The State of Relationships

“And his mother and his brothers came, and standing outside they sent to him and called him. And a crowd was sitting around him, and they said to him, “Your mother and your brothers are outside, seeking you.” And he answered them, “Who are my mother and my brothers?” And looking about at those who sat around him, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! For whoever does the will of God, he is my brother and sister and mother.”- Mark 3:31-35 

If you were asked what the greatest blessings in your life are, what would your answer be? If you are like most people, your answer would be family, parents, brothers, your husband or wife, your children, your grandparents and maybe a few close friends. The next question is why you consider them a blessing in your life. There are many reasons why they could be a blessing in your life. Hopefully, some are a blessing because they lift you up, they support you and they help you with your walk with God.

In the Mark 31 passage above, Jesus’ family comes on the scene seeking to help Jesus, at least in their own minds. Jesus is surrounded by crowds of people and his family wants to take charge of Him.

If we are honest we want to be surrounded by people as well. We desire to be surrounded by people who will help us get ahead, people who will improve our life, people who will help us through the rough patches. We want people around us who we can spend time with, have fun and talk over the issues of the day.  But we also want people who we can be more open, more candid with. People we can do life with and know they have our back no matter what the circumstance. People we can feel secure with. People we can be intimate with: intimacy is defined as any relationship where we know another fully and where we are also fully known.

Our spouse can fill all those roles. The spouse can bring clarity to the relationship and energy, a unifying spirit and the ability to keep the focus on God where it belongs.

The world and God have different views on the recipe for a good marriage. The world might say that couples need “chemistry”. God takes a different view. He says the covenant that men and women make with one another is what a good marriage is based upon. Spouses honor one another and God by understanding and adhering to that covenant. Marital relationships are strengthened by growing together toward the same goals. We simply need to let go and let God handle it.   

God is constantly trying to change us into the persons He created us to be. He uses marriage for this purpose. Recognizing these things provides an entirely new perspective on marriage and will strengthen the relationships without crowds around us.

Discussion Questions:

  1. What kind of relationship do you want? What brings you closer to people, what pushes you away?
  2. What builds connections in your relationship with them?
  3. What time and energy are you willing to put in to developing intimacy in this relationship?
  4. How might you make them aware of your interest in building greater intimacy?

I Have Found The One Whom My Soul Loves…

“As an apple tree among the trees of the forest, so is my beloved among the young men. With great delight I sat in his shadow, and his fruit was sweet to my taste.” – Song of Solomon 2:3.

Believers not familiar with the Song of Solomon will probably be taken back when they start reading the 117 verses in the 8 chapters. The questions of why The Song of Solomon is in the Bible and why we should study it are one in the same. When we come to study The Song of Solomon we see a very different presentation than we are used to in our studies of Scripture. The Song of Solomon is regarded as probably one of the most obscure and difficult books in the Bible. It can seem risqué, but when considered for its message, it is in harmony with the truths and teachings found elsewhere in Scripture. Most new Christians probably do a double take when they come in contact with it, yet when read carefully and reflect on the verses, you will discover the keen insights, and how deeply it probes into human relationships. Which is why we are spending the next six weeks on the Song of Solomon.

Here’s the thing. God thinks love, romance and sex is important, and Scripture contains numerous guidelines for its use and warnings about its misuse. Perhaps the highlight of this is the Song of Solomon, an intimate story of a man and a woman, their love, courtship, and marriage. It is a moving story, drama, and poem, featuring the love dialogue between a simple Jewish maiden (the young woman) and (Solomon, the king). They describe in intimate detail their feelings for each other and their longings to be together. Throughout the dialogue, love, romance, sex and marriage are framed with a God-given perspective.

As we study the Song of Solomon over the next several weeks, remember that you are loved by God, and commit yourself to seeing life, sex, and marriage from His point of view.

God wants us to enjoy our relationships. Life in Christ is not boring, without pleasure, without intimacy, but quite the opposite. There is much we can learn about intimacy. There is no better place to learn about God, love, and sex than in the Song of Solomon.

From courtship to marriage to the assurance of love, Song of Solomon poetically presents a broad range of events and feelings in the days leading up to and during marriage, offering encouragement toward an enduring love amid the petty jealousies and fears sure to threaten even the strongest of relationships. We should heed Solomon’s words by continuing to appreciate the goodness and the beauty that comes from the union of two people in marriage.

Song of Solomon reminds us that both marriage and the physical union that follows originate in God; we should therefore consider each of them as evidence of His grace working itself out in the world.

