St. Paul and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms

Do you know your rights as a Canadian? As a Christian living in Canada?

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The apostle Paul knew his rights as a Roman citizen. It saved his life. And, that gave us over half of the New Testament.

At Antioch, the Holy Spirit chose Barnabas and Paul for missionary service. (Acts 13:2) Paul’s Roman citizenship was his passport to travel throughout the Empire. He used that passport to preach the gospel; with Barnabas on his first journey, then on a second trip with Silas, then on a third, some suggest with his spiritual son Timothy as Paul was not in the habit of travelling alone.

While in Jerusalem following his third mission tour, Paul was arrested. (Acts 21:30-33). When the crowd rioted against him, Paul informed a Roman officer that he was a Roman citizen who knew his rights. (Acts 22:25-29)

The crowd was determined to kill Paul. The Roman officer, because of Paul’s citizenship, protected him and saved his life. While in prison, word reached Paul there was a plot to kill him when he was being transferred from Jerusalem to his hearing in the court of the governor, Felix, in Caesarea. Again, knowing his rights saved Paul’s life. He alerted his jailers to the plot and, as a Roman citizen, was provided a military escort to ensure his safety to appear before the Roman governor’s court. (Acts 23:16-33)

If Paul had not known his rights, he would not have made it to prison, or to trial – or to subsequent hearings based on his appeal, as a citizen, to be tried before Caesar.

During his lengthy imprisonment and the accompanying journey to Rome, Paul was visited by the physician Luke who took copious notes of their conversations. From his notes, Luke penned two short books. The first is known as the Gospel of Luke. The second, we call the Book of Acts. Those books wouldn’t exist but for Paul asserting his rights. Neither would the thirteen letters written from prison by the apostle – Romans, 1 and 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, 1 and 2 Thessalonians, 1 and 2 Timothy, Titus, Philemon – and a fourteenth, Hebrews, which is believed either to have been written by Paul or an author imitating Paul’s writing style. That’s sixteen of the twenty-seven New Testament books and letters!

In a previous blog, about the Canada Summer jobs attestation clause, I quoted from Paul’s letter to the Ephesians. In it, he reminds us, “we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” (Ephesians 6:12)

In the same blog, I quoted from the first of two letters Paul wrote from prison to his protégé Timothy. In 1 Timothy 2, Paul begins:

First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.

How important are those two points for Christians grappling with discrimination based on religious beliefs? For those encountering anti-religious prejudice from the Government of Canada today?

One of the reasons the current federal government has been able to tread the path it has chosen is the general lack of awareness Canadians have about our rights and freedoms, let alone how those freedoms have been defined by the courts. Bold assertion has been made about the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms on both sides of the dispute, much of it inaccurate and uninformed. Reasoned argument in support of well-defined rights has been met with response akin to close-minded mob mentality against. Many Canadians, including many politicians, simply do not understand our rights.

What the current “kerfuffle,” as the Prime Minister called it, has done is encourage numerous Canadians to read what the Charter says. That’s good, but reading the Charter only scratches the surface of how the listed rights and freedoms have been defined and applied by the courts. Canadians who browsed as far as section 32 found out the Charter is intended to protect us from government actions that violate our freedoms, not to empower government to demand we sign on the dotted line in agreement with its ideological whims.

The apostle Paul knew the rights of his citizenship applied equally for him, even as a Christian, as much as for any other citizen of the Roman Empire. He knew his rights. And, he knew how to exercise his rights.

under siege HROne of the reasons God stirred me to write Under Siege: Religious Freedom and the Church in Canada at 150 is so that Christians in Canada might know, understand, and be equipped to properly exercise our rights in the twenty-first century, as Paul did in the first.

Here’s what Pastor Jason Boucher had to say about the book:

In Under Siege, Don has written an outstanding resource-driven book which outlines not only our religious freedoms in Canada, and how our culture has arrived at this point, but how we might best engage today. Under Siege is recommended reading for all followers of Jesus, not just leaders.

John Pellowe of the Canadian Council of Christian Charities said:

Don Hutchinson has that rare combination of gifts: a deep thinker, an excellent writer, and able to make complex subjects easily understood. Under Siege is a must-read for Christians who care about the mission Christ gave His church but feel hindered by the current Canadian legal and social environment. Hutchinson puts it all in perspective and gives suggestions for how we can continue to undertake the church’s mission in Canada today.

