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.



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.

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.

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.

Are you lonely?

The Loneliness Quiz (based upon the UCLA Loneliness Scale;

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:

  1. Jesus understands loneliness
  2. Jesus is with us in the midst of our loneliness
  3. 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, (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:

  1. Invite them to Life Group following our worship gathering
  2. Invite them to lunch after Life Group
  3. Invite them to coffee this week
  4. Get their phone or e-mail, if appropriate, and contact them
  5. 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.

Addiction, 1 June 2014

Big Idea: We are all addicted to sin and need God’s grace.

At AA meetings and therapy sessions, talking about addiction makes sense, but for some reason, it's not a topic most church people want to hear about. Certain addictions are definitely more socially acceptable to talk about than others. For example, it's OK to bug Frank about his smoking, but John's alcoholism is more hush-hush.

And yes, in many churches, a person's addictions can become fodder for gossip. However, if the Church were to first approach one another as family, then addicts in the Church might feel safer to be vulnerable about their struggles. Often, they just need to be loved and feel safe enough to know they can expose this part of themselves in a community where the addiction isn't crushing them every second.



One of the assumptions of this series is many—if not all—of us struggle with life in ways we’re not always comfortable in sharing. Is it acceptable to discuss sex with other Christians? What about mental illness or doubt? Today we explore the subject of addiction.

What comes to mind when you think of an addict?

For many, they think of a drug addict or alcoholic (which is also a drug addict since alcohol is a drug). Perhaps you thought of someone addicted to gambling or food or porn. Yet a confession by myself—or any Christian, for that matter—that I was addicted to drugs or porn or gambling would probably affect how you viewed me. As the
Relevant magazine article states:

At AA meetings and therapy sessions, talking about addiction makes sense, but for some reason, it's not a topic most church people want to hear about. Certain addictions are definitely more socially acceptable to talk about than others. For example, it's OK to bug Frank about his smoking, but John's alcoholism is more hush-hush.

The number one word to describe Scio Community Church is “family.” The magazine article continues:

And yes, in many churches, a person's addictions can become fodder for gossip. However, if the Church were to first approach one another as family, then addicts in the Church might feel safer to be vulnerable about their struggles. Often, they just need to be loved and feel safe enough to know they can expose this part of themselves in a community where the addiction isn't crushing them every second.

I’m ashamed to announce that I am an addict…of sin. While I battle all sorts of sins and am tempted in countless ways, I’m especially prone to the root of all sins—pride. Hopefully I hide it well but I compare myself to people; I judge some and feel like an underachiever around others.

How do you know you are addicted to something? When it controls you.

The most common addictions in the USA, according to one report, are

  1. alcohol
  2. smoking
  3. drugs
  4. gambling
  5. food
  6. video games
  7. Internet
  8. sex
  9. shopping
  10. work

It has been said that we are most vulnerable to desire and temptation when we are HALT:


Both the Old and New Testament declare we all sin. None of us is perfect. None is righteous. We all struggle with the holy and righteous standard God requires.

Jesus’ half brother wrote…

When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death. (James 1:13-15)

There is a clear progression: temptation > desire > sin > death

We are all addicted to sin, anything that keeps us from God. You might be struggling with what I call a capital A addiction like drugs or gambling or a small a addiction which is any number of sins for which there are no 12-step groups. It could be pride, selfishness, materialism, white lies, gossip, or even fear. Yes, fear. The most common command in the Bible is “fear not.” It occurs 366 times, one for every day of the year including leap year!

The solution to dealing with sin is not to try harder. Sure, you may be able to improve your life, do less bad stuff, and feel less guilty, but the reality is we all sin. We’re all messed up. We all desperately need help.

The reality is we are all broken and need healing. I want to encourage you to do one simple yet difficult thing. This is really the only way to deal with addiction or sin. Die!

That is, of course, what Jesus did. He died for us. He invites us to die, too. Die of our pride. Die of our self. Die so that paradoxically we might come alive. He said

Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it. (Mark 8:34-35)

There is a spiritual principle here, but also a physical one. Jesus is saying that we need to die in order to truly live in HIm.

