Sunday, 19 August 2018

2 Reasons Why God Causes Separation Between Believers




There was a time, not so long ago, that I can remember pulling into our church’s parking lot Sunday morning and my stomach would instantly begin to churn. My husband and I would walk in, hear nothing, and leave empty, if not a little angry. The church was in the middle of a split and we were too close to those at the epicentre to not feel the impact of the rift. Our friends were pitted against each other and the oppressive hit of harsh words was shattering their hearts and long term bonds. From the sidelines our own hearts were broken as we witnessed the slow train-wreck in front of us. Eventually, Sunday mornings were too heavy to desire to walk through the front door. We left. 

For the longest time I wondered where God’s hand had been. This was HIS house! Why was he not working to keep his body of believers together? After some time away, and A LOT of digging into God’s word, I can finally look back and see God’s hand actually was on the circumstances. Along the way, I have found at least two reasons why God allows these events to unfold, painful as they may be. 

1. God separates to protect the humble, and humble the proud


During the time of the Judges, “Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.” (Judges 21:25b) There were twelve tribes in Israel, and one tribe takes the stage in this example. Judges 19 tells a gruesome story of a Levite’s concubine being brutally raped, beaten, and left to die by men from the tribe of Benjamin. In retaliation the other tribes of Israel go to battle against the Benjamites. These tribes seem to be losing the battle against the ferocious Benjamin tribe until they stop to fast, pray, and offer sacrifices to the Lord. When their hearts are made right, God hands the Benjamites over the tribes and they are defeated. Out of 25,000 men in the tribe of Benjamin, only 600 manage to escape to the hills (Judges 20). If we look one more chapter over we see a key verse:

And the people had compassion on Benjamin because the Lord had made a breach in the tribes of Israel. (Judges 21:15 emphasis mine)

The word breach here means a gap. By the hand of God division was made among the body of his holy nation. In this case, God separated the humbled tribes who had made their hearts right with God, from the proud tribe who had chosen to live how they felt was right in their own eyes.

Then all the people of Israel, the whole army, went up and came to Bethel and wept. They sat there before the Lord and fasted that day until evening, and offered burnt offerings and peace offerings before the Lord. And the people of Israel inquired of the Lord (for the ark of the covenant of God was there in those days, and Phinehas the son of Eleazar, son of Aaron, ministered before it in those days), saying, “Shall we go out once more to battle against our brothers, the people of Benjamin, or shall we cease?” And the Lord said, “Go up, for tomorrow I will give them into your hand.” (Judges 20:26-28)

God was protecting those who had chosen to be obedient to his commands, from those who were tarnishing his Holy Nation. There are times when God steps in to offer protection and it looks like a painful division. He is protecting those sheep who know his voice and desire to follow it. But, as the Good Shepherd, he is removing the wolves from the pack as he providentially works to maintain his body of believers. 

Should we find ourselves in this situation, let us first take the position of a humble bended knee as we seek Christ. May we pause long enough to hold out our hurt and anger to God and ask if it was us who made the offence. Is it possible we have wandered too far out of God’s earshot to know His commands? Has our pride blinded our judgements? If so, we repent, and ask God for forgiveness. If it was not us, then we seek God and offer forgiveness to those who have hurt us.

There is hope in this circumstance regardless of which group you belong in. God did not completely destroy this tribe. His temporary breech in the tribes was for the purpose to humble the proud tribe who did what was right their eyes. Saul, a Benjamite, mentions this to Samuel when he says, "Am I not a Benjaminite, from the least of the tribes of Israel? And is not my clan the humblest of all the clans of the tribe of Benjamin?" (1 Sam 9:21) God used the separation to protect the humble from those who hurt them, but also to teach the proud who has true authority.

In the case of this cause of separation, we pray for pure hearts in ourselves, making sure our own pride is not the reason for a separation; and for the hearts of those who have already strayed.

2. God separates for the multiplication of His Kingdom


 And after some days Paul said to Barnabas, “Let us return and visit the brothers in every city where we proclaimed the word of the Lord, and see how they are.” Now Barnabas wanted to take with them John called Mark. But Paul thought best not to take with them one who had withdrawn from them in Pamphylia and had not gone with them to the work. And there arose a sharp disagreement, so that they separated from each other. Barnabas took Mark with him and sailed away to Cyprus, but Paul chose Silas and departed, having been commended by the brothers to the grace of the Lord. And he went through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches. (Acts 15:36-41)

At first glance it appears as though two good friends have an argument and decide to part ways. If we dig in deeper to what happened we can see a different side to this split. 

