Christianity, Politics

Wars and Rumours of Wars

I didn’t do my little list of things to read on the internet today, mostly because something else is taking up a lot of the news. There’s nothing like the invasion of a formerly fairly stable country (though admittedly one with lots of problems itself for people who were watching) to suck the air out of the room. It does kinda cause self-reflection, especially since I know people living in Ukraine, and I’m presently praying they’re safe.

As a Christian that has been trying to live the Christian life for a couple of decades now, though, I’m finding my heart is doing something different than the last couple of times major wars happened. It might be because as a much older man, I’ve been through the drill a couple of times. I was a child of 5 when the Soviets invaded Afghanistan in support of the communist government there, I remember when the soviet union then collapsed, and hardliners later tried to overthrow the democratically elected government, I remember both Gulf wars, the Balkan conflicts, and obviously the most recent war on terror.  I’ve even been to a few countries that were in the past ravaged by war, or are sadly now failed states. 

Where once I was scared and nervous about what would happen (and don’t get me wrong, the present war in Europe may get a lot worse, and I know it), I’m now sadder than anything else. The fact is that as one of my more secularist friends put it today “I don’t know what I can do, so I’ll change my War UkraineFacebook picture frame”. Well, I do believe that prayer does things and that the prayer I give can have effects on things because the God I pray to has control of everything, but I’ve also read the book of Job. I know that God can have plans for the suffering I’m now watching on the internet, and if He does, His purposes will be ultimately served (even if those purposes include seeing God work through the prayers of His people). Jesus even warned us that such things would happen, and not to be alarmed by them:

“And you will hear of wars and rumours of wars. See that you are not alarmed, for this must take place, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are but the beginning of the birth pains.”

Matthew 24:6–8 (ESV)

So why am I sad? People are suffering, and suffering hurts. In one of the most famous passages of scripture (partially because it includes the shortest English verse in scripture) Jesus wept for the death of His friend Lazarus, even as He knew that in mere moments, He would be calling His friend forth from the grave. So even if I know that God can work things together for good, and even if I know that ultimately things work out for the best, that doesn’t change the pain on the journey, and nor does it change the fact that I weep for friends and strangers who will be devastated over the next however long this war lasts. I will pray, even pray in faith, but by God’s grace, I will weep with those who weep.

As Christians, these are all things we can do on a day like today.


Bible, Culture, Holiness

On Returning to “normal”

One of the many things that have made up the experiences of my life is the 7 years as an adult that I spent living in South Korea. When I talk about it with people, those who haven’t lived an appreciable time in a foreign culture think it sounds cool and a little scary. Often the question they’ll ask me is “wasn’t it hard?”, meaning the whole leaving Canada, moving to a place where I was a clear minority, knew nobody and didn’t even speak the language. Of course, there were difficulties in doing all that, and I made a lot of mistakes (some of which I now realize enough to regret). But that wasn’t the most difficult part of the whole endeavour.

The hardest part was coming home. 

That isn’t to say I wish I still lived in Korea. Even though Koreans are some of the nicest people I’ve known, and their country is beautiful, God called me back home, and I am happy to be here in Newfoundland. But when I was moving to Korea I expected all of the difficulties, and the people around me expected me to be having difficulties. That wasn’t the case when I moved back.

The fact was that I assumed on Canada, and Canada assumed on me. While I was gone for 7 years, I assumed that things had stayed the same at home, but they hadn’t. There had been huge changes (not all of them I found welcome), and yet I had assumed that I would have nothing to get used to. Instead, I had to get used to single friends who were now married and married friends who were now single. My parents were now much older. Things I had been used to had changed, and yet because I was going “home” I wasn’t ready for it, and I had to get used to the new normal all at once. 

At the same time, people who had missed me while I was gone, had largely assumed I had stayed the same as well. I was no longer the slightly arrogant law school grad in his late 20s, I was now a middle-aged man who had been humbled a few times. Where I had been more tentative about some of the things I believed, 7 years of reflection and thought had changed some of my opinions, weakened some others, and hardened yet others. I had new skills and new ideas, and some of the changes were welcome while others were not.

While I looked like an older version of the guy who’d left, there had been serious changes to the kind of guy I was, and now my friends here in Canada were dealing with my 7 years of growth and change all at once, as I was facing 7 years of changes to Canada and everyone in it all at once as well.

Lightstock 564351 xsmall stephen daweI say this because we are about to go through, as a culture, a very similar experience now. Within a month, if all goes well, all of the provincial health restrictions that have been in place for 2 years will be gone. We will suddenly be able to mingle and meet as we only have in very limited ways over the past 2 years. And yet, for good or ill, we have all changed over that 2 years. The men and women coming out of Covid are not the same people who went in, and since we’re tempted to imagine that we’re returning to normal, we may think that we’ll simply step out of Covid as if nothing has happened. 

