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Showing posts with label COVID-19. Show all posts
Showing posts with label COVID-19. Show all posts

Sunday, September 12, 2021

Love is Kind

Introduction
Yesterday, on September 11th, many remembered what they were doing in 2001 when two planes crashed into the twin towers of the World Trade Center, one crashed into the Pentagon, and a fourth was brought down in a Pennsylvanian field by passengers who bravely fought back against hijackers.  I can remember exactly where I was and what I was doing the morning of September 11th.  A more hopeful memory comes from that evening when I attended a church services at North Point Community Church in Alpharetta.  We poured out lamentations for the death and destruction  caused by evil and we prayed for our country.  They cut in with a broadcast of  a brief message from President Bush on the screens in the church.  I was struck by how the President quoted Psalm 23 and his obvious faith in God that fortified his resolve to lead the nation through the crisis.  While the terrorists sought to destroy America, their evil act united us as we set aside all our differences and came together as Americans--at least for a few weeks. 

Twenty  years later, we are under attack from a different kind of enemy—a virus so small you cannot see it.  What’s more, we’ve been under attack for a year and a half.  People are weary.  We just want our world to go back to normal. Unfortunately, normal seems a long way off.  At this very moment, they are conducting a funeral at Salem Baptist Church for Rodney Lee, a beloved PE teacher from Varnell Elementary School, who died from COVID.  It is clear that we have not returned to normal yet. 

Will we ever return to normal?  I don’t know.  God hasn’t shared those details with me.  However, God has reminded me that what the world needs now, more than anything else, is love.  Whether we find ourselves under attack from terrorists or a virus, love is the answer.  Some may think it is just like a preacher to say something like that.  “What an empty, cliché!”  

Friends, don’t mistake my statement as froo froo, pie in the sky religious nonsense.  The love of which I speak is not some empty, worldly platitude.  The love of God described in the Bible is as deep as the ocean and more powerful than an atomic bomb.  It not only changes people, it changes generations and alters empires.  And biblical love, God’s love, is not the same as the love offered by the world. 

God’s love was demonstrated when Jesus died on the cross for our sins, not because we deserved it, but because we desperately needed God’s grace and forgiveness.  And so Jesus, God’s only son, who was perfect in every way, atoned for our sin.  Jesus died in our place, to pay the price for our sin, even though He was totally innocent.  In Christ, we see the picture of real love.  For he said in John 15:13, “There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” 

1 Corinthians 13:4-7 defines the kind of love Christ demonstrated, the kind of love that changes people and generations and empires.  It is the kind of love the world needs now and Christians are called to give at all times and to all people.

1 Corinthians 13:4-7
Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance. 

Kindness
Today, I want to focus on only the second element of divine love—love is kind.  Kindness is being friendly, generous, and considerate.  It’s not hard to understand kindness.  It’s so simple, even a child understands it.  The challenge with kindness is doing it and doing it to all people, even those who are unkind to you.  We get so wrapped up in ourselves it is hard to turn our gaze outward to others who need kindness.  When we struggle to meet our own needs and wants, who has the energy to be kind to someone else?  The ironic thing is that I find showing kindness to be energizing.  When I am depleted and show kindness, it doesn't empty me.  Somehow it fills me up. 

Jesus was kind.  In his day, like our own, they practiced strict social distancing.  In particular, you were not to come near anyone who was unclean.  While they weren’t worried about COVID-19 in the first century, there were many things that made a person unclean.  The most obvious was leprosy.  Leprosy is a contagious skin disease that causes severe, disfiguring skin sores and nerve damage in the arms, legs, and skin areas around your body.  Lepers were required to live apart from the rest of society, so as not to spread their disease to others.  While in quarantine, they couldn’t work normal jobs, couldn’t go to worship, and couldn’t visit with family and friends because that would make them unclean too and they would have to quarantine for 7 days—even if they didn’t get sick (see Leviticus 13).

