Pastor Kirk

Reflections from a spiritual pilgrim in Toledo, Ohio

Relationships

Gift of Reconciliation, 10 December 2017

The Gift of Reconciliation
Series—The Gifts of Christmas
1 John 4:7-12

Big Idea: Jesus came to reconcile us to the Father…and one another.

Skit Guys Video

Introduction

An old man who just wants to make things right with his kids. That’s sounds so reasonable, doesn’t it? He seems like a nice enough guy. What kind of person would reject love? He’s done everything he can think of so this time...this season...he goes...himself. He gives himself....a new beginning.

We’re in the middle of a series called The Gifts of Christmas. Two weeks ago we talked about the give of expectancy. Advent is about arrival, anticipation, and waiting. Last week we examined the gift of grace, unmerited favor. None of us deserve forgiveness, love, peace, forgiveness, or hope, yet that’s where God’s amazing grace becomes so vital to not only experience but also share. Today we’re talking about the gift of reconciliation, a word that reflects reunion, understanding, and resolution. In a world full of brokenness, reconciliation is desperately needed.

It has surprised me over the years how many good parents are estranged from their children. Don’t good parents produce good kids? How could someone walk away from the love of a father—or mother? Why would a “Christian” family have any division or unresolved conflict? Why are there so many prodigals amongst our First Alliance family? And then I look at the gap in my own family photo. Why? What happened? Can I fix it? If so, how?

Let me state from the beginning relationships require at least two people, and reconciliation requires at least two, also. The holidays are a time when people gather—with family, co-workers, and friends—for parties, meals, and for Christmas. I have nothing but good memories of childhood Christmases, not only tearing open brightly-wrapped presents and stuffing myself with cookies but seeing relatives I dearly loved.

It’s very different for me now. Obviously the wonder of gifts under the tree is different as an adult and I think twice before eating too many cookies, but while I love the family and friends in my life, I’m also reminded at this time of year about those with whom I am not connected. Many of my favorite people will be spending Jesus’ birthday with Him rather than me, which his bittersweet.

What’s more bitter and not at all sweet are those broken relationships. There will be one very empty chair at our table on the 25
th for the second year in a row, and while our relationship with our daughter has taken some baby steps forward, it has a long way to go. How could someone reject the love of a father?

Tragically, it happens every day, and not just with human fathers. Our heavenly Father went to the most extreme of measures to show us His love. We can accept or reject it…it’s our choice. He made the first move. The ball’s in our court.
We’ve looked at our text for today—written by one of Jesus’ best friends, John—before, but it bears repeating. It begins

Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. (1 John 4:7)

This sounds so familiar to anyone who has cracked open the Bible, but this is revolutionary among other religions. Love comes from God? Those who love are born of God? Those who love know God?

And what if we don’t love? What does that say about us? The command here—and elsewhere in the Bible—is to love…one another.

What is love? That’s the question! Hollywood will tell you one thing, Hallmark cards another. A man I knew searched the Bible to understand the true definition of love when he came upon this next verse.

Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. (1 John 4:8)

God is love. He’s the definition of love! Love is a person. Love is also a verb. It is action.

This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. (1 John 4:9)

Love is more than words. The verse describes the purpose of Christmas itself. God showed His love by sending Jesus into the world, Emmanuel, God with us, that we might live, the we might experience abundant, satisfying, purpose-filled life.

This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. (1 John 4:10)

Jesus came to die for our sins on the cross, to be the perfect sacrifice, to reconnect us with our Creator in a relationship destroyed by our sins, our pride, our rebellion, our offenses against God. Elsewhere in the Bible it says

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8)

Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him! For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! Not only is this so, but we also boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation. (Romans 5:9-11)

We have received love.
We have received reconciliation.
We have received an invitation to know our Creator—not just know about, but know.

Why would a holy God want to reconcile with sinners like us? Why would a righteous deity want to make the first move in mending a relationship we destroyed? That’s the love of a Father…a good, good Father. He takes the initiative to fix things when life happens. He sets the perfect example for us in our human relationships…our messy human relationships. You know…words get said, feelings get hurt, blame gets assigned, misunderstandings occur. It’s so easy for once-beautiful families and friendships to be strained or even severed. That’s where love comes in.

Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us. (1 John 4:11-12)

Let’s take a moment and meditate on those verses. Wow! God so loved us. We are to love one another. If God is love, what does it look like to love one another? It means looking out for the best interest of the other person. We’re naturally selfish, thinking about our own needs, desires, and opinions. Loving another means putting ourselves in their shoes for a moment. It can be so easy when they like us and are like us. Loving someone different…that’s another story! But it’s possible when God’s love is made complete in us.

Prodigals

Sometimes the most difficult people to love are those closest to us because they are capable of not only great love but great pain. You might know the story of the prodigal—or extravagant—son. Jesus tells his audience…

Jesus continued: “There was a man who had two sons. The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’ So he divided his property between them.  (Luke 15:11-12)

Then the prodigal son takes the extravagant gifts of inheritance from his generous father, takes off for a foreign land, and parties until he’s homeless and hungry. In fact, the text says

He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything. (Luke 15:16)

That might sound gross to us, but to a Jew, even being near pigs was horrifying, much less eating their food.

I love the beginning of the next verse.

“When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.’ So he got up and went to his father. (Luke 15:17-20a)

The soundtrack for this moment is, “I’ll Be Home for Christmas!”

The son could be home for Christmas if only in his dreams. He showed up ready to beg for a job as a servant. After all, he already played his son card, walking off with half of the father’s wealth, a scandalous thing given an inheritance is received after someone dies. He is ashamed, humiliated…but desperate.

“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him. (Luke 15:20)

In 1985, Benny Hester wrote a song called When God Ran, about this verse. He sings:

The only time I ever saw him run/ Was when He ran to me/ He took me in His arms/ Held my head to His chest/ Said "My son's come home again!"/ Lifted my face/ Wiped the tears from my eyes/ With forgiveness in His voice He said/ "Son, do you know I still love You?"/He caught me By surprise, When God ran

That’s reconciliation. That’s grace. That’s love!

The father in the drama leaves his home and goes out to meet his family, just as the prodigal son’s father went out to meet his son.

Seeking Reconciliation

When we seek reconciliation, there are no guarantees. It takes two to tango, but someone needs to make the first move. Perhaps that someone is you. Maybe this Christmas is the one where steps are taken toward the healing of broken relationships. That is certainly the prayer for my family.

One thing I love about our God is there is nothing too difficult for Him. Prayer is powerful. There is no hopeless relationship. Nothing is beyond repair. No relationship is beyond fixing. That includes our relationship with God and our relationship with others.

God saw that the space between us and Him had become too great. So He ran to us. He came down to us at Christmas. Love comes down at Christmas.

So What?

We love God because God first loved us.
We love others because God first loved us.

He has done everything possible to show you His love, to have a relationship with you. It’s your move. What will you do?

Perhaps you’ve done everything possible to show others your love, to have a relationship with them. It’s their move. There might not be anything else you can do other than remain faithful, pray, and wait.

I’m there. Many of you are there. The gift of reconciliation means God took the initiative and has reconciled us to Himself which then allows us to potentially be reconciled to others.

Will you receive the gift of reconciliation with the Father?
Will you extend the gift of reconciliation to someone this Christmas?

Credits: title, drama, and some ideas from The Skit Guys.

  • You can listen to this message and others at the First Alliance Church podcast here.

When Friends Let You Down, 6 December 2015

When Friends Let You Down
Series: Be Here Now
1 Samuel 30:6

Series Overview:
Christmas is the celebration of “presence.”

Big Idea: We must be present with and find our strength in God, even when friends desert us.

Introduction

This morning we are continuing our Advent series, Be Here Now, messages about presence—not presents you buy and wrap but presence—being fully present. Last week we noted The Golden Rule, Jesus’ timeless command to

Do to others as you would have them do to you. (Luke 6:31)

We’ve all been annoyed by people who are present physically with us but are in another place mentally and emotionally. Whether they are distracted by texts on their phone, yawning binges and fatigue, daydreaming, or multitasking, it’s frustrating and downright offensive to be ignored.

