I remember so vividly the months preceding my mom’s marriage to the man that I call dad today.
He put a ring on my mom’s finger, and a beautiful one at that. Then, he took me to the mall and bought me my very first and only pair of Air Jordan’s! I am talking about the Red, Black, and White ones…the originals! Not only was it my first and only pair of Air Jordan’s, it was my first pair of “real” athletic shoes. I thought I was in heaven, it was simply to good to be true. He put a ring on mom’s finger, and pair of good looking shoes on my feet!
To be honest, no other gift Dad has ever given…(hew water heated in Memphis, a couple of car repairs over the years, money in the cards – wired – or otherwise)…have ever matched that gift! Sure the monetary value was greater than the shoes, but the life changing example of what he did, has never been matched. You see, he adopted me. He loved me as his own. He cared, and cried, and fought, and loved – ME! And he didn’t have to…HE CHOSE TO!!!!!
Brad Paisely has an old hit that he wrote called, “He Didn’t Have to Be” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BjO1F6oCab8). That song encapsulates the story of my story with my dad! All that to be said, I love my biological father. He was as good of a dad that he could be. I look like him, I have some of his traits, and love him. But the dad that didn’t have to be, I am marked my him in a way that is intangible. He showed me Christ the way he loved. He should be integrity by the way he lived his life. He should be what a student of the Bible is all about. He taught me to love sports, simply my being a band major that never played an inning, quarter, half…yet he showed up to every one of my games. He showed me what tenacity is all about, he never gave up – on anything – that I ever saw. He showed me what a servant is, for he is the true definition of what servant is all about!
He is the perfect example of the scripture, James 1:17(NLT), “Whatever is good and perfect is a gift coming down to us from God our Father, who created all the lights in the heavens. He never changes or casts a shifting shadow.”
Now the catch for me, to pass on all of this to my three kids, whom I Love and Cherish with all my heart! I get to me their dad. I love being their dad. I Love You Isaiah, Bella, and Ian, I am better for you – because of you!!!!
Thanks to my Heavenly Father for being the giver of the greatest gift ever – His Son Jesus Christ!
Thank you Jesus for giving your life, so that I can live my life for you!
Thanks Mom, for knowing how to pick a GREAT Dad for Phil, Nate, and myself!
Thank you Jen, for being my soul mate in this journey of life, marriage, ministry, and PARENTING!
When you were brokenhearted at life’s hard knocks.
When you said good bye to the special somebody.
When you feel as though you are a failure.
When you are at your whit’s end.
You Are Not Alone!
Spring has sprung and summer is coming soon. That means a couple of things: school will be done and enjoy the opening volleys of warmer weather, and we will soon transition to shorts and flip flops.
There will be less travel this summer, at least in its opening, but will no longer be tired of the cold arctic air! We will be creating our own island paradise in our back yards, perhaps even remembering a trip to a tropical island in our past. Many desiring to be back in the island trip from February before the world shut down.
Through all of this, there is an island that I would not want to live on, travel to, visit, or even visit––the island of isolation!
Isolation is a place void of any meaningful human contact, relationships, love, or any emotion crucial to producing healthy relationships! Isolation causes people to put up walls that keep us from being the person we know God made us to be. Isolation causes people to shut out the people that love us and are there for us. Isolation can cause us to become inward focused and dependent on nothing but the feelings of loneliness! Isolation can drive us to despair.
We see isolation in so many places in our culture today. Attached garages enclosed by a “privacy” fence surrounds many homes. Cars have tinted windows, providing the cover by which no one can see inside the vehicle. We see increased wearing of hats and sunglasses inside of buildings, keeping people from looking at each other face to face. And now virus called Covid 19, causes us all to actually cover the “Image of God” that He intended of us all. We see it in a continued state of technology, but we would rather look down at the screen than across the room at the family we live with, the people we work with, or the potential friend on the bus. Between masks and phones, we no longer keep our chins up and eyes peering to the lives of others. I could go on, hence take my word for it ––ISOLATION is everywhere in our culture!
The Bible clearly talks about the person in isolation. Proverbs 18 is a powerful chapter of the folly of isolation. Look at the very first verse of this chapter,
Proverbs 18:1 (NKJV), “A man who isolates himself seeks his own desire; He rages against all wise judgment.”
A person who has become isolated often deals with these 4 emotions: sadness, anger, despair, and reduced self-esteem. As you look at Proverbs 18:1, anyone can see that when you seek your own desire, you will reap these emotions––because your desire––RUNS OUT! You can also see that when you go against wise judgment those 4 emotions come into play, simply due to the fact that often we find failure instead of success.
