Powerful thought that in the midst of our own personal “Check Engine Light” being on and bright, our pain, our brokenness, our own fragility in this life…
When you were not walking with Jesus.
When you were wrestling in your faith walk.
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.”
Colors are such a sign for the seasons.
Think about… Summer – bright colors white, green, orange, purple.
Fall – earth tones of orange, brown, red, amber.
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!
Jesus Identifies, Confirms, and then Employs!!!
I grew up in a military family. I was surrounded by men and women who have served and protected our country. For the better part of the my first 25 years of life, I learned words like honor, code, respect, and valor.
In being around those men and women, one thing I saw everyday was the ability to follow orders that radically changed life’s trajectory. I said goodbye to friends, watches families leave safety and security and learned to deal with good-byes (which aren’t very fun today). I had to learn to trust in the silence of not always knowing or hearing the answer or understanding it.
Then I read this 3 verse passage and realize that all of those lessons learned aren’t just a military family’s mindset, but a set of values learned by ones that truly set out to accomplish the will of God! The desire to set a person helped, a family saved, and city radically impacted through the Gospel of Christ!
“It was by faith that Abraham obeyed when God called him to leave home and go to another land that God would give him as his inheritance. He went without knowing where he was going. And even when he reached the land God promised him, he lived there by faith—for he was like a foreigner, living in tents. And so did Isaac and Jacob, who inherited the same promise. Abraham was confidently looking forward to a city with eternal foundations, a city designed and built by God.”
Hebrews 11:8-10 NLT
Abraham desired a city that was set upon the foundations of God! Wow! Abraham was a form of God’s Special Forces…going to a foreign place, setting up a value that was unknown before he arrived, then putting into motion a new way of living.
I desire that! I live in a place that was established as a town in 1764. Before modern conveniences, before modern military practices, before the realization that our world was going to have to go through several revolutions before God would send His Son Jesus back for a His people. So my calling, my passion, and my life’s work is to establish that eternal city right here in Winchendon, Ma.
That means I have to train, study, build trust, pray, serve, obey – I get to live my life in a way that tells everyone I have been placed here for a purpose that far surpasses our ability to understand the natural causes of order and man’s cumbersome path to God. I get to set the peace and love and grace and forgiveness of Christ right in my own town. I get to be a standard bearer for righteousness and for salvation in my little town. Values that go hand and hand with values I learned in the military family of honor, code, respect, and valor.
Would you join me to saluting the Savior of the World Jesus, by longing for the city of eternal foundations, by living your life worthy of the call of our – King of Kings and Lord of Lords – Jesus!
I’m all in, are you?
P.S. To the men and women of our US Armed Services – Thank You for putting your life on the line for our freedom! You truly are the best! I pray for you, I remember you, I Honor you, and I am GRATEFUL for you and your families!
What a painful 4 verses of scripture here.
Gen. 6:5-8, 5 The Lord observed the extent of human wickedness on the earth, and he saw that everything they thought or imagined was consistently and totally evil. 6 So the Lord was sorry he had ever made them and put them on the earth. It broke his heart. 7 And the Lord said, “I will wipe this human race I have created from the face of the earth. Yes, and I will destroy every living thing—all the people, the large animals, the small animals that scurry along the ground, and even the birds of the sky. I am sorry I ever made them.” 8 But Noah found favor with the Lord.
As the Lord looked at what He created, He found very little that He was pleased with.
I read this today and I say, “Lord, I know there is wickedness in me, please forgive me for acting on it and wipe it from my heart and soul!”
Then Vs. 8 gives me hope! Oh that I would find favor with the Lord!
Oh that He would see me and show me His Favor. In all of my hang ups. The times I am not a good husband, father, pastor, or leader – Father find favor with me. Look into my heart and see that I truly long to love you and to worship you in all that I am and all that I do!
Lord, let your FAVOR reign over my life!
F – Forgiveness
A – Authority
V – Victory
O – Opulence
R – Righteousness
As you continue to read the account of Noah, the FAVOR of the Lord was on him for one very simple reason… Noah did exactly what the Lord told him! He didn’t rationalize or beg God to chose another way, he was simply obedient in the most simplistic of ways. He trusted God and heard His voice! He listened!
Let our prayer today be, “Lord teach me to hear Your Voice and to listen the same! I want to hear You and know You! Lord I can’t live without You and Your FAVOR! I Love You Jesus! Thank you for loving me!”
Gen. 4:1, “Now Adam had sexual relations with his wife, Eve, and she became pregnant. When she gave birth to Cain, she said, “With the Lord’s help, I have produced a man!”
