July 12, 2022
We have been celebrating Independence Day. Crowds of people have gathered throughout our nation under star-spangled skies. Yet there is a pervasive feeling of isolation and loneliness that grips people like a cancer nibbling at the corners of their lives. The Creator God addressed this in Genesis, King Solomon addresses this in Ecclesiastes 4, and we communicate our desires for relationships in how we choose to live. Why is it such a high value and yet such a hard thing to do to live in relationship with others?
The Lord God determined that it wasn’t good for man to be alone. “…It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him” (Genesis 2:18). God knew alone was not “good”. Whole TV series have been created about surviving alone in the wilderness. Hatchet by Gary Paulsen is a story that pivots on the ability of a young man to survive in the wilderness alone. Music has addressed this spirit of “alone”. The Beatles, All the Lonely People, echoed the refrain:
“All the lonely people
Where do they all come from?
All the lonely people
Where do they all belong?
John Milton said, “Loneliness is the first thing which God’s eyes name not good.” Why is loneliness not a good thing? Why did Adam need a helper? In a world that has a population in the billions, how are people ever alone? In our community of thousands, with WalMart and Kroger parking lots always full of cars, why is loneliness an epidemic? Why do people sit in our churches feeling alone and isolated?
Like the Creator God, King Solomon addressed the terrifying alone. The king notes in Ecclesiastes 4, “There was a man all alone; he had neither son nor brother” (Ecclesiastes 4:8)... “We live, in fact, in a world starved for solitude, silence, and private: therefore starved for meditation and true friendship,” stated C.S. Lewis. Read Ecclesiastes 4:7-8. How would this person that Solomon is describing relate to the thoughts of C.S. Lewis? What is the cure for the isolation of toiling alone? Paul also addresses loneliness. The loneliness of separation from the very God who created man to not be alone. In Ephesians 2:12, we read, “Remember that at that time you were separate from Christ…without hope and without God in the world.” Isolation from people has proven very difficult as we have discovered during COVID. John Piper has stated, “Isolation + feeding on vanity = soul-starving loneliness." What has been your experience with the pain of loneliness?
The Creator God, the king, and Scripture all point to the antidote for lonely living. Read Ecclesiastes 4:9-12. How does the king address the issues of “alone”? How would you apply this antidote to your daily living? Alistair Begg addresses Ephesians 2:12’s hopeless spiritual aloneness with the closeness of God in Ephesians 2:13. “So they were loved without realizing, they were purchased without deserving, and they had constant companionship that penetrated aloneness. You were once far away; now you’re near.” John Piper puts it this way: Isolation + communion with God = Soul-feeding solitude. The Beatles recognized the agony of alone, God knew it was not good for man to be alone, and King Solomon recommended that people would do better if they were not alone (and he had 700 concubines, so I can imagine that his alone time was somewhat limited). God’s Word calls us to live in community. How can you become more aware of the lonely people around you? How will you address your own isolation and become an active part of bridging isolation in your faith community?
July 11, 2022
When we were kids, we looked forward to family reunions. There was lots of great food and fun. We renewed acquaintances and even made new ones. I don't recall any fights or people who wouldn't speak to one another. But, when you're a kid, you often don't notice such things.
What memories do you have of family reunions?
Israel, God’s chosen people, had a lot of family reunions, feasts, and festivals. Unfortunately, like many families today, they often didn't get along. They divided into two nations, and the unity the psalmist praised was destroyed. Ultimately, in God’s good plan, they will be restored.
During the years we had ministries in the Charis Fellowship, we looked forward to the annual "Family Reunion." That's exactly what it was, the gathering of the Grace Brethren family of God. They came together from all over the country for several days of fellowship, family business, and finding out what was happening in our churches, national ministries, and our global teammates. For us, it was better than Christmas! renewed old relationships and enjoyed meeting family members for the first time.
What memories do you have of attending a church or fellowship gathering?
Most of the time, the business sessions were perfunctory; some might even say, "Borrring!" Until . . . there were disagreements. Sad to say, it was anything but "good and pleasant" because there wasn't unity. The "precious oil" (v. 2) of the Holy Spirit had dried up, if you will. Tempers flared. Harsh words were spoken. Division followed. The grace in our name seemed to be missing. And at those times some of us wished we didn't belong to this family.
Perhaps the formula Pastor Kip reminded us of recently hadn't been articulated yet.
- In Essentials - UNITY
- In Non-Essentials - LIBERTY
- In All Things - CHARITY
These principles would have helped...if those involved could have agreed on what the essentials were. (Smile). Certainly, it would have been "good and pleasant" (vs. 1) because God's people were living together in unity.
Praise God, by his grace unity has been restored in our Fellowship, and once again it is a joy to attend the family reunion. This week the annual Charis Conference - Access 2022 - takes place right here in Winona Lake, hosted by Grace Schools at the MOCC.
Such gatherings are a shadow of the great family reunion we will enjoy at the return of Jesus and when everyone will “live together in unity.”
What is your anticipation of the ultimate family reunion?
