Light out of darkness

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Why do we have difficulties?

As followers of the Way, we are called to hard lives. Jesus is pretty clear. Carry your cross.

The more we traverse through scripture, the more plain the cross becomes. Lives of sacrifice. Lives where we choose others over ourselves. Lives where we believe and act as if others are better than ourselves. And, turning the cheek and humbly accepting criticism and persecution that comes with that territory.

No wonder the path is narrow.

What part of God’s character does this come from?

After wrestling with ideas of suffering and difficulty, ponder the fact that God is the Creator. Does God wants to show His glorious power by bringing light in the darkness? How can God create light out of light? (If anyone could, He could). When there is darkness in our lives: darkness in our minds, bodies, families, workplaces, homes, neighborhoods, is God’s creative power most abundantly expressed?

The Beginning
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was formless and void, and darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was moving over the surface of the waters. …Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness.…(Gen. 1:1-4)(HCSB)

For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ. 2 Cor. 4:6 (HCSB)

What if God wants to separate the light from the darkness in your life?

He can logically only separate light from darkness if darkness exists. Therefore, sin and evil in the world function as a part of His ultimate plan to redeem and show Himself most glorious and, for us, make us even more bright and beautiful than ever before, despite our stubborn will. The Sovereign Lord turns it all for our good by creating light out of the darkness of our stubborn will (For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 2 Corinthians 4:17 NIV)

What is the darkness you are experiencing?
Could you imagine what light will look like in the center of the situation?
Being the artist that He is, what light might He be growing in you as a part of His masterpiece?

The Width of My Hand

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Honestly, I thought I had more time, more time to develop the best strategy and to muster the courage. If I would have just had more time to get my own issues figured out, my own life goals in order, THEN I’m fairly certain I would have been ready. I guess I was waiting for the perfect moment. But maybe that’s not it at all. Maybe it is worse than that. Maybe I just didn’t care enough. Whatever the reason, it doesn’t matter now. My high school friend is dead and I never said a word, not one word. I have no idea if she knew Christ personally or not. If she did, it was definitely not because of me.

The Bible admonishes us in Ephesians 5, “So be careful how you live…make the most of every opportunity…understand what the Lord wants you to do.” (CJB) As a foreign missionary, this is what my life is about each day. I pray for the people who exercise with me in the gym; I give a Bible to a store clerk; I ask my language students questions that will cause them to consider spiritual concepts; I explain redemption to a professional friend who doesn’t know what to do with her sin; I pray for opportunities to have Bible studies with friends who know virtually nothing about the Scriptures. How is it then I didn’t say anything to someone I went to school with for five years and have known for more than twenty?

There’s a Pink Floyd song called Time that spans the course of one life and marvels at what little impact it has had. Even before he realizes it, this man’s life has already wasted away. The lyrics say, “The time is gone, the song is over, thought I’d something more to say.” We do have something more to say as believers, and we need to say it before the music stops. We need to say it before ‘time ticks away’ as DC Talk reminds us. The Psalmist put it this way:

Psalm 39: 4, 5
“Lord, remind me how brief my time on earth will be.
Remind me that my days are numbered—
how fleeting my life is.
5 You have made my life no longer than the width of my hand.
My entire lifetime is just a moment to you;
at best, each of us is but a breath.” (NLT)

One of the last conversations I had with my friend she asked me what I was doing overseas. I told her I worked for a non-profit religious organization. But that’s all I told her. I have the deep peace and the love a merciful Savior to guide me, and that’s all I told her.

The width of my hand is about two inches. It doesn’t leave a lot of leeway for foolish, wasteful, fearful, or selfish behavior. May we all learn to love others enough to tell the truth before time runs out.

Authority of Scripture and a Game of Telephone

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Sometimes, I like to play a little game with my students.

it’s called “telephone.”

The objective of the game is to transfer the same message from the front of the line to the end of the line. When we are ready to begin, I communicate the message to the first person, and then I let the message go!

Sometimes, when I check with the last person, the message got through…and sometimes… the message failed mid, or quarter-way through.