Paul knew his rights, and he understood them. He also understood that, as Christians, our rights and freedoms are not for our personal advantage. Our rights and freedoms are to be used for the benefit of the gospel, which is “nested in the great Story of all that God has done and said,” writes John Stackhouse, including the life witness of every Christ-follower.

Don’t just know you have rights, know your rights. Understand them. Be prepared to use them when necessary. And to do so, as St. Paul did, as an ambassador of Christ. (2 Corinthians 5:20)

If you’re ready to dig deeper into an understanding of our Charter rights and the biblical context for exercising them in Canada’s constitutionally guaranteed free and democratic society, you may want to get a copy of my book, Under Siege: Religious Freedom and the Church in Canada at 150 (1867–2017). Here’s what former Member of Parliament Preston Manning had to say:

The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms professes to guarantee freedom of conscience and religion to all Canadians. But in practice, freedom of religion in Canada is “under siege.” I wholeheartedly commend to concerned Canadians Don Hutchinson’s analysis of the challenge and prescriptions for engagement.

Under Siege is available in paperback from my website, amazon, Indigo and others, as well as in a variety of electronic formats.

 

Canada Summer Jobs: headed to a courtroom near you?

These have been an interesting seven days for those with interest in Canadian religious freedom. Two important decisions in regard to violations of religious freedom demonstrated that decision-makers are not necessarily listening. A third suggests, it is possible.

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Hope – adventus as Jürgen Moltmann referred to it, the need for something new to come from outside to change the situation, like the advent of Christ, the Hope of the World – was high that the Canadian government would hear the united voices of over eighty religious leaders and thousands of calls, emails and letters to Members of Parliament, Minister of Employment Patty Hajdu and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau about problems with changes to the Canada Summer Jobs (CSJ) program that bar participation for many religious organizations.

On Saturday, the Prime Minister posted photos of himself observing Holocaust Remembrance Day. Surely he would hear the pleas of Canadian rabbis in regard to CSJ. Any concern for the marginalization and exclusion of an identifiable group of religious Canadians, including Jews, precipitated by the CSJ attestation requirement did not, apparently, change his mind.

Two days later, the Prime Minister attended the ceremony observing the first anniversary of the attack at the Centre culturel islamique de Québec in Ste-Foy where six Muslim men were killed and nineteen seriously injured while participating in worship. Surely the Prime Minister would listen to the pleas of Canadian imams in regard to the CSJ attestation requirement? Not yet.

The next day, Prime Minister Trudeau announced Canada will officially recognize the International Decade for People of African Descent. The day after that, he issued a statement celebrating Black History Month. The significant and continuing contribution of Christian black leaders, including congregations and ministries that have a history of accessing CSJ funding to benefit vulnerable communities must have come to mind. Perhaps, he would hear these leaders in regard to the CSJ attestation requirement? He did not.

Having committed to be in the House of Commons for Question Period each Wednesday when Parliament is sitting, it was reasonably anticipated we would that day get answers from the Prime Minister to the questions with which Canadians have inundated Members of Parliament since the CSJ announcement in December. This week, however, the first week Parliament is sitting after the government’s announcement of the revised CSJ attestation clause, Prime Minister Trudeau opted instead to leave Ottawa following his morning caucus meeting, skip Question Period, and fly to Winnipeg for a town hall Q&A at the University of Manitoba.

The response of Minister Hajdu and Prime Minister Trudeau to the repeated efforts of Canadian religious leaders, from across the spectrum of faith communities, has been to repeat government talking points, like the tourist speaking slowly, louder and more assertively in a foreign land, as if religious leaders did not understand them the first time. Core mandate and student hiring conditions as defined in the new for 2018 requirements from the federal government for CSJ funding insist religious leaders and communities must compromise their beliefs, surrender the constitutional right to ‘freedom of conscience and religion,’ and relinquish the right granted under provincial human rights legislation to observe religious beliefs and practices in the hiring of co-religionists, even summer students, for their work.

Each summer, many CSJ summer students have worked with religious charities to serve, among others, the needs of those with disabilities, or identified as underprivileged, or the most in need and at risk in our society. Without question, they have also provided services that benefit co-religionists, equally Canadians.