It’s one thing to struggle for attention during a lunch conversation but quite another to be ignored or even abandoned in a relationship.

Have you ever been deserted by a friend? Have you invested in a friendship only to watch it die? What do you do when you’re willing to be fully present with someone and they no longer show up?

David

One of the great things about the Bible is its authenticity. You can’t make this stuff up! Today we’re going to look at three biblical characters, one from the Old and the other two from the New Testament. The first involves David. King David is one of the most important figures not only in the Bible but in human history. He became the second king of Israel following Saul, famous for a battle won against a giant named Goliath, and—like all of us—an imperfect sinner.

The book of 1 Samuel chapter 30 describes one of David’s worst moments as a warrior…prior to assuming the throne.

David and his men reached Ziklag on the third day. Now the Amalekites had raided the Negev and Ziklag. They had attacked Ziklag and burned it, and had taken captive the women and everyone else in it, both young and old. They killed none of them, but carried them off as they went on their way. (1 Samuel 30:1-2)

This is not a good day!

When David and his men reached Ziklag, they found it destroyed by fire and their wives and sons and daughters taken captive. So David and his men wept aloud until they had no strength left to weep. David’s two wives had been captured—Ahinoam of Jezreel and Abigail, the widow of Nabal of Carmel. (1 Samuel 30:3-5)

Imagine how David is feeling. His two wives—we don’t have time today to discuss polygamy!—have been captured. Defeat is visible everywhere. He’s desperate.

Pause!

Shawn Achor, Harvard researcher and author of
How Happiness Fuels Your Success, says, “The social connection is the greatest predictor of long-term happiness by far…social connection is not only the greatest predictor of happiness, social connection is as predictive of how long you will end up living as obesity, high blood pressure, or smoking.”

Connection to friends is the key indicator of happiness and a huge factor in how long you will live!

What are the implications of that when we lose friends? Huge!

I know what it’s like to lose friends.

One of my very best friends drifted away, failing to return phone calls and showing no interest in me and our relationship.

A few years ago after gently confronting another friend about his offensive behavior a similar situation occurred. Not only did he no longer reach out to me, he said things to other friends who stopped inviting us to social gatherings.

There are other examples, but none come close to the intensity of David’s loss.

Back to David!

David was greatly distressed because the men were talking of stoning him; each one was bitter in spirit because of his sons and daughters. (1 Samuel 30:6a)

It’s one thing to lose a friend. It’s another thing entirely to have friends that want to see you lose your life! What would you do…after you ran from these angry men?!

But David found strength in the LORD his God. (1 Samuel 30:6b)

This is an example of a good “but.” It’s worth noting the word “LORD” is capitalized. This is the Hebrew word that is essentially spelled YHWH. We don’t know how to pronounce it because Hebrew has no vowels and because it is the holy name of God, the name spoken to Moses at the Burning Bush. To this day Jews will not utter the word because they don’t want to dishonor it in any way. The word “Adonoi” is a more common word for “lord” often used instead. “In English, the Tetragrammaton—another term for YHWH— is in all-caps LORD to distinguish it from Adonai.

I once asked my Messianic Jewish rabbi friend about the pronunciation of YHWH. It is my understanding that Jehovah is grossly incorrect. When I asked Allen if it is Yahweh, he said, “That’s very close!” refusing to speak the word himself.

But David found strength in the LORD his God. (1 Samuel 30:6b)

This holy word for God describes Him as “I Am,” as the one who exists and/or causes existence. When abandoned by friends, David found strength in Am, in the LORD God.

One of the great things about God is He never changes. Hebrews tells us

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. (Hebrews 13:8)

Paul

Paul, once known as Saul, wrote much of the New Testament. In his second letter to his disciple Timothy, he writes,

Alexander the metalworker did me a great deal of harm. The Lord will repay him for what he has done. You too should be on your guard against him, because he strongly opposed our message. (2 Timothy 4:14-15)

Notice Paul not only acknowledges the painful loss of a friend, he offers a warning to Timothy. Alexander is not a safe person. Boundaries are necessary.

