Pastor Kirk

Notes from Scio Community Church, Ann Arbor, Michigan

Jude, 20 July 2014

Big Idea: Know the Truth and He will set you free!

Overview: Jude warns believers that certain ungodly people are creeping into the church, distorting the grace of God, and denying Jesus Christ.

Introduction

Are you protected? Do you use protection? For many years we have been warned to guard against…computer viruses. They can sneak onto our computers and wreak all sorts of havoc with our valuable information—or so I’ve been told! I won’t contribute to the endless Mac versus PC debate, but I happen to know many who have had computers infected with viruses. How do they occur? It could be through software that is installed on the machine. Sometimes they are e-mail attachments that are activated when opened. It’s important to be on alert, pay attention to what you open and install on your computer, and generally a good idea to have some type of antivirus protection on your device.

Today we continue our series The Most Unread Books of The Bible, a survey of some of the least-read Bible texts according to BibleGateway.com.

We began with
Jonah. Last week we looked at another prophet, Joel. Today we examine another “J”—Jude.

Jude is one of a handful of books that are comprised of a single chapter.

genre: epistle/letter
author:
Jude
date:
between 70 and 80 AD
to:
Christians

The big idea of Jude is to be on guard against those who want to corrupt your faith and, therefore, your life. It continues to amaze me how relevant a two thousand year-old book can be in our progressive, 21st century culture.

Jude, a servant of Jesus Christ and a brother of James, (1a)

Jude is not only the brother of James, he is also the half brother of Jesus, though he does not consider himself an apostle (v. 17).

To those who have been called, who are loved by God the Father and kept by Jesus Christ:
(1b)

Mercy, peace and love be yours in abundance.
(2)

Dear friends, although I was very eager to write to you about the salvation we share, I felt I had to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints. For certain men whose condemnation was written about long ago have secretly slipped in among you. They are godless men, who change the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord.
(3-4)

Notice the intentionality behind their actions. These are not uneducated, naive people. They are on a mission. They are secretive. They are subtle. They are godless. They change God’s grace, promote immorality, and deny Christ. They are false teachers, heretics, and liars. Have you ever encountered one? They’re all around! They take the Scriptures and twist them, distort them, and rip them out of context to be manipulated for their purposes. We should not be surprised. Satan did the exact same thing to Jesus while He was fasting in the desert for forty days.

Satan quoted Scripture!

He knows the Bible better than most of us!

The messages sound so good, so positive, so affirming, so politically correct.

“God helps those who help themselves.” Where is that in the Bible?

“God made me this way.” He created you and me, but we are all broken because of sin and The Fall, desperately in need of transformation by the power of the Holy Spirit.

“God loves everyone.” Yes He does, so much so that He wants what’s best for us which is often uncomfortable at the moment for our growth and future benefit.

“God wants me happy.” He is more concerned about Your relationship with Him and others than your temporary pleasure.

“God will forgive me.” Followers of Jesus are forgiven because of what Christ did on the cross, but that does not mean there won’t be painful consequences for our rebellion against God and others.

“God wants me rich.” He does want to bless us, but it may not be the way we envision and when we envision. His greatest blessings will be eternity with Him.

“I need to do great things for God so He will love me.” You’re already loved. We love Him and obey Him as a response because He first loved us. All of the social activism in the world won’t cause Him to love You any more than He already does.


Though you already know all this, I want to remind you that the Lord delivered his people out of Egypt, but later destroyed those who did not believe. And the angels who did not keep their positions of authority but abandoned their own home — these he has kept in darkness, bound with everlasting chains for judgment on the great Day. In a similar way, Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding towns gave themselves up to sexual immorality and perversion. They serve as an example of those who suffer the punishment of eternal fire. (5-7)

Jude says they already knew this, yet he offers a reminder of the consequences of sin. Tragically, many today think of Sodom and Gomorrah as an imaginary place that never existed—or worse, a place they’d like to visit. As Jude says, it was filled with sexual immorality and perversion and there are consequences—the punishment of eternal fire. The more I listen to the messages of our culture, the more it seems like we are told to seek immediate pleasure at all times. Nobody mentions responsibility, consequences, others, or even the radical idea of waiting, saving, delaying, or sacrificing now for rewards later. We not only want instant news, coffee, downloads, and entertainment, we want instant experiences, pleasures, and our every desire on demand.