Of course, being that Jesus lived in the first century, a time with little understanding about how to properly diagnose one disease from another, any skin disorder could be mislabeled as leprosy.  I have heard it said that even a teenager with severe acne could be labeled as a “leper” in first century Israel.  People were irrationally afraid of leprosy, because it was a social stigma as well as a legitimate health risk and it was something they didn't understand. 

Luke 5:12

12 In one of the villages, Jesus met a man with an advanced case of leprosy. When the man saw Jesus, he bowed with his face to the ground, begging to be healed. “Lord,” he said, “if you are willing, you can heal me and make me clean.”

Here was a leper who was required by law to stay away from people.  He was supposed to stand off at a distance whenever people came around and yell out a warning that he was “Unclean! Unclean!”  But this leper has already committed a social taboo by approaching Jesus.  He is desperate.  He begs Jesus to heal him.  And Jesus loves him and is kind.

Luke 5:13
13 
Jesus reached out and touched him. “I am willing,” he said. “Be healed!” And instantly the leprosy disappeared. 

The Antonine Plague (165-180 AD)
Jesus was the Son of God, imbued with miraculous power.  We might think it was easier for Him to put His health on the line by reaching out in kindness to touch and heal a leper.  Surely, God would not allow His only begotten Son to be infected by leprosy because of an act of kindness. But what of Jesus’ followers?  Are we to show similar acts of
kindness, even if it risks our own health?
 

To be sure, Christ does not wish Christians to be cavalier with their life and health.  I believe Jesus would encourage American’s today to take proper precautions to limit the spread of COVID-19.  It is an act of kindness to the community to wear a mask, take a vaccine, and limit physical contact with others.  However, Jesus is clear that His followers are to be willing to suffer and even risk their lives for the sake of the Kingdom.  For Jesus said, “If you cling to your life, you will lose it; but if you give up your life for me, you will find it.” (Matthew 10:39) 

Early Christians in the first century showed incredible loving kindness in the face of plagues far deadlier than COVID-19.  The Antonine Plague during the second century killed 1/3 of the population of the Roman Empire.  the plague, thought by modern historians to have been measles or smallpox, killed 25% of the people who contracted the disease.  Non-Christians Romans were so scared they fled from the infected cities, which merely spread the pandemic further because they took the disease with them wherever they fled.  Pagans abandoned their sick to die alone, while “the earliest Christians would stay and tend to the sick and dying, knowing full well that it would likely result in their own deaths. They showed works of unreasonable, sacrificial mercy that simply dumbfounded the pagans. In Rome, the Christians buried not just their own, but pagans who had died without funds for a proper burial. They also supplied food for thousands of people on a daily basis.[i]  In another plague in the fourth century, the Emperor Julian, who was not a Christians, said pagan priests needed to act more like the Christians and show love and kindness.[ii]  

Christians’ loving kindness during the darkest plagues of disease and death during the Roman era  changed society so much that the Roman Empire itself adopted Christianity as the official religion in the fourth century.  Christian ideas about forgiveness, love, kindness, and sacrificial service changed Rome and the world forever. 

Two thousand years of Christian influence teaching people to love to the point of putting your own life on the line for the sake of others has left an indelible mark on our world—even among non-Christians.  It is Christian core values that led firefighter and first responders to rush toward the burning twin towers on September 11th, putting their own lives at risk for the sake of others.  Whether they were Christian or not, whether they were conscious of it or not, their bravery and self-sacrifice traces roots back through the centuries to those early Christians and to Jesus himself, who died on the cross for the sake of a world who desperately needed His love, even though they didn't deserve it.  Some might think self sacrifice is a universal human trait.  It is not.  It was not normal for people to do this before Christ taught the world to do so by his teaching and his actions. 

If you are a follower of Christ, you are called to love one another and to exhibit Christ’s love to the world—even to your enemies.  Last week, we learned that Christian love is patient.  Today I tell you love is also kind. 

When I think of our world today, of how mean-spirited we are with one another, and how we are so quick to condemn and argue and accuse and think the worst of each other, when I think of I think of how we call each other names and demean those with whom we disagree and call people evil, it breaks my heart.  We are tearing each other apart.  We are destroying each other in way the 9/11 terrorist could not.  And self-professed Christians are sometimes the worst.  We must repent and do better.  We must follow Christ.

