Friday, January 30, 2015

Isolation. Isolation is a major dilemma facing God's people today. It is even at times, encouraged from other believers, with the sense that, "Leadership is lonely; being set apart is lonely; or you sometimes have to walk alone." 

But this is a lie. Isolation is not of God. Period. 

Lets look back first at the garden of Eden. God created Adam and what did He say? And the Lord God said, "It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper comparable to him." (Genesis 2:18) From the beginning of creation God saw the heart of man and knew that it was not good that he be isolated or alone. Many people have become emotionally and relationally cut-off from others. Everyone seems to be leading busy lives yet often we are not connected to others for any real deep purpose. When we are under pressure, or our relationships are suffering, or life has too many unpleasant surprises we are often tempted to keep these things to ourselves. 

Isolation is more than just not having someone to talk with. Isolation weakens our spiritual defenses. We often forget that we are in a spiritual battle every day. This is a war for our spiritual well-being, our effectiveness for God, and our impact on those closest to us. Isolation from others is deadly. 

Isolation stunts spiritual growth and opens us up to spiritual attack. 

Paul stated in Romans 7:21, "I find this law at work: When I want to do good evil is right there with me." Without other strong believers around us we fall prey to attacks that we can easily feel defeated by. We don't talk about our situation, we don't listen to others wisdom and we don't seek it out. The enemy wants to get you alone because than you are easily swayed. When there are other praying and scripture reading believers around you, he will attack, sure, but you are less likely to fall because you have the voice of reason (scripture and wisdom from others) helping to keep you grounded. 

How do I know if I am isolating myself or if I'm just resting in Solitude?

Isolation is simple; it's the attempt to be alone or spend a lot of time alone so you don't have to open up on a deeper level. You don't want to expose certain area of your life or you may even feel the need to protect certain things. Sometimes a vicious cycle can develop where the more time you spend alone, the less you feel like people understand you, and the less you feel like people understand you, the more time you want to spend alone. 

Isolating yourself can cause a lot of problems both spiritually and naturally. Spiritually you may feel justified but God never intended for people to be alone. He created community and the helper for a reason. When you are spiritually isolated you could be bound in chains and affection, while you could be praying and reading your bible a lot you still don't reach your potential growth because you aren't being sharpened by another brother, and you could be walking in deceit and opening yourself up to spiritual attacks from the enemy. 

Some of the effects of isolation can include feelings of loneliness, alcohol or drug problems, trouble sleeping and can even lead to depression. 

Be aware that some may encourage isolation or loneliness based off a judgment such as not being "equal to someone" or a particular group of people. You can be in an intimate relationship or friendship with someone who is on a different spiritual level or who are gifted in different areas. 

With solitude there is an understanding that you are never alone --- God is always with us. Solitude can be refreshing and restful and provide a moment of peace and clarity for us. However solitude is an afternoon of peace or journaling, a weekend away camping to focus on God. Solitude never takes us away for long. Jesus was never off by himself for months at a time. 
Photo by Alan Derwin

Loneliness; a choice or a state of being? 

Loneliness is a powerful trigger towards isolation and often leads to spiritual deceit, chains, and even risky behavior. A husband who convinces himself that he cannot open to his wife, or that no one around him could understand what he's struggling with, buys into the lie the enemy is setting him up for. He begins to isolate himself, not talking to anyone, not attending his small groups. Then in walks the gorgeous blonde at work who makes him feel safe, secure, heard; and thus an affair begins. Although he was intoxicated by isolation and fantasy, he had to know that it would lead to that affair - yet he continued down that path anyway. Until he couldn't turn around anymore, at least felt like that. But like with Adam and Eve who hid themselves in the garden, God knew exactly where he was. And God intervened and revealed the lie. 

Loneliness, while a feeling we feel as humans, is still a choice. As the enemy of our souls roars and throws the bait into our path, we learn to step over it -- being obedient to the word of truth that lives within us. We learn to live like we really are in Christ. We learn to take our stand in faith with our feet planted -- not moved by the insanity that is around us. Even though you may feel lonely, you are not. You can reach out to others and actively seek community. 

