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Archive for January, 2022

Thomas Wolfe once said, “Loneliness, far from being a rare and curious phenomenon peculiar to me and a few other solitary men, is the central fact of human existence.” Even if this is an overstatement, no one can doubt that loneliness is a much greater problem in our world today than many people realize.

Alexander MacLaren, President of the Baptist World Congress in 1905, said, “Few of us have reached middle life who cannot, by looking back, see our track strewn with the gaunt skeletons of dead friendships, and dotted with ‘oaks of weeping,’ waving green and mournful over graves, and saddened by footprints striking away from the line of march, and leaving us the more solitary for their departure.”

A study by the American Council of Life Insurance a few years ago reported that the loneliest group in our country is college students. That may surprise you! Next on the list are divorced people, welfare recipients, single mothers, lots of rural students, many housewives and the elderly.

What comes to your mind when you hear the word lonely? A homeless person who is sitting on a park bench? An elderly senior citizen who lives alone? A soldier overseas who has not seen his family in more than a year? A person who has few or no satisfying relationships? A social misfit who does not know how to relate to others?

Loneliness touches the lives of far more people than those on either this list or the one resulting from the study mentioned above by the American Council of Life Insurance. I even read recently the story of a Florida bachelor who sent his picture to a Lonely Hearts Club. They replied: “We are not that lonely.”

All of us have been lonely at times. Persons we would never believe could be lonely live daily behind a wall shut off from meaningful contact with others, often because they have built walls rather than bridges. Behind many a jolly mask you will find a very lonely soul. Loneliness afflicts even the most gregarious and outgoing.

One of the things that I as a Christian minister have discovered while working with and listening to people is that loneliness has little to do with the absence of people. You can be lonely in a crowd, among friends, in a marriage, in a civic club and even in the largest church.

Loneliness is not isolation; it is insulation. It is the fear of knowing and of being known. I am often amazed at the loneliness I hear expressed by otherwise well-adjusted and competent people. It comes out in an unguarded comment, a certain facial expression or in undeniable body language.

People who are lonely live in walled castles with their moat bridge pulled up most of the time. Wistfully they sing the words of a song that was popular several years ago, “I’ve got to walk this lonesome valley. Nobody can walk it for me. I’ve got to walk it for myself.”

No, you don’t have to walk life’s lonely road by yourself! The God who created each of us has promised to walk it with us every mile of life’s journey. In Jesus Christ He has come to heal the essential cause of loneliness. Jesus came into a lonely world where those who are estranged from Him might have an intimate relationship not only with Him but also with other persons. On Calvary God offered love as the antidote for our loneliness. It is available to all who choose to accept His love.

Loneliness, in reality, is homesickness for God. You perhaps have never realized this, but it is true. It is a deep longing that cannot be totally filled by any group, friend or loved one. God has placed within the human heart a longing for relationship with Him that no person or thing will ever be able to satisfy.

Thus, loneliness is a “homing instinct.” Just as animals, birds and fish have a homing instinct leading them back to their original habitats, we can experience a loneliness that does not satisfy our basic needs until we are at home and have a meaningful relationship with God.

The healing of our loneliness begins when we choose to open the door to Christ so He can and will lead us home. He enables us to be at home with ourselves, with others, with the circumstances we face daily and with Him. We do not have to be part of the lonely crowd any longer.

In other words, we do not have to “walk the lonesome valley” by ourselves, for Jesus Christ has promised: “Lo, I am with you always – even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20). When you invite Jesus Christ to walk with you, you will never be lonely again.

That is a wonderful promise, wouldn’t you say? Believe it!

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Tell God about it!

Are you deeply bothered by something you have done in the past? There is no need to do that if you have asked God to forgive you. What was said and done yesterday is over. It belongs in your yesterdays. The greatest days of your life can begin today. God never consults your past to determine your future.

Consider Moses, the lawgiver and liberator of Israel, to whom God gave the Ten Commandments, who wrote the first five books of the Bible. He was a murderer and was on Egypt’s Most Wanted List. He became a fugitive and fled to the backside of the wilderness. God was getting him ready for a major assignment.

Or consider King David, the young shepherd boy who killed the giant Goliath of Gath. After David became King of Israel, he committed adultery with Bathsheba and had her husband killed in cold blood. Yet he confessed (Psalm 51) and was restored to fellowship with God. God did not let his past determine his future.

When Jesus called Simon Peter to follow Him, He knew what a tremendous vessel he would be. Yet, even after three years of intimate fellowship with Jesus and listening to Him teach, Peter denied three different times that he ever knew Him. Jesus not only forgave him, but He called him to be a rock and to feed His flock.