Whether you’re married, single, or struggling in a relationship, we all have questions about God, love, intimacy and sex. I believe we have real life answers for real life relationships in the Unforgettable Love Story: A Study of Love, Marriage and Romance series.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Have you studied the Song of Solomon before?
  2. Are you happy with your relationships? Yes or no?
  3. Do you need to work to change your outlook toward intimacy? Should you value it more highly? If married, do you enjoy it to the fullest?
  4. Pray and ask God to speak to you during this series on marriage, relationships and intimacy.

I Stand Corrected

“For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.” – Hebrews 12:11. 

In April of this year our teaching series was entitled “Home Run Life: Living Life By God’s Game Plan.” This series made the connection between the Christian life and the game of baseball. Baseball employs all kinds of coaches who earn their money by coaching the players. Coaching is basically fixing any flaws so they can perform to their maximum. If a baseball player is to be successful, they have to be open to corrections.   

Are you open to correction when life throws you a curve and you suddenly find yourself off track?  Are you open to somebody telling you something you may not want to hear? More often than not we prefer excuses by blaming someone or something else. But if we want to better follow Jesus we have to come to grips with the fact that life is 10 percent of what happens to you and 90 percent how you respond to it.

The fact is we all have obstacles in our life. They can be stepping stones to bigger and better things or they can defeat you depending how you respond. It is important that we have someone who can speak the unvarnished truth to us. Someone who loves us enough to tell us something we don’t want to hear. But again, it is not so much a question of the subject talked about as how we respond. Or in other words what are we going to do about what we are told.

I fully understand that it is awkward even difficult to be corrected. Correction to me is like bad tasting medicine; it puts a grimace on your face when it goes down and the after taste lasts for several seconds, but it will make you feel better in the days to come. Solomon put it like this, “It is better for a man to hear the rebuke of the wise than to hear the song of fools.”  (Ecclesiastes 7:5). The song of fools is being flattered. Compliments are often fleeing, but the impact of correction can last a lifetime. 

Here’s the thing. We all know people who made a mistake, own up to it. If you are anything like me, that person immediately earned more of my respect than he did before. There are few things more refreshing than transparency. If we refuse  to be corrected, we have lost  an opportunity to grow. Correction can help us grow in a area where we may be weak. People who accept correction will make fewer mistakes in the future because they will be more diligent in carefully examining how their action or attitude impacts their walk with God.

If someone you trust offers some insights into your life, take the time to listen. Resist the urge to immediately tell the person they are wrong or to defend yourself. Just listen and hear them out. Look at each occurrence as something that could be good. Recognize that God may be using this to refine you in some way. And if you think the person is off base, be open to the fact that you may be wrong. Tell them you honestly don’t see this in your life, but that doesn’t mean it’s not true. Tell them that you are going to take what they said to you seriously and keep an open mind to what they said. That is the way to respond and to grow.

Proverbs 27:5 tells us, “Better is open rebuke than hidden love.”

Discussion Question:

  1. Read 2 Timothy 4:2: What does this verse mean to you?
  2. Should we confront the person or wait until we are asked for our thoughts?
  3. Is there a difference between immediate and deliberate correction?
  4. If you take the “one another” commands of Scripture seriously, loving correction will be part of your small group. Agree or disagree?
  5. Pray and ask God to put someone in your life that will speak the truth into your life.

I Want To Be That Person

“But when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.” – 2 Corinthians 3:16–18.

Sometimes you unexpectedly meet a person and you find yourself face to face with what it means to be more like Jesus. A person who has an acute acceptance of their dependence on Christ. They seem to be reminded of God’s love every day. I want to be that person.

The person that doesn’t view Christ as just an acquaintance. Rather He is my deepest and truest Friend. Christ is not my battery pack when I need a quick jolt; Christ is the power plant of my spiritual life. He generates my wisdom, my righteousness, my sanctification, and my redemption. He is the boast of my life. 1 Corinthians 1:30–31 says,  “And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”

 I want to be the person who lives like Jesus, who healed bodies with a touch and who commanded death to flee with a word. Be like the Jesus who commanded waves to stop crashing and who commanded sinners to stop sinning. And most solemnly of all, I want to be the person that lives by the death of Christ, who was hammered to a cross in my place, and who shed His blood for my sins. I want to be the person who lives their life in light of the fact that Christ rose from the dead in power and glory.   

