Being Mom Through Divorce

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Divorce is nasty.

Talk to anyone who is going through or has survived a divorced and unanimously they will say, even in the best of circumstances, divorce is hard. When children are involved in divorce, the stakes and emotions are even higher. From the day one spouse says the words “I want a divorce”, life and the marriage relationship will never return to the place it once was with unbroken trust.

Mothers are by nature the ones who nurture and care for others, being the solid foundation of the home for all family members. Maybe you are a mom reading this going through divorce. Regardless of the circumstances that led to this day, there are steps as a Christ follower that a mother should take even in the challenge of a divorce.

 

Fight for Your Marriage

Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. – Ephesians 4:32

Emotions overrun reality with every communication that happens with your spouse. The one who once used words to show you love, uses them to tear you down. While your marriage will be shaped by the actions taken, it can be saved by the One who has saved you. In the midst of the storm do not retaliate harsh words with even harsher ones. Be just as vigilant in loving the one you chose to marry as the day you said “I do.” Just as Christ forgave you for your sins and offered salvation through eternal life, you can offer forgiveness in the difficult times.

 

Children Hear our Words

“With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness.” – James 3:1-12

Words can be weapons. It is vital to your relationship with your children to take the high road and control conversations around your children. Let your words be ones that honor God and ones you will not regret. When the conversation becomes intense, steer your words toward love and deflect the conversation until little ears are not in hearing range. It will be hard. Nothing in divorce is easy, but you will be demonstrating to your children Christ’s love in the hardest of circumstances.

 

Your Ex-Spouses Salvation Matters

“But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” – Romans 5:8

Ask yourself this question: do I want to see my ex in heaven? To a believer, this question should be a centering moment in how you proceed in your divorce and your life. Remember the reality of your present state in this world. The emotions are high, your anger may be running over, the circumstances may be out of control. However, as a Christ follower, you should still keep the Gospel in the forefront of your conversation and mind. Don’t “Jesus juke” to be spiteful, but let your actions be ones that draw people to God rather than turn from him. Your actions a Christian applies to your ex just as much as the believers who stand beside you in difficult times.

Let Your Yes be YES!

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Let’s be honest. Singles are horrible about waiting until the last minute to commit. After all, something better, more fun, cooler, even a date!– might actually come along. We wait to reply yes on Facebook in fear that if we say yes then a better offer might come along. Singles even often use the phrase “planning on it” as a way to say yes, but something could happen.

When the Sunday School list to sign up for breakfast next week comes around you pass it on because you have not even committed to coming next week to church. A mission event is posted to our Facebook group. It sounds fun but is it the best option? Maybe something else will come up before then and cause you to choose the other event over the missions outing.

Raise your hand if you’ve ever thought or done any of the above. We see you. We hear you. We’ve done it too.

We need to be seeking the Lord’s path. By not discerning the choice He wants us to make, we can chose incorrectly. It is only with HIS strength that we can choose and choose wisely. When we are called and respond with a yes, deciding at the last minute that you aren’t in the mood or you’d rather go hang with that other group, is the wrong choice. Foregoing God’s choice for our own choice should not be an option for a Christ Follower. God’s Word is clear. We need to be followers of Christ that commit to our actions

When you commit to anything, do so like you are committing to God. Learning to commit in the small things will result in being trusted to commit in the bigger things in Life.

Be like Abraham.

By faith, Abraham, when he was called, obeyed and went out to a place he was  going to receive as an inheritance; he went out not knowing where he was going.

(Hebrews 11:8). (ESV)

Be a Person who commits to where they are at.

Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” As it is, you boast in your arrogant schemes. All such boasting is evil. If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them.

(James 4:13-17) (NIV)

Be a Disciple of Christ.

And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.

(Luke 14:27) (NIV)

Be a one word answer person

But let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No.’ For whatever is more than these is from the evil one.

(Matthew 5:37) (NIV)

Say yes to the singles event. Say yes to the local mission. Say yes and commit, knowing full well that God has something big planned and you don’t want to miss it!