Worse, as Covid has limited much of the movement that was normal as part of society, the removal of Covid will likely mean that almost 2 years of massive life changes that could not happen during Covid will now happen all at once. I’ve already started to see it around me, and the feeling I’m getting is oddly familiar.

The positive part is that we will largely all be doing this at some level together. If we are wise, we will be able to use that to transition well back to what is the heir to the home country we knew before everything locked down. We will be wise to remember that this shift will be as traumatic as the shift we made into lockdowns, though now we have the ability to give ourselves some time. We will also be wise to give some grace to others as they struggle in ways different to our own, but knowing that we are struggling in some ways too. 

I guess we will now have an opportunity to obey a command that the Bible gives us at least 6 different times (Le 19:18, Mt. 22:39, Mk. 12:31, Lk 10:27 Gal. 5:14,  Jas. 2:8, Rm 13:9).

“You shall love your neighbour as yourself”


Apologetics, Calvinism, Christianity, Culture, Discipleship

Online Reading (Feb 23, 2022)

Some more links for your reading (or given our culture, skimming) pleasure:

Plural Leadership: DG has an article on the way that Calvin led in Geneva, and how that required a team of people

Cultural Christianity: An oldie from Brett McCracken on how your Christian faith should inform (and have stress with) the culture you live in (clickbait title ignored).

Textual Provenance: Michael Kruger writes on the debate concerning Justin Martyr’s knowledge of the Gospel of John (and the results for dating the 4th Gospel).

Canadian Politics: CBC news goes with a clickbaity oversimplification of the functioning of a constitutional monarchy like ours to point out an (admittedly funny) problem our Governor General has had of late.

#anger, Bible, Christianity

On the Big Sticks we Carry in Friendship

One of my criticisms of the recent use by our federal government of the Emergencies act to deal with a large illegal and likely aggravating protest in the nation’s capital has been that it makes similar actions in the future easier. This isn’t a minor consideration, as there is likely a reason that this legislation hadn’t been previously used in the 34 years since it achieved royal assent (our least popular Prime Minister didn’t even do it during the 71-day Oka Crisis in 1990 when the protesters were armed and people had died).

The clearest problem comes from the chilling effect such heavy-Lightstock 550626 xsmall stephen dawehanded actions have on dissent. For example, the government has stated that it may freeze bank accounts without a warrant during this time. The mere threat of that happening is likely to make many people think twice before they donate to oppose government action. 

Why the sudden foray into politics on a blog about Biblical reflections on the sovereignty of God? It’s because similar dynamics can be at work in relationships, and provide a deep pitfall for the way we deal with one another. You see, friendships are often built over long periods of time, and through a lot of shared experience, and sometimes secrets. The fact is that the longest and deepest friendships often include knowledge of all the “dirt”, and it is the trust built through knowing that dirt and yet loving each other in any case that provides some of the best glue for those friendships.

But when we are angry with one another, it can be tempting to hurt the other person or manipulate them to do what you want through the use of secrets, or even by in anger just saying that one thing you should never have said. The problem is, like with the emergencies act, the effects can go far beyond the intended consequences, and can erode, or even destroy trust.

This is why the writer of proverbs gives this gem of wisdom:

Whoever covers an offense seeks love, but he who repeats a matter separates close friends.

Proverbs 17:9 (ESV) 

In anger, it can be tempting to use the repetition of the things you know about your friend to hurt them, but there are consequences, sometimes greater than you can think. Some words are harder to take back than others, and some words will hurt more than the feelings of another person, and go to the heart of the trust that helps the friendship to function.

And that is yet another reason to be careful of our own anger.


Bible, Blogging, Civility, Culture, Debate, Free Speech, Law, Online reading

Online Reading (Feb 22, 2022)

In the interest of tracking the news stories I’m thinking about, here are some stories for today:

Ukraine: Things keep getting dicey around Russia/Ukraine tensions, and we in the west need to be praying for our Christian family there.

Rule of Law: The Emergencies Act in Canada is ratified by the Commons. While I’m no fan of the trucker convoy protests, I’m never happy seeing the Rule of Law suspended, and I’m worried that it’s for a series of, largely non-violent,  protests.

Of Prodigals: Tim Challies puts a great point on the problem of Legalism with his re-imagining of the parable of the prodigal Son.

Scriptural Bias: Stephen Kneale does a great examination of the problem of bias in Christian Theology.