The image of baptism is so rich. I love baptisms! The significance is that of a water grave. We put to death our old, human, broken self and then are resurrected to new life with Jesus Christ.

Paul, the most prolific author of the New Testament in the Bible wrote

I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead. (Philippians 3:10-11)

This may sound odd at first. In order to truly know Christ, we must die.

He also wrote

Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. (Colossians 3:5)

It doesn’t say to manage your sin, try harder, or do better. He says to die.

Addicts can’t begin recovery until they first admit they have a problem.

Sinners can’t begin recovery until they admit they have a problem...sin!

But first we must die!

“Oh, but I don’t really need to die. I can just remodel my life a bit,“ you say. No. Die. This is why there are so many people that call themselves Christians and so few that truly look like Jesus. We must die first.

A few years ago I was driving on Washtenaw and I noticed something missing... a McDonald’s! They demolished the entire restaurant and built a new one. Most builders will tell you it’s much easier to start from scratch than it is to remodel, and that’s why Jesus said to die.

He wants nothing short of total surrender. Some of you are still hanging on to your past, your secret sins, your security, your money, your habits...He wants total surrender. We must be broken. Brokenness is painful, but it’s wonderful.

We must die, but when we do, God does great things.

One of the most important things we can do in dying and surrender is to give up control. I often say I cannot control another person, and I struggle enough trying to control myself.

The Serenity Prayer offers a powerful declaration of surrender. It says…

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
The courage to change the things I can,
And wisdom to know the difference.

The more we die, the more Jesus can truly live in and through us. Amazingly…

God loves to use broken pots.

Too often the church is a place for condemnation rather than grace and forgiveness. As David said in the video, addicts need encouragement and support, not judgment and shame.

We are all broken and in need of healing and grace as sin addicts.

Paul wrote to the church in Corinth…

But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. (2 Corinthians 4:7)

But we must first be broken. We must first surrender. We must first die...and then we can truly live.

I want to invite and challenge you to die. Die to your flesh. Die to your desires, hopes and dreams. Surrender your time, talents and treasures to the One we call LORD. For Him to truly be LORD and for us to truly be free from sin and addiction we must surrender all to Jesus. He set the ultimate example for us when He willingly surrendered His life for us.

The beauty of dying to ourselves is how it frees us and allows us to be resurrected with Christ. Grace—unmerited favor—is generously offered. Forgiveness is lavished upon us.

Jesus didn’t come to make bad people good; He came to make dead people alive.

We are made new. Paul declared…

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! (2 Corinthians 5:17)

There is hope!

He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear and put their trust in the LORD. Blessed is the man who makes the LORD his trust, who does not look to the proud, to those who turn aside to false gods. (Psalm 40:2-4)

One of the most effective tools for fighting addiction is a program called Celebrate Recovery ( Similar to twelve-step groups, it clearly identifies the “higher power” as God. Here are the eight principles from the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5):

1. Realize I’m not God. I admit that I am powerless to control my tendency to do the wrong thing and that my life is unmanageable.

“Happy are those who know they are spiritually poor.”

2. Earnestly believe that God exists, that I matter to Him, and that He has the pose to help me recover.

“Happy are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.”

3. Consciously choose to commit all my life and will to Christ’s care and control.

“Happy are the meek.”

4. Openly examine and confess my faults to myself, to God, and to someone I trust.

“Happy are the pure in heart.”

5. Voluntarily submit to every change God wants to make in my life and humbly ask Him to remove my character defects.

“Happy are those whose greatest desire is to do what God requires.”

6. Evaluate all my relationships. Offer forgiveness to those who have hurt me and make amends for harm I’ve done to others, except when to do so would harm them or others.

“Happy are the peacemakers.”

7. Reserve a daily time with God for self-examination, Bible reading, and prayer in order to know God and His will for my life and to gain the power to follow His will.

8. Yield myself to God to be used to bring this Good News to others, both by my example and by my words.

“Happy are those who are persecuted because they do what God requires.”

Effective June 1, 2014, Celebrate Recovery is being offered on Tuesdays at 6:30 PM at Ann Arbor Church of the Nazarene on Packard Road in Ann Arbor.

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