A Season of Separation

Restoration waits for those on the path of repentance.

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As a father of many foster, three birth, and one adopted, I had my fair share of bellowing out the command, “go to your room,” due to their disobedience or misbehavior. The purpose of that consequence was to use the forced family separation as a time of reflection in hopes that repentance would follow. At the right time, I would make my way to their room, talk about what was done, reveal their error, chat with them about any further consequences, layout how they should have acted, and then explained what needed to be done on their part for reconciliation and restoration. From the moment I sent them to their room to the time when they were released, I was in complete control as the figure of authority; the one motivated by love that intentionally used the separation as a tool for their betterment. Would it have been appropriate for one of their siblings to open their door and set them free? Or, sneak into their room with a game and play? How about the entire family bringing up dessert and all having a grand time in their room while they were supposed to be separated? Of course not! Why? Because it was not their place to interfere; they lacked the authority to usurp dad’s path of reconciliation. But, consider what would have occurred if the mom and all the other children went to their room and played all day, even eating dinner with them? That child would not have experienced the lesson in separation and would have harbored harsh feelings toward the father as he was the only one perceived to be unfair.

There are times when our Heavenly Father operates in like manner, and through church discipline, sends a child to their “room” for introspection; as the first step on the path to repentance and reconciliation. Over the years, I have experienced a few occasions where a church member’s sins were confronted only to have them dig in deeper, refuse to repent, and ultimately walk away from the fellowship. Clearly, they were in sin; angry, immature, slanderous, spiteful, vindictive, and carnal, yet something inevitably occurs most of the time in the season of separation; their siblings interfere with God’s tool of restoration. From the comfort of their homes, and amid their sin, their brothers and sisters in Christ start to call, visit, send cards, all conveying the same message, “We love you, we miss you, please come back, the church needs you.” They continue to receive copies of the bulletins, the monthly financial statements, and a constant flow of gossip, all from their family members; words of affirmation, comfort, and concern from every member of their family except for their Father. The season of silence that God would have used to evoke feelings of isolation and loneliness, restoring the sinner in their relationship with God through repentance, has been hindered, stopped even, by the well-intentioned. Folks have essentially gone into the room of their disobedient sibling, set up a nice meal, and had a party while the Father watched with a grieved heart from the other room.

Sin separates, it always has, ever since Adam and Eve disobeyed God in the Garden of Eden. Right after they ate the forbidden fruit, they hid from God behind some bushes. When God came to the garden that day, he asked, “Where are you?”, not because He was terrible at playing Hide and Seek, nor did God lose His power of omniscience, instead because He wanted Adam and Even to acknowledge their season of separation, confess their sins and be restored (Gen. 3). Nothing stood in the path of God’s plan of reconciliation, and Adam and Eve were better for it. Even today, we are commanded to protect God’s season of separation when our Father is disciplining His children (Isa. 59:2, Mt. 18:15-17, I Cor. 5:1-13). 

In high school, I spent a weekend with a friend at his house. During that stay, my friend got into trouble with his dad, and while my friend was being yelled at, I injected something like, “It wasn’t all his fault…” I never finished that sentence for his dad looked at me sternly and said something like, “Don’t get in my way, this is MY son.” This was reinforced in boot camp years later as we all witnessed the mistake of getting between a drill instructor and the recruit he was correcting! How much more should we refrain from getting in God’s way? We lack the authority to usurp His plan of reconciliation; it is simply not our place. And, if we genuinely want the best for our brothers and sisters in Christ, as much as it pains us to hear the laments from their isolation, we must acknowledge our Father knows better and stay out of His way. 

Scripture: “This testimony is true. Therefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith” -Titus 1:13, ESV

Question: Do you know anyone that God has placed in a season of separation? Would you commit to praying for this person that God’s children would protect this time, that they would soon repent and be restored into the fellowship?

Prayer: Father, it is difficult to see someone we care about and love being disciplined. Please help me have the strength to trust you through the process. May I never interfere or stand in the way of your path of restoration. May the separated one miss the fellowship of their church family, the sweetness of your presence, the intimacy in prayer, and the power of your love enough to repent of their sins and be restored into your family. Thank you for caring enough to invest in our lives; you are a good Father. In the name of Jesus Christ, I pray. Amen.

The Little Coal That Could

We all need each other, but most of all, we need God.