The enemy has gone before us, friends, preparing the bait to move us towards that trap. Just as a hunter guides his prey down the path of destruction before it's too late for the prey to escape. The enemy is well aware of our weaknesses that triggers us to lean towards isolation. He doesn't want you free. He wants you bound; he wants you constricted, he wants you in chains. He knows these things not because he can read our minds but because he's been studying our behavior. He's an incredible observer.

Lets be sober minded. 1 Peter 5:8 "Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour." When we isolate, we attempt to resolve the problems in our life or figure out serious life decisions or even plan our future apartment from anyone and everyone else. We pull away from family, friends, church our spouses - even sometimes God, to do what we want to do; to protect what we believe we need to protect because others don't agree, because we don't trust, or we think "they won't understand." Although we may think we are in the right and are doing well, the enemy is watching and he sees that you are alone and he's ready to attack. 

Think on these three questions:

What type of things trigger you to want to isolate yourself?

In these types of things what behaviors are associated with that isolation?

What do you need to do to overcome isolation?

Glory in Suffering

Thursday, January 29, 2015

I'm a private person. Surprising, I know. I share when necessary but truthfully I don't talk a lot about what goes on in my heart and in my mind. Those thoughts and feelings are saved for certain people and God; and only come after trust is built (well not with God because I trust Him completely).

But lately I've been suffering. I lost my job at the beginning of January, then within two weeks the engine in my van broke; the job that I was supposed to get (it was a waitress job) seems to have fallen through and despite my relentless pursuit of a job I haven't gotten one call back.

I don't know how I'm going to pay February's rent.

I don't know how I can pay my bills when what I take in (my only income currently is child support) is far substantially less than what I have to put out.

But the Bible does not hesitate to describe the human condition and the reality of living in a sinful world. Suffering is an inescapable part of that reality. And I'm constantly reminding myself that someone is suffering far greater than I am. Ecclesiastes teaches, "For in much wisdom is much grief, and he who increases knowledge increases sorrow." (Eccl. 1:18)

No one is immune from suffering. Not you, not me, not the president. Suffering may come as a result of a person's sin and failure. For example, some people may suffer financially by not carefully budgeting their money or being wasteful. However, suffering may also arise due to other people's sin and failure or other forces outside of our control. An example of this is a drunk driver who causes an accident creating suffering for others.

We know that people suffer - we see it or experience it every day. "We also who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body." (Rom. 8:23) Suffering is common to all people and is not removed by the presence of the Holy Spirit. Being a Christian is a not a "get out of suffering free" card. I am a living testiment of this. Literally I have felt like I have poison in my blood and that everything I touch becomes tainted or of no value or just simply, poisoned. This however is a mistruth because Christians experience suffering like everyone else. No better illustration of this principle can be found but with Job!

Satan complained to God that Job, a righteous man, served God only because his life was relatively free of suffering. A wager was made and with God's consent the course of Job's suffering increased. With the increased suffering came Job's increased questions and struggles with God. His demand for a hearing concerning his questions grew to such a tempo that God deepened jobs suffering by bringing his soul low with humility. In that suffering, Job found that his deepest desire was not for relief, but that what he wanted more than anything was the presence of God. Suffering awakened him to a deeper desire for God.

This is exactly what has happened to me over the course of my entire life. Real talk; my life has never been easy. The moment I think I have found something wonderful or great it disappears or walks out and then half the time I am blamed for the demise or the outcome.

Human suffering aroused my anger, invigorated my action and as a result enabled me to push back  the darkness of the fall. Suffering really humanizes me and my heart and increases my hunger for God and His presence.

So today, it was rough. I suffered. I didn't talk about my feelings to anyone and I wrote them out in my journal. I realized by the end that I was writing specifically to Jesus and was groaning and crying out for HIM.