The Kindness Challenge
I challenge you to be more kind this week.  Make a commitment to be kind.  Start each day with a prayer that God would help you be kind.  The type of kindness real love requires is something beyond human capability.  It must be empowered by God’s Holy Spirit.  So choose today to follow Christ as your Lord that He may save you and fill you with His love. 

What are some practical things you could do this week to be kind?

  • Write a note to someone to encourage them. 
  • Pray for someone and pray that God would show you one way you could do something kind for them. Then do it.
  • Buy for a stranger’s meal if you are out to eat.
  • Offer to return a stranger’s grocery cart to the front of the store.
  • Don’t take the closest parking spot in the parking lot. Leave it for someone else.
  • Sponsor someone to receive and Operation Mercy Drops grant.
  • Bring treats to your local fire station.
  • If you use social media, use it to be kind to others. Wish someone a happy birthday. Say a kind or encouraging word to someone online. Be creative, but don't be mean.
  • Be kind to yourself. Sometimes, we are our own harshest critics. Cut yourself some slack. Be kind to yourself.

What are some other things you can do to be kind this week? Share your ideas in the comments.

[i] https://midtowncolumbia.com/blog/early-christians-and-the-plague

[ii] https://biblemesh.com/blog/the-compassion-of-early-christians/

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

The Ten Plagues of Egypt, Plague 9

Introduction
Egyptians worship thousands of different gods and goddesses—deities they conjured up from their own imaginations.  The most important god among them was the sun god, Ra.  “Ra was believed to rule in all parts of the created world: the sky, the Earth, and the underworld. He was the god of the sun, order, kings, and the sky. Ra was portrayed as a falcon and shared characteristics with the sky god Horus. The Egyptians believed all forms of life were created by Ra.”[i] 

Yahweh, the one true God revealed in the Bible, sent 10 plagues to show everyone that the gods of Egypt were nothing.  Yahweh is Lord of all.  In the 9th plague, God sent darkness and it was a direct assault on the Egyptian god, Ra.  The Egyptians believed every evening when the sun set below the horizon, their god, Ra, descended into the underworld.  Through the night, Ra journeyed through the underworld and was reborn at dawn as the sun rising. 

Egyptian religion was all about bringing order to chaos.  Their religious traditions sought to maintain the natural order of things.  And their myth about Ra’s daily cycle of death and resurrection assured them that life in Egypt would continue as usual and Egypt would continue as the most powerful empire in the world.  The Egyptians believed that--like the cycle of night and day--dark times in their empire would always be followed by light as predictably as the daily cycle of light.

Darkness
And then our Lord sent darkness on Egypt for three days.  The darkness Scripture describes is not just the darkness of night or of a naturally occurring eclipse.  The plague of darkness lasted three days.  This is a supernatural event.  (It brings to mind the three days Jonah spent in the belly of the whale or the three days Jesus was sealed in a tomb after crucifixion.) 

Verse 21 says it was “a darkness so thick you could feel it.”  A few years ago, Kelly and I took the kids to the underground sea near Athens, TN.  This is a depe cave, in which is an underground lake.  We used flashlights and their are lights on the walls of the cave passages.  However, at one point our guide said, "OK.  Now we are going to turn off all the lights so you can experience absolute darkness."  And with that, she turned out all the lights and you couldn't even see you hand a couple inches in front of your face.  That's the kind of darkness God sent on Egypt.

Verse 23 says, “people could not see each other, and no one moved”.  And this went on for three days.  “But there was light as usual where the people of Israel lived.”  This is a principle for you to understand.  If you follow the Lord, you will have light in your life—for Jesus is the ‘light of the world.’  But if you reject God and turn to idols, you will be lost in darkness, a darkness so thick you can feel it wrapping it’s evil hands around you, closing in until it’s too late.