The mandated checkmark may have seemed innocuous to government officials, but the response of religious leaders made it clear the attestation statement to which that checkmark is affixed was a demand to betray their beliefs. In addition to calls, letters and emails, the concern was expressed at town hall after town hall. Unfortunately, the Prime Minister’s response at those town hall gatherings suggest he is more concerned about talking than listening.

Thursday, the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage issued its report Taking Action Against Systemic Racism and Religious Discrimination including Islamophobia, in which it recommended consultation with religious organizations on government action that affects them. (There is some good stuff in the report, for a later blog. There are Liberal, Conservative and NDP MPs who consider listening to religious perspectives by government to be both possible and beneficial.) On the matter of Canada Summer Jobs funding, such consultation might have prevented the current predicament. Actively listening to after-the-fact communications from religious leaders and Canadians from coast-to-coast-to-coast would also have led to a solution.

The last time I was as disenchanted by government refusal to hear legitimate concerns about taking action that will have damaging impact on employment opportunities and services for Canadians living on the vulnerable edge of our society was the previous government’s decision to cancel the national census. The Canadian census is internationally recognized as one of the most accurate. It is valuable to government at all levels (federal, provincial, municipal, school boards), charities and businesses for their program and financial planning. The people most impacted by the cancelled census were those who became the invisible disadvantaged, because they did not show up on the national household survey. The same holds true for those who will lose out on the benefits of summer jobs and the programs conducted by summer student employees across the country. Many are students on the edge of being able to pay for their education. Others are those living on the edge of poverty who will lose the option of supervised activity for their children during school vacation, and those caring for special needs children who will lose the one or two weeks of respite provided by summer camps or a few hours each day provided by local church-run day camps.

While the clock ticked down to the Friday midnight (Pacific Time) deadline for CSJ applications, Minister Hajdu offered her own form of compromise. To those asking for a change in the attestation clause and an extension for application, she conceded a one-week extension, but kept the clause. Is there still hope that the many voices, and more voices, might be heard over the next week and the necessary adjustment take place?

Hope had also been high that three judges of the Ontario Divisional Court would sort out the law, accurately apply the Charter, and protect physicians from being forced to choose between violating their consciences or leaving their current medical practices. Thursday, in its decision, The Divisional Court concluded the beliefs of physicians were indeed violated by the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario’s policy requiring all practicing physicians in the province to participate in ending-life medical procedures. But, the court also found it justifiable to require this standard as a condition of patient care in the province. (Yes, patient care was defined to include intentionally ending the patient’s life.) Ontario is the only province refusing to accommodate physician’s personal beliefs on this matter.

Unchallenged, the decisions of government and court will mean those in greatest need will be those who suffer most.

The shortage of summer opportunities for those in need – whether student employees or student clients – means the vulnerable, perhaps the most vulnerable, will pay the cost Canada’s government has so far declined to fund because of an ideological transformation of a previously non-discriminatory successful program.

The violation of physicians’ beliefs will result in a different kind of shortage. Doctors have said they will retire or move on from meaningful work that was, for them, always about healing, easing pain, and saving lives.

If either or both decisions are to be contested further in the courts – the guardians of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, as it were– there will be a different cost. The litigation process is expensive.

If you believe these freedoms are deserving of continuing protection, i.e. equal treatment of all applying for summer employment grants (of our money from our government) and recognition of the conscience rights of those who have taken an oath to do no harm, then you will want to follow the status of these situations. In addition to prayer and writing your MP about the CSJ, or your Member of Ontario’s Legislative Assembly about the policy of the government regulatory College of Physicians, you may also want to make an encouraging financial contribution to those fighting the fight for continued recognition of our constitutionally guaranteed freedom of conscience and religion.

However these situations turn out, hope – adventus – is not sacrificed at the feet of Prime Minister or Divisional Court. We do need to keep praying for our Prime Minister, government leaders and the judges of our courts; appealing to Him who is our Hope, with confidence He is, in truth, the Hope of the world.

If you’re ready to dig deeper into an understanding of our Charter rights and the biblical context for exercising them in Canada’s constitutionally guaranteed free and democratic society, you may want to get a copy of my book, Under Siege: Religious Freedom and the Church in Canada at 150 (1867–2017). Here’s what the lawyer in Ontario’s physician rights case, Albertos Polizogopoulos, had to say about the book:

As a lawyer whose practice is largely focussed on religious freedom litigation, I read about the issues and cases referred to in Under Siegeon a regular basis. Don Hutchinson has been able to present a legal and political history of religious freedom in Canada in a manner that is not only easy to follow and understand, but also personal and engaging. It is written for lawyer or layperson and is equally accessible.

