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.

Sex, 4 May 2014

Big Idea: God loves sex. He created it! Like fire, it is beautiful within its proper boundaries and potentially deadly beyond.

Several months ago I came across an article entitled, “5 uncomfortable issues the church needs to talk about.” I read those words as a challenge! The article reads:

It has been said that the Church is not a museum of saints, but a hospital for sinners. Yet, most of us would much rather pretend to be a saint on display than call for an ambulance.

Week after week, many of us walk into a church, sit by people we have known for years and yet would never dream of sharing our innermost struggles with. While a large part of this is our pride, another factor is a Church that seems unwilling to talk about certain uncomfortable issues, choosing rather to ignore them, try to cover them up or simply reject people who bring them up.

There are many issues the Church as a whole needs to address, such as creationism, activism, environmental stewardship and many others. But there are many more issues that individuals in the Church are dealing with—issues that the Church Body should be talking about. In Galatians 6:2, Paul urged the Church to "Bear each other's burdens," so maybe with more grace and love we can turn on the light in the darkened rooms of each other’s hearts and let our churches become safe havens for the uncomfortable things we have to deal with.

Many of these issues need to be dealt with professionally first. But that should not be the end of it. Research shows just listening to someone and showing them you genuinely care for their situation can be a huge part of that person's healing process.

This is far from a comprehensive list—these are a few of the issues many people in churches around the world are dealing with, whether they admit it or not. And as people increasingly leave the Church, often over issues such as these, it is becoming more urgent that the Church talk about how to care for every one of its members.

The list includes doubt, loneliness, mental illness, addiction, and today’s topic, sexuality.

This series may frustrate you because we can’t fully unpack such important and challenging issues in thirty minutes. I hope to acknowledge the subject and provide resources for further study (see below). Once again, this will not be a comprehensive presentation but hopefully a starting point on a very important subject churches often fail to address. Tragically, our world never fails to address this issue of sexuality…and they are messed up! John 10:10 says

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. (John 10:10)

As we said a few weeks ago, we are in a battle. We have a real enemy who wants to steal, kill, and destroy you, me, our families, our planet. He cannot create anything. He can only distort and destroy that which God has made.

The contrast between God’s view of money and the world’s view is stark.
The contrast between God’s view of power and the world’s view is stark.
The contrast between God’s view of sexuality and the world’s view is stark.

Following Jesus is a radical endeavor! What I’m about to say may sound old-fashioned. It is. It’s about 6000 years old…and it still works today!!!

  1. In the beginning God…

The Bible is the story of God. History is His story. While we are included, it’s not about us. It’s about God. God was in the beginning (John 1:1-2)

In the beginning God… (Genesis 1:1)

In the beginning God created… (Genesis 1:1)

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. (Genesis 1:1)

As the song says, this is my Father’s world. He created it. He entrusted its care to us, but it is not ours.

2. God creates human beings in His image.

So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him… (Genesis 1:27a)

That is one of the greatest truths in the Bible. God created us in His image. We’re not junk! We’re not an accident! Every human has value, dignity and worth. Every human!

3. God creates human beings in His image as two distinct genders, male and female.

So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. (Genesis 1:27)

Male and female are different…by design. By God’s design.

When one of my kids was little, I began the sexuality conversation by asking what’s different about boys and girls. This child said, “Girls have long hair and boys have short hair!”

We are different, and it’s just our bodies that are different. We are wired completely differently. Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus! It’s easy to see this in the toys children enjoy and the way they communicate.

Men and women complement one another (yes, they can compliment one another, too!).

Our differences create challenges and conflicts, but those grow and shape us.

Men, don’t try to be women. Women, don’t try to be men. God created you male or female and He wants you to flourish in your gender, in your sexuality.

One of the reasons people are so confused about their sexuality is we are bombarded with messages that say we’re the same. We should wear the same clothes. We should wear the same cologne. We should act identically.

Men and women are not the same. Men and women are equivalent!

One dozen is not the same as twelve, but they are equivalent.
Four quarters is not the same as two halves, but they are equivalent.

God created male and female different. We are both equally important and loved. We are to celebrate and enjoy our differences, and there are many!

4. God’s commanded our ancestors to reproduce.

God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it.” (Genesis 1:28a)

Be fruitful and multiply. Have babies!
One flesh. Leave and cleave.
Sex was God’s idea. It was a command! Just do it! With one caveat.

5. Sex is like fire.

Several years ago I was talking to one of my children near our fireplace. I said, “Sex is like this fire.” I wish you could’ve seen the response!
When the fire remains within the boundary of the fireplace, it brings great warmth and beauty to our home.

However, if the same fire were to go beyond the fireplace, even a few inches, it would consumer our house in flames and destroy everything in its path.

The same is true for sex. Within marriage, sex is a beautiful gift from God. Outside of marriage, sex can be a destructive act, not only potentially leading to unplanned pregnancy or diseases but also permanent memories and scars. It can literally kill you.

I’ve often thought of sex as somewhat unique from other sins. When is murder acceptable? When is stealing acceptable? When is idolatry acceptable? When is sex acceptable? On the wedding day and beyond, but not a day sooner.