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A late hour knock on the door interrupted the preacher from his position before the fire in his den. Unwinding himself from the blanket, he slipped into his moccasins and headed for the door. The gust of wind that hurried the visitor inside was a reminder of the fire’s need; it was a windy winter night in London. The visitor was not unknown; he had been a member of the church for years but had absented himself from the fellowship as of late. With both men warming before the fire, the man tried to explain his disassociation from the church. “Preacher, I have been a Christian and faithful member of the church for years, but at this point in my life, I just don’t see any valid reasons for attending anymore.” While listening, the preacher removed the fire poker from the cast iron holder and started to stoke the coals. The visitor continued, “I have just experienced more hurt than help. I’ve seen hypocrisy, I’ve been judged, I don’t feel like I am being fed from the sermons anymore, the music needs help, and someone a few months ago even had me move for I was in her seat.” While the visitor spoke and the preacher stoked, they both looked intently upon the fire. “I just feel that God can be worshiped from my home through prayer, bible study, and even song,” the visitor explained. While he talked, the preacher pushed one coal away from the rest with the poker. While the man continued presenting his excuses and justifying his unbiblical behavior, they both watched the isolated coal lose its heat and transition from red to grey. Then, without a word, the preacher pushed that coal back in the group, and instantly it regained its warmth and red color, thriving and contributing to the fire once again. The man, eyes filled with tears, looked at the preacher and simply said, “see you Sunday,” as he gathered his things and made his way to the door.

There are certainly times when we feel like this man; some even put action to those feelings and withdraw from fellowship. We could all fill a sheet of paper with our excuses and justifications, the music that doesn’t stir us, the sermons that don’t fill us, the deacon’s that don’t visit with us, and the members that don’t love us. Yet, we are commanded to crucify our feelings and act on truth alone (Proverbs 12:15 and 28:26). So, what does God say about church attendance? Could we not worship Him at home by watching a sermon online, joining a virtual choir, and spending time in prayer and study? According to the bible, Jesus loved the church enough to die for her (Eph. 5:25), has a desire to marry her (II Cor. 11:2), empowered her to advance His love (Mt. 16:18), and will usher her into His presence when this life is over (Phil. 3:20). So, anyone that intentionally separates themselves from a group so loved and used by God is purposefully positioning themselves as an enemy of the cross (I John 4:20).

In my 25 years of pastoral experience, I have mostly found those “Christians” that forgo weekly fellowship and choose to worship at home are the most gospel useless, immature, and selfish people I’ve ever met. When we refuse to submit to the will of God for our lives through our local church membership, we fail in the areas of fellowship, collective worship and prayer, stewardship, discipleship, and practical love (II Cor. 6:1, Mt. 9:37-38). God does not bless those who disregard His will for their life, choosing to make their own way (I Sam. 15:22, John 14:15).

There is a good chance that if you are on the sidelines of the faith, not an active member of a local congregation, you have excellent reasons. I am not trying to minimize your pain or hurt; the truth is, I have been where you are. I am hoping you will prayerfully consider the words in this devotion, read each scriptural reference, and seek God’s will for your life concerning the body of Christ.

Scripture: “For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in one Spirit, we were all baptized into one body-Jews or Greeks, slaves or free-and all were made to drink of one Spirit. For the body does not consist of one member but of many.

Question: Will you be willing to evaluate your contributions as a member of the local church and, after prayer and reflection, ask God to use you in a greater capacity?

Prayer: Father, you know my heart and any reasons I have for either not being involved or not being used as much as you would desire through your church. I ask you to search my heart and reveal any sins of omission or commission that I may confess them all and be exposed to your grace and mercy. Please give me the mind to understand, the heart to desire, and the strength to follow through. May the primary goal of my life be to hear you say “well done“. In the name of Jesus Christ, I pray. Amen.

Delay the Decay!

Salt serves as a preservative, so should we.

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When Jesus says that Christians are the salt of the earth, He’s talking to a group of people that did not have an appliance store on the corner with wall to wall refrigerators for sale. The only method of preserving meat and fish was to cover the food with salt to delay the decay. From the moment a fish was caught or a lamb slaughtered, it started to decompose, and while that decay couldn’t be stopped, it could be delayed. So, salt was used to slow that decay. This world has been in a state of decay since Adam and Eve yielded to temptation in the Garden of Eden, and while God is not charging us with stopping that decay, He is calling us to delay it.  This may surprise you, but for me, the shocking news is not that sin is so prevalent, our culture so wicked, media so perverse, politics so corrupt, and government so immoral. It does not shock me that sinners’ sin; in fact, I expect it (John 8:34). What is shocking and saddening to our Father is that very few Christians are slowing the process.