Let me offer my most offensive statement of the day:

It’s not all about you!!!

I know that’s what we’re told, 24/7/365. I know it’s the prevailing message in our culture. I know every decision we make must first go through the “what’s in it for me?” filter, but it’s a lie!

The worst is when the religion of consumerism invades our relationship with God. I will love and serve God as long as He loves and serves me. I will go to church as long as I get something out of it. I will volunteer when it’s convenient and makes me feel good about myself. I’ll gladly share my leftovers of my time, talents and treasures with God if there is any!

In the very same way, these dreamers pollute their own bodies, reject authority and slander celestial beings. But even the archangel Michael, when he was disputing with the devil about the body of Moses, did not dare to bring a slanderous accusation against him, but said, “The Lord rebuke you!” Yet these men speak abusively against whatever they do not understand; and what things they do understand by instinct, like unreasoning animals — these are the very things that destroy them.
(8-10)

Woe to them! They have taken the way of Cain; they have rushed for profit into Balaam’s error; they have been destroyed in Korah’s rebellion. (11)

These men are blemishes at your love feasts, eating with you without the slightest qualm — shepherds who feed only themselves. They are clouds without rain, blown along by the wind; autumn trees, without fruit and uprooted — twice dead. They are wild waves of the sea, foaming up their shame; wandering stars, for whom blackest darkness has been reserved forever. (12-13)

Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied about these men: “See, the Lord is coming with thousands upon thousands of his holy ones to judge everyone, and to convict all the ungodly of all the ungodly acts they have done in the ungodly way, and of all the harsh words ungodly sinners have spoken against him.” These men are grumblers and faultfinders; they follow their own evil desires; they boast about themselves and flatter others for their own advantage. (14-16)

But, dear friends, remember what the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ foretold. They said to you, “In the last times there will be scoffers who will follow their own ungodly desires.” These are the men who divide you, who follow mere natural instincts and do not have the Spirit. (17-19)

So what?

But you, dear friends, build yourselves up in your most holy faith and pray in the Holy Spirit. Keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life. (20-21)

Be merciful to those who doubt; snatch others from the fire and save them; to others show mercy, mixed with fear — hating even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh. (22-23)

To him who is able to keep you from falling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy — to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen. (24-25)

Conclusion

We are to guard our hearts against the devil’s schemes. They can be subtle. We need the full armor of God as we daily engage with the forces of God and the forces of evil whose mission is to steal, kill and destroy.

You can listen to this message and others at the Scio podcast here. You can also subscribe to our podcast here.

Joel, 13 July 2014

Big Idea: The day of the Lord is coming. Are you ready?

Overview: Joel explains that a recent plague of locusts is a judgment from God and calls Judah to repent. Although God judges Judah now, He will avenge Judah of her enemies.

Introduction

The day of the LORD. Today is Sunday which many call the LORD’s day. One could make a case that every day is the LORD’s day since the psalmist wrote

“This is the day the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.” (Psalm 118:24)

This fascinating phrase, the day of the LORD, appears several times throughout the Bible.

Last week we began our series
The Most Unread Books of the Bible with a look at the book of Jonah. While the story is familiar, the book is infrequently read according to BibleGateway.com.

Joel

Last week’s lead character, Jonah, was called by God to proclaim God’s truth to the people of Nineveh.

Today we look at another prophet,
Joel. He also was sent to proclaim God’s truth, but we have more details about the content of his message.

The Day of the Lord

In the Old Testament, God created Adam and Eve, saved humanity through Noah and his family in the arc, and made a covenant with Abraham to bless his offspring—the Jews—and ultimately Gentiles, too. For generations, God’s people vacillated between following God and obeying Him. Prophets were sent to urge the people to repent and follow God or face dire consequences. The day of the LORD meant the day of judgment, whether it was judgment for Israel or other nations.

The flood itself was one example of God’s judgment. Other punishments included invasions by enemy nations or even natural disasters. The book of Joel highlights one of these tragedies.