Why? It’s a powerful force. God created it for marriage, literally bringing together a husband and wife. Our bodies are beautifully designed to fit together, and doing so causes a sacred bond, like glue, making the two become one.

I wish I had time to read through the Song of Solomon this morning. It is the romance book of the Bible and gets quite steamy. Some prudes have said it’s nothing more than a metaphor for Jesus and the Church. WRONG! There may be parallels, but it is love poetry and required reading for every married person…and singles, too (but be careful!).

Paul wrote these words to the church in Corinth:

Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ himself? Shall I then take the members of Christ and unite them with a prostitute? Never! Do you not know that he who unites himself with a prostitute is one with her in body? For it is said, “The two will become one flesh.” But he who unites himself with the Lord is one with him in spirit. (1 Corinthian 6:15-17)

Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a man commits are outside his body, but he who sins sexually sins against his own body. Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body. (1 Corinthians 6:18-20)


6. We are to glorify God with our bodies

We just read that we are to honor God with our bodies.

If you are single, glorify God with your body.
If you are married, glorify God with your body.

Tragically, I’ve known too many singles who misuse sex and don’t glorify God with their bodies. They’ve bought the lie that their “pursuit of happiness” is life’s highest priority and ignore the boundaries of marriage established by God. The fire leaves the fireplace.

Tragically, I’ve known too many married people who misuse sex and don’t glorify God with their bodies. They have selfishly demanded from their spouse or withdrawn from their spouse and become selfish with their bodies rather than recognizing God delights when husband and wife surrender themselves to one another. They seek intimacy through pornography, flirting at the office, or fantasy rather than pursuing their life partner and intentionally creating time and space for mutual submission, love and pleasure.

Paul, again speaking to the church in Corinth wrote:

The husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife, and likewise the wife to her husband. The wife’s body does not belong to her alone but also to her husband. In the same way, the husband’s body does not belong to him alone but also to his wife. Do not deprive each other except by mutual consent and for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer. Then come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control. (1 Corinthians 7:3-5)

Translation: married people should have great sex…with one another! This honors God.

Years ago I served at a church in Chicagoland and the pastor did a sermon series on worship. One of his messages was about worship in the bedroom. His premise was when a husband and wife come together to serve one another, it is a sacred act of worship.

I have never thought of worship the same ever since!!!

Seriously, though, we are to glory God with our bodies.

Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God — this is your spiritual act of worship. (Romans 12:1)


God created sex. It’s His idea. He created us male and female to compliment one another, to procreate, to bond a husband and wife, and for pleasure in marriage. Like fire, it can destroy or delight. Few topics are more important. If you’re married, I pray you will have a fantastic sex life, serving one another. If you are single, I pray you will honor God with your body, too. This is a challenge for all of us in our sex-crazed, sex-confused culture.

Many of you here and listening online may be feeling guilt and shame at this moment. Know that forgiveness if available. Today is the first day of the rest of your life. From this day forward, you can honor God with your body.

One More Thing

Some religions are so sensitive about male/female relationships that they avoid any relationship with members of the opposite sex. This is far from the teachings of scripture. So how now shall we live? How do we treat one another?

Paul says as siblings.

Do not rebuke an older man harshly, but exhort him as if he were your father. Treat younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, and younger women as sisters, with absolute purity. (1 Timothy 5:1-2)

For those of you dating, this is a great approach. That’s not to say a dating couple should never kiss—though I had a friend in college that saved his first kiss for his wedding day…and they courted for more than five years! I’m not suggested a kiss is necessarily inappropriate for a dating couple, but we are to treat one another as siblings. After all, we are a family…and we’re all related by blood…Jesus’ blood.

Recommended Resources For Further Study by Married Couples

Sheet Music: Uncovering the Secrets of Sexual Intimacy in Marriage by Kevin Leman
A Celebration Of Sex: A Guide to Enjoying God's Gift of Sexual Intimacy by Douglas Rosenau
Intended for Pleasure: Sex Technique and Sexual Fulfillment in Christian Marriage by Wheat M.D., Ed, Gaye Wheat and Dennis Rainey
What Wives Wish their Husbands Knew about Sex: A Guide for Christian Men by Richard Rupp, Ryan Howes, and Stephen Ph. D. Simpson

Recommended Resources For Further Study by Singles (note: I have not read these but they look valuable)

The Sacred Search: What If It's Not about Who You Marry, But Why? by Gary Thomas
Sex and the Single Christian Girl: Fighting for Purity in a Rom-Com World by Marian Jordan Ellis
The Single Christian: Your Sassy Saved Single Girl's Guide to Sex, Dating & Relationship A series of encouragement... by Loria Hubbard
Praying for Your Future Husband: Preparing Your Heart for His by Robin Jones Gunn aRobin Jones Gunn and Tricia Goyer
Every Single Woman's Battle: Guarding Your Heart and Mind Against Sexual and Emotional Compromise by Shannon Ethridge
Every Man's Battle: Every Man's Guide to Winning the War on Sexual Temptation One Victory at a Time by Stephen Arterburn, Fred Stoeker and Mike Yorkey
Boundaries in Dating: How Healthy Choices Grow Healthy Relationships by Henry Cloud and John Townsend

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