One of the greatest ways to fight isolation is to be a friend, make friends, and help others build friendships. This can be hard, but it is a vital key to keeping yourself and people you know out of isolation. I do not think that it is coincidental that the closing verse of Proverbs 18…
Prov. 18:24, “A man who has friends must himself be friendly, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.”
Did you catch that, the closing of verse 24, “…but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” Guess who that is? JESUS!
John 15:13, “There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” Through His dying on the cross for us, protecting us, providing for us, forgiving us, teaching us, encouraging us, giving us His strength, taking our burdens upon Himself and much, much more.
Jesus is ultimately a key to stepping out of isolation! He loves, He accepts, He cares, He provides, He is your Friend!
John 15:15, “I no longer call you slaves, because a Master doesn’t confide in his slave. Now you are my friends since I have told you everything the Father told me.”
Let’s get off the island of isolation! Warm weather or cold weather––the island life of isolation is lonely and NO place for you!
If you think about it, the Lone Ranger is a misnamed hero. He’s brave, morally pure, and strong, but he never fights his battles alone. Tonto is always there as a loyal partner and companion. Take it a step further; how sad it would be if the Lone Ranger really was a one-man operation. The world’s most famous cowboy might never have made it through the first episode! In fact, every great movie hero has a sidekick or partner; Batman has Robin, Calvin has Hobbs, and whoever heard of C3P0 without R2D2?
The Bible also has some famous duos. Moses relied on Aaron, David’s best friend was Jonathan, and Ruth was the best daughter-in-law Naomi could have ever hoped to have. However, things get a little tricky when we get to Jesus.
Jesus never had a sidekick. He had 12 – twelve disciples, three of whom he favored. He was their leader—they called him rabbi and Lord, but then He called them FRIEND. So, does that make Jesus a lone ranger? Not at all. Jesus in fact did some great things for his friends and their… sadness, anger, despair, and low self-esteem…
Turns Sadness to Joy – Ps. 68:5&6, “5 Father to the fatherless, defender of widows—this is God, whose dwelling is holy. 6 God places the lonely in families; he sets the prisoners free and gives them joy.”
Jesus turns Anger to Love – Matt. 5: 43-48 (MSG), 43-47 “You’re familiar with the old written law, ‘Love your friend,’ and its unwritten companion, ‘Hate your enemy.’ I’m challenging that. I’m telling you to love your enemies. Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst. When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the energies of prayer, for then you are working out of your true selves, your God-created selves. This is what God does. He gives his best—the sun to warm and the rain to nourish—to everyone, regardless: the good and bad, the nice and nasty. If all you do is love the lovable, do you expect a bonus? Anybody can do that. If you simply say hello to those who greet you, do you expect a medal? Any run-of-the-mill sinner does that. 48 “In a word, what I’m saying is, Grow up. You’re kingdom subjects. Now live like it. Live out your God-created identity. Live generously and graciously toward others, the way God lives toward you.”
Jesus turns Despair to Praise – Psalm 43 (MSG), 1-2 Clear my name, God; stick up for me against these loveless, immoral people. Get me out of here, away from these lying degenerates. I counted on you, God. Why did you walk out on me? Why am I pacing the floor, wringing my hands over these outrageous people? 3-4 Give me your lantern and compass, give me a map, So I can find my way to the sacred mountain, to the place of your presence, To enter the place of worship, meet my exuberant God, Sing my thanks with a harp, magnificent God, my God. 5 Why are you down in the dumps, dear soul? Why are you crying the blues? Fix my eyes on God—soon I’ll be praising again. He puts a smile on my face. He’s my God.”
Jesus turns a Low Self-Esteem to Promotion – Luke 9:23-25 (MSG), “Then he told them what they could expect for themselves: “Anyone who intends to come with me has to let me lead. You’re not in the driver’s seat—I am. Don’t run from suffering; embrace it. Follow me and I’ll show you how. Self-help is no help at all. Self-sacrifice is the way, my way, to finding yourself, your true self. What good would it do to get everything you want and lose you, the real you?”
Ps. 147:10&11 (MSG), “He’s not impressed with horsepower; the size of our muscles means little to him. Those who fear God get God’s attention; they can depend on his strength.”
Jer. 29:11-14 (MSG), “I know what I’m doing. I have it all planned out—plans to take care of you, not abandon you, plans to give you the future you hope for. 12 “When you call on me, when you come and pray to me, I’ll listen. 13-14 “When you come looking for me, you’ll find me. “Yes, when you get serious about finding me and want it more than anything else, I’ll make sure you won’t be disappointed.” God’s Decree. I’ll turn things around for you.”