I want to be the person that never forgets and worse yet never ignores Christ while living in a loud and busy world. I want to be the person who knows that  keeping Christ in view is a fight, the central fight of my Christian life, and the central fight for my daily joy. But I also need to remember that this daily struggle to keep my eyes focused on Christ is not how I save myself.  No, my daily focus on Christ is a reminder that my full salvation is found in Jesus. “Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.” (Hebrews 7:25).

To the uttermost. Uttermost is one of those compound words for which we have no equivalent. It means that He is able to save unto all completeness, unto the total perfection of saving. Jeremiah 17:14 tells us, “Heal me, O LORD, and I shall be healed; save me, and I shall be saved, for you are my praise.” I want to be the person who asks where I would have been had not Jesus saved me to the uttermost.  I want to be the person who remembers that in spite of my sins, weaknesses, fears and failures, Christ saves to the uttermost.

I want to be the person who centers my life around Christ. I want to pursue Christ more than praise and applause, more than likes and shares, more than Twitter followers and more than my income statement. I want to be the person who wins the fight by keeping my eyes focused on the Savior.  I want to be the person who fights for focus in our daily lives by attending church, joining  a small group, by praying and having a quiet time to read and reflect on God’s word. These are the keys to personal growth and maturity. I do not want to be the person who settles for a Christian life that is less than it can be. Focusing on Christ is hard, but He is worth the fight.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Do you feel the presence of God on a daily basis?
  2. Is it possible to practice the presence of God–take time each day–even for a few minutes to be aware of the presence of God? Yes or no? Why or why not?
  3. What does it mean to serve God? Is it a position, a role, or a mindset?
  4. In what circumstances are you most tempted to stop talking to God?  If you were to talk to Him in those circumstances, what would you want to hear from Him?
  5. Do you have a tendency to talk to God in “big moments” and not so much in the “in-between” moments? Why?
  6. Pray and ask God to give you a daily connection with Him.

Change For The Better

“But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works; otherwise grace would no longer be grace.” – Roman 11:6.

Very few people want change in their lives. We don’t want change because we don’t like it. But no matter how much we dislike change it is  inevitable that we will experience change sometime in our lives. Change for the Christian is usually a good thing. God’s plan is to make us new and to be more like Him and that requires change. But change is not the end game. Life is 10 percent of what happens to you and 90 percent how you respond to it.

That is not to suggest that change is easy.  It isn’t. How often have we been angry because of our lack of change. We react in frustration: “I can’t believe I’ve done it again,” or “why can’t I get over this hurdle?” We are disappointed and discouraged in our inability to make progress in spiritual matters. Change is painfully slow. Making our relationship with God better is not as easy as we thought it would be. 

The reality is that from time to time, we all see areas in our lives that we struggle with; areas that we wish could be different. It might be moral failures or habits that have us discouraged. It could be relationships. It could be our inability to affect lasting change. How does God want us to approach those areas? Is there a way to find freedom and real change? I believe the answer is yes and it involves God’s grace. God’s grace can make a powerful difference in your life.

It is God’s grace that enables us to change. We have the ability to change when we are  overwhelmed with His love and His grace instead of being overwhelmed with our problems and trials. When we switch our focus and perspective, change just seems to happen. Change so dramatic and so real that the problems that defeated us in the past are replaced by the peace, contentment and joy that we find in Christ. Is anything deeper in its love, or more compassionate, or more humble, than the grace God shows us daily? God’s grace pours out love, kindness, favor to all who will trust Him. You don’t have to earn it. You just have to be in relationship with Him to receive His grace. Every believer is a witness to God’s overwhelming grace. 

We most need God’s grace when we become aware of aspects in our lives we know are wrong—things like: poor decisions, habits, behavior that we are ashamed of, areas we want God to change. If we have received Christ into our hearts, we have been declared His own, forgiven, and now under His grace. It is His grace that frees us and changes us. Instead of feeling like a failure or condemned, use your shortcomings to remind you of God’s love and grace. 

“Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” – Hebrews 4:16

Discussion Questions:

  1. Change can be difficult. Why or why not?
  2. What does the word “grace” mean to you? What amazes you about God’s grace?
  3. What are some of the ways in which the life of a Christian should be changed by having experienced grace?
  4. How can I be a demonstration of grace in my family, in my workplace, in my church and in my community?

What We Have In Common, Is What Sets Us Apart

“He makes the whole body fit together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love.” – Ephesians 4:16 (NLT)

As Christians we are better at doing church than doing life together. And that is unfortunate because Christians always live better lives when we are connected to other believers. Simply put, we are better together than by ourselves. 1 Peter 3:8 tells us God’s intention for us: “Finally, all of you should be of one mind. Sympathize with each other. Love each other as brothers and sisters. Be tenderhearted, and keep a humble attitude.” That verse sums up why we feel so strongly about small groups at Northstar.

