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A complete single

But I say to the unmarried and to the widows: It is good for them if they remain even as I am; 1 Corinthians 7:8 (NKJV)

 

Christopher, a young, divorced man told David Lapp[i], “You have to be a secure person, a full person.”  Christopher loved to drink and party, but vowed that he would be a functioning alcoholic.  His wife, Cammi, always said that she would change him, but when it came to alcohol and partying, nobody was about to change him…alcoholism tore his marriage apart.

When Lapp interviewed Christopher, he had been divorced from Cammi for about a year, but after attending Alcoholic Anonymous he “found God.”  As he reflected on his past, he thinks that both he and Cammi entered marriage with deep insecurities. He also thinks that they moved too fast in their relationship: they had sex soon after meeting each other, which, “fueled our relationship to continue.”

As he reflects on his marriage and divorce, he believes that you need to be emotionally “complete” as a person before you enter marriage.  As he says, “You have to be a secure person, a full person. I think really you have to have God in your life and you have to live that life.”

We know that marriage brings a number of benefits in its train – better health, sex, and finances, among others.  The question is, what are the limits of those benefits, particularly for people with traumatic childhood experiences?  According to the Adverse Childhood Experiences Study of over 17,000 people, almost two-thirds of participants reported at least one “adverse childhood experience,” like physical abuse, a household member’s mental illness, or parental separation or divorce (the study identifies ten). More than one in five people reported at least three adverse experiences.

If we are the result of our upbringing, you need to pay attention to such things like your and your future spouse’s physical and mental health, your faith, character and personality, your finances, and so much more.  In other words, be sure you are a healthy and complete person.

 

Father God, help me be a complete person instead of looking to be complete in marriage, by somebody else.

[i] http://family-studies.org/for-marriage-to-work-you-have-to-be-a-secure-person/?utm_source=IFS+Main+List&utm_campaign=32b7a47f24-Newsletter_103&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_c06b05f1ff-32b7a47f24-104541745

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Why so many single adults?

Now this man had four virgin daughters who prophesied. Acts 21:9 (NKJV)

According to Kris Swiatocho,[i] a single pastor, half of all adults in the Unites States are single – those 18 years old and older, who have never-married, are widowed, or are divorced.  This may lead us to ask, why the recent explosion in the number of singles?  He proposes several possibilities, among which are:

  1. Young single adults (18-33) are postponing marriage as social values change. They are either choosing to live together or not get married at all.
  2. An increasing number of people have chosen to remain single permanently. Some see all the marriages around them fail, including their parents’, and they are afraid of failure and choose not to pursue marriage at all.
  3. Selfishness at an all-time high. As a society, he explains, we are extremely self-focused and simply lack the skills to handle differences with the opposite sex. We have no idea what real commitment is or how to handle conflict.
  4. Many more singles are simply having kids without having to commit to a marriage, creating an epidemic of single-parent households. For some reason, singles feel that choosing to have kids without the other parent present is going to be easy when the reality is that it is very difficult both for them and to their children.
  5. People are living longer, so when a spouse dies the remaining spouse is living longer, alone, than they use to be.

Swiatocho suggests that God’s enemy seeks to destroy the single adult before they get married, before they have even grown up by destroying their parents’ home, by attacking their self-esteem and value system from their childhood into their teens, and by attacking any opportunity to learn life skills such as how to have a healthy relationship.  As a church we need to reach out to millions of young and single adults in our home, our community, and our church. We need to surround them with our love, support, and encouragement so they may not feel alone in the midst of the church family.

Father God, may you be the companion of those who are alone.

[i] http://pastors.com/single-adults/

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Wait for me

Now the young woman was very beautiful to behold, a virgin; no man had known her. And she went down to the well, filled her pitcher, and came up. Genesis 24:16 (NKJV)

 

Messages from every direction bombard the minds, especially of young people, with the message that they must have sex, the sooner the better.  The message they come out with is, “everybody’s doing it,” so therefore so should I.  And the pressure comes from the media, but mostly from their own peers.