The book of Joel begins with these words

  The word of the LORD that came to Joel son of Pethuel. Hear this, you elders; listen, all who live in the land. Has anything like this ever happened in your days or in the days of your forefathers? Tell it to your children, and let your children tell it to their children, and their children to the next generation. What the locust swarm has left the great locusts have eaten; what the great locusts have left the young locusts have eaten; what the young locusts have left other locusts have eaten. Wake up, you drunkards, and weep! Wail, all you drinkers of wine; wail because of the new wine, for it has been snatched from your lips. A nation has invaded my land, powerful and without number; it has the teeth of a lion, the fangs of a lioness. It has laid waste my vines and ruined my fig trees. It has stripped off their bark and thrown it away, leaving their branches white. Mourn like a virgin in sackcloth grieving for the husband of her youth. Grain offerings and drink offerings are cut off from the house of the LORD. The priests are in mourning, those who minister before the LORD. The fields are ruined, the ground is dried up; the grain is destroyed, the new wine is dried up, the oil fails. Despair, you farmers, wail, you vine growers; grieve for the wheat and the barley, because the harvest of the field is destroyed. The vine is dried up and the fig tree is withered; the pomegranate, the palm and the apple tree — all the trees of the field — are dried up. Surely the joy of mankind is withered away. Put on sackcloth, O priests, and mourn; wail, you who minister before the altar. Come, spend the night in sackcloth, you who minister before my God; for the grain offerings and drink offerings are withheld from the house of your God. Declare a holy fast; call a sacred assembly. Summon the elders and all who live in the land to the house of the LORD your God, and cry out to the LORD. Alas for that day! For the day of the LORD is near; it will come like destruction from the Almighty. Has not the food been cut off before our very eyes — joy and gladness from the house of our God? The seeds are shriveled beneath the clods. The storehouses are in ruins, the granaries have been broken down, for the grain has dried up. How the cattle moan! The herds mill about because they have no pasture; even the flocks of sheep are suffering. To you, O LORD, I call, for fire has devoured the open pastures and flames have burned up all the trees of the field. Even the wild animals pant for you; the streams of water have dried up and fire has devoured the open pastures. (Joel 1)

A great plague of locusts has been unleashed on the earth as a consequence of sin and rebellion, with warnings of greater punishments.

If you’re like me you think, so what? They couldn’t stand a few locusts?

A few months ago I saw a moth in our home. It was small, easily captured, and didn’t seem to be much of a bother…until we discovered it had friends! For months we set traps to capture the dozens of flying pests that invaded our pantry and nearly every room in the house. We finally rid our home of them, but they were annoying and expensive to exterminate.

Locusts are pests like moths, but larger. They are basically grasshoppers. They look pretty cool when they are alone, but they can swarm and when they do it can be nothing short of a natural disaster.

Even small swarms may cover several square miles, and weigh thousands of tons. They eat the equivalent of their own weight in a day, and, flying at night with the wind, may cover over 300 miles! The largest known swarm covered 513,000 km², comprising approximately 12.5 trillion insects and weighing 27.5 million tons!
Wrath

Why would a kind, gentle, loving God ever send such disaster upon His children? Precisely because He
loves them! Their behavior was destructive, they forgot Him, and He wanted to get their attention before they self-destructed.

God chastens those He loves, and that chastening calls people to repentance. He keeps His covenant by showing mercy—giving them warnings before punishment. He often sends prophets like Jonah and Joel to get the attention of wayward people.

Chapter one of Joel describes the immediate locust plague which lead to a call for repentance and prayer.

Chapter two is similar. It begins

Blow the trumpet in Zion; sound the alarm on my holy hill. Let all who live in the land tremble, for the day of the LORD is coming. It is close at hand — (Joel 2:1)

A third scene (2:18-32) shows God’s response, returning destroyed crops and promising a future age of the Spirit.

Finally, judgment against the nations is presented, ending with God’s blessings on His forgiven people (3:17-21).

“Then you will know that I, the LORD your God, dwell in Zion, my holy hill. Jerusalem will be holy; never again will foreigners invade her. “In that day the mountains will drip new wine, and the hills will flow with milk; all the ravines of Judah will run with water. A fountain will flow out of the LORD’s house and will water the valley of acacias. But Egypt will be desolate, Edom a desert waste, because of violence done to the people of Judah, in whose land they shed innocent blood. Judah will be inhabited forever and Jerusalem through all generations. Their bloodguilt, which I have not pardoned, I will pardon.” The LORD dwells in Zion! (Joel 3:17-21)

Joel mentions little about the details for the disobedience that led to the punishment. His audience likely knew their transgressions.

Amos is the first prophet to mention “the day of the LORD.” The pattern is commonly judgment followed by salvation. The locust is followed by the restoration of God’s people.


