disruption has had cosmic effects.   Secondly, God has not distanced Himself from our pain but has entered our broken world in the person of His Son Jesus, who willingly entered into our suffering as an innocent victim and bore it for us to purchase our freedom.   Thirdly, from the very beginning God’s good plan for the world has been opposed by an evil power, a liar and deceiver whose purpose from the beginning was to steal, kill and destroy, and the world will not experience lasting peace until he is finally overthrown and Jesus reigns on earth as undisputed Lord.

In the wake of the Haitian earthquake, American televangelist Pat Robertson made some very controversial comments linking the devastation in Haiti to an alleged pact with the devil made by Voodoo leaders in 1804.   The historicity of this particular claim is hard to establish, but whatever one thinks of Pat Robertson and his comments, there’s no denying that Vodou religion – a syncretistic mix of West African spiritism and Roman Catholicism – has had a big impact on Haiti.  There’s also no denying that Haiti has had a very dark history for many years, long before this latest earthquake.  My purpose is not to defend Pat Robertson, but whatever you think of his off-the-cuff ramblings, don’t be too quick to dismiss the idea that the spiritual choices and beliefs of a nation’s leaders will affect the destiny of that nation.  Haiti’s political leaders – themselves practitioners of Vodou – have done no favours for their people.   Despite hundreds of millions of dollars of aid to Haiti over the past few decades, poverty remains rampant.  Corruption and callous disregard for the needs of the poor have characterized Haiti’s leadership for many years.  The Biblical understanding is that all forms of evil – corruption, injustice, poverty, witchcraft, demon-worship – come from the same root.  Ultimately, they arise from humanity’s choice to turn away from the true and living God and serve other gods.  The only solution for such misery is for nations and individuals to turn back in humility to the healer of our souls and the restorer of nations.

I am a rational person who works in information technology.  I understand science and the materialistic world view.  I used to be an atheist and was raised in a climate of liberal humanism that was very skeptical about the supernatural.   Despite that background, I have come to believe in the reality of the supernatural – both good and evil.   I have found that most people – both Christian and non-Christian – have a high degree of respect for the person of Jesus Christ.  Many consider him to be a great spiritual teacher and a wise man.  Yet this great spiritual teacher presented himself as being the Son of God and the Saviour of the world, and he clearly believed in the reality of Satan and demons, although he was not in the least afraid of them or intimidated by them.  So at the very least, in the interests of intellectual honesty, if you are going to take Jesus seriously as a great spiritual teacher, you have to take his view of the world seriously as well.   If he claimed to be the Son of God and the Saviour of the world, he was either right or wrong in this claim.  If right, the only reasonable response is to worship Him.  If wrong, he was either deluded (insane) or a liar.   Reading the gospels has led me to the inescapable conclusion that he was neither insane nor a liar – and of course, if he were insane or a liar, he would not be a great spiritual teacher.  My conclusion is that he is who he said – the Son of God and the Saviour of the World.  Once I accepted that conclusion, believing in the reality of Satan was easy – and it made sense of a lot of things that otherwise made no sense (such as how an evidently good and beautiful world could at the same time contain such evil – or how people with such potential for creativity and goodness could produce so much darkness).

Does this mean that I blame the people of Haiti for their misery?  Not at all.  My heart is stirred with compassion for them, they have been often in my prayers, and Marion and I gave what we felt we could afford to help the relief effort almost immediately after hearing news of the earthquake.   My point is simply this.  Although short-term relief is clearly needed, money and human effort alone will not solve Haiti’s problems – or Canada’s, for that matter.  Ultimately, only Jesus can bring lasting blessing to any nation.  The true story of the world is of a people who were made in the image of  a good Creator and fell into darkness because of a choice to turn away from Him towards independence.  That choice was instigated by the ancient Serpent who leads the world astray.  One of the main ways he leads people astray is by concealing his existence and at the same time whispering in our ears that we are independent and fully capable of solving our own problems without God.  That belief is itself our main problem.  Yes, there is a dark side, and it does matter what you believe and who you serve.  Religion is not an answer – religious systems are the territory of the Dark Lord and only keep people in bondage – but a restored relationship with the Lover of our Souls brings true and lasting freedom.  The light shines on in the darkness, and the darkness has never put it out.  One day the light will rule completely and the darkness will be destroyed forever.   That being the case, I choose to walk in the light of the Son of God now, while I still have the choice.