Christian artist, Rebecca St. James, has dedicated her life and music to share a different message, a message of purity and abstention from sex until marriage.  In her book[i] on this topic St. James writes:  “I believe that God has placed ‘The Dream’ inside of each one of us, unless He has specifically called you to singleness. We each have a desire for intimacy, for someone to know us fully and love us completely. . . . A guy longs to protect; a girl longs to be protected. And that’s exactly the way God created us. When we follow His plan, there are great blessings in store. ‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart’ (Jer. 29:11-13)” (pp. 5, 6).

She summarizes her believes with these words: “I hope that in these pages I have helped to defy a modern misconception: that romance can be fun and exciting only when it involves breaking the rules. Immorality is glamorized everywhere: on TV, in movies, and in most music today. What the entertainers don’t show or sing about is the very unglamorous, often agonizing consequences of an immoral lifestyle. Truth is, the most joyful, beautiful, exciting romance is the one that is pure. It is also the most free! Pure romance is not bound by sexual addiction or selfish motives and desires. It is free to love within God’s perfect boundaries” (pp. 6, 7).  Wise words to meditate on.

 

Father God, help me to maintain my sexual purity inside the walls of my marriage or until I find the person with whom to share my life.  While it may not be the most popular decision, I ask for your strength to do what is right.

[i] St. James, R. (2005).  Wait for Me: Rediscovering the Joy of Purity in Romance. Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

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Single women

Gabriel was sent “to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. Luke 1:27 (NKJV)

 

According to Christian pollster George Barna[i], teenage and young adult women are learning to prepare themselves for a changing social structure.  For teen girls, this means focusing on career now and not expecting to be married until the late twenties, at least.

Barna concluded that young women are more likely than ever to feel they must get educated, find a job, and be ready for life – with or without marriage. More than ever before, young women are preparing themselves to live independently.  One of the interesting findings was the fact that teen girls aspire to most of the same careers as teen-aged boys.  Some young women exhibit traditional preferences for teaching, fashion, interior design, and nursing, but teen females are more likely than teen males to aspire to work in journalism, business, and law. At the same time, teen girls are equally likely to be interested in the military, arts and music, public safety including law enforcement and firefighting, and government.

Most of the women surveyed by Barna still expect to raise families; they just anticipate doing so later in life.  According to this report, in total, more than 70 million adults in this nation feel as though their past decisions and life events have limited their current prospects.

The decisions that young women make today will have repercussions, for good or for bad, for the rest of their lives.  Some of those decisions will make them single parents increasing their responsibilities and challenges.  Having an education and a career can provide a single woman, and a single parent, with the ability to support themselves and their children.

Be careful with the decisions you make today; you and probably your children may pay a heavy price for them for a lifetime.

 

Father God, as singles we have the same opportunities and responsibilities.  Help us to make good, wise decisions so we may avoid the adverse results of bad, poor ones.

[i] https://www.barna.org/teens-next-gen-articles/548-top-trends-of-2011-women-making-it-alone(accessed 1-10-15)

 

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Scripture: But I say to the unmarried and to the widows: It is good for them if they remain even as I am; 9 but if they cannot exercise self-control, let them marry. For it is better to marry than to burn with passion. 1 Corinthians 7:8-9 (NKJV)

 

Observation:  Cannot contain. Paul stresses the importance of being continent, but he also recognizes that all men are not like him (see on v. 7). Furthermore, those who have been accustomed to marriage may find it harder to maintain complete continence (see 1 Tim. 5:11, 14).