Genesis 4:1 NLT
With the Lord’s help!
I have read this so many times, and it truly just jumped off the page!
Perhaps as parents, we begin to not rely on God’s help when raising our children. It all started with His help, and then somewhere we take it away from Him help and try to do it in our strength.
Lord, teach me not to do it on my own, but in those 18-20 short years of mega influence on my kids, to be a dad that stays in the midst of your strength not my own!
“It’s only the fruit from the tree in the middle of the garden that we are not allowed to eat. God said, ‘You must not eat it or even touch it; if you do, you will die.’” “You won’t die!” the serpent replied to the woman.”
Genesis 3:3-4 NLT
Here in plain “English” God speaks to Adam and Eve. There is no way that anyone could twist the meaning of “If you the fruit from the tree in the middle of the garden, you will die”. Plain and simple.
Yet, we all do that thing that we know God has spoken to us about. It is in our soul, our heart pounds with the message, our body strives daily with the clarion call for holiness, yet we still struggle. The struggle is REAL! The Apostle Paul, millenniums later had the same struggle doing the very thing that he didn’t want to do.
The struggle that sin produced, is the very fact that we don’t always do the right thing or that we simply do the wrong thing.
Sin and Law create this cataclysmic struggle that is only answered in having a personal and intimate walk with Christ! Today if you are in that place where sin dominates or haunts you, and you love Jesus; the answer is to simply press into Him even more. He will provide you with the scapegoat from sin. And it will be from the most amazing places or people.
Press into Him today and rest assured that what He says will save your life. And remember He also said, “I will never leave you or forsake you!”
My family starts our journey to our new home back in MA today. It has been a year long journey with many more upsides than downsides. So many people have come alongside our family and have helped set up these stones with us to remember what God has done!
As we start “our” new, our desire is to remember where we have come from and not forget that God is the one that got us this far! The dreams and victories, along with the valleys and hard times are all part of what God has for all of us. The journey was sweet and hard, great and vigorous, blessed and challenging, but worth it all! We are so grateful to God!
Today we think of the the twelve stones that Joshua set up in the river, he said something really amazing…
“Let these stones be a reminder to the next generation of when God…”
Our prayer for us and for you today…
“God let our lives be stones of remembrance for all people to see and remember that God Can and He Will because we remember when He did!”
I will never forget the day… Toby and I had been playing basketball in the Auditorium. It was a hot and humid Nebraska summer day. From that day forward, I vowed to never play basketball, or any other sport for that matter, without being able to take a shower after – or at least change clothes. The church had a Coke machine, and the Diet Coke (20 oz.) bottle was screaming from the bowels of the machine to be ingested by my thirsty and sweating body. The only problem, I had no cash or coins. So, I went to “King” Art as I called him, asking if I wrote him a check for $1.00 to the church, could he give me 4 quarters for a Diet Coke. He kindly obliged, and I was one happy Master’s Commission student.
The problem with the story was that I had miscalculated my dates to cover the check. And to this day, the only check or draft I have ever bounced, was to my church for $1.00.
Talk about being bankrupt, I was as poor as a church mouse with nothing to show for it, other than a bubbly stomach that produced 2 or 3 belches. A momentary pleasure and a story that I have thought of for the last 22 years. It brings a smile to my face now, however then I was embarrassed and ashamed, and had nothing to show for this hilarious moment.
Today, 22 years later, I find myself bankrupt again, bankrupt in a different way. I am back at my home church. “King” Art is no longer the money man. The basketball hoops are long gone. And many of the men that God used to shape my early Faith Walk are either gone or their memories are a shell of what they used to be. And I am bankrupt almost – unemployed and displaced. The feelings of hopelessness and inadequacies feel my heart and emotions. I have to constantly tell myself that my emotions lie to me and that what I feel or see in me, is not what my Heavenly Father sees in me.
Bankrupt is such a painful feeling. Bankrupt means that you used to have some “cash”. Perhaps once might have been able to afford some luxuries… maybe even a $1.00 Diet Coke without the fear of bouncing a check, LOL! Like Job in the Bible, you were doing good, and then…
Now before you sense the urge to get super spiritual on me, let me assure you that I have the right people pouring into my life. The word of God is speaking as loud as it ever has. To steal a quote from Cory D, who stole it from Jeanne M., “There are times that I am sure, Jesus may even be bored with my prayer time!” But I will say, “Nonetheless, I am still praying!”
Still in the midst of these bankrupt feelings, I sense the still small voice of peace from my heavenly Father saying, “Son, I got you!”