We are to love all—look out for their best interests—but that does not mean we are to be best friends with everyone. Perhaps it wouldn’t be so bad if Alexander was the only lost friend, but Paul continues…


At my first defense, no one came to my support, but everyone deserted me. May it not be held against them. (2 Timothy 4:16)

Not only does Paul not complain, he speaks on behalf of those who deserted him, and then he offers a “but” similar to David.

But the Lord stood at my side and gave me strength, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it. And I was delivered from the lion’s mouth. The Lord will rescue me from every evil attack and will bring me safely to his heavenly kingdom. To him be glory for ever and ever. Amen. (2 Timothy 4:17-18)

Paul turns to God for strength, then seeks the glory of God in all things. Every story in the Bible is ultimately about God’s glory.

Yes, LORD, walking in the way of your laws, we wait for you; your name and renown are the desire of our hearts. (Isaiah 26:8)

He leveraged the good and bad for the glory of God.

Jesus

Our third biblical character was denied three times by one of His three best friends, Peter. He was betrayed by one of His twelve closest friends, Judas. I’m speaking of Jesus. As painful as those experienced must have been, nothing can compare to the anguish of being forsaken by the Father as He hung on the cross.

From noon until three in the afternoon darkness came over all the land. About three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”). (Matthew 27:45-46)

When David and Paul were deserted, they turned to God.

When Jesus was deserted, He had nowhere to turn.

After Jesus said this, he looked toward heaven and prayed:

“Father, the hour has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you. (John 17:1)


Jesus died for the glory of God. Did you catch that? He died for us, but even more He died for the glory of God.

In Jesus’ hour of greatest need, He turned to the Father. Where do you turn when you feel alone, abandoned, betrayed?

So What?

It’s impossible to be fully present with someone who’s not even there! The wounds of a friend run deep, and many common psychological problems stem from abandonment issues, often parents, but also friends. It takes years to build trust but only seconds to destroy it.

This season is “the most wonderful time of year” for some, yet it’s the most depressing time of year for others. Loneliness can be deadly—literally. If you feel alone, I have great news for you!

First, whether you know or accept it, you are a part of a family—the First Alliance family. You belong here!

As I mentioned a few weeks ago, our worship gathering is not the ideal environment for developing relationships, but we have Sunday School classes at 9 AM and Growth Groups that meet tonight and throughout the week, both smaller gatherings of people who not only study the Bible and pray but do life together. I urge you to get connected in a small group.

Second, Jesus understands. He was not only abandoned by friends, He was abandoned for a time by God the Father as our sins upon Christ were unbearable. He experience the ultimate pain, grief and loss.

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. (Hebrews 4:15)

Third and finally, God is with you…always. We’ll discuss this further the next two weeks. One of the names of Jesus, Emmanuel, means “God with us.” Although Jesus is not physically with us at the moment, He left the Holy Spirit for all who believe in Him to experience. The Holy Spirit lives inside every follower of Jesus!

Conclusion

Relationships are risky. Friends can turn on you. Bonds can be broken. Such pain can make us bitter—or it can make us better as we run to Jesus, our big Brother who knows suffering and abandonment better than any of us could imagine.

This Advent season and every day of the year let’s be fully present for one another—inward. Let’s we reach out to the lonely and needy—outward. And let’s reach upward to Emmanuel, God with us.

You can listen to this message and others at the First Alliance Church podcast here. You can subscribe to the free FAC Focus e-newsletter 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.

(from
http://www.relevantmagazine.com/god/church/5-uncomfortable-issues-church-needs-start-talking-about)

Introduction

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.

http://www.plosmedicine.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pmed.1000316

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.

http://assets.aarp.org/rgcenter/general/loneliness_2010.pdf

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.

http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0069841#s2

Are you lonely?

The Loneliness Quiz (based upon the UCLA Loneliness Scale;
http://psychcentral.com/quizzes/loneliness.htm)

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, ema@ndzh.com (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.

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