Under Siege is available in paperback from my website, amazon, Indigo and others, as well as in a variety of electronic formats.

A jealous mistress, a jealous God and strange bedfellows

“The law is a jealous mistress.” If a student hasn’t heard that quote before arriving in the hallowed hallways of her law school, she is likely to hear it on her very first day. U.S. Supreme Court Justice Joseph Story coined the term in the talk he gave when he became a professor at Harvard University in 1829. Law students have been hearing it ever since. Story was noting the law, as study and profession, is demanding of time, thoughts and energy. Some have said, the law is all consuming.

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If married, be assured your spouse will not be enamoured of the idea that you have a mistress, whether another woman, the law or any other obsession, particularly a mistress jealous of other interests or pursuits in your life.

Stipulating ten life-enriching commandments to the nation of Israel, God doubled down on recognition he is the only true God before bridging to the other eight directives. In doing so, he referred to himself as “a jealous God” (Exodus 20:4). Jesus was unwavering on this point, stating the first and greatest commandment is to love the Lord our God with the four alls of our existence – all your heart, all your soul, all your mind and all your strength (Luke 10:27). That’s the covenant.

It was in 1870 that Charles Dudley Warner turned the phrase, “politics makes strange bedfellows.” Warner was comparing an American political situation with his summer garden. The intermingling of untended berry plants led him to riff off of William Shakespeare, who wrote in The Tempest (Act 2, Scene 2) that “Misery acquaints a man with strange bedfellows.” Whether facing life’s storms or seeking to escape them, people not expected to cooperate with one another may end up doing so for a variety of unintended reasons, particularly when it comes to politics.

The danger with a strange bedfellow is one’s unintended bedmate may well become one’s jealous mistress. An interest in politics can easily become overly partisan, inflaming a desire to make law with one another. In the grips of such passion, we are tempted to set aside an earlier covenant made with someone else. Politics, as hobby or profession, may entice any one of us away from Jesus, who loves us, gave himself for us, and requires from us all, all, all, all.

Manifest political partisanship seductively woos us to regard one political leader as saviour, and another as devil. Both are simply human. Neither is to be to us an idol.

It seems our forgetfulness of actual Saviour and Devil may rival the impetuous collective amnesia of the Israelites who demanded a golden calf be fashioned as their god, despite having been clearly told not to do so. And then doing it within clear sight of a cloud-cloaked mountain where Moses was meeting with the Lord their God, who had only recently delivered them by the hundreds of thousands from centuries of captivity in a foreign land.

I cannot imagine that all of the two million-plus people at the base of Mount Sinai cried out for the calf. More likely, a vocal few rallied part of the crowd – some with convictions on the issue, others less so but inclined to go with the flow of friends or family – and the ensuing mob action pressured Aaron. There were, no doubt, a large number who looked to Aaron, a recognized leader in their community, for guidance. Aaron instead acted on the opinion of the enraged crowd, however misshapen or misleading. Aaron, a spiritual leader of the people, allowed intimidation to steer him to do something other than trust God’s word.

Today’s rallying cries may come through social media memes, tweets, blogs and videos or public statements by people we are convinced can be trusted. Perhaps, they are on the saviour’s team. Maybe they’re on the Saviour’s team, too. We need to dispassionately assess whether their agitation is intended to arouse in us desires that would lure us to join in the pursuit of a contemporary golden calf. What’s their motivation? Who do they want us to align ourselves with? Where will following lead us? We are to embrace neither idols, other gods nor a different saviour. We have one God. And he has commissioned us to be his ambassadors, ambassadors of reconciliation, sharing the good news of Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17-21).

The authors of the New Testament inspire our participation in society as good citizens. In a democracy, rendering unto Caesar (Matthew 22:21a) means our participation can extend to any and all stages of political involvement, but as Christians our participation must be accompanied by rendering unto God the things that are God’s (Matthew 22:21b).