If I really want the message to transfer, I walk down the line and watch and make sure it passes the inattentive kid, the one who can barely hear, and the one who paraphrases things to the point of distortion. In the case of communication issues based on their tendencies, I repeat the message, louder, slower, repeatedly…by any means necessary.

This is what the Holy Spirit has done for us throughout the ages. He is the One walking from ‘person to person,’ watching over the message AND the transcriber of His message: the apostles, prophets, teachers throughout church history, biblical translations, etc. to make sure his message did not get “lost in translation.”

In the same way that I ensured that my message got through the entire line, the Holy Spirit watches over His message. If I am a human and can do this, How much more can the King of the Universe perform “telephone” in the span of human existence?

Right. Much, much more.

We can trust His message because we can trust the Messenger of all messengers.

————————

Then Philip ran up to the chariot and heard the man reading Isaiah the prophet. “Do you understand what you are reading?” Philip asked. “How can I,” he said, “unless someone explains it to me?” So he invited Philip to come up and sit with him. – Acts 8:30-31

But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. – John 16:3

Why Would God Allow Me to be Born Gay

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Every week, Table for One blogs generate questions. Recently, we’ve received questions about our stance on same-sex attraction and how or why God would even allow someone to have that struggle in our lives.

Our immediate response is to say that homosexuals are not alone in their battle with sin.

Every person ever born has a sin nature and is prone to sinful desires. Each one of us could ask God the same question: why was I born with sinful desires in my heart? Why do I have the desire to take someone’s life? To lie? To commit adultery? To gossip? To be a glutton? To be prideful?

To sum it up: “We are with you.”

We are all sinners. Same-sex attraction is not “special”, it does not warrant its own category of sinfulness or depravity. All fall short of the Glory of God. Being attracted to the same sex does not mean you have to act on it: just as gluttons have to choose not to eat and gossipers choose not to speak. It’s a choice to engage in sin, regardless of the debate about the source of those feelings.

No sin is so big that it cannot be overcome. You can have victory over this struggle like other struggles we all have. The point to remember is that victory does not necessarily mean having a heterosexual marriage and kids.

Victory is first and foremost an abiding relationship with Christ!

Christ died to release us from the bondage of our sinful desires. Our responsibility towards those who lead a gay lifestyle is not to try to “change” them, but to pray for them and share the gospel. Those who experience God’s grace and turn to Christ as Lord and Savior are released from the condemnation of sin. This does not mean the desires will cease to exist. We all know from life experience that the desire to sin never leaves us; but neither does Jesus Christ–He will never leave you or forsake you.

So we cling to Him daily and make HIM (not our desires or our lifestyle) the first priority in our lives. As we do this, He will stand beside us in the struggle and give us the power to live the life we were called to experience.

God loves strugglers.

Having A Heart Ready for His Word

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John Piper’s article, “Satan Takes the Word” from DesiringGod.org resonates as it explains the parable of the sower.  In the explanation detailed in the above article, Piper tells his audience how to prepare their hearts for the Word. It is tremendously valuable; I advise you to read it. It is in reflection of that article that I pose the following question: how do you prepare your heart for God’s Rhema Word? If you follow the reference link, you will find that rhema is the insight/knowledge/message that the Holy Spirit would like to speak directly into your heart personally to direct, lead and encourage you. How does one prepare for such personal communication from the Holy Spirit and when it comes, are you willing to be led?

I am like a donkey, I kick my heels in and find myself “kicking against the goads” pushing against the very One who loves me the most in this season of singleness. Sometimes when my heart has not been properly watered, lacks nutrients and hasn’t been recently tilled, my heart refuses the One I love, Jesus. Yet, during this season, nothing is more important than leaning into the comfort, the love, the affection and the validation of the One who loves me more than everyone on the planet combined.

In my exploration of what it means to have a tender heart to the Lord, to be willing to obey, to have the desire to please Him and to say “yes” every time His beckoning calls, I must have a tender heart. (My heart has heard you say, “Come and talk with me.” And my heart responds, “LORD, I am coming.” Psalms 27:8 NLT).

