Monthly Archives: August 2017

OUT ON RECESS THIS WEEK

Not that I do not like to hang around this blog (and other places) with you, but I am on vacation visiting family and friends.  See you back here September 4th.

And by the way, thank you very much for reading this blog – I am humbled by this gift of your time.

THE GOSPEL ANTIDOTE TO THE EPIDEMIC OF LONELINESS

by Debbie Huber

Upon opening Facebook the other day, there was a picture of my family that I had posted a year ago with a notation from Facebook: “we care about you and your Facebook memories”.

Wow!  Facebook cares about me?  The place where I can show family pictures, see pictures from friends and acquaintances, find out about real AND fake news, argue with others without looking them in the eye, not be accountable to anyone, keep my struggles safely hidden from public view…

Right after seeing this I read an article that referred to a major study that was recently presented at the 125th annual convention of the American Psychological Association by Julianne Holt-Lunstad, Ph.D., professor of psychology at Brigham Young University.  Data from hundreds of studies involving millions of individuals was analyzed. This analysis found that “social isolation, loneliness or living alone was each a significant factor contributing to premature death. And each one of these factors was a more significant risk factor for dying than obesity“.  

More significant than obesity?

Marriage rates have been steadily declining and families are having less children.  Families are separated by miles, divorce, estrangement, and just plain busyness. Schedules are busier and family activities dominate any possibility of free time. Neighbors come and go without ever interacting with one another. Many people live their lives without having anyone truly know about them and care for them.  

There have been multiple studies that suggest that frequent Facebook users do not feel more connected at all; they “actually experience feelings of loneliness, low self-esteem, and depression.”

Sometimes we are alone by choice by putting up walls because it can be too painful or fearful to be vulnerable to others. Or we just want to live our lives for ourselves without the baggage that comes from being accountable to one another. 

The Bible does have an antidote to this epidemic of “loneliness”.

We were made for relationship with one another but it is not necessarily how the world defines relationships.  God demonstrates what a healthy relationship is through the relationship between the Father, Son, and the Spirit. A relationship of fellowship, working together, and enjoyment of each other’s company. 

God calls us to relationship with himself through the gospel. We were “separated from Christ…having no hope and without God in the world.  But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.” (Ephesians 2:12-13)

God made us to need Him and also to need one another. In Genesis 2 He says that “it is not good for man to be alone.”  We were not created to make it in this world alone. 

Real, lasting, satisfying relationships within the context of the gospel brings reconciliation between us because we were reconciled to God through Christ when we were without hope or without God in the world. We have relationship with one another even when it is difficult or inconvenient because we know that Christ died for our relationship to be restored to God even when we were “difficult” and far from Him. 

Be prayerful and watchful for the lonely around you. Seek them out face to face.  Be helpful when they need it, speak of the things of God to one another.  In light of what Christ has done for you seek reconciliation when there is division.  The Gospel will be on display in your lives.

And if you are the one “putting up walls” or on the fringes because you are fearful to be vulnerable or too busy remember the gospel!  You were not meant to go it alone in this world. The gospel tells us that we were made for relationship with God and with one another. Serve, help or become a part of a small group.  Ask God to help you to care for and be vulnerable with others. Preach the gospel to yourself daily and pray that the gospel will be lived out though your relationships.

 

PRAYER IDEAS FOR BIBLE READING

We all need the Holy Spirit’s help when we read the Bible.

But what help can we ask for beyond “God help me understand what I read”?

There is nothing wrong with that prayer, but it can be helpful to stretch our requests beyond it.

In His excellent book, “Reading the Bible Supernaturally”, John Piper offers a few suggested prayers for Bible reading:

Ask God to guide you to notice parts of the text that are especially illuminating

Ask God to lead you to other passages in the Bible that would shed light on the one you are reading.

Ask God to lead you to other books or sermons or lectures that would be useful in shedding light on some problem you have run into.

Ask God for experiences, or a reminder of experiences that would make what you are reading more real.

Ask God for friends who could study the Bible with you and help you see things you haven’t seen.

Ask God to convict you of and remove any sinful habits or inclinations that might blind you to a part of Scripture you would find uncomfortable.

If you journal, pray that as you write the text down in your journal, you would notice things you missed in simply reading.

Whatever you pray to prepare yourself to read God’s word, know that God wants his word to impact you. He wants you to understand his intentions and be shaped by them.

In short, God wants your Bible reading to be a rich and engaging time with him.

That should fill our heart with anticipation every time we open our Bible.