Before we take action that will lead others who trust our voice, whether through speech, tweet or post, it’s our responsibility to ascertain if the expression is suitable to be shared by an ambassador of reconciliation? Or does the message originate from the tantalizing quest of a jealous mistress or strange bedfellow to stimulate within us a craving for their recommended golden calf?

The Lord our God is a jealous God. He encourages our contribution to the good of the world around us, and endorses no competitors for his tender affections.

Under Siege: how and why I authored this book

This is a shorter version of the blog Under Siege: What it’s About originally published March 22, 2017 at Word Alive Press.           UNDER SIEGE: Religious Freedom and the Church in Canada at 150 (1867-2017) is my first book.

Writing and publishing Under Siege was intimate and personal, and also not possible without intentional interaction with others in the Body of Christ.

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In April 2016 I was invited to speak at a pastors and spouses conference taking place in October 2016. The request was for two keynote talks on religious freedom, a subject that has been woven into my adult life through education and experience. One talk would be about religious freedom in Canada and other about the global persecuted church.

Somewhat uncharacteristically, I started work on the project early. Long before the deadline was even on the horizon, I was praying, outlining, researching and capturing thoughts—I sleep with a notepad on the nightstand. Waking early one morning with the idea of turning the Canada talk into a book, I scribbled out three section heading ideas and many of the chapter titles before going back to sleep. Beginning that morning in May, work on the talk was combined with work on the book.

At the same time, I was finishing teaching a course on living a public faith; part of the apologetics training year at Ottawa School of the Bible—OSB is a practical understanding and application Bible school that is an initiative of the Lifecentre, and is accessed by students and pastors from across the city. I was teaching those in or interested in Christian leadership, and in October I would be speaking to pastors and their spouses. As a result, I found myself writing for Christian leaders, pastors and their spouses.

There are well written books on religious freedom in Canada for lawyers and academics. Distinct from those who engage the courts and in universities, missing was something designed to equip the troops who are engaged in the daily frontline spiritual warfare of 21st century Canada. Christian leaders minister in a human rights minefield, both real and imagined. They are the people who will primarily benefit from an accurate understanding of the Canadian situation. Under Siege is written for them, for us.

It wasn’t until late August or early September that I convinced myself I was actually writing a book for publication and willing to accept the responsibility to finish the task. I’ve written blogs, opinion pieces for newspapers, and had a regular column in Faith Today. But I hadn’t written a book until Under Siege. As a result, I started seeking advice from people who had written, edited, published and marketed books.

When I was about seventy percent of the way through the writing process (and thinking I was ninety percent done) I invited input into the process from members of my target audience, pastors and Christian leaders, and some constitutional law lawyers. The lawyers were qualified to review my comments in the specialized constitutional law area of religious freedom. The pastors and Christian leaders gave me feedback on how to better communicate various concepts I was writing about.

Finally, when the draft was complete, I invited a couple of dozen people to read and comment on the full unedited text, including most of those who had input at the earlier stage. They had a four week deadline, which coincided with the deadline for approving the final edit of the text. I am exceedingly grateful for all who accepted, including those who ran out of time.

As each one was also invited to consider writing an endorsement, I ended up with seventeen endorsements from a good cross-section of Christian expressions and experience. I was excited— I cried when I read them all together at the deadline.

For editing, it was a privilege to work with an experienced, young Christian author/editor who was interested in the topic of my book. He held me to task on improving my footnoting, strengthened grammar and made good suggestions for adjustments in the text. Cover design and layout were done with similar thoughtfulness and professionalism.

Throughout the process I asked for advice from both the Word Alive Press team and a small group of personal-friend advisors—people praying for me while I was writing—who shared their thoughts on what they read, and were also invited to comment on cover design and layout.

In the end, Under Siege is available in offset and print-on-demand paperback, and a variety of electronic formats.

I applied for and received a license to use the Canada 150 logo based on the theme of the book, which only allows printing with the logo until the end of 2017. Extra fees would be required to remove the logo from print-on-demand and electronic formats effective January 1, 2018, so the offset press paperbacks printed by Word Alive Press are a kind of special edition Canada 150 cover. Get ‘em while they’re here!

 

Condiment Christians in the hands of a Bar-B-Que God

Mmm, those mouth-watering, appetite inducing commercials. “Have it your way.” “Special orders don’t upset us.” How about the Canadian chain that promoted selecting our condiments and then naming our burger after ourself! That didn’t work. The second time back, I had to describe “the Don burger” all over again.