Here are a few things I’ve noticed about permitting the tenderizing process of my heart- from stone to flesh:

  1. Worship – When I find myself grumpy, or silent in spirit, I need fertilizer. There is a drastic difference between the atmosphere in my heart when I have been listening to worship, and not secular music or nothing at all. Worship stirs the affections of the lover toward the loved and should not be taken lightly. What is the difference between a pastor getting up to speak first, instead of worship first? The atmosphere! To change the atmosphere of your heart, try worship music. After turning on the style of your choice, your heart will tilt towards your Beloved King of Kings and the dull moments of your life will turn into extraordinary meetings with the divine. Turn it on, leave it on, watch your heart grow!
  1. Community– Sometimes it’s nice to stay in. Sometimes work is hard, and you are tired, and there is this and that to do, but community life is vital! Through the fellowship of other believers, we are made strong. When we are weak, we have prayers from our brothers and sisters. When we are discouraged, we are encouraged! “Unfriendly people care only about themselves; they lash out at common sense.“ (Proverbs 18:1 NLT).  Community is the kneading done in the heart. It is the massaging, the tilling and it works the Word past the tough rocks like unforgiveness, bitterness, and unanswered questions of your heart. Without tilling the soil, the fruit is hindered.
  1. Word – The Word is the seed. If it does not go in, nothing can grow! In times of intense discontentment and frustration, the cause is often missed my Bible reading. When we read/listen to the Word, we find ourselves thinking of how to apply the Word through various situations. Scriptures that respond to everyday concerns pop into our heads and tell us to press on. The Word is as critically important as food, and we need it every single day. As in the natural, in the spiritual, there are many ways to get your daily Bible allowance.

 

We were all born into iniquity. None of us are righteous. Since we still live in the flesh, we have to daily choose our spirit man over our flesh (refer to Galatians 5:17 below). The sinful nature wants to do evil, which is just the opposite of what the Spirit wants. And the Spirit gives us desires that are the opposite of what the sinful nature desires. These two forces are constantly fighting each other, so you are not free to carry out your good intentions.  

To win the fight, obedience to the Holy Spirit’s leading is required, and to achieve a transformational obedience, a fertile, ripe, and ready heart’s is necessary. When we have a tender heart, we are most ready to receive the rhema Word of our Heavenly Father who leads, guides and orders our lives.

Galatians 5:16-18 16 So I say, let the Holy Spirit guide your lives. Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves. 17 The sinful nature wants to do evil, which is just the opposite of what the Spirit wants. And the Spirit gives us desires that are the opposite of what the sinful nature desires. These two forces are constantly fighting each other, so you are not free to carry out your good intentions. 18But when you are directed by the Spirit, you are not under obligation to the law of Moses. (NLT)

Romans 8:14 For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. (NLT)

Did I Make a Mistake?

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My plane landed in Central Asia in the wee hours of the morning. After training, I couldn’t get here fast enough. This is where I felt called to and had been working towards for a long time. It was finally happening. I was joining the work of taking the Good News to the nations.

I piled my four VERY heavy bags on a cart, and basically skipped to the exit to meet my mentor. I was so excited to meet her. She dropped me off at the guest flat and told me she would pick me up in the morning to attend an office luncheon where I would meet the rest of the team. I was ready to hit the ground running.

The “guest flat” was in a dilapidated Soviet apartment building, and I was nervous to stay by myself. However, updated my Facebook status (you know, first things first), and settled in…. And then.. it hit…

I started sobbing. I’d never felt more alone, trapped, or scared. Doubts and fears flooded my heart. Three years suddenly seemed like an e-t-e-r-n-i-t-y. After texting with one of my mentors, I fell asleep two hours later. It would be better tomorrow, right? Nope…more tears. When my mom called, I tried to disguise my emotions (because, you know, moms can’t see through that), but I wept. I felt like a child again, being held by her momma. And through her, God held me. She didn’t tell me to come home, instead reminding me I was right where the Father wanted me. The first two weeks I could barely talk to anyone without crying. I even struggled to comprehend the Word through the jet lag, culture shock, and roller coaster emotions.