It’s ok if you’re wrong

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Without guidance, people fall, but with many counselors there is deliverance. Proverbs 11:14

What a strange place to be right now for an evangelical. There was a time when the world made sense, when everyone, at least everyone I knew, voted Republican. We voted that way because that was the party that stood for the things we cared about. Things like being pro-life, protecting religious liberty, and promoting conservative values. We could, for the most part, agree upon the issues and the candidate that most reflected our values. There was a unity, or at least a majority, in our voting.

But then came 2016 and Donald Trump and all of that assuredness flew out the window! Actually, for some it may have started prior to Trump. Whenever it started, now things are complicated. Now decisions are messy and, along with it, the unity that we once had appears to be all but gone.

Never-Trump evangelicals accuse Pro-Trump and even Reluctant-Trump evangelicals of being motivated by fear and/or hatred to vote for a man who has no moral bearing. Or being idolaters who would sell out their moral credibility to push for an agenda.

Pro-Trump and Reluctant-Trump Evangelicals accuse Never-Trump evangelicals of acting like Pharisees and demonstrating hypocrisy. They argue that no one is perfect and therefore we have to vote for the platform, and besides the alternative is just too horrible to allow it to happen.

The arguments fly back and forth. Posting article after article, tweet after tweet, position, counter position. And you know what? I think that, for the most part, it’s a good thing as long as we don’t allow it to form a wedge between us. I hope that the watching world can see us an example of brothers with differing opinions. A peculiar people that don’t shrink from disagreements, but a people, who through living in community and sharing opinions, can sharpen one another.

Many people will preach that Christians should always be unified, but throughout history that has rarely been the case. Even the early church encountered disagreements on multiple occasions. The book of Acts records many of these disagreements. The leaders of the early church had a problem with the way the gospel was being spread to the Gentiles. They had some real issues with both Peter and Paul, but they worked it out through listening to each other and addressing each other’s concerns, not by censuring all opposing views. Later Paul would disagree with both Peter and Barnabas but they worked it out each time.

I know that reading opposing views and sparring with my fellow Christians has made me introspective on more than one occasion. We can’t afford to live in a world where there is only one opinion, where all think alike. How will we even know if we are correct in our thinking if no one is there to challenge us?

The culture today cries out for “safe spaces” and cringes at trigger words. We feel insulted and belittled if someone challenges our beliefs or philosophies. But we need to hear a differing view. A “safe space” may separate us from feeling uncomfortable, but it won’t help us grow, it won’t help us to refine our position or our beliefs.

Of course, the most important thing is that we don’t allow our differences to tear us apart, that we don’t take it personally that someone might have a different opinion than us. Instead we should listen to others, consider their position and evaluate it against ours. This process will make us stronger, it will sharpen our minds, it might even cause us to reevaluate or change our thoughts.
Would you rather be delusional in your rightness or actually right? Would you rather argue from a position of strength, having considered all the sides of a position, or just comfortably naive in your positions?

So, let’s state our positions with respect, love, and concern for those who disagree with us. Let’s not resort to name calling and character assassinations. Let’s listen to opposing views with a desire to understand and evaluate, not with a closed mind. It’s the only way we can grow in our perspectives and sharpen our minds.

So listen and state your opinions with honor and respect. And remember, at least we aren’t as wrong as the evangelicals who will vote for Hillary right? 😉

Being Single Means No Broken Heart

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Movies portray the single adult as a free spirit and anti-dating all because he or she fears a broken heart. But the realities of a broken heart are nothing new.

In Genesis 29, we learn that Jacob works hard for seven years only to wake up the morning after his wedding married to Leah instead of Rachel, the one he loved. Outraged, Jacob must have been heartbroken since he had worked years for his true love only to have to work an additional seven to marry her.

God hears and heals the brokenhearted.Psalm 34:18
The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.

So is the answer staying single to ward off a broken heart?

We have all seen the love story play out in romance movies. The guarded single inevitably overcomes their fears and opens up to “true” love in their life. Being single does not exempt you from having a broken heart. It may, for a season, guard you from a romantic broken heart, but in this life, we will have trials and tribulations. (John 16:33) A broken heart can come in many ways. Loss of friend, loved one, or a promise broken by someone dear to you. Disappointment will happen regardless if you are in a romantic relationship.

Even God’s heart breaks.