The Idol of Tradition
As we draw near to Thanksgiving, I’m reminded of how important tradition is.  We all probably have important traditions we keep every year.  My mother and my extended family (my siblings and their children) has had a tradition of gathering for a Thanksgiving meal, usually the Saturday before Thanksgiving.  Sometimes this has been at my house and other times at my mother and sister’s house.  This year, because of COVID, we decided it’s best to not gather so many people from different households together in one large gathering.  Many of you may be altering your family traditions as well.  It’s a little sad, but I’m choosing to focus on all the good things God is doing and all the things I have for which to be thankful.

Tradition can be a good thing.  John Wesley, the founder of Methodism and one of the greatest Christian leaders of the last 500 years, included tradition among the four most important ways we can know God.  The first and most important is Holy Scripture, but there is also tradition, reason, and experience.  Traditions can help us learn from past experiences as we remember and honor those who have gone before. (Aren't you glad you don't have to learn everything the hard way through personal experience.  Think about how dangerous that would be!)

Yet Wesley also taught that when tradition and Scripture are in conflict, you must always follow Scripture and not tradition.  And when reason and experience show your tradition is wrong or dangerous, you must break with tradition. 

Tradition is a good thing, unless we make it into an idol—making it more important than God, letting it absorb our heart and imagination more than God, and expecting it to give us what only God can give.  You know traditions have become idols when they can't be changed no mater what.  Idols are disgusting to God because they separate us from God and plunge us into darkness.

If you don’t believe tradition can become an idol in church, you may be as blind as the Egyptians were during the plague of darkness.  “Tradition” is an idol that is erected right in the sanctuary of many churches.  As a young pastor, you learn very quickly to be careful how you deal with people’s traditions in church.  (You learn or you won’t be a pastor for very long.)  Ironically, we even have a name for these unbreakable traditions; we call them “sacred cows.” 

One example of tradition becoming an idol comes from an experience early in my ministry.  A church was getting ready for their summer Vacation Bible School.  Their new children's minister was decorating the church.  She decorated the sanctuary with the theme for the children's lessons.  Unfortunately, a group in the church became very angry that she had (in their eyes) desecrated the sacred space of the sanctuary.  That was a sacred cow for them.  Decorating a sanctuary for VBS may seem like a silly tradition to get so worked up about, but that is because it’s not your tradition.  What are your sacred cow (whether it’s at church or somewhere else)?

For many, nostalgia about “the way the world used to be” becomes an idol.  We look back fondly at the way things used to be in “the good old days” and it blinds us to the good days God is giving us right now.  Or worse, it keeps us from moving forward into the new good God wants us to have tomorrow.  Some look at the 1950s in America as a golden age when everything was at it's best; they think, "If we could just go back tot he way things were then."  Perhaps they forget that in the 50s, America was still segregated--black people were not afforded equal rights and equal access as white people and it was a great stain our our nation's integrity.  I'm very glad things have changed for the better.  The truth is, the “good old days” weren’t as “good” as we think.  We conveniently forget all the bad of those days and only recall the sweet memories.  Ironically, we often only see the bad things of our current situation while overlooking the good.

The Pharisees in Jesus day devoted their whole lives to God, yet they rejected the Son of God when he came to them.  They were threatened because he challenged their traditions.  And so Jesus said, “You can’t put new wine into old wineskins.” (Matthew 9:17 paraphrased) 

I have heard it said recently, nostalgia is the enemy of Jesus’ mission.  Jesus told his followers, “go and make disciples of all the nations…” (Matthew 28:19)  Meanwhile, so many Christians spend their time arguing about what style of songs we should sing in church or whether we should wear dress clothes or go casual.  Perhaps we argue about these things because we want to focus on our comfortabl traditions instead of going out as soldiers of Christ.  When the church worships the idol of traditions, it forsakes Jesus’ mission and becomes irrelevant.  Sanctuaries grow empty and churches close.  Jesus said, "Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire." (Paraphrase Matthew 310)

What is Your Mission?
The Church is not a building. The Church is the people.  All who follow Jesus as Lord and are saved by His grace are the Church.  We are each one stones in a living Temple.  And we have a sacred purpose.  To tell the world about Jesus, to share His love, and to make disciples.

