Category Archives: Spiritual life

Dealing with Isolation During the Covid-19 Crisis

In 2016, long before the advent of Covid-19, The New York Times ran a piece by a Dr. Dhruv Khullar titled, “How Social Isolation Is Killing Us.” “Social isolation,” Dr. Khullar wrote, “is a growing epidemic—one that’s increasingly recognized as having dire physical, mental and emotional consequences. Since the 1980s, the percentage of American adults who say they’re lonely has doubled from 20 percent to 40 percent.”

What effect will the social distancing measures ordered by state and federal leaders to combat the spread of Coivd-19 have on this older and more pervasive social isolation epidemic? When it’s over, will people make an extra effort to connect with others following weeks of enforced social distancing? Or will these temporary measures have legs—will they continue on after the executive orders have expired?

Digital distractions have already replaced human interactions for many people in daily life. The coronavirus may exacerbate this new reality.

Experts say that about one in three people in the U.S. lives alone. Among those who are over 85, the number is more like one in two. Katie Hafner, reporting in The New York Times, writes that “studies … show the prevalence of loneliness among people older than 60 ranging from 10 to 46 percent.” Khullar states that “A wave of new research suggests social separation is bad for us,” impacting sleep, altering immune systems, and raising stress hormones levels.

When isolation becomes the norm, outsiders become a threat—and for many people, isolation is the norm. Continue reading

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Powerful Prayers: Make Yourself at Home

Why pray? Or, to be more specific, why do you pray? To be more specific still, why do you pray for other people – friends, family, your kingdom comrades from Lockwood or other churches? We often talk about what to pray but seldom talk about why to pray.

I suspect – I know this is true of me – that we usually pray because we are aware of a need, of discomfort, or of danger. We pray when we see a threat to someone’s health or security or faith. And when we are unaware of a threat, we don’t think to pray.

That we don’t think to pray when things are going well betrays a faulty understanding of prayer and probably a false belief: that God left us here to muddle through and keep ourselves intact in the process. When that becomes more than we can manage, then it’s time to pray.

But do you see what this reveals about our view of God? We think he’s like the butler in a Jeeves novel – the smartest, most capable person around – who (for some reason) has nothing better to do in life than to get us out of scrapes and make us comfortable. But to think that is to misconstrue our purpose here and God’s, his role and ours.

The Apostle Paul doesn’t think of God as if he were “our Jeeves in heaven.” It’s not that he doesn’t want us to pray about our need—he tells us to do just that: to present our requests to God. But most of Paul’s prayers in the Bible don’t seem to come out of a sense of discomfort or fear or even need. They come out of a readiness to join God in what he is doing. That’s different than a readiness for God to join us in what we’re doing. Continue reading

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Powerful Prayers: Make Yourself at Home (Ephesians 2:14-19)

Our culture talks a lot about empowering people: women, children, minorities, workers, gays, the transgendered, and, lately, even white men (though it’s usually white men talking about empowering white men.) Our society has a thing about power: it worships it. God doesn’t want us to worship power, but he does want us to use it.

When our culture empowers a person or a group of people, it divides them from other people. That’s how cultural power works: it raises some up by forcing others down. God’s power is not like that. It doesn’t divide. It unites. God’s power does not enable people to get their way. It enables them to walk together with others in God’s way. God’s power does not provoke resentment; it generates love.

Hold onto this thought: God wants to empower you. God, said C. S. Lewis, “seems to do nothing of Himself which He can possibly delegate to His creatures. He commands us to do slowly and blunderingly what He could do perfectly and in the twinkling of an eye.” He empowers us. But why? What does God want to accomplish by empowering us?

The answer to that question is what this sermon seeks to address–and that answer is full of hope. Continue reading

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Didn’t See That Coming: Living with Uncertainty

In over a hundred years of Major League Baseball, only 16 men have homered four times in one game. Most of them were power hitters. Twelve of the 16 hit 200 or more career home runs. Nine of them hit … Continue reading

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Powerful Prayers: Spirit of Wisdom and Revelation (Ephesians 1:15-21)

I once read about a young Irish woman who emigrated to the U.S. in the first decades of the twentieth century. She had family in New York, who told her she could find work there, so she saved and scraped … Continue reading

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Grief and Hope in the Face of Kobe’s Death

I watched a video clip of Shaquille O’Neal sitting with his sports show co-hosts, talking about the sudden, tragic loss of Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gianna, and seven others in a helicopter crash on Sunday, January 26. At several points in Shaq’s monologue, he was forced to pause, overcome with emotion.

Shaq’s grief is understandable: Kobe was a teammate, friend, and, in times past, an opponent in a very public feud. Shaq’s complicated friendship with Kobe would undoubtedly bring a deep and profound grief. But millions of people who never met Kobe, even people who never saw Kobe play, were deeply affected by the superstar’s death.

What accounts for this outpouring of grief? How is it that so many people experienced shock and disbelief when they learned that Kobe died? Most of us who have reached adulthood, certainly those who are middle-aged or older, are well acquainted with grief. We’ve all lost someone – perhaps many someones – we have loved. So why should the death of a celebrity we never met touch us so deeply?

Kobe’s passing brings the reality of death home to us. If a handsome, healthy young man like Kobe Bryant – a competitor, a victorious warrior – could be vanquished, then none of us is safe. Unlike other celebrities who died young, Kobe was not courting death. He wasn’t living a devil-may-care kind of life. If this could happen to him…
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Powerful Prayers: Colossians 1:9-12 (Part 2)

Note: for the next few weeks , I will post the manuscript that goes with the audio (posted Tuesdays) from a sermon in the Powerful Prayers series. People have requested the sermon manuscripts many time, but I’ve always been reluctant to make it available for two principal reasons: 1) I never simply read a sermon, so what people read is not exactly what I spoke. The manuscript might be better or it may be worse but it will be different. And (2) because the sermon has not been edited for publication. With those caveats, here is Prayers God Love to Answer: Colossians 1:9-12, Part 2. Continue reading

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Powerful Prayers: Prayers God Loves to Answer

How strong are you? How much weight can you bench press? How many miles can you run? (In my case, it might be better to measure in yards.) How high is your vertical jump?

But what about spiritual strength? What does it mean for a follower of Jesus to be strong? Are there tests to measure spiritual strength?

Yes, there are and we learn about them from the Apostle Paul’s description of his prayer for the Colossians. There are three principal tests for spiritual strength. Take the tests – see how you do. Continue reading

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You Need to Make a Choice: Here’s Why

In the biblical story of the first humans, Adam and Eve face a choice: obey their Maker’s directive or disobey and seek their own way. They chose the latter, at great cost to the race.

We might wonder why God would put them in a place where a choice of this magnitude, with such potentially catastrophic consequences, would be required. One reason seems to be this: if they were to have any hope of becoming the magnificent beings God intended, they would need to become volitional; that is, they would need to become choosing creatures.

The stakes would have been even higher had God waited until there were millions of humans before presenting such a choice. In terms of humanity’s prospects, the one thing worse than a wrong choice by Adam and Eve was a no-choice by Adam and Eve. God made them to be human, which is another way of saying, he made them choosing creatures.
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Powerful Prayers: Prayers God Loves to Answer

Colossians 1:9-12 http://lockwoodchurch.org/media (Listening time: 23:04) Most of us don’t see obvious answers to our prayers as often as the New Testament might lead us to expect. While the Bible offers insight into why prayers are sometimes not answered (without … Continue reading

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