How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity! (Psalm 133:1I)
jbd & gmd
When I was in high school, I once received a tip that some “friends” were planning to come over and toilet paper our house sometime that night. I decided to stay up with my pellet gun and defend the house (long before the “Home Alone” movie).
Two things happened: 1) I fell asleep and 2) the house got toilet papered. Even knowing what was going to happen, I still fell asleep. I was so mad at myself!
That's nothing compared to failing to be ready for Christ’s return. Jesus said he was coming back. We just can’t know when. Jesus told his followers: “You do not know on what day your Lord will come.” What we do know is that his return will come “at an hour when you do not expect him.”
So, what should be our response?
Jesus answered clearly: “You also must be ready.” So, what does it mean to be ready?
To explain this, Jesus told a little parable about a servant who was put in charge of his Master’s household. When the Master returned, if the found the servant doing his job, the servant would be rewarded. However, if the Master found the servant acting in a self-serving and selfish way, the servant would be punished.
What does that have to do with “being ready”?
We are ready for the return of Christ if we are about his business now and when he returns. Instead of trying to figure out the date and the hour of Christ’s return, we should focus on being on mission for him in the world. “Being ready” means living for Christ rather than for self. It means loving and serving others rather than misusing others for one’s own benefit.
If I was mad at myself for falling asleep while guarding our house against my prankster friends, just think how miserable I’ll be if Jesus returns to find me living for myself rather than for him?!
Let’s be ready for Christ’s return by being on mission together and serving one another in love.
Ready or Not...
When I read this text, the haunting lyrics to Larry Norman’s 1969 classic go through my mind.
There's no time to change your mind
The son has come and you've been left behind
You've been left behind
You've been left behind
If I had any trauma in my childhood, it might well have been that song coupled with the 1970’s film “A Thief In The Night.” I couldn’t sleep for a week after watching that film down in the old Billy Sunday Tabernacle during Moody Week. It scared me half to death.
Obviously, I was a sheltered kid.
This text is notoriously hard to interpret. It seems to start with a description of the Second Coming of Jesus and then ends with what sounds more like the Rapture. In between, Jesus says, “This generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened.” What things, exactly? And is Jesus playing with the word “generation,” because it’s been well over 2000 years since Christ said this and he hasn’t returned...unless he’s talking about the gift of the Holy Spirit. When he says “these things,” maybe he’s talking about the Temple being destroyed, which did happen just 40 years later. But, admittedly, it is hard to say.
When prophetic texts are hard to sort out, as is this one, it is tempting just to ignore them. That can’t be the right approach. A better approach might be to discern the main idea, even if we can’t explain all the details.
So, what is the main idea?
The main idea isn’t stated directly in these verse, although the flavor of it is here. The main idea of the whole passage of Matthew 24 is encapsulated in two words: “Be ready” (found in verse 44).
One way or another, Jesus is coming back.
Not everyone will be ready.
You be ready.
Tomorrow we’ll talk about what it means to “be ready.”
Will The Real Messiah Please Stand Up
This text may well refer to what we call the Tribulation, a seven-year period of “great distress” spanning the time between the rapture of the Church and the return of Christ. At the outset of this frightening time period, the Church will be caught up to meet Christ and be with Him forever. In other words, we church-age believers are out of the picture at this point. If that is the case, it is tempting to dismiss these words as irrelevant to us. We do that at our own risk.
Because the Tribulation is not something completely new. Rather, it is an intensification of what has already been going on.
Deception by “false messiahs” hardly starts with the Tribulation. Yes, the antichrist, the false prophet, and the beast all make their appearance during this time. However, though they may be some of the most powerful and wicked deceivers of all time, they’re hardly the first.
Peter talked about false teachers in his time: “There will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them—bringing swift destruction on themselves. Many will follow their depraved conduct and will bring the way of truth into disrepute. In their greed these teachers will exploit you with fabricated stories. Their condemnation has long been hanging over them, and their destruction has not been sleeping” (2 Peter 2:1-3).
Not much has changed.
Here’s the point: don’t be deceived.
That’s easier said than done. The whole danger of deception is that you don’t know it’s happening. So, how do we avoid being deceived?
The best way to avoid being deceived by false messiahs is to know the real Messiah well. Counterfeits are only discernable when we are familiar with the real deal. And we get to know the real Messiah well by reading His Word. Don’t expect to get to know the real Messiah on television or social media. Find him in the Bible. Even “The Chosen” is no substitute for God’s Word. Scripture itself is the only completely reliable source on Jesus. Dig in.
By the way, says Jesus, my return will be unmistakable. You won’t be able miss it or misunderstand it. There will be no doubt. “As lightning that comes from the east is visible even in the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man,” said Jesus, describing his return. Short of that, don’t be fooled.
We shouldn’t be looking to the sky for the Messiah, though. We should be looking into the Bible.
The truth is that the Messiah is present right now, by his Spirit in the Church. Instead of trying to figure out the time of Christ’s return, we should focus on being Christ’s body and being on his mission here and now while we wait for his return.
How are you doing that?