The Day of the LORD in the New Testament

The New Testament speaks of the day of the LORD, the second coming of Christ. Jesus came once as a little baby, but He promised to return and the coming is unexpected.

…for you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. (1 Thessalonians 5:2)

But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare. (2 Peter 3:10)

So What?

Thousands of years ago a guy wrote about plagues followed by restoration. So what?

God hates sin.
God judges sin.
We must repent of our sins and receive His merciful forgiveness.

I can hardly go a day without hearing about a tornado, global warming, mudslides, hurricanes, famine, drought, or some other natural disaster. Wars are raging in the Middle East and beyond. Is it God’s judgment? Is it the natural consequence of sin? I have no idea, but I do know we’re all one moment, one event from catastrophe. I also know our country has had a reputation for seeking God, an idea that seems like ancient history. God judges all sin, all people, all nations.

The good news is that we all have access to mercy, forgiveness and grace not because of what we have done, but because of the death and resurrection of Jesus. All other religions are about doing things to make God love and accept us. Only the Christian faith describes a loving God who sent His son for us. Nothing you can do can make God love you more. Nothing you can do can make God love you less…but you must repent and receive the gift of grace, unmerited favor. That’s why Jesus died. That’s why we worship and celebrate, remembering the great sacrifice of God.

The great “day of the LORD” is someday in the future. It could be today. It could be tomorrow. You don’t have to subscribe to a stack of periodicals to realize our nation has been increasingly turning from God. Sin abounds, often unrepentant and even filled with pride. Judgment day is coming for all of us. Are you ready?

This is not one of those warm, happy sermons. People hated prophets because they were called to sound an alarm. So, too, I urge you to repent of your sins, get right with God, run into His arms, receive His gift of grace and mercy, and experience forgiveness and deep shalom peace.

If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land. (2 Chronicles 7:14)

Oh how we need that today!

You can listen to this message and others at the Scio podcast here. You can also subscribe to our podcast here.

Jonah, 6 July 2014

Big Idea: God can be trusted and obedience is His love language.

Series Introduction

Do you like books?

The Bible. It’s a great book. It’s a big book. Actually, it’s 66 books.

Over the past three and a half years since I’ve served as your pastor, we’ve examined several of these 66 books. Specifically, we have studied James, John, and Ephesians. They are all popular books found in the New Testament.

But what about the other 63? What about the Old Testament and those short New Testament books nobody every seems to talk about?

Recently a list was assembled of the least-read books of the Bible according to
BibleGateway.com. This series will look at several of them, beginning with a popular story in an unpopular book…Jonah.

Most of you know the story. God sends Jonah to Nineveh, but Jonah runs from God. He's swallowed by a great fish, puked back up, and then goes to Nineveh to obey God…sorta! There’s a lot more to the book of Jonah than a whale—and there might not have even been a whale!

Before we look at the text of these books, we will briefly examine the context. This is essential when reading anything, especially the Bible. It has been said that you can make the Bible say anything you want, and that’s largely true, especially if you ignore the context, miss the big picture of the story of God, and merely extract sound bites. So here’s a little context:

First, the
genre or type of literature is narrative. It tells a story. It is not poetry or a scientific textbook or a history book.

Second, the
author was likely Jonah.

Third, the
date of the writing is between 782 and 745 BC.

The
location of the beginning is the city of Joppa.

Jonah is one of the minor prophets.

Veggie Tales made Jonah the subject of their first feature film.

Many know the main story. God tells Jonah to preach to the people of Nineveh, a wicked city but not a pagan city. They knew and worshipped God…at least they did at one point. This was not an evangelism mission to proclaim good news to unbelievers but a prophetic mission to call backslidden believers to repentance.

The story

The book of Jonah can be summarized in twenty words. Are you ready?

God decrees

The word of the LORD came to Jonah son of Amittai: “Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me.” (1:1-2)

Jonah flees

But Jonah ran away from the LORD and headed for Tarshish. He went down to Joppa, where he found a ship bound for that port. After paying the fare, he went aboard and sailed for Tarshish to flee from the LORD. (1:3)

Storms follow

Then the LORD sent a great wind on the sea, and such a violent storm arose that the ship threatened to break up. (1:4)

Fish swallows

But the LORD provided a great fish to swallow Jonah, and Jonah was inside the fish three days and three nights. (1:17)

The book of Jonah is either historical or allegorical/parabolic. For thousands of years it was believed to be a true account of actual events. In the 19th century, however, some began considering it a parable or allegory because of the alleged impossibility of surviving 3 days and nights in the belly of a fish.