A local Believer shared with me she thinks we are often like the Israelites. She explained that although God parted the Red Sea to deliver them from the Egyptians and lead them to the Promised Land, they were grumbling about the mud on their feet. Okay, so the part about the mud is not in the Word, but there are plenty of accounts about the Israelites grumbling about other things.

This made me reflect on the grace and love He has shown me. He has done miraculous things in my life, demolished seemingly unmovable strongholds, and surrounded me with amazing supportive friends and family. And yet, I was struggling to trust. God never promised comfort or ease, but He does promise that He will NEVER leave us. I am NOT alone. Evidence His hand facilitated my journey to Central Asia is apparent. He led me here, He has a plan, and He will sustain me. Those first few days brought me to my knees, but it is the best place to be if I’m kneeling before Him. I’ll always remember His first Words to me in this country – “Wait for the Lord; Be strong and let your heart take courage; Yes, wait for the Lord.” Psalm 27:14

Maybe It’s Your Fault You are Lonely

My account with Table for One Ministries

We all see the Facebook posts of a lonely person.

Whether married or single, you have friends who post and post, and then post some more. It seems every time you check your feed, you know the last meal the ate and how food was!

Then there are posts of loneliness and clear cries for attention and help that break your heart. You want your friends to not feel alone, so you try to get them to engage in activities but to no avail.

For singles this is more common as they often live alone and even those with a roommate spend time alone. Alone time does not equal being lonely. Being lonely is the feeling of abandonment or low self worth that makes a person feel like no one else knows how they feel.

Here is the thing with loneliness: you have to own some of the responsibility yourself. To be a person who is not alone, you have to be the instigator to say yes more often to social engagements and sometimes that means spending money to make things happen. It is not a matter of being an introvert or extrovert.

To avoid feeling alone, you need to be proactive to stay engaged in life.

Below are a few ways you may be responsible for feeling alone.

 

Not connecting with friends.

Friends are a great base of social interaction and companionship for anyone. Some friendships, like David and Jonathan’s in the Old Testament, can be deep and meaningful. (1 Samuel 18:1-4) You have to own half of the responsibility to establish relationships that can be deep friendships. Connect with others that share a common interest and resist the urge to stay home all the time.

 

Not doing social things with others.

We hear the uproar to this comment. Yes, we know it can be difficult to afford being social all the time. Singles are on a tight budget and every dollar is important. But, social things are important. Even for the introvert. You need to find social things to do. They do not have to always be a singles event. Sites like www.meetups.com offer a way for you to find a interest and share with others. Go out with co-workers. Say yes to lunch on Sundays, even with that married couple that asks. Being connected is worth every penny.

 

Not reaching out to others in time of need.

Nothing is more frustrating for a leader or minister than to find out a person in their group was in need and did not let anyone know. It is hard for anyone to admit they need help. But, if you are fighting against being lonely, not reaching out will not fix it. People may offer to help you from time to time. If you say no every time you become more distant from others, which leads to our next point.

 

Not allowing people to love you.

In his book The Five Love Languages, Gary Chapman believes everyone has a “love tank.” We agree! Singles, you have a love language and you need to know how you prefer to be loved so you can allow people to love you. You have to let down some guards and take a risk from time to time. Friends are there to help you and love you. It is hard, but it is worth it! (Click HERE to take a test to find your love language.)

 

Not establishing a FRAMILY.

Friends who are family, Framily! You need to have a few 1 a.m. friends, framily, or whatever you call them in your life to walk with you. Unfortunately in this fallen world, the older we get, the more family is lost to tragedy. The principle here is to surround yourself with people you love and who love you enough to invest in your life. That way when hardships comes, you have a network of people to call–not just one or two family members.

 

Lastly, leaders to singles, never stop reaching out to those who are lonely. One day they may let you into their Framily. It may take years to break down their walls and let you into their world, but it is worth it.
Singles ministries that thrive are ones who create a sense of community for one another and those that flourish are based on the Word of God. That is why our missions statement is to Build Community for Single Adults Through Discipleship. Keep loving the ones who fight your love the most. These people are the reason we started this blog. The one on Facebook who is lonely and looking to connect with others.