Hope For Canada

On Monday, Canadians will cast votes in another federal election.  As the winners and losers are announced, some will feel more optimistic about the future of our country.  Others, less so.

While I’m thankful for those who serve the country as elected officials and while I consider government service a noble calling, my hope for Canada is not centered on what happens on Parliament Hill.  Rather, my hope is rooted in who Christ is and what He will do in and through His Church in Canada.  Only the Church of Christ carries a message that can transforms lives for both time and eternity.

But if the Church in Canada hopes to be vibrant enough to impact the wider culture, it will need to stay closely aligned to God’s Word.  This is no easy task in a society that shouts so many contrary opinions and offers so many divergent spiritual options. 

While the spiritual confusion in society deeply concerns me, I’m more troubled by the spiritual confusion found inside the Christian Church.  We regularly hear Christian leaders—pastors, theologians, authors—claiming to speak for God but giving conflicting and contradictory messages.  It’s no wonder people are confused.

This problem of conflicting viewpoints from spiritual leaders is serious, but it’s not new.  The same problem existed 2500 years ago.  We know this from the storyline of the ancient book of Jeremiah.  In Jeremiah’s day, many claimed to speak for God but gave radically divergent messages.  The result was a deep-level, widespread spiritual confusion among God’s people.

Thankfully, God stepped in to clear things up—not just for Jeremiah’s time, but for all time. He delivered a message that cut through the spiritual chaos. That message, found in Jeremiah 23, can clear up much of our confusion and point us true north spiritually.

Reflect on these words, recorded in Jeremiah 23:28-29 “Let the prophet who has a dream tell the dream, but let him who has my word speak my word faithfully. What has straw in common with wheat? declares the Lord. Is not my word like fire, declares the Lord, and like a hammer that breaks the rock in pieces?”

God spoke these words to bring spiritual clarity into the confusion of the times.  He wanted His word heard above all other words: “Let him who has my word speak my word faithfully” (23:28). 

God wanted His word to be heard, not just in Jeremiah’s time, but for all time.  So He instructed Jeremiah to write down the message (see 36:1-2).  Jeremiah’s writings eventually became part of our Scriptures—the Word of God. Now we can open the Bible and read the very words of God.

Someone could say, “The world has changed so much since the Bible was written.  Why elevate the Bible above all other voices and viewpoints?” Jeremiah 23:28-29 answers by highlighting three ways God’s Word is superior and should be our supreme authority in life.

God’s Word is like grain—it will nourish you

In verse 28, God says His Word is like wheat rather than straw. God’s Word is high-fibre nutrition.  It’s what people need to grow spiritually strong.

Some years ago, our son Michael served as a youth pastor at a church in Ottawa.  He worked hard each week to prepare biblical messages for his students.  One day he heard a radio interview that left him confused and troubled.  In the interview, a ministry specialist advised youth workers to spend less time preparing biblical messages and more time building relationships with students.  He claimed students would forget the messages but remember the one-on-one times at Starbucks. 

Michael wondered if he was wasting his time preparing talks from Scripture.  I responded by asking him how many meals he remembered from childhood.  He only recalled a few—Thanksgiving dinners and birthday celebrations. I reminded him that even though he had forgotten the nutritious meals his mother regularly prepared, those meals helped him grow up healthy.  In the same way, giving his students a steady diet of God’s Word would help them grow up spiritually healthy. God’s Word is like grain—it nourishes us.     

God’s Word is like fire—it will refine you

A second reason God’s Word needs to be heard is because it refines like fire.  A refiner’s fire purifies silver by burning away dross (Jeremiah 6:29).  All of us are a mixture of silver and dross.  So all of us need the refining fire of God’s Word to burn impurities from our lives.

Linda and I saw the refining power of God’s Word when we led a marriage seminar in Tanzania.  In the seminar, we worked through key biblical passages on marriage—Genesis 1-2, Song of Songs, Matthew 19, Ephesians 5.  At one point, a young pastor stood and recounted the first time he brought his new bride back to his family.  In his tribe’s tradition, when a woman marries a man, she becomes the servant of his siblings.  So on their first morning back home, his sisters heaped piles of laundry on his doorstep, expecting his wife to do their wash.  The young pastor scooped up the laundry, carried it back to his sisters and said, “If you do this again, I will burn your clothes.” 

At this point, some in the seminar reacted with surprise. They realized he was going against tribal expectations.  Then the young pastor finished his story, explaining that he told his sisters,  “The Bible says a man shall leave his father and mother and be united to his wife.  She is now my wife and not your servant. If you need help with your laundry, come and ask me first and we will consider how we can help you.”

The people in the seminar nodded their approval.  The Word of God was doing its refining work, challenging and changing perspectives.  After the seminar, one of the participants had a question for me.  “Is it true,” he asked, “Christians in Canada often get divorced?”  I had to acknowledge this did happen.  “How can this be?” he inquired, “since the Bible says what God has joined together in marriage we are not to separate?”  It’s not just people in Tanzania who need the Word of God to refine them.  All of us need do. 

God’s Word is like a hammer—it will break you

The most striking picture of God’s Word found in verses 28-29 is that of a “hammer that breaks the rock in pieces.”  What a contrast to the false prophets whose messages were a pat on the back.  Thus says the Lord of hosts: “Do not listen to the words of the prophets who prophesy to you . . . . They say continually to those who despise the word of the Lord, ‘It shall be well with you’; and to everyone who stubbornly follows his own heart, they say, ‘No disaster shall come upon you.’” (Jeremiah 23:16-17).

God’s Word often confronts us, hammering our hardened hearts.  A while ago, I read the account of the disciples caught in a storm on the Sea of Galilee.  In their panic, the disciples wake Jesus and accuse Him of being unconcerned.  Jesus rebukes the wind and then rebukes his disciples:  “Why are you so afraid, have you still no faith?” (Mark 4:40).

That morning, as I read Jesus’ words, I sensed God’s Word hammering my unbelieving heart.  Like the first disciples, I was giving way to fear in the storms I was facing.  Why was I so afraid?  After all I’d seen God accomplish, why was my faith so small?   Thankfully, when God’s Word comes like a hammer, it doesn’t break us to leave us shattered.  Instead, it actually rebuilds us to make us stronger. The Word that breaks also remakes.

Seeking the Welfare of the Nation

A few chapters later in Jeremiah’s book, we find a letter Jeremiah wrote to exiles living in Babylon.  In this letter, Jeremiah tells them to seek the welfare of the nation in which they live.  One way they were to do this was by holding firm to God’s words (Jeremiah 29:7-14).

Those of us who love Canada and want to seek its welfare would be wise to follow Jeremiah’s instructions.  One way we can seek the flourishing of our nation is to listen to God’s Word above all other words.  In our personal and professional lives, we must continually turn to God’s Word to correct our thinking and direct our living. Only God’s Word is like grain that nourishes, fire that refines, and a hammer that breaks.  When we are confused by the cacophony of voices and viewpoints around us, we need to look to God’s Word to point us true north spiritually.

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