Monday, 1 October 2018

If God is so Loving Why is There a Penalty for Sin?




In the age of moral relativism, meaning everyone creates a truth that works for themselves, absolute truths have become a thing of the past. We are motoring, as a culture, towards a society that believes what is right for you and for me may be different, but nevertheless, we can both somehow be right. As perplexing as this notion is, it has no doubt muddied the lens through which we view God. If we are all to be tolerant of each others viewpoints, and live “inclusively”, as the catch word of the day points out, then shouldn’t the God who declares himself to be love in nature be more forgiving?

We desperately want to tell others about this God who loves us unconditionally, but when it comes to a judging God, it feels better to omit the parts where the Bible points out clearly that Hell is real (2 Thess 1:9, Rev 21:8) , sin is real (Romans 3:23, 1 John 1:8), and our separation from God is real (Isaiah 59:2, James 1:15, Matt 25:46). It doesn’t seem to sit well in the age of “tolerance”. If God is all loving and all powerful, then surely he should just be able to forgive and move on. 

We see all too often right now, when individual morals clash, the insertion of the Supreme Court, a court that has created societal absolutes (albeit even these truths are beginning to change, so “absolutes” here is a term used loosely). The issue at hand is presented before the courts and a verdict is made as to who is right according to law. Punishment is given and justice is served. 

Unlike our country where laws are made by men, and laws are changed by men, God is the maker of the unchanging Absolute Law. By laws, we could substitute for the word “commands” so we do not get hung up legalistically about abiding by every New and Old Testament Law. (For they record, they can all be summed up as love God, love your neighbour- Matt 22:36-40). 

When God created the world, he made perfect laws (commands) that he presented to us, based on his own flawless character. By nature, God is good and perfect, it is an impossibility for him to be anything else. Think about that for a moment. God not only will not lie or cheat, he is actually unable to react outside his holy nature. If it seems a stretch for our brain to comprehend, that’s because it is. We only know of people, people change their minds, and both act and react erratically. Not so with God. That is what makes him so perfect.

The laws he gave to us flow from his goodness and righteousness. They are not arbitrary, like the the rules our parents may have given us. They are not the rules that are followed with a, “because I said so, that’s why.” (hands up for those of us parents who have used this line! Guilty!) God’s laws are precise laws, to allow for goodness in our lives. They are followed with, “because I love you, and do not want to see you hurt.” There is reasoning behind God’s law, and the reasoning is love and protection. It is through his commands to us through his law that we know he is loving. Because God’s commands flow from his loving nature, we can and should trust them and abide by them. 

The other aspect of God’s love is that he created us to have free will. It would have been unloving for him to make us automatically love him and be obedient to him. He would have made us slaves if we did not have the choice in this matter. Unfortunately, because we have free will, we have, and often do make choices contradictory to God’s loving commands. This creates separation from us to God. He is holy, and perfect, and good. Our choice to sin (behave outside the laws of God) causes separation between us and God. Not because he is vengeful and full of wrath, but because we cannot live unholy lives and be in the presence of such a holy God, we cannot live beyond the boundaries he set in place to be near to him. 

Imagine, if you will, a moment in a court case when a murderer is on trial. The family of the murdered loved one is watching the case unfold as the judge proceeds with the verdict. In spite of all the evidence making it clear this person was the killer, the judge simply says, “I forgive you”, then walks out of the room. Justice would not have been served, outrage would ensue. 

God is no different. He sets the law and he must judge those who break the law, anything less would be unjust. We could all agree than injustice does not equate to love. We could even go as far as to say that injustice would be an indication of corruption. Since we know that God both is not and can not be corrupt, than it would be against his very nature to be unjust. That he serves punishment to those of us (all of us) for breaking His law points back to his consistent nature of love and goodness. Only that which is vindicated (justified) can be present with God.

This is where the stunning part of God’s love comes into play. The Bible states the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23), and by death we mean separation from God eternally. If we follow through that very same verse that speaks of death, we find this: “the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Rom 6:23) Opposite to separation from God (death), we find life. By life we mean not only eternity with God, but also nearness of his life to ours. 

God set the law based on what is good and right. We acted out of the law by sinning, and the punishment of death was given. Not death in the sense of ceasing to live, but death in the sense of eternally separated from God. The payment for breaking God’s law was separation. But then, God stepped down from his throne where he rules as Judge and payed our price. He sent Jesus, God in flesh, to die once and for all and satisfied the payment of our law-breaking actions. Upon acceptance of this gift of life, we receive our justification from God, not by anything we could have done, but by his amazing grace.
On one hand, God needs to judge the world or he would be unjust and thus unloving. On the other hand, knowing this, we can see just how much his heart was moved by compassion for humanity to help us in our inability to live up to his expectations for his commands. It is through God’s judgement that his gift of grace and abundance of love is seen a most humbling way. 

Love,







photo credit: Ian Froome @ Unsplash

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