On Sunday we meet as a large group to worship and to hear God’s Word. As great as that is – you need something smaller – where you can really get to know others and let others into your world. Yesterday I outlined the advantages of corporate worship and small groups. In this devotional, I would like to give you two more good reasons why you should join one of our Northstar groups:

First, let’s talk about isolation. A couple of weeks ago we discussed the movie Frozen and Queen Elsa’s kingdom of isolation. It is all too easy to become isolated. That is not what God wants because isolation is unhealthy for us. God’s called us to “community.” God created humans to be interactive not isolated. Christians are called to engage others and to add to the lives of others. That’s why small groups in a church are so important. It’s the best laboratory for growing as a believer. In a small group we learn to care about others and share life experiences. We grow together and separately.

And second, a small group gives us opportunities to practice God’s love. As Roy said, there are 100 “one another” commands in 94 verses.  Among many commands we are told to “love each other”, “pray for each other”, “encourage each other”, “serve each other”, “teach each other”, “accept each other”, “bear each other’s burdens”, and be “devoted to each other”. That is hard to do in a corporate worship service. But it is easy to do in a small group. It’s where you can find opportunities to “flesh out” the Bible’s command to practice God’s love for others.

It is my heartfelt prayer that each of you will be courageous and join one of our church’s small groups this semester. I am convinced that once you do, you will discover how much more rewarding the Christian life is when you do it with other believers.

Discussion Questions:

  1. What are your thoughts on the value/importance of small groups?
  2. Have you ever felt isolated, even in a large church?
  3. What are the obstacles to joining a small group?
  4. Find a small group that you find appealing and join today.

Helping Me Live Like Jesus

“Whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.” – 1 John 2:5.

Roy asked us a simple yet difficult question this week: “How can we we better follow Jesus.” I would like to ask a question as well. One that will help us answer Roy’s question. “Are you more like Jesus this year, than you were last year?”   

We are well into 2015. What changes have we made to better our relationship with God this year? And as we approach 2016 what changes do we need to make in 2016?  If we simply maintain the status quo year after year, we can expect to get the same results and we will not improve our relationship with God. And that is not what God wants. Ephesians 4:13 tells us “until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.”  We are to become mature and Christ like and to grow up into Christ.

One of our goals in life should be to be more like Jesus. Max Lucado begins and ends his book, Just Like Jesus, with these words: “God loves you just the way you are, but he refuses to leave you that way. He wants you to be just like Jesus.”  We want to me more like Jesus and Jesus wants us to be more like Him. So what needs to change?

As Roy talked about on Sunday one of the things that help improve our relationship with Jesus is joining a Northstar Group. Small groups are vital to the health of a local church. But there are many people who believe that going to Sunday services is sufficient. Now I love Sunday morning corporate worship. But corporate gatherings alone is not sufficient, spiritually. Yes, you heard the pastor say that. I believe every Christian needs to be a a small as well as a large community such as church services. The times in my life when I was most alive spiritually have been the times when I wiped away the veneers and removed the mask and did life with other believers.  Let’s look at why we need church and Northstar Groups.

It’s easy to hide in a large gathering and difficult in a small group. If we want to improve our relationship with Jesus, hiding will not help us achieve the goal. Involvement with other believers is the opposite of hiding.  Sermons are sharing information and are mostly passive, while small group involvement gets you engaged and active. There is little accountability in Sunday services. Accountability should be part of every small group.  On Sunday, if we are hurting physically or spiritually, there’s nobody to ask us, “What’s going on?” If your hurting in a small group, you are surrounded by people who care.  The problem becomes become everyone’s problem. That’s because you have a relationship with them. you have a relationship with them.

Sunday worship services don’t lend themselves to discussions that help with understanding and application. Small groups ask hard questions and allow for discovery. Learning isn’t simply about transferring information. It’s about interacting with that information. Learning involves poking and prodding and finding the areas that you need to change to improve your walk with Jesus with others who have your best interests at heart.  And finally, it is rare to pray for specific needs in a Sunday worship setting. Small groups pray for the specific needs of their group members. Not just generic, Have you ever heard someone verbally pray for you, specifically? If so, then you know what it’s like to feel genuinely loved.

Now I don’t want you to read this article and come to the conclusion that Pastor Marty wants us to skip Sunday services and go a small group.  I believe you need both. Each can contribute to building your relationship with God.