It seems many now believe the events were possible and large fish—not necessarily whales—have been discovered. Some say it was a shark. There is an account of a sailor in 1758 that fell overboard in the Mediterranean and swallowed by a shark (Carcharias). Upon being hit by a cannon ball, the shark vomited out the sailor who was picked up by a boat with little injury. (Haupt:
Jonah’s Whale in American Philosophical Society, vol. 46, 1907)

Some used to believe there were no whales in the Mediterranean, but sperm whales are found there and are large enough to swallow a man. The head of a giant sperm-whale may be more than 30 feet long!

I believe it is an historical account, but even if it was merely a story designed to teach like Jesus’ parables, it packs a punch! It’s also worth noting how Jesus referred to Jonah (Matt 12:38-41, Luke 11:29-30, 32).

Second chances

Then the word of the LORD came to Jonah a second time: “Go to the great city of Nineveh and proclaim to it the message I give you.” (3:1-2)

Jonah advances

Jonah obeyed the word of the LORD and went to Nineveh. Now Nineveh was a very important city — a visit required three days. (3:3)

God relents

When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, he had compassion and did not bring upon them the destruction he had threatened. (3:10)

Now we come to the part of the story I want to emphasize.

Jonah’s lament

But Jonah was greatly displeased and became angry.
(4:1)

Why? He hated the Ninevites. They were like Buckeyes! LOL! Seriously, though, they turned away from God and he didn’t want God to waste His love and blessings on those who abandoned the faith. It sounds a lot like the older brother in the story of the Prodigal son, doesn’t it?

Jonah is so upset about God showing grace—unmerited favor—to the Ninevites that he wants to die!

Jonah’s case

Now, O LORD, take away my life, for it is better for me to die than to live.” (4:3)

These are strong words! Fortunately for the people of Nineveh, God wins the debate!

God’s grace

But Nineveh has more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left, and many cattle as well. Should I not be concerned about that great city?” (4:11)

So What?

Jonah disobeyed, obeyed, and was angry that God was gracious (ironic!). So what?

Are you obeying God? Obedience is His love language. Obey and avoid the detour!

Are you compassionate for others? Regardless of how they look, smell, vote, talk or act, they are created in the image of God with dignity, value and worth. Jonah wanted the Ninevites destroyed. God had other ideas. It’s not our place to judge. The Great Commandment is to not only love God but to love others, and, of course, we love God by loving others.

God is in control. We are not. The book of Jonah is about God’s all-sovereign power and care. He is the God of second chances. He’s the God of mercy and grace.

You can listen to this message and others at the Scio podcast here. You can also subscribe to our podcast here.

Great Commission Sunday, 22 June 2014

Big Idea: We are all called to make disciples.

Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:16-20)

We are on a mission. The church doesn’t have a mission. The mission has a church! The mission includes a commission—a command, an order, an assignment.

We exist to fulfill the Great Commission and follow the Great Commandment by 
  • serving our communities
  • sharing our story
  • sending disciples to bless the nations

so that God is glorified.

To learn more about Great Commission Sunday including two videos and how to give, click here.

We are all called to make disciples. How? Time, talents and treasures.

Time: pray, build relationships online and in person, serve our global missionaries
Talents: go overseas short-term or long-term, study, serve in and through Scio & C&MA
Treasures: give financially (offering later)

Please pray for recent Global Missions Conference guests:

- the Volstads
- the Hanscomes
- The Careys

Please also pray for the Burns family, transitioning from an overseas assignment to a domestic one.

You can listen to this message and others at the Scio podcast here. You can also subscribe to our podcast here.

Loneliness, 8 June 2014

Big Idea: We are never alone, must embrace that reality, and ensure others are loved and connected.

There are droves of lonely people in the church, and that includes senior pastors and priests. The isolation comes from a lack of identification and identification comes through open communication. When we can be vulnerable and honest with one another, we understand each other in a profound way.

A lonely person may walk in to a church alone and leave alone each Sunday. Although they appreciate the free coffee and donuts the fellowship hall offers, what they really want is fellowship. Taking time to get to know the people around you and then reaching out to them outside of the church will allow for a greater, more stable community.