The story of Hosea symbolizes a relationship of the the people of Israel with God. Hosea 11 describes God’s heart breaking over the things He has witnessed the people commit. His heart was broken. This and many occasions in Scripture speak to God’s broken heart by the actions of others against Him. But a broken heart is not the end, it is the beginning of what is to come.

God’s Love Wins.

1 Corinthians 13 masterfully spells out love and what true love looks like in a romantic relationship. God poured out His love on the cross while we were still sinners. (John 3:16) And we know love because we have His love in us and share it with others. (1 John 4)

So singles, if you are not dating to avoid a broken heart, you have it wrong. Broken hearts happen, but God’s love is there to mend your heart and show you love in ways you never knew possible, if you allow Him to reign in your life.

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)

Wholehearted Devotion

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Are You All In?

Being “all in” is who I am and proud to be. I am not sure when it happened, but sometime after my ministry call hit me, I decided to be a man who made his Yes be Yes and his No be No. Like Matthew 5:37 tells us, I decided to follow God and be all in for whatever He planned for my life.

At 19, I hadn’t been on a God-directed path. My life was good, and I was a moral person, but it was not sold out for Christ. I now recognize if this life is to be one lived for Him, I need to be willing to go wherever He leads.

It’s not all roses being all in. I have moved all over the country following His path. During the journey and through several jobs, I was blessed. Each step was a learning experience. While God had me moving around, I dated some. But I mainly focused on preparing for the something great God had in store for me.

Shortly after I married, that something great lead to unemployment for six months. When I could find work, it was still not enough to pay bills. For a year I couldn’t even afford to pay housing for me and my wife. Job offers were slim and while some got close, they all fell through. In the back of my mind, I wondered if paid church ministry was ever going to happen again for me. Then, the path lit up.

Within the course of three months, I was called to launch Table for One Ministries. Not to pay bills, but to do what God called me to do, to reach singles. A few months after that (and after yet  another move), I was employed again at a church. A month after, we were able to purchase our first home. Within the year, we were blessed when our daughter was born.

When it was the darkest, I cried out to God and asked to be shown His path. He made the way clear.

Through the ups and downs during these three years, I have been told countless times I should have more gray areas, and be less rigid with my choices. But James 4:13-17 is my driving force for being bold today and everyday.

“Now listen, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.’ Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, ‘If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.’ As it is, you boast in your arrogant schemes. All such boasting is evil. If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them.”  (NIV)

Let it never be said that I was unable to follow God wherever His path lead, no matter the risk or costs. Sin should never happen as a result of us not listening to the Lord’s direction.  I want to be one who asks first to be shown the Lord’s will, and when He says go, I move.

Single Myths: They Fear Commitment

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She has a commitment issue. He has a phobia and can’t commit.

If you’re single you’ve either heard it once or a million times. Or, perhaps you’ll admit that you’ve thought it about another single–that guy or gal who says no to marriage, no to a long-term relationship or who seems to jump from one relationship to another without a care for the feelings of others.

For some singles, this may be true. But for the majority, their life has shown otherwise.

Every one of us knows at least one single who is on a mission, whether local or abroad. Maybe you are part of a singles group that spends its free Saturday giving time and effort to bagging groceries at the Food Bank. You’re the single mowing the neighbor’s lawn because they are sick or on vacation for a long period. You may be the single who is willing to pitch in where needed, even if you have a long list of personal errands that needed to be done. These lives reflect Galatians 5:13:

For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. (ESV)

Serving takes commitment.

Singles commit to jobs, some requiring more than a full-time schedule. We purchase houses and cars that require a monthly payment schedule. We commit to a budget that includes fulfilling God’s calling to tithe to our church, to give to the needy, to support a child in poverty.

Living takes commitment.

We connect with others and develop friendships that call us to work hard to treat one another with kindness. And, to keep healthy family relationships, we commit to nourishing one another, supporting and loving one another just as Christ commands us in John 13:35.

A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. (NIV)

Relationships take commitment.

And, most importantly, Believers commit to God’s plan for His kingdom. We adjust when He calls for change. We say Yes, when he calls us beyond our four walls of comfort. We commit to make a difference. We run the race He calls us to in Hebrews 12:1b.