Don Hutchinson

In Ottawa, we have a burger chain that made its reputation on its vast selection of condiments, from avocado and sliced beets to sundried tomatoes, or kraft dinner (yes, it’s KD) and peanut butter. The menu boasts “over 14 million topping combinations.”

We live in a fast food world. The instant gratification of placing an order and receiving it before sitting down isn’t just about burger toppings. It drives a lot of our twenty first century decision making, even in the Church.

We’re condiment Christians. We want what we want. We want it fast. And, we want it our way.

The choice between double pickles or hold the lettuce might work in the hamburger world but it doesn’t work as well when we’re trying to structure the Living God into our own quick response, made the way I like him, personal god.

We grow impatient with a god who doesn’t deliver what we consider success. Deliver it the way we want it. And deliver it fast.

We question a god who doesn’t free us from temptation, at least the temptations we want to be freed from. The Good Book says God redeems us from our confessed sin, not from living in a world that surrounds with distractions that challenge us to focus on Him or fall because of having it our way.

In an instant gratification, fast food, choice of condiments world, God chooses to invest His time – Himself – in the main part of the meal, not the garnishes.

I have a friend who is seriously into bar-b-que. He makes his own rubs (seasoning for items to be bar-b-qued) and he has a smoker, a kind of slow bar-b-que. There are no quick meals when seasoned meat needs several hours to cook to perfection.

Another friend worked at a smokehouse restaurant. He talked, with a twinkle in his eye, about the planning that went into smoking their main menu items for up to half a day before final preparation and serving.

In the Old Testament we read detailed exposition about the effort required to prepare sacrifices for God – burnt offerings. Page after page, the Bible gives the impression our God is more interested in getting things cut, sized and seasoned properly so that, when placed over fire, the fragrance of the offering would be sweet.

Matthew’s gospel records Jesus saying to those who thought He was a reprobate for dining with sinners, “Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.” (Matthew 9:13)  He was quoting the prophet Hosea who wrote these words spoken by God, “For I desire steadfast love(the Hebrew word may also be translated “mercy”) and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.” (Hosea 6:6)

Jesus was saying that when we consider the intricacies of preparing a sacrifice for God, we need to step back and focus on the fact that God is even more concerned with us demonstrating our love for Him, a process of learning and growing in loving Him with all our “heart and soul and mind and strength,” by loving our neighbours as ourselves. (Matthew 22:37-39; Luke 10:27-28)

The offering God now asks of us is… us.

When I was younger, having read the Bible a few times and studied it a bit, I was certain I knew God and what He wanted. I had the burger god I desired, with my personal selection of condiments. I had the meat of it right, but was fairly impatient with others’ difference of opinion on secondary matters. You might call it a divergent preference in condiments.

But, it’s not about the pickles or the lettuce.

It’s about whether my life is an offering.

The old joke says the problem with a living sacrifice is that it keeps climbing off the altar.

My friend Ken Norberg has written and recorded what he calls a “little ditty celebrating the sometimes painful process of walking out our sanctification” (sanctification is us becoming more like Jesus in the way we think and live). In Burnt P.H.L.E.S.C.H., Ken captures the essence of living our lives as an offering to God. The chorus says of my life being lived for Him,

You gotta put it on the altar, let it roast, burning with the fire of the Holy Ghost.

Shake it and bake it, let the smoke arise, let the Lord smell that sweet sacrifice.

Ken concludes with an expressed expectation that serving the Lord “with a heart that is fervent” will receive the Lord’s commendation, “Good and faithful, thou well done servant.”

That’s how life feels at times, a little on the well done side of God’s bar-b-que. The perfect grill marks but a little crispy at the edge from me needing more time to learn a particular lesson, perhaps burnt at spots because, well, because I did it my way instead of His.

Here’s a hint about how to avoid a few of the singe marks I’ve acquired. When you hear the words “Pray as if everything depends on God and work as if everything depends on you,” reflect on Jesus’ words, “the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing.” (John 5:19) Following can be more challenging than taking the lead.

Our bar-b-queing God is a coals and wood Guy. Our God is a slow smoker Who custom spices each and every life for its perfect fragrance. And, our slow smoker God gives every one of us time to decide whether we really want to know Him; and, whether we truly want to follow Him.