So what is your mission?  How are you going to live out your mission this week to bring the light of Christ to our dark world?  May I make some suggestions?

Worship the Lord, not just by what you do on Sundays at church.  Worship Him all week long; let your actions be your praise.  Turn away from all else--even traditions--and follow the Lord.

Use every opportunity to share Jesus’ love with others.  Jesus said "They will know you are my followers by the way you love one another.  It's not your political views or the football team you follow.  It's your love that shows people you are a Christian. 

Tell someone what Jesus has done for you.  If Jesus has made a difference in your life, then tell people about it.  This is what it means to be a witness and Christians are called to be witnesses for Christ.

Invite someone to church.  It's never been easier to invite people to church.  All you have to do is attend an online worship service on Facebook live and click the "share" button to share the service with a friend.  Invite people to church--whether it is for an online service or onsite.

So then, go and make disciples of all nations...

Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Is It Good To Wear A Mask?

Is It Good To Wear A Mask?

We’ve all been told we should wear a mask to help stop the spread of COVID-19. 

We might also wear a mask as part of a Halloween costume. 

It can be fun to dress up and pretend to be a superhero or a scary monster for Halloween.  Sometimes it’s safer to wear a mask—to protect people from germs.  However, are there any times you shouldn’t wear a mask?

Jesus shared about one way it is not good to wear a mask.  It’s not good to use a mask to always hide who we really are from God and His people.

In Matthew 23:27, Jesus warned, “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean.”

You see, the Pharisees were the holiest people who lived in Jesus’ day.  At least, that’s what they wanted people to think.  They dressed up in fancy clothes and did a lot of very religious things for everyone to see.  Unfortunately, the Pharisee’s hearts were not right with God.  Their religion was all for show.  It was almost like they were wearing masks to cover up who they really were.

Of course, Jesus knew what was really behind the Pharisee’s “masks”.  He said they were like a graveyard.  They looked pretty on the outside, but were like a rotting corpse on the inside.  Jesus wanted to help everyone—even the Pharisees—get cleaned up and be beautiful inside and out.  Jesus has the power to make anyone clean, no matter how dirty they start out.  But Jesus can’t clean someone up if they won’t admit they need his help.  And most of the Pharisees didn’t want to admit they weren’t as perfect as they made everyone think.  They wanted to keep wearing their masks and pretend to be something they were not.

Jesus loves us all, even today, even you.  He’s not afraid if you are dirty or if you have problems or even if you’ve done some things that make you feel very ashamed.  Jesus loves you anyway and he can clean you up and put all that bad stuff behind you.  He will give you a better life and even eternal life.  Even after you die and are buried, Jesus can raise you to new life where you can live with God forever in a perfect paradise. 

However, Jesus can only help you if you take off your “mask” and don’t pretend to be something you are not.  You have to admit you’ve sinned. (Sinning means you’ve done things you shouldn’t do).  If you are willing to just be honest with Jesus and ask Him to forgive you, Jesus will forgive you and heal you and make you clean again.  Jesus will help you live a new life and a better life from this day forward.

So please, wear a mask for Halloween or to help protect against COVID-19.  But please, don’t ever try to hide who you really are from Jesus.  Jesus is God and he knows who you really are anyway.  And Jesus loves you and he won’t ever stop loving, no matter what.  There’s no need to pretend to be someone you are not.  So, just be honest with Jesus.  Pray and ask him to forgive you and save you.  He will.

You can be honest with me and my church too.  At my church, we don’t expect you to be perfect, because we aren’t perfect either.  We are just broken people that Jesus is putting back together.  So come join with us and we can all be a family of forgiven people who follow Jesus together.  We’d love to talk with you more and to have you worship with us.  Why don’t you?

You can worship online every Sunday at 10:55 AM eastern standard time.  Just click this link to worship with us online - pgumc.online.church.