Back in the day Paul (then Saul) was struck down and corrected by God. He is told to stop persecuting Christians and become a preacher to the Gentiles. When Paul lands in Jerusalem none of the disciples are comfortable letting this former murderer of Christians into their circle, except for Barnabas (Acts 9). So Barnabas, whose name means encourager (Act 4:36), becomes an encourager and exhorter to Paul. He spurs Paul on in his calling, and the two become travel companions as they preach the gospel message. 

For a time, a young man named Mark joins them along the journey. Mark departs the team (Acts 13:13), leaving a bad taste in Paul’s mouth. Barnabas, being an encourager by nature, wants to bring Mark alongside him once again (as Barnabas once did with Paul), but Paul is adamant Mark not join in. They are about to retrace their steps back to the cities they came from and Paul does not want the tagalong who left them once already to be brought with them. Thus, the two men part ways via a sharp disagreement. What we do see is that Paul takes Silas and goes back to Syria and Cilicia, while Barnabas takes Mark and goes back to Cyprus. 

We learn later in Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians that he speaks lovingly of his friend Barnabas (1 Cor. 9:6). It becomes clear that the two eventually reconcile, or at least become settled again in their hearts over how they feel about each other. Paul also later tells Timothy, “Luke alone is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you, for he is very useful to me for ministry.” (2 Tim 4:11)

The unfolding of this disagreement reveals the guiding of God’s hand. God built Paul up through circumstances in Paul’s life to be a man who would unashamedly correct wrong behaviour within the churches. Paul visits those churches he and Barnabas planted as he retraces his steps and speaks boldly over bodies of believers. Barnabas, also revisits churches, thus splitting the load with Paul. but Barnabas does it by being the man God built him up to be, the encourager. He visits less hostile churches and gives Mark the second chance he needs to grow in his own ministry, thus making Mark an invaluable tool later on. 

God used the personal convictions of these two men to cause a division. No doubt, hearts were hurt as they sorted through who would go where. Long term we can see God split apart two to multiply many. His sovereign hand was at work guiding these two causing them to move apart so others could be taught, trained, corrected, and raised up stronger.

This was the case in what my husband and I were witnessing. A sharp contrast in convictions led to a parting of ways. Did it hurt? Absolutely! But, as years have gone by I can see both parties flourishing and are exactly where God needed them to be. 

If your heart is heavy-burdened over a split between yourself and a godly friend, or a separation in your church, take heart. God’s guiding hand is indeed at work. 

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. (Rom 8:28)



Love,










photo credit: Kamboompics.com@ Pexels

Thursday, 9 August 2018

For The Late Night Worrier: The Theology of Sleep




According to Statistics Canada there are approximately 3.3 million Canadians who battle insomnia. I am one of them. There have been times when my insomnia was brought about by chemical deficiency, but if I’m really being honest, I would say the majority of my sleeping problems are caused by stress. I am a Midnight Worrier. 

There is something about that moment when my head hits the pillow that causes my brain to wake up. I begin to unravel the day, and yesterday, and tomorrow, and 10 years ago, and 10 years into the future. Like a hamster in a squeaky wheel, my mind begins to race. 

What is it that keeps me going all. night. long? Like lingering question marks when I wanted a period, they are the unsolved problems of the hour/day/week. The questions I either could not solve, or did not have time to solve. And the deeper into the dark of night I go, the larger the question marks become, dancing around my head.

And then, with the quiet nudging of the Holy Spirit, I hear, “he makes me lie down in green pastures.” (Ps 23:1b) He is calling me to sleep. God knows. He knows the answers to my unknowns, because He is the all-knowing. My circumstances are real. My trials are real. My conflicts are real. But, they are not mine to hold, not for the 8 hours I ought be sleeping for, nor for the 16 hours that follow. He did not call me into midnight turmoil, he called me to the quietness of his side. 