Discussion Questions:

  1. In what ways can a small group help your walk with God today?
  2. Why is it important that a Christian be part of a small group with other Christians sharing the Word of God?
  3. Read I Corinthians 12:12-27. What does these verses mean to you in the area of small groups?
  4. What should the goal of you small group be? Pray and ask God to direct you to a small group that you and others will benefit from.

Living Life To The Fullest

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life and have it to the full. — John 10:10

When Elsa was a young girl, she used her magical powers for fun.  She and Anna would build snowmen, play, laugh…..but when fear crept in and she saw that she had hurt Anna, her powers began to cause her to freeze things. 

From that point forward, she lived in fear and she let the negative rule her life. At some point in each of our lives, we search for a way to live life to its fullest. For some, this search takes them to the heights of successful business careers, or sports contracts. For others, it takes them to the nursery of their children, or the classroom in middle school. Yet, for many, the surface of a rich and full life is only ever barely scratched. Sure, physical needs are met. There’s a roof over our heads and a car in the driveway and there’s food on the table. But, those things are a small part of life lived to the fullest.

In his new book, Life With A Capital L: Embracing Your God Given Humanity, Matt Heard, presents us with an alternative to an unfulfilled life.  In the book Matt reminds us that Jesus is not only interested in our spirituality but our humanity as well. Many have tried, but it is very difficult to cultivate a spiritual journey that’s irrelevant to the rest of our lives. 

Jesus comes that we might live full of life. That we will enjoy our lives, and not let one facet of our lives ruin the total as Elsa did. Jesus tells us that He came that we might have life, and have it more abundantly. But in the minds of a lot of Christians today, that life is is in Heaven. In other words, salvation represents a glorious hope for those whose lives are drawing to a close, but has little to do with our day-to-day existence. But what if the abundant life Jesus came to bring us doesn’t begin after we die? What if it begins at the moment of conversion and grows stronger with each passing day? What if the full life begins now?

Matt talks about brokenness and heaven in the last few chapters in his book. Here is a summary: Life is hard. It’s messy. People hurt us. We hurt people. We are all broken in some way or another. Yet, Jesus comes to mend this brokenness. Not to airlift us out of it all, but to walk through it with us. To walk through it as one who understands it. And nothing will be left on the editing room floor of our journey. He’ll ultimately redeem it all, raising beauty from the ashes for our good and His glory. There is no need to run or to let one part of life derail the ability to live a full life. 

Salvation doesn’t fix all of the hurt and pain and brokenness upfront. It’s a process.

Life is lived out one step at a time. Slowly by slowly. Until that blessed day when all is redeemed and all is made new and all is filled to the fullness. In Christ, we’re free to live the life God intended us to enjoy. And this is truly good news. We simply need to pause and resist running like Elsa did.

Discussion Question:

  1. What are you running from? Who are you running with?
  2. Is there something keeping you from being bold or courageous?
  3. What is your definition of a full life? What do you need to do to increase the fullness in your life?
  4. How can you grow this week in your relationship with Jesus?
  5. Do you have a dream for the future of your life? Does the idea of God having a dream for your life mean anything to you? Could the two dreams coincide?

Only True Love Will Thaw a Frozen Heart

“Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”Isaiah 41:10

You can’t escape Disney’s phenomenon “Frozen.” It is the highest-grossing animated film of all time and one of Disney’s top franchises. It was the most downloaded movie from Apple last year, and kids everywhere are still singing the movie’s anthem, “Let It Go.” There are very few people in the country last year that did not have that song stuck in their own head, even if you have never seen the film. We were simply obsessed with Frozen. 

There are so many aspects of this movie that was endearing to all audiences. The fun-loving, persistent, optimistic and full of life nature of Anna. The fun and truthfulness of Olaf. The friendship of Sven. The bravery of Kristof. And then there is Elsa, the Queen. Elsa, who freezes Anna’s heart that only an act of true love can thaw.   

We may not be all that different. We are born with a hardened heart or frozen heart towards God and some of us in life also develop a frozen heart towards others.  Ephesians 4:18 says, “They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts.”  Our heart can grow cold for many reasons. It may be hurts, habits and hang-ups. Or failed relationships. Or maybe our heart is cold against one person in particular. Or past hurt, abuse, betrayal. Maybe it is fear or lack of trust.

Regardless of the reason we are fully capable of shutting God and others out, letting fear and mistrust take root, building walls and looking for ways to either run or isolate ourselves. We are all capable of finding ourselves in Elsa’s shoes. isolating ourselves. We are all capable of a frozen heart that needs thawing.