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Things Fall Apart, Ep. 2 - Lonely and Forgotten

Introduction
A long time ago, in a land far away…
Joseph, a bright young man with the incredible ability 
to dream about the future, believed everyone would one day bow down before him. 
However, his plans for future dominance fell apart 
when his jealous brothers overpowered him and sold into slavery. 
Joseph found himself at the very bottom, serving as a slave 
in an Egyptian commander’s house. 
But God did not forget Joseph. 
His master, Potiphar, recognize Joseph’s special abilities 
and put him in charge of the whole estate. 
All was going well, until Potiphar’s wife tried to seduce Joseph. 
Joseph would not sin by committing adultery 
so Potiphar’s wife accused him of trying to rape her. 
Once again, Joseph’s hopes for fame and fortune fell apart... 
In today’s episode, we find Joseph rotting in the royal dungeon 
with two of Pharaoh’s former servants: a baker and a cup bearer. 
And yet, because God’s blessing rests on Joseph, 
everywhere he goes, he rises to the top. 
But what good is it to be at the top if you’re in chains, 
lonely and forgotten…

Genesis 40:5-23

While they were in prison, Pharaoh’s cup-bearer and baker each had a dream one night, and each dream had its own meaning. When Joseph saw them the next morning, he noticed that they both looked upset. “Why do you look so worried today?” he asked them.

And they replied, “We both had dreams last night, but no one can tell us what they mean.”

“Interpreting dreams is God’s business,” Joseph replied. “Go ahead and tell me your dreams.”

So the chief cup-bearer told Joseph his dream first. “In my dream,” he said, “I saw a grapevine in front of me. 10 The vine had three branches that began to bud and blossom, and soon it produced clusters of ripe grapes. 11 I was holding Pharaoh’s wine cup in my hand, so I took a cluster of grapes and squeezed the juice into the cup. Then I placed the cup in Pharaoh’s hand.”

12 “This is what the dream means,” Joseph said. “The three branches represent three days. 13 Within three days Pharaoh will lift you up and restore you to your position as his chief cup-bearer. 14 And please remember me and do me a favor when things go well for you. Mention me to Pharaoh, so he might let me out of this place. 15 For I was kidnapped from my homeland, the land of the Hebrews, and now I’m here in prison, but I did nothing to deserve it.”

16 When the chief baker saw that Joseph had given the first dream such a positive interpretation, he said to Joseph, “I had a dream, too. In my dream there were three baskets of white pastries stacked on my head. 17 The top basket contained all kinds of pastries for Pharaoh, but the birds came and ate them from the basket on my head.”

18 “This is what the dream means,” Joseph told him. “The three baskets also represent three days. 19 Three days from now Pharaoh will lift you up and impale your body on a pole. Then birds will come and peck away at your flesh.”

20 Pharaoh’s birthday came three days later, and he prepared a banquet for all his officials and staff. He summoned his chief cup-bearer and chief baker to join the other officials. 21 He then restored the chief cup-bearer to his former position, so he could again hand Pharaoh his cup. 22 But Pharaoh impaled the chief baker, just as Joseph had predicted when he interpreted his dream. 23 Pharaoh’s chief cup-bearer, however, forgot all about Joseph, never giving him another thought.

Loneliness
Poor Joseph. Every time he starts to rise like a star, someone does him wrong and it costs him.
First his brothers assaulted him and sold him into slavery.
Then Potiphar’s wife accused him of rape and Joseph ends up end prison--back in chains again only worse.  (How can anything be worse than being a slave?  Oh, being in a dungeon!)
Now the chief cup-bearer—a man with the influence to rescue Joseph—forgets him.
But God didn’t forget about Joseph and we will hear more about that story next Sunday, but today I want to talk about loneliness.

Have you ever felt lonely or forgotten, like no one cares about you?
Loneliness is a plague in our times. We are more connected than ever through technology. However, people seem lonelier than ever.  And currently, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, so many people are struggling with loneliness because we're trying to be more socially isolated for the sake of public health.  It's a real problem, because thing we're asked to do to keep people safe is the very thing that also fuels loneliness, which is a detriment to our mental/emotional health.