Now this really cool picture came to me today. My feet dangling over an edge of something. The water was spraying my feet, but not actually engulfing them. I got nervous because I began to sense, then to see, thus actually feel the water rising – ready to engulf my toes then ankles and so on. As the nervous energy began to turn to anxiety, I realized I was looking at myself from a distance. ‘Oh my goodness’, I wasn’t sitting at the edge of the water. I wasn’t at the edge at all, or even on a boat side, or even sitting at the shore line of a mighty ocean. I was actually sitting in the hand of the Creator of the universe. I was sitting in the safest place that there is to be. I was in the hands of the Almighty. I had the soft calloused hands of the one who actually holds the waters, the land, the universe in His palms. I am here, safe and sound with no worries except that which my soul tricks my spirit into believing. The false “bank statements of worry and doubt” – telling me the lies of bankruptcy.
Now, as I sit here – some days wallowing in the pity of “bankruptcy”, I yearn for an escape. An escape from the walls of the basement I literally reside in. An escape from the constant tension of telling my family ‘Not now’ or ‘No’. An escape from the quilt of a grocery item that is not a necessity for the family. An escape from the lies that haunt my mind in quiet, in the car, early in the morning or late at night. I just want an escape. But today, I learn from a man that I hardly know, but trusted him for a conversation with the fragile walls of my story and current place in life. I learned as he spoke what I know now was the kind and gentle words of the Holy Spirit, my soul is not desiring escape – I forget too easily that I am in His hands, not a terrible situation. I am truly desiring peace in my soul. My bankrupt emotions, need not a refreshing Diet Coke, they need an encounter, they need communion with an Almighty Heavenly Father that knows, understands, and is willing to speak –as I listen.
Colossians 3:15, “And let the peace that comes from Christ rule your hearts.”
Now this verse has the undertones of living at peace with “one another”. But I know this to be truth, if you are not at peace with Christ, then with yourself, you will not be at peace with others. And if you’re not at peace with others, you will begin to live your life in bankruptcy.
You see at the beginning of this little essay on Bankruptcy, I spoke of a bounced $1.00 check. The truth of the matter is, in life, true bankruptcy comes when you feel alone, when you sense that there is no one there with you – loneliness is the most devastating bankruptcy there is.
Being in this transition for the last 7 months, I have learned that the thing I miss the most about having a position within the walls of the church – are actually the people that you learn to love, the people you do ministry with, the people that you end up living life with. They begin to know you and the deepest things, sometimes the darkest things, always the silly jokes and the places that they can poke fun of all in the name of LOVE! Without them, you begin to feel as if you have nothing to lean on, no one to carry you in your weakness, no one to carry the load and burden.
King David penned it this way…
Psalms 62:1-2 (NLT), “1 I wait quietly before God, for my victory comes from Him. 2 He alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress where I will never be shaken!”
The Message says it this way, “God, the one and only – I’ll wait as long as he says. Everything I need comes from him, so why not? He’s solid rock under my feet, breathing room for my soul, an impregnable castle: I’m set for life.”
So, guess what? “What?”, you ask. I’m glad you asked, ‘You are NOT bankrupt, and neither am I!’
Why? Because you and I have the rock. Yes, for the moment, things may seem a little bleak. The water seems like it is rising. There is not a job on the horizon. Friends may see to be less than numerous. The future is just a thought, a dream, perhaps a fantasy of mirages. But, take heart, you and I are in a good place. Broke only leads to a great inheritance. Before you go and get all “He’s in the Prosperity Gospel!” Nope, I am into the Gospel that gives some great promises…
Psalms 51:17(NLT), “The sacrifice you desire is a broken spirit. You will not reject a broken and repentant heart, O God!”
Lamentations 3:22-24 (MSG), “God’s loyal love couldn’t have run out, his merciful love couldn’t have dried up. They’re created new every morning. How great your faithfulness! I’m sticking with God (I say it over and over). He’s all I’ve got left.”
Lamentations 3:32-33 (MSG), “His stockpiles of loyal love are immense. He takes no pleasure in making life hard, in throwing roadblocks in the way…”
Psalms 86:11 (NIV), “Teach me your ways Lord, that I may rely on your faithfulness: give me an undivided heart, so that I may honor you.”
Funny thing is, I don’t drink Diet Coke anymore, yet it has left a mark on me from all those years ago. I laughed a few weeks ago, as I wrote a check to the church for a tithe of 2 weeks of work God had provided for me. I chuckled as I remembered the story. I thought of King Art. I felt the bubbles in my tummy. I smiled, because I was writing a check to my church…I AM NOT BANKRUPT after all!