You Are Not Alone: Part Two

Why Are We Here?

In his bestselling book, The Purpose Driven Life*, Pastor Rick Warren says, “Without God, life has no purpose, and without purpose, life has no meaning. Without meaning, life has no significance or hope.”
In the number one bestselling book of all time, God says…if you are generous with the hungry, and start giving yourselves to the down-and-out, your lives will begin to glow in the darkness, your shadowed lives will be bathed in sunlight.
I will always show you where to go.
I’ll give you a full life in the emptiest of places – firm muscles, strong bones. You’ll be like a watered garden, a gurgling stream that never runs dry.
You’ll use the old rubble of past lives to build anew, rebuild the foundations from your past. You’ll be known as those who can fix anything, restore old ruins, rebuild and renovate, make the community livable again (Isaiah 58:9-12 MSG).

What Do We Need?

Facing poverty after the death of her husband, Naomi said, Don’t call me Naomi; call me Bitter. The Strong One has dealt me a bitter blow. I left here full of life, and God has brought me back with nothing but the clothes on my back. Why would you call me Naomi? God certainly doesn’t. The Strong One ruined me (Ruth 1:20-21 MSG). Have you ever felt as if God has abandoned you? Has this feeling of abandonment left you, like Naomi, feeling so bitter that you didn’t even recognize yourself, and couldn’t bear to be called by your own name?
When Naomi felt that everything about her life had become bitter, her daughter-in-law, Ruth, gave her a pledge: Don’t force me to leave you; don’t make me go home. Where you go, I go; and where you live, I’ll live. Your people are my people, your God is my god; where you die, I’ll die, and that’s where I’ll be buried, so help me God—not even death itself is going to come between us (Ruth 1:16 MSG)! Ruth gave Naomi the assurance that, no matter what happened, she wouldn’t leave her alone.
In the book that bears her name, when Queen Esther realized that to implement God’s plan to save her people she had to approach the king without an invitation, she was ready to call it quits: Everyone who works for the king here, and even the people out in the provinces, knows that there is a single fate for every man or woman who approaches the king without being invited: death (Esther 4:11a MSG). Esther knew she had a calling, but she wasn’t convinced she wanted to pay the price to fulfill it.
Her uncle Mordecai stepped in with words of encouragement and the Big Picture: If you persist in staying silent at a time like this, help and deliverance will arrive for the Jews from someplace else…Who knows? Maybe you were made queen for just such a time as this (Esther 4:14 MSG). Mordecai’s words gave Esther the courage she needed to accomplish her destiny.
When God’s angelic messenger visited teen-aged Mary to announce her immanent conception, he let her know that she had found favor with God, and that with God, nothing is impossible (Luke 1:30, 37).  Her cousin Elizabeth, pregnant with John the Baptist, prophesied: …blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord. (Luke 1:45 ESV). Elizabeth reminded Mary that God keeps His promises.
These true stories, about real people, are illustrations of the covenant that God has made with whosoever believes in His Son, Jesus Christ.
Throughout scripture, God has given us His promise that He will never leave us or forsake us. When we feel alone, He is still with us. When we are afraid of what the future holds, He assures us that He will not abandon us. When it seems that all the sweetness in our lives has become bitter, Jesus remembers our name, and He sustains us with honey from the Rock.
Naomi, Ruth, Esther, Elizabeth and Mary were all women with a purpose. They suffered terrible loss, struggled with loneliness and barrenness, knew moments of intense fear, and endured humiliation.
But God is faithful.
He assures us that even in old age, [We] shall still bring forth fruit…[we] shall be fat and flourishing (Psalm 92:14 KJV), and that He will order His angels to protect us wherever we go (Psalm 91:11).
Like Naomi and Ruth, who were many-times-great grandmothers of Jesus; like Esther, who saved a nation and outwitted the enemy; like Elizabeth, who nurtured the voice crying in the wilderness; and like Mary, who carried a mighty promise, we have come to the kingdom for such a time as this.
Rick Warren reminds us, “God uses problems to draw you closer to himself. The Bible says, ‘The Lord is close to the brokenhearted; he rescues those who are crushed in spirit [Ps 34:18].’ Your most profound and intimate experiences…will likely be in your darkest days – when your heart is broken, when you feel abandoned, when you’re out of options, when the pain is great – and you turn to God alone.”
He quotes quadriplegic, author and advocate Joni Earickson Tada, “’When life is rosy, we may slide by with knowing about Jesus…but only in suffering will we know Jesus.’ We learn things about God in suffering that we can’t learn in any other way.”
 God does not allow our pain to go to waste. He is close to us when we are brokenhearted. He rescues us when we are crushed under the weight of grief and sorrow. He gives us beauty for ashes and the oil of joy for mourning. He gives us grace, and then, He asks us to share it.
…they went out and proclaimed the message everywhere. The Lord worked with them, confirming the word by the signs associated with them (Mark 16:20 CEB).
*Warren, Rick. The Purpose Driven Life, What on Earth am I Here For?. Zondervan, Michigan, 2012.