Loneliness can strike at any age of life. Your child might feel lonely if they struggle to make friends. They may be in a classroom full of other kids, but they feel lonely because they cannot connect. A college student who moves away from home for the first time may feel lonely and homesick because everything they are used to has changed. People often struggle with loneliness when things in their life fall apart: a child grows up and leaves home, someone is betrayed by a friend, a marriage ends in divorce, a loving spouse dies, etc.  You may also feel very lonely if you face a chronic debilitating illness; even if you have many people supporting you, no one really understands what you are going through and that makes you feel lonely. You would think that celebrities would be imune from feeling lonely, right?  I mean, they have thousands of people who love and adore them.  Surely they wouldn't fell lonely.  Unfortunately, people with a lot of fame often feel very lonely, because no one really knows them; people only know their persona and that itself can be very isolating.  Perhaps that is why we often hear of very famous celebrities committing suicide.  There are many things in life that can make you feel lonely. Have you ever struggled with loneliness? Are you struggling with loneliness now? 

Loneliness is often misunderstood. Loneliness is not  a state of being alone.
Loneliness is a state of feeling alone. A person can be in a crowd of people and still feel alone.
On the other hand, some people can be happy all by themselves for a long time and not feel lonely.
A person who is lonely may feel like no one listens to them. They feel isolated, forgotten, empty, incomplete, unloved, abandoned, unimportant. Loneliness is a dark, depressing place.

The Cure for Loneliness
God doesn’t want us to feel lonely. When God made us, “He said, It is not good for man [or woman] to be alone. I will make a helper that for him.” (Genesis 2:18). God created us for relationships—relationships with God and with each other. We’re designed to be social creatures. That’s why loneliness leads to health problems, substance abuse, antisocial behavior, heart disease and stroke, decreased memory and learning, depression and suicide, and poor decision-making. It’s important to deal with loneliness, but where do we begin?

What I’m about to say may sound like a church cliché, but it really is true. Hear me out.  

The cure for loneliness is Jesus. You were deigned from the very beginning to be in a relationship with God. That is why God made people. Tragically, sin separates us from God and breaks our our relationship with Him.  There's a deep void in our soul that only God can fill, but we can't be filled because sin is in the way.  And this makes our souls desperately hungry and thirsty.  So many times, people feel lonely and they try to address loneliness in all the wrong ways. 

People often try to solve loneliness by acquiring material things.  They think if they have the latest gadget or the nicest car in town everyone will love them and they won't be lonely anymore.  Or they reason, "If I have a really nice house with all the amenities, I will be comfortable and happy.  And I could even invite people over to visit. Then I won't be lonely."  It never works.  There are many people who have all these things and are still lonely. "Well," you say, "Of course that won't work.  Loneliness is about relationships."  And that's true.

That's why many people try to cure loneliness by building relationships with people.  And that may address half of the problem, but it doesn't really get to the heart of the matter.  The problem is, we were made for a relationship with people and God.  But when we turn to people to address the yearning we have for God, they cannot fill that void.  If they love us and truly care about us, they may try, but they will always fail.  We will be left disappointed and they will be upset that they let us down.  And this type of heartbreak happens all the time, because people who are lonely try to fill the longing for God in their soul with the love of people and it just won't work.  It's not fair to expect mortals to satisfy us in way that only the Divine can satisfy us.  Unfortunately, there are also many, many people in this world who do not love you or have your best interest in mind.  Because they are lonely and broken too and desperately trying to fill the hole in their soul, they will abuse you and use you.  And because you are lonely and desperate, you will allow them in the vain hope that a relationship with them will satisfy your deep yearning.  I see it happen so often that many people will submit themselves to bad relationship after bad relationship seeking a cure for loneliness that people cannot give.

And some will get so hurt by people they give up and decide to just build walls to keep people out.  They don't want to be hurt anymore so they just won't let anyone in any more.  Walls work well to keep people out, but they also keep you in.  Soon you find you are trapped in a prison even worse than the dungeon in which Joseph found himself.  That's not what you need.