Of course, every church is different and while one church may be stronger in one area, it may be weaker in others. These are just a few issues that we as the Church Body need to be willing to address. And as we talk about them, we must remember to address them with humility, understanding and grace, keeping in mind our role as fellow hospital patients, not museum curators.

(from
http://www.relevantmagazine.com/god/church/5-uncomfortable-issues-church-needs-start-talking-about)

Introduction

What is the one factor that produces
happiness in people? According to a recent study it is the presence of rich, deep, meaningful relationships.

This should come as no surprise. Let’s go back—way back.

Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.” (Genesis 1:26)

God exists in community.
God said let us make man in our image. Although we worship one God—unlike many polytheistic religions of the world—God exists in three Persons: God the Father, God the Son, and the often neglected God the Holy Spirit. One of our most precious hymns vibrantly declares this theological truth:

“God in three Persons/Blessed Trinity” (
Holy, Holy, Holy)

God exists in community. I can’t entirely explain it, but there God
is community. God is all about relationships.

If you don’t believe me, turn a page or two to day six of the creation account in Genesis 2.

The LORD God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.” (Genesis 2:18)

The only thing that was not good during creation was a single man. It is not good for man to be alone! It is not good for woman to be alone.

Is it any wonder that loneliness can be so devastating?

“Ah look at all the lonely people.” -
Eleanor Rigby by The Beatles

Recent Studies on Loneliness

If I had time, I could cite a barrage of research that indicates the negative effects of loneliness. It can affect our overall well-being. Disconnected, lonely people are more prone to an early death.

Elderly people without adequate social interaction were twice as likely to die prematurely as those with friends.

The increased mortality risk is similar to that of smoking and twice as dangerous as obesity.

http://www.plosmedicine.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pmed.1000316

While loneliness is hardly new in our culture, it is growing. In the 1980’s about 20% of USAmericans were categorized as lonely.

One study of those 45 and older revealed 37% of men and 34% of women were lonely, though the older one got the less lonely they felt.

The percentage of lonely people has nearly doubled since the 80’s.

http://assets.aarp.org/rgcenter/general/loneliness_2010.pdf

How can this be when we are connected with cell phones, text, e-mail, video chat, and, of course, Facebook? After all, I have over one thousand Facebook friends so I couldn’t possibly ever experience loneliness. Right?!
A recent study of Facebook users found the more time you spend on Facebook, the less happy you feel throughout the day.

http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0069841#s2

Are you lonely?

The Loneliness Quiz (based upon the UCLA Loneliness Scale;
http://psychcentral.com/quizzes/loneliness.htm)

Even if you scored low, there is no guarantee you will never feel lonely. Let’s face it, there are seasons of life during which we feel more lonely than others. I have certainly felt more lonely since my relationship with my dad began to erode with his terminal dementia.

One study said 90% of men don’t have a true friend. That’s far more than a season. I must confess other than my wife, my best friend has lived in Delaware for more than twenty years. I cherish my relationship with him and we’ve been together at least once every single year, yet sometimes I wonder why I’ve been unable to establish such a relationship with someone local in more than two decades.

If you’re feeling lonely, you’re in good company with me, King David, and probably every person that has ever breathed air—including Jesus.

In our remaining time together I want to present three things:

  • Jesus understands loneliness
  • Jesus is with us in the midst of our loneliness
  • As followers of Jesus, we are called to wipe out loneliness

Jesus understands loneliness

If you are lonely today, Jesus understands. Really.

  • - man of sorrows

He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. (Isaiah 53:3)

  • - homeless

Jesus replied, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.” (Matthew 8:20; Luke 9:58)

  • - betrayed by one of His disciples, Judas
  • - one of His closest friends, Peter, denied Him three times
  • - His best friends deserted Him in the hour of His greatest need in the Garden of Gethsemane prior to His arrest (Matthew 26; Mark 14)
  • - He was tempted in every way and this included isolation (Hebrews 4:15)

No matter how lonely you have felt, none of us have experienced the ultimate loneliness Jesus experienced on the cross—for us. Not only was He alone above the crowds (except for the two thieves hanging beside Him), He encountered the most horrific of all loneliness: separation from God.

About the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?” — which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46; Mark 15:34; this was a quote of Psalm 22:1)

Hell is eternal separation from God and others. It is ground zero for loneliness.

Jesus suffered my hell for me that I might one day enjoy His heaven with Him.