My situation could be worse. I could be homeless. My children could be ill. But none of this has happened. So I will, walk humbly in the suffering, and trust that this is just for a season. And that in this grief I am gaining wisdom and that with all the knowledge I gain more sorrow will follow. I will also hold firm to the truth that I am not flowing with poison. That I am full of the Spirit of God which is exactly the opposite; it gives life.

Today, know that God is bigger than your suffering.

Maturity and Change

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

{ This is a devotional that goes along with a new series I'm doing daily. Enjoy }

I joined a non-conventional Bible Study group called Multiply last September. It's unconventional because we are not affiliated with a church, we meet in a public place and even though we are currently in a book study we are 100% Spirit lead.

I've also never grown as much, spiritually, as I have since joining this group. This got me thinking, can people really change this dramatically? Even more, can believers actually become more like Christ?

Scripture affirms that people can change, doesn't make change an option, and offers guidance for producing positive change. We are told, "If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new" ( 2 Cor. 5:17)

So....change to what?

Scripture identifies a common goal for all who are in the upward cycle toward maturity; coming to "unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the statue of the fullness of Christ" (Eph. 4:13). Paul was reminding Timothy that every Christian or believer in Jesus needed to study scripture. Scripture is vital to our spiritual health. We have achieved maturity when we help edify others, contribute to the body of Christ, and are filled with Christ so that we are equipped for every god work.

Change....why and how??

In our close relationships we may be called to help shape or sharpen one another for the better. "As iron sharpens iron, so a man sharpens the countenance of his friend" (Prov. 27:17) Our goal is not to judge in a fleshly way. Believers are meant to judge each other righteously and in maturity and love. You also need to be humble when receiving correction or sharpening and vice versa. There will be times where you will be the one sharpened and then other times you will be the one God uses to sharpen. It's a two way street. Paul wrote, "Now I myself am confident concerning you, my brethern, that you also are full of goodness, filled with knowledge, able also to admonish one another (Rom. 15:14). Following are a few questions we should ask ourselves:

What is our authority for guiding change in ourselves and others?

Our authority is the truth and word of God. It sets the standards for our behaviors; period. When we challenge ourselves with the word we then can also challenge our brothers and sisters with the word. We should not make a move though to help someone unless directly lead by the Holy Spirit. If He has asked you (speaking believer to believer and not in an evangelical way) to help this person or to speak to them He will provide the time, words, and resources you need.

What should we seek to challenge change in others?

When beliefs and behaviors do not correctly align to the truth in the Bible we need to reprove the unbiblical beliefs.

How will we know if the change we desire to see has really occurred?

Jesus Christ will become visible in you (if you are being sharpened or seeking to change in an area) or them as they respond to biblical truth and sharpening. We will see victories, chains being broken, and miracles and gifts being used. Remember, however, change takes time and ultimately it is the Spirit who changes and convicts the heart we are just the mouth God uses to share His truth.

Change...Trying VS. Training

Frequently we see the need for change in ourselves and others. We think and write out lists of what we need to change, we talk to our friends about what we are feeling led to share as a challenge with our friends and for a few days we try hard to change and then suddenly we just "crash and burn." Why? Because we are trying, and trying almost always ends in failure. When people try to change, they are merely hoping that they will find the inner strength to behave differently.

The biblical model though is not trying it is training. Paul teaches that maturity and change comes with training. "Exercise yourself toward godliness" ( 1 Tim. 4:7). There is an enormous difference between trying to meet a goal and training to meet a goal. People may try all they want to win the big race, but the winner will be the one who has been in training. 


Are you training or trying? Are you actively praying for God to send you people to sharpen you? Are you humble enough to admit when you need to improve in any area? Mediate on those things today.

{Interested in knowing more about Multiply Charlotte? Visit our Facebook Page  or email us at} 

Building Good Relationships

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

This past week as God has challenged my walk I've also felt challenged to share a series of devotional type blog posts that I have in my heart. Scripture is extremely important in our spiritual health. It's like being a runner and not stretching or hydrating.