You see the sacrificial love of Anna for her sister Elsa. The sacrifice that led to her death, is what melted Elsa’s frozen heart. That same (and greater) sacrifice is found in the life and sacrificial death of Jesus, who died for us and his death and love can melt the most frozen, hardened heart. Jesus’ act of true love melts our hearts towards God and continues to melt our hearts when we are frozen towards others.

We should first examine our own hearts. God wants to do a work in each of us. He doesn’t want to leave you where you are—He loves you too much. He wants to increase your faith, your reliance upon Him, and your love for Him. Be willing to allow God to transform you. Give Him your heart.

Discussion Questions:

  1. If someone were to ask you “how are things with your heart?”—what’s your response? What words would serve as accurate descriptors of your heart’s inner condition at this time?
  2. In your past, what kinds of experiences have tended to be most wounding to your heart? In what ways have these things influenced your relationships and faith in God?
  3. Elsa ran from her fears. What are the potential dangers involved in allowing unresolved issues or conflicts to smolder in our hearts?
  4. Read Ezekiel 36:26. Do you find the promise in that verse encouraging? Why?
  5. What practical things can we do to protect our heart this week?

Kingdom of Isolation

“Whoever isolates himself seeks his own desire; he breaks out against all sound judgment.” – Proverbs 18:1.

Before the happy ending in Frozen, Elsa turns away, then runs away slamming the door on her life behind her. But running away and embracing her “kingdom of isolation” was not the solution. Elsa faced the kind of fear that we need to face so we can break the status quo cycle and move in a new direction.

Have you ever felt isolated? Or left out? What about loneliness? It’s a universal feeling. At one time or another every person on earth could probably answer yes to one of those questions. We can even feel pretty isolated and lonely even when we’re not physically alone. And attending a church does make you immune from feeling isolated on occasion. It is easy to put so much time and effort into programs and activities that we neglect relationships. If you attend church and feel isolated, I have several suggestions/thoughts for you.  These are not new or revolutionary.  In fact, they are the usual suspects you would expect to hear and have heard from me.  But I believe that if you do these things,  any trace of the kingdom of isolation will disappear. 

The first one may sound like I am deflecting responsibility, but getting connected in the church starts with you. It is much like a new employee who stays all day in his cubicle and then wonders why he is not being included in meetings/discussions. Scripture clearly teaches that relationships are key to a healthy church. In Life Together, Dietrich Bonhoeffer emphasizes this reality: “It is easily forgotten that the fellowship of Christian brethren is a gift of grace, a gift of the Kingdom of God that any day may be taken from us, that the time that still separates us from utter loneliness may be brief indeed. Therefore, let him who until now has had the privilege of living a common Christian life with other Christians praise God’s grace from the bottom of his heart. Let him thank God on his knees and declare: It is grace, nothing but grace, that we are allowed to live in community with Christian brethren.”  If you feel isolated ask yourself what you can do to change that by getting out of your cubicle.

Secondly, join a Northstar Group. Northstar groups take place at church and homes all over our areas.  I can’t stress enough the value of getting together for fellowship, fun, and sharing on a more intimate level. Building trust and friendships just happen. Northstar Group members have familiar faces to turn to in times of trials. I can’t tell you how many stories I have heard from people who told me that attending a group helped them feel validated at Northstar, transition them through trying times, and provide camaraderie as they share their stories and pray together. It is hard to be isolated when you are doing life with other people.   

The last thought is getting involved. Choose one area of outreach whether it be music, teaching, serving, or giving. Identify and use your spiritual gifts in keeping with Romans 12:6-8: “Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness.  Serving and isolation are opposites.

If you are feeling isolated, you’re not alone. View it as your responsibility to get connected. Move toward others. Step out, join a group, and reach out to someone. And start serving/using your gifts in the church. 

Discussion Questions:

  1. What is isolation or loneliness? What are some typical factors that contribute to isolation/loneliness?
  2. Who is the least lonely person you know, and why do you think they are not as lonely as other people?
  3. What are some reasons we have a hard time acknowledging our loneliness/isolation to ourselves and others?
  4. Has anyone made a significant impact in your life when you felt isolated or were experiencing loneliness? How so? What might be a practical way to connect with someone who is struggling with isolation/loneliness?
  5. Spend some time this week alone. Reflect on the lonely times in your life, thanking God for how He has helped you know Him better through them or asking Him to help if you feel lonely and isolated right now.