You Are Not Alone: Part One

 What are we missing?

What does the Bible say about loneliness? How are we to handle it? How does Jesus satisfy the lonely soul?
Think about Naomi, a heroine in the book of Ruth. She lost her husband, her two sons and one of her two daughters-in-law, in one fell swoop of tragedy. She lived in a foreign land, had fled starvation and gone through bankruptcy. Her only support was one widowed daughter-in-law, with good looks but no skills.
Consider Sarah, the mother of faith. In the book of Genesis, her husband had an affair with her maid, and they had a son. Sarah was barren, until she was ninety years old. She spent much of her life as a nomad, living in tents, with sheep, on the outskirts of Sodom and Gomorrah.
What about Deborah? Judges 4 tells us that she was a judge and a mother to Israel. We’re not sure if she was married, but we know she went to war. She was the first female politician, and she sat all day under a palm tree, mediating for the people.
In the New Testament, Matthew chapter 8, Peter’s mother-in-law was healed of a fever by Jesus, but how did she cope with the complaints of her daughter, when Peter was off changing the world, and his wife and kids were left at home to carry on with the fishing business he left behind?
These women had plenty to keep them busy. They were all heroines of scripture. But they were lonely. I guarantee it.
Think for a minute. What about Noah? It was a lonely job to build a huge ship in the middle of the desert. Moses? Forty years in the wilderness tending sheep, and forty more years in the wilderness, tending ungrateful Israelites. Consider David, who spent twenty years hiding in caves from jealous King Saul. King Solomon? He pined for the Queen of Sheba. Elijah? Chased by Jezebel and hid under a tree. John the Baptist? A voice crying in the wilderness. Saul of Tarsus? He had a thorn in his side, that just wouldn’t go away.
Even Jesus said, …the Son of Man has no place even to lay his head. (Luke 9:58b NLT)
Wait, what? Jesus was lonely too? Yes. He was.
Let’s stop right there. If Jesus, Himself, was lonely when He was here walking this earth, what does that tell us? The Word of God says that Jesus was tempted in all points, just as we are (Hebrews 4:15b). Which means that He experienced the pain of loneliness, just as we do.
Loneliness is a part of the fallen, human condition, and we are all experiencing it, at some level, all the time. Yes, we are lonely. We are lonely because we’ve lost loved ones, or careers, or our youth, or our health. We are lonely, in prisons, in hospitals, in nursing homes, in our own homes, in offices, in schools, in crowds, in families, in marriages and in isolation. We are lonely in our minds, in our hearts, in our bodies and in our souls.
There is a reason for our loneliness. And there is a cure.
Listen to what God says in the book of Hebrews about Abraham and Sarah, and Isaac and Jacob:
All these people died still believing what God had promised them. They did not receive what was promised, but they saw it all from a distance and welcomed it. They agreed that they were foreigners and nomads here on earth.
Obviously people who say such things are looking forward to a country they can call their own. If they had longed for the country they came from, they could have gone back. But they were looking for a better place, a heavenly homeland. That is why God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them. (Hebrews 11:13-16 NLT)
Adam and Eve were exiled from their original home. Adam’s body, and Eve’s body, fashioned by God from Adam’s flesh, were made of the dust of the ground. God’s Word says, And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul. (Genesis 2:7 KJV)
Humankind were originally made from the very ground of paradise, and formed in the likeness of God, Himself. We were intended to live in eternal fellowship with God, to enjoy a completely fulfilling relationship with Him and with each other, never to grow old, or become sick, or die, in a perfect world. And we lost it.
 Adam and Eve were created “naked.” Which is not a commentary on the fact that they didn’t have to wear clothes, but rather that the first thing they noticed after they had sinned was that they were missing something. It wasn’t the lack of clothing that made them “naked,” it was the fact that the glory of God no longer covered them. They had lost their covering. They had lost God’s favor. They were naked, and uncovered and vulnerable.
 Abraham and Sarah agreed that they were foreigners and nomads here on earth. Adam and Eve were exiled form their original home in paradise. You and I have a memory in our spirits and in our souls of another country. A better place. A heavenly homeland. It is not here, and it cannot be found here. It is elsewhere. It is another city, that God has prepared for us in eternity.
We are lonely, because we are missing someplace. We are lonely because we are longing for home, and this is not our home. We are foreigners and strangers on the earth. We are just passing through.
We are lonely because we are missing something. Our bodies were not originally designed to sicken, and age and die. We are missing the bodies that God designed for us. We are missing the covering of God’s glory. We are missing eternity.
We are lonely, because we are missing Someone. We were created for fellowship with God, face to face.
And they heard the voice of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day: and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God amongst the trees of the garden. And the Lord God called unto Adam, and said unto him, Where art thou? (Genesis 3:8-9)
When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things. For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as I am also known. (1 Corinthians 13:11-12 KJV)

What Does it Mean to Be Salt and Light in a Broken World? Part Two


Then God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. And God saw that the light was good. Then He separated the light from the darkness. (Genesis 1:3-4 NLT)

This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine. (Harry Dixon Loes)

I was born in northern Indiana, about sixty miles south of Chicago, where the summers are blazing hot and the winters are brutally cold. At this time of year, in the autumn, the days get a little shorter, the angle of the light begins to shift against the trees, and the smell of school supplies is in the air. Pencils, and paper, and crayons and glue, and new jackets, and shoes that haven’t been scuffed just yet.