To burn. Paul advises those who have undue difficulty in keeping their sexual desires under control, to marry rather than be constantly subjected to the excitement of unsatisfied desire. The instruction here is plain and in harmony with the general tenor of the preceding verses, namely, the preservation of purity and the best attitude toward marriage (see vs. 2, 3, 5). Even when all the problems associated with married life during a period of persecution and distress are taken into account (see v. 26), it is better to marry than to be inwardly consumed with the mentally, emotionally, and physically disturbing condition of unsatisfied desire. [The Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, Volume 6. 1980 (F. D. Nichol, Ed.) (708). Review and Herald Publishing Association.]

 

Application:  I’ve considered the words of this text often.  At first sight Paul seems to recommend marriage as a way to handle sexual desire.  If you are burning with sexual desire, it seems to dictate, then marry so all your sexual needs will be met.  But I’m not sure that’s what Paul in mind.  Should that be the main reason you marry someone?  So that you can have your sexual desires met?

I think what Paul is advocating is sexual purity.  We find examples of people in the Bible who didn’t simply give in to their sexual needs but who chose to remain sexually pure as a way to honor God.  One of the first and most prominent such examples is Joseph, the son of Jacob.  While a slave, serving in Potiphar’s house, he was repeatedly tempted by his master’s wife to have sexual relations with her.  His response is exemplary and one for which he is well remembered, “How then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?” (Genesis 39:9 NKJV).

So Paul is not advocating marriage as a way to avoid sexual temptation or sexual immorality.  Instead, what Paul is advocating is sexual purity among those who are not married, but also for those who are married.  Don’t let lust and passion control your life; rather, let Jesus have control of your passions.

 

A Prayer You May Say:  Father God, help me to yield my passion to Your control that my love may be directed to you first and most of all.

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The Author and Finisher

Scripture:  Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we’re in. Study how he did it. Because he never lost sight of where he was headed—that exhilarating finish in and with God—he could put up with anything along the way: cross, shame, whatever. Hebrews 12:2 (MSG)

Observation:  Author. Gr. archēgos, “leader,” “originator,” “founder,” “pioneer” (RSV). Archēgos is rendered “Prince” in Acts 3:15; 5:31 and “captain” in Heb. 2:10, in each instance with reference to Christ, as here. Christ is the center of the plan of salvation and the source of every Christian grace. It is He who calls fallen men out of the dismal darkness of sin and into the glorious light of the gospel. It is He who cleanses them from their previous life of sin and qualifies them to become sons and daughters of God. It is He who justifies them by His grace, by virtue of His atonement on Calvary. It is He who plants their feet on the pathway to heaven.

        Finisher. Gr. telēiotēs, “perfecter.” The work of justification is only the beginning of the Christian experience. We are not only to lay the “foundation of repentance from dead works” but are to “go on unto perfection” (see on ch. 6:1). We are to “grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18). We are to gain victory after victory over our besetting sins (see on Heb. 12:1) and to “grow up into him [Christ] in all things” (Eph. 4:15). Our characters are to be “transformed” by the renewing of our minds (Rom. 12:2). This is the work of the indwelling Christ (Gal. 2:20) as the “perfecter” of faith. This is the work of sanctification. See on Matt. 5:48. [The Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, Volume 7. 1980 (F. D. Nichol, Ed.) (481). Review and Herald Publishing Association.] 

Application:  Sometimes I wonder if we really believe in Jesus’ power and ability to help us!  Many singles rush into relationships which are not healthy or good instead of waiting for God to bring into their lives the right person, at the right time, if that is His will for them.  Others who are convinced God brought that person into the lives set out to change them and make them as they would want them to be – a replica of themselves.

If we truly believe that God has the power and ability to do anything, we need to learn to trust Him with our relationships.  If He is responsible for the start of a friendship, why not allow Him to help that friendship grow into a meaningful, lasting friendship?  And if He wanted that friendship to grow into courtship and eventually into a marital relationship, why not allow Him to do so, in His time?