Haddon Robinson tells the story about the French culture of the early 1700s in the process of decay.  The King had a motto: “After me, the deluge.” He was right; it was a prophetic voice. That’s precisely what happened, and the French Revolution ripped France apart. Just 20 miles across the channel, the English culture had the same rot. Historians have described at length the moral corruption of English culture. And yet, England did not go through a revolution. Why? Why was it spared? Was it their large Navy or their suave diplomats? Their honest politicians or their tough police force? No. As the historian and American President Woodrow Wilson put it, the country was spared because, in 1703, John Wesley was born in England. Wesley, a follower of Jesus, theologian, and evangelist who lived out the Beatitudes, proclaimed the gospel, spread his salt, and delayed the decay. Wesley founded what we know as the Methodist church, which, to date, celebrates over 130 million adherents in over 130 countries.

Our culture is so wicked, media so perverse, politics so corrupt, and government so immoral it should not surprise nor shock you to know that America is at the lowest moral state in its history.  What is shocking and saddening to our Father is that very few Christians are slowing the process!  

May we all be challenged today, to step up like those that have gone on before us, and start spreading the salt, delaying the decay and being the preservative that God has called and empowered us to be.  Let me put it this way; I believe that until the rapture occurs, we are to be faithful at holding the doors of grace open by the words we give and the lives we live by being the salt

What has been going on the past hundred years?  Well, for the first hundred and fifty years in America, we enjoyed living in the shade of the spiritual tree that had been planted by our forefathers and sailing on the winds of spiritual giants we called leaders.  Then in the 1950’s we got complacent, lazy, and took for granted our freedoms.  We stopped fighting, slacked in our praying, and became lax in our church attendance.  

  • In 1961 in Maryland, the Supreme Court ruled their constitution that required all those in public office to believe in God’s existence was unconstitutional.  
  • In 1962 the Supreme Court prohibited prayer in public schools.
  • In 1963 the Bible was banned from public schools.
  • In 1973 abortion was made legal
  • In 1993 traditional, Biblical marriage was challenged in Hawaii.
  • Now we are seeing the legalization of marijuana and so many other laws that run counter our Lord and His Word.

The effects of these pivotal moments in our history have had adverse impacts that resonate to this day with: 

Young People

1. For 15 years before 1963, pregnancies in girls ages 15 through 19 years had been no more than 15 per thousand; after 1963, pregnancies increased by 187%. 

2. For younger girls, ages 10 to 14 years, pregnancies since 1963 are up 553%.

3. Before 1963, sexually transmitted diseases among students were 400 per 100,000. Since 1963, they are up 226%.

The Family

1. Before 1963, divorce rates had been declining for 15 years. After 1963 divorces increased 300% each year for the next 15 years.

2. Since 1963 unmarried people living together is up 353%

3. Since 1963, single parent families are up 140%.

4. Since 1963, single parent families with children are up 160%.


1. SAT scores rapidly declined after 1962, even though the same test has been used since 1941.

2. In 1974-75, the rate of decline of the SAT scores decreased, even though they continued to decline. That was when there was an explosion of private religious schools. There were only 1000 Christian schools in America in 1965. Between 1974 to 1984 they increased to 32,000. 

What is my point?

The same power possessed by Wesley, and many others, used to delay the decay is the same power that we say we are possessed with. I think a hundred years is long enough for the devil to roam around our country like he owns the joint. It is time for us to get so excited about our salvation and serious about the mission that we demonstrate to this unbelieving and sinful world that we have the power within us to change this world around us by spreading our salt and delaying the decay until Jesus comes for us!  I still believe America is a country worth fighting for, how about you?

Scripture: “You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored?  It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet” -Matthew 5:13-14, ESV

Question: Are you willing to elevate your service to God today? Perhaps tonight, write down specific ways in which you can be an agent of change for Jesus.

Prayer: Father, I don’t want to sit on the sidelines while this country continues to decay spiritually; I want to slow that process. The longer we have until your return, the more souls we can claim for you; that is your will that none should perish. Please reveal to me specific ways to make a difference and change someone’s eternal direction. Please give me the strength to remain pure, the focus to stay on mission, the courage to speak up in love, and the faith to believe you’re not done with our country. In the name of Jesus Christ, I pray. Amen.