Others will try to numb the pain of loneliness with drugs or alcohol.  And that may make you feel better---at first.  If you're drunk or high you may not feel the pain for a time.  But then you sober up and you feel it again.  And you have to get drunk or high again and each new cycle require more and more to make the pain go away.  Soon, you build up such a tolerance it doesn't work anymore.  And now you're in an even worse state because you broken and lonely and hurting and drunk or high.

Jesus is the only cure, because Jesus can to address our sin.  Jesus went to the cross on Calvary to pay the price of our sin.  His blood shed there washes away our sin so nothing separates us from God.  Now we can have a relationship with God when we repent and turn to Jesus as our Lord and allow Him to save us.  Then we begin to enjoy a fresh relationship with the God who created us for that very purpose!  Now we are free to also have healthy relationships with people because we don't expect them to give us what only God can give.  Now they are free to give us what people were suppose to give.

“But I have Jesus and I still feel lonely!”  You may still feel lonely at times after you become a Christian and begin a real relationship with Jesus. This can happen because our thinking is sometimes still immature  or because God allows lonely feelings in order to helps us grow our faith. 

Loneliness is a kind of separation anxiety. Small children feel separation anxiety when their parents leave them with a babysitter. They may cry as if their precious little hearts have been broken in pieces! They may feel abandoned and lonely. (And in a few minutes, hopefully, the get over it, right?) Of course (even though it breaks a parent’s heart to see this), we know the child is not abandoned. Right? As mature adults, we know, but the child is still immature and is still learning. They will grow up and eventually be able to be separate from their parents for longer and longer without feeling abandoned or lonely.

Similarly, overcoming loneliness for Christians is a natural part of growing in spiritual maturity. So don’t feel guilty or ashamed if you are a Christian and you still feel lonely. This is part of growing up in the faith and we all grow and mature in different ways at different times.  You may even struggle with loneliness as a Christian after you are quite spiritually mature, because God sometimes allows it in order to strengthen your faith and teach you endurance.  We must practice knowing that we are not alone—even if we at times feel alone. If Jesus is your Lord, His Holy Spirit is with you always—as close as your own heart. Cling to that Truth, especially in your loneliest times.

Find an End to Loneliness Through Jesus
Are you feeling lonely and forgotten?
I want to tell you today that the cure is found only through a relationship with Jesus Christ.
No one knows about loneliness better than Jesus. 
He left the glory of His Home in Heaven to come to our dark and broken world.
(Don't you know he must have been Homesick quite often?)
Jesus lived among people who didn’t understand him, were afraid of him and felt threatened.
Even His friends didn’t always get Him. In the end, those closest to him literally betrayed Him, abandoned Him, and denied HIm. He was tortured and nailed to a cross. And as Jesus was dying a horrible death, he cried out from Psalm 22, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (This is the prayer of someone who feels abandoned.) So when you feel lonely and forgotten, abandoned, unloved, unimportant, isolated, Who better to turn to than Jesus who came specifically to save you and went through all those feelings to do it? 

Material things won’t fill the void in your life.  People, friendships, romantic relationships, sex, none of these things will fill the emptiness inside you either.  Only Jesus, the Son of God, sent to save you and restore your relationship with God, the source of life and love, can help you with your loneliness.  Won’t you turn to Jesus today and be saved?  You can do that today.  I pray you will.  What’s stopping you?

And Christians, you who already follow Christ as your Lord.  Are you still struggling with loneliness too?  Why is that?  Is it because you are still looking for love and fulfillment in the wrong places?  Sometimes—even after we turn to Christ—we keep looking for joy and peace and love in the things of this world and the people of this world.  It’s an old habit that’s tough to break.  We have to look to Jesus first.  We have to practice finding our first and best relationship in Him.  Until Jesus is your all, everything else will suffer.  “Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, he will give you everything you need.” (Matthew 6:33)

Won’t you decided to put Jesus first in your life today?  Won’t you choose this day to find your greatest relationship needs fulfilled by your relationship with the King?  Because when you do, all your other relationships will grow deeper and more fulfilling.  And the one’s that don’t grow (or come to an end) won’t bother you nearly as much because you are grounded in the infinite, perfect love of Christ.