Abraham Lincoln was born in Kentucky, but from the age of seven, he lived in Spencer County, Indiana.* When I reach back into my early childhood, at the very bud of my academic career, one of the earliest memories I have is being taught about young and honest Abe, growing up in a one-room log cabin in the wild and woolly Indiana forest.

It wasn’t so much the politician, or the orator, or the beard, or the stovepipe hat that fired my imagination, although each of those things was impressive indeed. It was the picture that I had in my little girl’s mind of a long and lanky boy, sitting near a fire next to a wooden table, studying into a dark night, lit only by the stutter of the stub of a tallow candle, in a cabin buried in snow as deep as a man stands. The dim light from that little nub of a candle just stuck in my mind, because I’ve always been a reader. I can’t remember a time when I couldn’t read. I pictured young Abe, serious and studious, straining to see words on worn pages, lit only by the flame of a single candle. How much he wanted to read, and how much he yearned to learn and educate himself!

Now, of course, I am no longer young, and the little girl who loved to read has become the grandma, teaching her first granddaughter that the letter A says,  A – like in Apple; not in the flickering light of a precious candle, but in the icy blue glow of an ipad. (Made by a company named Apple, of which Abe never dreamed.)

Here’s the thing…it wasn’t about the light that shone from that candle, that sat on a table, in a tiny cabin in the wide, wild wood that fired Abe Lincoln’s mind, and soul and spirit. Rather, it was the light that lived inside of him, and shone out of him, that ultimately illuminated a nation.

And it’s that same light, that has been passed from generation to generation, like the flame of a candle passed from hand-to-hand and wick-to-wick at a midnight service on Christmas Eve, that has shone in the hearts of men and women throughout the ages, who have been called by the purpose of God to reflect His light to a lost and broken world.

Jesus said, Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven. (Matthew 5:14-16 KJV)


* Lincoln Boyhood National Memorial,

What Does it Mean to Be Salt and Light in a Broken World? Part One


Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person. (Colossians 4:6 KJV)

How do you season your speech? Are your words sweet, like honey, or spicy, like Tabasco? If you had to take them back, how would they taste? Would you be able to eat your own words, or would they be bitter to your belly?

How do we respond, when the words that we hear are as sharp and cutting as razors and when the voices all around us seem to always be raised against something, or someone, or some way of thinking or expressing who we are and what is most important to us, our families, our communities and our nations?

Vine’s Bible Dictionary of Words says that, “Being possessed of purifying, perpetuating and antiseptic qualities, ‘salt’ became emblematic of fidelity and friendship among eastern nations. To eat a person’s ‘salt’ [is] to share his hospitality…in Scripture it is an emblem of the covenant between God and His people…so when the Lord says, ‘Have salt in yourselves and be at peace with one another’ (Mark 9:50), in the Lord’s teaching it is also symbolic of that spiritual health and vigor essential to Christian virtue and counteractive of the corruption that is in the world.”

When the words that we hear, and even the words that we speak can cause wounds, how do we apply salt to those wounds for healing, rather than using words to cause further pain?

In the ancient world, salt was difficult to come by, necessary for life, and therefore extremely valuable. People who did their jobs well were said to be “worth their weight in salt” and people of high standing were seated “above the salt” at banquets, at the position of greatest authority.

James, the brother of Jesus, tells us that “the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, impartial and sincere” (James 3:15 ESV). The Word of God is compared to salt, to honey and to fresh-flowing, cleansing water. It is the wisdom from above, and it is the pearl of great price that is valuable beyond measure.

When we, as followers of Christ, apply the principles that we are taught by the Holy Spirit through the Word of God to every conversation and every situation that we encounter as we walk through this world day to day, and we let our speech be always with grace and seasoned with salt, then we will know how to answer every person, in every circumstance.

Regardless of the political climate that we find ourselves in – regardless of who is mayor, or governor, or senator, or president, or minister or king, the leadership of this world cannot be perfect, until the time when the King of kings and Lord of lords returns, to lift up all government upon His shoulders.

Therefore, rather than pointing fingers at each other, let us remember to point each other toward our Wonderful Counselor and the Shepherd of our Souls, Jesus Christ, so that we may, as far as it depends on us, live at peace with all people. The Sword of the Spirit is the Word of God, and our battle is not against flesh and blood, but with belief systems and attitudes that have not yet encountered the antiseptic and healing power of God’s Word, spoken by His Holy Spirit through His people, who we are, as His ambassadors on earth until He comes.

Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savor, wherewith shall it be salted? (Matthew 5:13a KJV)

Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making His appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. (2 Corinthians 5:20 ESV)