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” (Matt 11:28)

In vain you rise early and stay up late, toiling for food to eat-- for he grants sleep to those he loves. (Ps 127:2)

When God made us he purposefully did not make us to be able to function without sleep. He knew we would need sleep because he made us to need it. It was not an arbitrary purpose either, he had a plan right from day one. 

The very first day of creation, God made light and dark, and separated the two. He began by making rhythm and pattern, not for his benefit, but for ours. He knew once humans were made we would need the peace of the darkness of night to reset. A time set aside each day where we shut down and shut off and be human, not gods.

“God called the light “day,” and the darkness he called “night.” And there was evening, and there was morning—the first day.” (Gen 1:5)

He continued until day 7 when God himself rests. 

Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.” (Gen 2:3)

He did not do this because HE needed rest, but one of the many implications of this is that God again set a pattern for us to follow. If God took time to stop creating, and we are not above God, then we certainly need to have moments to stop “doing”, and that includes quieting our obnoxiously loud thoughts.  

Laying down and resting is an act of submission that we are not miniature gods. Sleep requires us to acknowledge that whatever weighty thoughts or activities we are trying to solve are not ours to carry. We are the sheep, he is the Shepherd. “He will not let your foot slip-- he who watches over you will not slumber.” (Ps 121:3) He holds your circumstances, your deadlines, your relationships, your kids, your marriage, your health, and your future 24 hours a day 7 days a week. All of it is firmly in his hands. In full surrender that the faithful God of yesterday, today, and tomorrow is firmly in control we can lay down in green pastures and rest. 

It may feel like we are finishing with lingering question marks, but know that God, who writes your story, places the finality of periods where he sees fit. He knows perfectly what is to come, and when the sun goes down, it is time for you to rest while He continues to unfold his plans. 

Tonight, as you go to lay down, imagine for a moment that your bed is the mighty hands of God. Fall into them and know that, “He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart. You will not fear the terror of night, nor the arrow that flies by day”. (Ps 91:4-5)


Love,








photo credit: Annie Spratt @ Unsplash

Wednesday, 11 July 2018

How Much Faith do I Need to be Healed?




“If he just had a little more faith I know he would be healed!”

She had great concern for her friend and his current health crisis, and she wasn’t the first one to lament the seemingly lack of faith in a loved one. 

“How much faith does one need to be healed?”, I asked. Her puzzled look told me she had not thought about that yet. So I went on, and it sounded something like this...

The Bible tells us that “if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there,' and it will move.” (Matthew 17:20b) Surely if such a minuscule amount of faith can move mountains it would be more than enough for anyone to be healed. 

But, just how much faith is a mustard seed faith? 

Mustard seed faith is the tiniest seed of a new found faith in God. It is the first utterance of a declaration that God is real and Jesus is your personal Saviour. It is the admittance that you believe in and belong to God’s family.

Her friend indeed was a child of God and had been for many years. We established he certainly had at least mustard seed-sized faith even if he had never grown in faith since he first prayed for God to be part of his life.

The problem with this notion that if we just had more faith all things would work out is that it is a self-defeating statement. It puts pressure on ourselves to rummage up enough faith to make things happen, and when they don’t we feel we have failed God. So we try other routes: more prayers, more good deeds, more tithing, more reading our Bibles...all great things...but when the desired outcome does not come we grow deeply discouraged. And not that moody-blue "I'm-having-a-bad-day" type of discouragement. We are talking about deep dissatisfaction to the core of our souls. We want to give up and question if God is even listening, or moreso, if he even exists. 

I had my friend open to the book of Job and read the very first verse: 

In the land of Uz there lived a man whose name was Job. This man was blameless and upright; he feared God and shunned evil. (Job 1:1 emphasis my own)

Blameless, upright, God-fearing, and he turned away from evil. This is a man of exemplary faith!  We could most certainly say that Job at least had faith the size of a mustard seed. Oddly enough, it did not keep Job in good health. In fact, this wealthy land owner was not only struck down in his own health, but experienced the death of his children, and the loss of his livelihood. It left Job wondering "why me?". A question we too often face when confronted with the painfully unexpected trials of life that seem to come wave upon wave.

While I can’t answer why, I do know this...

The only faith you need to have is enough faith to trust God has a plan even when the mountain does not move. Sometimes He needs us to faithfully start climbing instead of asking him to flatten the steep incline in front of us. 