 

DO YOU WANT TO BE GREAT IN HEAVEN?

The disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them and said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 18:1-4)

Great in heaven.

Wow, that sounds too wonderful to be true!

But look again at Jesus’ description.

The great in heaven are not those with big ministries or impressive gifts. Neither is it necessarily those who have gone through horrible circumstances.

Jesus tells us, it is to humble ourselves like a child.

Humility is a perspective and lifestyle that we must “turn” to – it is not our natural way.

However, it is a way that any believer can follow. Humility is an approach to life in which we can all become proficient.

Greatness in heaven has nothing to do with the measurements and standards that the world uses or that we typically think of.

You don’t need a high IQ or extensive training

You don’t need an abundance of resources

You don’t need leadership gifts or a high position

You don’t need circumstances to go your way

You don’t need years of Christian heritage

You need the direction of God’s word and the empowering presence of the Holy Spirit.

Humbleness can grow in us bit by bit each day.

Greatness in the kingdom of heaven is an invitation Jesus has given to you. Greatness in the kingdom of heaven is a reality which can become yours.

The question to us is not can you become great in the kingdom of heaven. The question is whether it is important enough to you to “turn” away from anything that keeps this path from being the one you are following.

I’LL BE OKAY

There are Christians in danger!

Believers who are sporadic in spending time with God.

They are inconsistent in feeding on God’s word, and they’re half-hearted in committing themselves to engage in meaningful conversation with God.

The most common excuse is not having enough time. But I believe the real reason is a lack of conviction that carving out time with God is of desperate importance.

Are you a Christians who believe you can afford to miss time with God? Do you think you will be okay walking through the day without equipping your heart and mind with the whole armor of God?

If you think you can afford to go about your day without armoring and strengthening yourself in the Lord, consider these warnings against the trickery and attacks of Satan and his followers:

John 8:44 Jesus calls Satan “a liar and the father of lies”

2 Corinthians 2:11 warns us not to be “outwitted by Satan; for we are not ignorant of his designs”

2 Timothy 2:26 tells us Satan has “snares”

Ephesians 6:11 says he has “schemes”

2 Corinthians 11:14 “Satan disguises himself as an angel of light.”

1 Peter 5:8 “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.”

Revelation 12:12 “the devil has come down to you in great wrath, because he knows that his time is short!”

Matthew 7:15 In addition to Satan, Jesus adds, “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves.”

This is the reality you face each day. These are the conditions which constantly swirl about you.

God’s word is emphatic in declaring, “we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore, take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm.” (Ephesians 6:12-13)

If you think you can afford to neglect time with God today and leave your armor behind, then Satan has already been successful in his “lies”, “schemes” and “snares”.

A GRANDFATHER’S LOVE

Grandad and Wyatt 2017

I am watching my 2-year-old grandson, Wyatt, as he sleeps. 

My heart is bursting with affection for him. 

My mind is active with thoughts of how I want to spend time with him. 

My hopes are big for how his life will unfold in fruitfulness.

My concerns are deep for how he will navigate this troublesome and broken world. 

My joy is overflowing with the memories of what we have shared together. 

My willingness to sacrifice anything he needs from me, is real. 

You have probably watched your little ones with similar thoughts beaming in your heart.

But have you ever taken time to ponder how God looks at you with similar thoughts – only better!

The love I have for Wyatt, causes me to wonder why we struggle so much to accept how richly God loves us. Our Heavenly Father who is all perfection, loves far better than we who are all limitations.

I love much, but my love also is often interrupted by selfishness. My love at its best is hindered by my ignorance and weakness. As much as I love Wyatt, I cannot always be with him. I will never be able to share all his experiences, and I will not be able to stand with him in every burden.

But my Heavenly Father has none of these limitations in his love. God is always loving me in the ways I love Wyatt, but far greater. His love for me is not only greater in its degree of perfection, he loves me with greater intensity.

I think most Christians fail to appreciate the sheer intensity of God’s affection for us. This causes us to doubt the intensity of his commitment and care for us. We misinterpret the difficulties he allows and we are not convinced that God’s intentions are always wonderful.

As a son and a grandson, I knew that I was loved, but my grasp of that love was incomplete until I became a father and then a grandfather. We will never be able to fully grasp God’s love for us, but we should be able to rest in knowing that his love for us must be far greater than what we have for our loved ones.

It is good to ponder how we love those who are dear to us. And it is even better to ponder how dear we are to God!