Of course, the problem with trust in the area of relationships is not limited to singles.  Many married people also set out to change their spouse from the time they say their “I Dos”, and often they destroy what could have been a wonderful spouse nagging them constantly to change.  In my experience I have met many married people discouraged with their marriage and dissatisfied with their spouse.  But if we believe God is the author of our relationship, why not trust Him to make it grow and eventually bring it to a fulfilling fruition?

Keep your eyes on Jesus, not on each other.  He is the author of order in the midst of chaos.  Don’t lose sight of the direction where you want your marriage and your family to go, and with Him, the Author and Finisher of our faith, as your guide, enjoy the most wonderful journey in life, the journey toward eternity. 

A Prayer You May Say:  Father God, we entrust all the relationships in our life, specially our marriage and our family, into your hands.  Because you are their Author, we trust You also to be the Finisher of all that You do in us.

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Look and Wait

Scripture: Therefore I will look to the LORD; I will wait for the God of my salvation; My God will hear me. Micah 7:7 (NKJV)

Observation: Therefore I will look unto the Lord—as if no one else were before mine eyes. We must not only “look unto the Lord,” but also “wait for Him.” Having no hope from man (Mic 7:5, 6), Micah speaks in the name of Israel, who herein, taught by chastisement (Mic 7:4) to feel her sin (Mic 7:9), casts herself on the Lord as her only hope,” in patient waiting (La 3:26). She did so under the Babylonian captivity; she shall do so again hereafter when the spirit of grace shall be poured on her (Zec 12:10–13). [Jamieson, R., Fausset, A. R., & Brown, D. (1997). Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible. Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.]

Application: I read once that a young girl, when she starts to think about the things she would like to see in a future mate, makes a list of qualities and characteristics that are desirable for her. For instance, she will write things such tall, hair color, eye color, educated, good job, spiritual, from a good family, etc. They may come up with a very long list, somewhat unrealistic. But as the years go by and she finds herself growing older and still single she begins to dismiss some of the things on her list and the list gets shorter until she gets to be in her early thirties and the list only contains two items – warm and breathing. Obviously this story is somewhat humorous, but it illustrates the urgency with which some singles approach their social situation as the years go by.
I like the three things that Micah speaks about in today’s verse as a plan for singles to adopt for their lives. First of all, Micah writes “I will look to the Lord.” The focus all of us should have in life is not to make money, have prestige, or even be married, but to have a relationship with God such that when Jesus returns He will recognize us. The advice for singles in this verse is that instead of looking for life happiness in a relationship with others they must look at God for fulfillment and satisfaction regardless of their social state in life.
The second word from Micah is to “wait for God.” Society teaches that time is short and therefore the sooner one marries the better. On the other hand, research has shown, among many others, two things that young people should keep in mind. (1) Marriage before the age of twenty increases the chances of divorce within the first fifteen years of marriage. In fact, people who marry before the age of 20 are two to three times more likely to divorce. (2) The average age of marriage in the US currently is about 27 for women and 29 for men. By this time, they have completed their education and have a job. Incidentally, Women with higher IQs tend to go to college, and women who go to college tend to marry later. My conclusion is that it is better then to wait to get married until a little later in life and to wait on God to put them in touch with the right person rather than rushing to find someone, anyone to marry.
The final important word from Micah is a promise: “God will hear me.” What that is telling me is that when we pray, when we look to the Lord for guidance, and when we wait for God to show us the right partner, He will hear our plea. Now, that may mean that we may have to remain single for some time, or even for the rest of our life. As one of my daughters told me once, “I’d rather be alone and single, than alone and married.” The wrong relationship can bring a lot of pain and unhappiness to a marriage and to the individuals involved.
So let’s take the three words from Micah to heart and “Look to the Lord,” “Wait on the Lord,” and “He will her us.”

A Prayer You May Say: Father God, a single life can be a lonely life, but we commit ourselves to look at You for guidance and fulfillment, wait on You for an answer to our plea, and eagerly await to hear from You what You know is best for our lives.

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