This morning I felt led to talk about relationships. What can be done to build a good relationship? What does a good relationship look like? I have experienced so many bad, that I'm finally recognizing the good. It all started with me realizing that we cannot do a whole lot to cultivate a healthy relationship. Techniques simply do not work. Real relationships evolve out of being a certain kind of person. We must focus on who we are in a relationship rather than what we do. 

Photo by Meg Martino Photography | My best friend
Ecclesiastes 4:8 says, "There is one alone, without companion: He has neither son nor brother. Yet there is no end to all his labors nor is his eye satisfied with riches. But he never asks, "For whom do I toil and deprive myself of good?" 

The Bible makes it clear that isolation and loneliness is not good or pleasant. You can work your butt off and wake up one day and realize, "I have no one to share this with. This is not worth it."

Following are a few of the most important ways of "being" in order to have, cultivate, and encourage good relationships.

Be someone who listens.

At the heart of every good relationship is the ability to listen and to try and understand what another person is saying, regardless of how you feel or what you think. Without accurate listening, a good relationship can never be built. Listen intently and respond appropriately, even if that means not responding immediately. Like a mirror reflects an image, we can reflect the person's message by saying something like, "What I hear you saying....." or repeating a small bit of what they've said back to them.

Be someone who is safe. 

A close relationship is built on feelings of security and trust. You cannot have a healthy relationship without these things; especially a dating relationship or marriage. If people do not feel safe, there is no hope of them ever opening up and being authentic or real with you. People who keep their word, follow through, and encourage their friends to be themselves create a sense of security in the relationship. Once you earn someone's trust, your relationship is able to flourish.

Be someone who serves. 

In rewarding relationships people don't just have feelings of security and trust but they also give to one another more than they like to receive. If a relationship is built upon Jesus and two servants you cultivate a relationship of giving; and not selfishness. Sometimes that help may be literal or tangible; a ride to work, babysitting the kids, etc. At other times it may be praying for you, giving you reassurance after a job interview. The point is we should help them because we want to and because we are appreciated, not because we have to.

Be someone who walks in another's shoes. 

The bible says we are to carry one another's burdens (Galatians 6:2). You have to try and learn to see the world from another person's perspective. You have to aim to have empathy. Once we put ourselves in other people's shoes we begin to understand why they may react, feel and think the way they do. Remember, it's not always about you. 

Be someone who weathers turbulence. 

Almost every good and healthy relationship eventually encounters a rough spot, a time when both people, whether in a marriage, dating situation or friendship, feels like giving up. It can be a scary phase in a relationship especially when a lot of time has been invested. It is a good indication though of a conversation that needs to happen about your true feelings; your likes and dislikes, the good, the bad and the ugly. But if we are mature enough the time of turbulence can lead to a deeper more intimate and more beautiful relationship.

Be someone who is constant and consistent. 

Some friends carry the ability to go months and years without talking and then they can pick right back up where they left off. Some don't. Know your friend or significant other well enough to know what helps make them feel secure. When someone is constantly in and out of your life or does not follow through or stay true they are setting up a foundation of inconsistency that can lead to a lot of really big issues in the future. Be constant.

Be someone who knows when to call it quits. 

There are some relationships that are not worth the work for the level of intimacy we are seeking. Of course, every relationship needs nurturing, but some relationships no matter how hard you try are doomed to disaster. If we are in a relationship where we are constantly trying to win the persons acceptance or approval or never feel accepted or good enough, the relationship is probably not a good one. You should be able to walk in who you are and your friend or significant other should be able to challenge you to grow not to hurt you. When you are in this type of relationship we need to call it quits before the other person's rejection damages us and limits our usefulness to God.


Ultimately, and in closing, relationships are complex. Building your relationships strong by examining yourself to determine the type of person you are, rather than focusing only on the things we do. If we focus on who we are first the things we do will follow naturally.