Jesus knows loneliness.

Jesus is with us in the midst of our loneliness

The final words of Jesus recorded by Matthew as Christ ascends into heaven are

…surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20b)

God said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” (Hebrews 13:5b; see Deuteronomy 31:6)

I realize it’s very possible to be lonely even though you
know God is with you, but let’s face it, sometimes it’s hard to acknowledge something you can’t see.
For example, right now there are dozens and possibly hundreds of messages being sent to you and me. Can you hear them? Can you see them? Perhaps not, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t here. You can deny such waves exist, but that doesn’t make them go away. What we need, in fact, is a receiver to fully appreciate these messages. Any
radio or television will allow us to tune in to these invisible waves.

If Jesus walked into this room or any room in which you find yourself lonely, would you be less lonely? Of course!

Jesus said something interesting when He left our planet.

But I tell you the truth: It is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. (John 16:7)

Jesus is not here in this room in the flesh, but God is here. The Holy Spirit of God was unleashed on our planet about two thousand years ago and dwells within all believers. When we receive Jesus, we get the Holy Spirit, too.

If you are a Christ-follower, declare God’s truth over the lies of the enemy. Satan wants us lonely, depressed, and discouraged. We can’t threaten his agenda of death and destruction when we are consumed with our own sadness.

I’m not saying fake it and put on a happy face, but I am saying we need to know and speak the truth. If God is for us, who can be against us? We need to claim the authority we have in Jesus and the promises of God and acknowledge the presence of God with us. The Bible is like our radio or television, helping us see the reality of Emmanuel, God with us.

But if God was enough, there was no need to create Eve. Adam had God in the Garden of Eden, yet God said it was not good.

We need one another.

As followers of Jesus, we are called to wipe out loneliness

Look around the room. This is your family. I know, some of us are strange, but we’re all related by blood, the blood of Jesus. God has given us two simple yet daunting commands:

  • - love Him
  • - love others

If we truly devoted ourselves to one another, I wonder how often we would be lonely. If we got beyond ourselves and intentionally reached out to one another, would it even be possible to be lonely?!

Perhaps the problem isn’t the people in this room but it’s you. Maybe you’ve refused the invitations of others into deeper fellowship. When did you stop trusting people? Many have been so hurt by others that they build walls to protect themselves from being hurt again. Does that describe you? I’m not saying it’s easy, but I urge you to be vulnerable. Be honest. Open up. Trust. It may not be the entire church, but what would happen if you took a risk and shared something with your Life Group or even one or two people? Last Sunday David Hobson courageously shared with our entire church his struggles, and doing so encourages us to respond to him with our story.

“You can only be loved to the extent that you're known.” That’s intimacy. I believe many are lonely because they’ve not let anyone in. I urge you to try…again. You might want to begin with a professional, biblical counselor. Family Counseling and Samaritan Counseling are two local centers that I’ve experienced. Their contact information:

Family Counseling 734.477.9999 (quality Biblical counseling)
Samaritan Counseling 734.677.0609 (quality Biblical counseling)
Eileen Aveni, ema@ndzh.com (quality Biblical counseling)

Another great loneliness killer is serving others. Volunteer at Hope Clinic or another area non-profit. Serving others takes the focus off of ourselves and our pain and frequently opens new relationships to us.

A Challenge

Scio Community Church, I want to urge you to intentionally welcome the stranger(s) among us. As followers of Jesus, we are called to wipe out loneliness. How can we love our neighbor if we ignore them. I’m not suggesting we harass them (!), but as we have said in recent days, people aren’t looking for a friendly church. They are looking for friends. As we have guests, we must do more than shake their hand and smile, though that’s a good start. The only way we are going to see new people join our family is if we get out of our comfort zones and seek relationships with them. Here are a few simple things you can do any Sunday:

  • Invite them to Life Group following our worship gathering
  • Invite them to lunch after Life Group
  • Invite them to coffee this week
  • Get their phone or e-mail, if appropriate, and contact them
  • Invite them to your home for a meal or party

Scio, we offer one of the greatest things people today are seeking—relationships! Our annual theme is
connect and we’ve been called by God to connect people up to Him, in to one another, and out to our world.

The Bible is filled with exhortations regarding hospitality which is welcoming the stranger. Why? Because God is all about relationships. Are we?

You can listen to this message and others at the Scio podcast here. You can also subscribe to our podcast here.

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