Is there anything in your past that paralyzes your potential and fills your heart with shame? If God forgave Moses, King David and Simon Peter, He also will forgive you. Confess your past sins to God and ask Him to cleanse your life. He has forgiven everyone who ever asked Him to do that. He will also forgive you.

You do not need to live your life carrying around past wrong decisions and actions on your shoulders like a huge sack of rocks. Everyone makes mistakes. Everyone goes through adversity, rejection and reversal. God’s Word reminds us, “All have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). It also reminds us that sin – any sin, all sin – if confessed, will be forgiven (I John 1:9). You can believe it.

Have you been hurt? Tell God about it!

Have you been needlessly and wrongfully criticized? Tell God about it!

Have you been betrayed by someone? Tell God about it!

Have you sinned against God or a loved one? Tell God about it!

Do you feel there is a huge burden between you and God? Tell Him about it!

It would be impossible to estimate the number of jobs lost, the number of promotions missed, the number of sales not made, the number of marriages ruined or the number of churches divided by people without determination, focus or fortitude who totally enjoy having a pity party because they are carrying around with them every day wherever they go some burden from their yesterdays.

If you are held hostage by anything in your past, why not try what the apostle Paul suggested to the Thessalonian Christians: “In everything give thanks.” On easy street or down in the dumps, give thanks. In prosperity or in poverty, give thanks. In health or in pain give thanks. “Be thankful to Him and bless His name. For the Lord is good; His mercy is everlasting” (Psalm 100:4b-5a).

When you are able to demonstrate gratitude, God will give you a new attitude. He is greater than any difficulty you have ever had, now have or will ever have.

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What event produced the greatest stress in your life today? Was it this past week? Have there been times when you felt overloaded with responsibilities at home, work, school, church or all of the above? Trying to make your money last until payday? Running late for an appointment? Are you facing unexpected car repair or medical expenses?

Each of these stress producers have to do with either time or money – or both. Think of how many day-to-day issues involve the use of one of these two. The clock and the dollar are such substantial factors in so many parts of life that their role must be considered in any serious discussion of anyone who would live a dedicated Christian life.

At the end of His earthly life Jesus was able to pray to the Father, “I have brought you glory on earth by completing the work you gave me to do” (John 17:4). As with Jesus, God gives to every person the gifts of time and work. The more we are like Jesus, the more we will understand why the disciplined use of the time that God gives us is so important. The following are good biblical reasons why every Christian should seek to use time wisely:

The days are evil (Ephesians 5:15-16). Our thoughts must be disciplined; otherwise, like water, they tend to flow downhill or stand stagnant. Our bodies are inclined to pleasure, gluttony and sloth. Unless we practice self-control, our bodies will tend to serve evil more than to serve God.

Wise use of time is preparation for eternity. The decisions we make and the actions they foster depend on our use of time. Just as a small rudder determines the direction of a great ocean liner, even so that which we do in the context of time prepares us for eternity. When we kill time, we should remember that it has no resurrection.

Time is short. The scarcer something is, the more valuable it is. Gold and diamonds would be worthless if you could pick them up like grains of sand along the seashore. Since we are never more than one breath away from eternity, the way we use our time has eternal significance. Even the longest life is brief in comparison to eternity.

Time is passing. We speak of saving time, buying time, making up time, and so on, but those are illusions, for time is always passing. It is difficult to live in the present, ridiculous to try to live in the future and impossible to live in the past. Nothing is farther away than one minute ago. That is why lost time can never be found again.

The time we have left is uncertain. Not only is time short and uncertain, but we have no idea how much of it we have left or how quickly it will pass. We read in Proverbs 27:1 these words: Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring forth. Multiplied thousands of people have entered eternity in the last 24 hours who had absolutely no idea yesterday that they were living their last day on earth. One of them could have been you.

We are accountable to God for our use of time. There is hardly a more sobering thought than is found in Romans 14:12 – “So, then, each one of us will give an account of himself to God.” Notice that it says “each of us,” not “some of us.” Jesus said, “But I tell you that men will have to give account on the Day of Judgment for every careless word they have spoken” (Matthew 12:26). That is a sobering thought.

Time’s greatest value is in terms of eternity. If we are to face any regrets in heaven, they will probably be that we did not use our earthly time more for the glory of God and for personal growth in His grace. The English pastor-theologian Richard Baxter asked, “Doth it not tear their very hearts forever, to think themselves wise who are idling or playing away their time on earth.”

Remember this: “Yesterday is a cancelled check; tomorrow is a promissory note; only today is negotiable. Spend it wisely.”

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