Do not believe for one second that your future health and healing depend on you and your ability to muster up faith. You simply do not hold that kind of power. The hands that set the earth on its foundation are holding you as you go along no matter how grim it may appear in this moment. Maybe you will be healed, maybe not. The guarantee we long for does not exist this side of Heaven anyway. Our guarantee is the promise of eternal life through Jesus. With eyes fixed on eternity it makes any climb worth it. 

love,





photo credit: Markus Spiske @ unsplash.com


Monday, 2 July 2018

[GUEST POST] Worshipping God Where You Least Expect It




A few weeks ago I asked my friend Janet to share her story on what she has learned about the heart of worship. Janet has worshipped God in places you would not ordinarily think to sing his praises. Below is her story in her own words about seeking and praising God at all times, in all settings. 


Should our surrounding or circumstances effect worship? Can church be anywhere that we are, or does it need to be inside an actual church building?  

I had an opportunity to go to Guatemala last year. While I was there I had the privilege to join in with a few small groups, school chapels, a community outreach, hospital visits, and a Sunday morning church service. Their worship and church is drastically different than here at home. They approach worship with an excited attitude of, “I get to worship the Lord”. When they were worshipping God, their whole hearts were in it. You could tell they were not thinking about the days events or what was going to be happening later that night. No one was worried about the size of the building we were in, or if the roof would keep all the rain out. Everyone was thankful to be there and squeezed closer together to make room for any new friends who may join in.

Worship is not meant to be complicated, it is a state of heart. 

I know this is a big statement; there are times that I feel consumed by my circumstance and a heart of worship does not always come easily.  When I am being peppered by questions and requests from my kids, or I am knee deep in homework, laundry, and other tasks that life throws at us, it can be easy to feel dragged down. However, when I stop and take a moment to focus on God and his goodness it changes my perspective on the events of the day, and lightens the heaviness of the situation.  

God is willing to meet us wherever we are at, eager to love us in that moment. God only wants good for us, when we are hurting God is hurting too.  I know that for me on a Sunday morning when we are trying to get our family out the door on time it can feel like an uphill battle.  I have to stop and give thanks for the opportunity to go to church with my family.  In the past when I neglected to take the time to refocus on God or the reason we were going to church I would find myself half heartedly joining in. My mind would be thinking about the craziness of the morning and the things that need to be done later that day.

I feel like the church can be anywhere that we gather and enjoy God’s presence, and share his love with others. I got to see this while in Guatemala. We hosted an outreach in a grassy field at a remote village where we worshipped God in a sink hole that is primary used for witchcraft.  

I have recently had the opportunity to join a team of ladies serving in an outreach ministry with the Salvation Army for women working the streets. We get together and make lunches and stock the Salvation Army’s van with a variety of things the ladies may be in need of and head out on a Thursday night. The van is known to the ladies as a safe place, so they wave us down. When we stop for theses ladies they are thankful to be greeted with a kind smile as they get on the van with us.  Most of the ladies that I had an opportunity to meet were happy to list their prayer requests when I asked them if I could pray for them. They were very thankful for the kindness we showed them with our prayers and the items we gave them. Being part of this team has given me new opportunities to connect with God.  Before going out we spend time in prayer, asking for boldness when speaking with these ladies, and safety.  God totally show up! I felt comfortable and safe all night, he blessed me with words (praying out loud with strangers is a bit outside my comfort zone), and a thankful heart for the opportunity.  

I think when we serve others God can use these small moments to have big effects in the lives of the people being served and the ones doing the serving. When we are feeling overwhelmed by our surrounding we need to choose to speak life, our words are so powerful.  

“Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruit.”  (Proverbs 18:21) 

It can be easy to speak death and list off the things that seem to be going wrong or the stuff we do not have. By focusing on the negative we are killing our hope.  We need to take time to give thanks even if it feels like it is something minuscule, the more we give thanks the easier it will become to spot the good things in our lives.  

The love of God is fiercer than we will ever have the capacity to understand this side of eternity. I think we can be the church and worship God anywhere we are. God hears our praise and cries no matter if we are in a deep dark pit or in a beautiful church. I encourage you to worship God wherever it feels comfortable to you.

~Janet

In response to Janet's encouragement to praise God in all circumstances, leave a message and let us know a time you found yourself worshipping God in a strange place or time in your life.