1 Peter 5:4-6 (MSG), “4-5 When God, who is the best shepherd of all, comes out in the open with his rule, he’ll see that you’ve done it right and commend you lavishly. And you who are younger must follow your leaders. But all of you, leaders and followers alike, are to be down to earth with each other, for — God has had it with the proud, but takes delight in just plain people. 6 So be content with who you are, and don’t put on airs. God’s strong hand is on you; he’ll promote you at the right time. Live carefree before God; he is most careful with you.”
SO, whether you feel yourself as a lonely inhabitant on the island of Isolation, or a Lone Ranger with a Tonto, let the eternal relationship of the Father, Son, and Spirit give you the encouragement and the strength to triumph over your greatest pains and fears. When discouragement comes your way, cast your cares on the One who saw Jesus through His darkest times.
1 Peter 5:7-11 (NLT), “7 Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you. 8 Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour. 9 Stand firm against him, and be strong in your faith. Remember that your family of believers all over the world is going through the same kind of suffering you are. 10 In his kindness God called you to share in his eternal glory by means of Christ Jesus. So after you have suffered a little while, he will restore, support, and strengthen you, and he will place you on a firm foundation. 11 All power to him forever! Amen.”
Genesis 28:15 (NLT), “What’s more, I am with you, and I will protect you wherever you go. One day I will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have finished giving you everything I have promised you.”
Hebrews 11:1 says, “Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not yet seen!” This week during our staff prayer time, God brought this verse to my mind and I just began to pray the prayer of faith for my family (both wife and kids, as well as our church family)! As I prayed this passage of scripture, I believe the Lord gave me a couple points of insight that I would like to share with you this morning!
1st – Faith is the catalyst in our life to have us watch the hand of God move on our behalf. Faith is the reassurance that God is at work in the situation that seems unmovable. Faith is the “nudge” in which we begin to act on the belief that “the One who started a work in us, will be faithful to complete that work!”
2nd – “The substance of things hoped for…” Substance is the matter of which something is made. Think about this with me…what are you made of…better yet, Who were you fashioned after? “Let us make man in Our image!” You are fashioned after God who created the universe! How amazing is that! Someone said to me this week that they felt like a disaster every time they went to the Word. I quickly reminded them that “God is closest to the broken and contrite heart”––that is right where God wants you. You feel like a disaster? AWESOME! God is getting ready to make a mighty move of faith!
3rd – “…the evidence of things not yet seen!” What do you see in our church? What do you see in your family? What do you see in your your circumstance? Do you see God anywhere? Do you see any evidence that He is working in the scenes? Remember, faith is evidence. Sometimes you have to look for evidence––the little signs––the little points that God is at work! Even in the midst of the “stay at home” advisory and the spread of the virus. Your Faith can increase, and be apart of the increase of God’s presence all over the world during this time!
This week, why don’t we all pray for God to increase our faith! In essence, we are asking Him to increase our matter––our substance! Then you are asking Him to increase the evidence of His moving in and around us! Guess what? He wants too!
Praying for you & with you! Let’s keep increasing our faith in Him, and decreasing the you and me! Have a faith-filled week!
Winter – deep and dark colors, black, gray, navy blue.
Spring Time – Light colors, pastels of blue, green, yellow, pink, purple, and green!
Colors tell us where we are and what time the season is. But then, we begin to blend in with the settings around us! And in this season of spring, we find ourselves in a “Stay at Home Advisory’, blending in out of necessity for life. We are now having to be intentional about those COLORS we love to see here in New England – the white and grays of winter, to the greens, yellows, oranges, and pastels of spring.
How does this affect us as Christians? We could say that red is a Christians favorite color, because of Calvary. We could say that white is a Christians favorite color, because of Redemption. We could say that blue is a Christians favorite color, because someday we will be caught up in the sky with our savior! All are true, but think about this…
We are called to be a peculiar people! To not blend in! To be different! This week as we begin to celebrate the Easter season, the thought crosses my mind, “What do people see when they look at me, a Christ Follower?” Do they see traditional or contemporary, how about a style of music, a particular political bent? Does my family not just look different, but act different and actually walk the as Jesus walked? I want to encourage, us both, to take an inventory of our hearts and lives. “Match our colors with Christ, not our surroundings!”
Easter is literally 1 week away! Find a friend, neighbor, co-worker, relative, and invite them to church online, over the next several opportunities through Palm Sunday, Good Friday, and Easter! I heard a friend say this week, “Let’s have a virtual cup of coffee together over Zoom or Facetime.” They “go” to church together! We all need to hear the story of the resurrection this season, the testimony of life and togetherness – it is coming back! Even though you may think they will not come, invite them and see what God does!
Let’s get out of our comfort zone to see Jesus change lives! Have a colorful week this week!