And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us,… (NIV)

Faith takes commitment.

The lives of Christian singles reflect that not only are we committed, we’re open to God’s plan in our lives. Don’t fall into the trap of believing you aren’t or that another single isn’t committed. It’s a myth.

Be An Adult

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http://thefederalist.com/2015/01/27/dont-wait-for-your-wedding-to-buy-a-kitchenaid-and-other-ways-to-embrace-adulthood/

So when do you become an adult?

Is it when you get keys to your first car at age 16?
At 18 when you can make your own legal decisions?
At 21 when you can legally drink alcohol?
When you move away from home?
When you get your first job?
When you can pay all your own bills?
When you get married?

Defining adulthood is nothing short of impossible. The idea that an age, ceremony, or responsibility defines adulthood gives no target of what it means to be an adult. So we find adults of all ages acting like children and youths acting like adults. So maybe the best way to define being an adult is to say it is a mindset.

Paul, while talking about love, speaks to knowing true love by laying down the things that made him a child and acting like an adult. James reminds us that we are but a vapor in this life and time is short so we need to ask the Lord what is His will for our life. (James 1:13-17)

Maybe adulthood is what Paul asserts happened when we realize this life is a vapor as James explains. A mindset of adulthood embraces the reality of time (1 Corinthians 13:11). Time that has passed and is passing and will not always be present. One way to see this is by decision-making.

What was it that made you say “I’m an adult now”?

Just Stop Sinning

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We encounter many conversations with single adults and the issue of sin comes up often. Everyone deals with sin–we are in a broken and fallen world. Not everyone, though, deals with sin the same. This is a look at two different stories of dealing with sin.

 

“I can’t be expected to stop sinning”

Jared arrived at school ready to study to be a pastor. He is 31, single, and feels called to be a minister. He is very driven and well read in theology and history of the church. While speaking to one of our ministers, he starts talking about his struggles with addiction and says, “It’s not like we can be expected to stop sinning” and continues on to talk about when a friend had asked him to do just that. He argued we were all fallen people in need of grace, to stop sinning is impossible, and it should be expected that all sin is a struggle not something to be conquered.

 

“I can stop sinning, at least with my actions”

Allen was looking for a church home and decided to give a church down the street a try. They  had a singles ministry, and the Sunday he attended the issue was on sin and choosing to turn from sin. Allen was taken aback. He had struggled for years with addiction, admitting he had  good and bad seasons in how he dealt with it. No one had ever told him to simply stop sinning. The idea was so foreign to him, he decided to give this “not sinning thing” a try.

 

It really is as easy as stopping your actions of sinning.

Jared lives in a world where sin is not something he really tries to stop, but only fights off from time to time. Allen now lives in a reality where he may not be able to control all his thoughts, but his actions have been controlled by the power of the Holy Spirit. Bondage vs Freedom.

In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.  –Hebrews 12:4

Actions speak louder than words, and that is true of our relationship with God and dealing with sin. Our actions need to reflect our repentant hearts for forgiveness and grace. There are methods and books (especially God’s Word) to help each person find their way to stop acting out on a sin. The key is that as mature believers, we seek those paths and find ways to stop acting on our sin, even if we can not control our thoughts and urges.

The payment for all sin is death. Christ paid that debt in full for everyone. However, the consequences of every sin are different. We urge you to take a stand. Make sin in your life Not an Option and experience the freedom from bondage.

Do you think it is possible to have a mindset to stop sinning in certain areas of your life, particularly with your actions?

Who Pushed That Button?

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I want life to come easily.

One night I even wrote a song about it entitled, “Won’t it Come Easily” as I meowed myself to sleep like a cat licking my wounds, wishing life and love and job came with the giant Staples Easy Button.

News flash: No Easy Buttons can be found in the reality aisle of life.

A few examples of the Hard Button:

  •    Working with colleagues who don’t think, work, agree, or act like you do
  •    Overcoming sickness and family complications
  •    Enduring insults, difficulties, and hardships
  •    Pushing through lonely and uncertain seasons of singleness

Have you ever wondered what a Staples Hard Button might look like? I can imagine it covered in thorns. I can imagine Satan had access to it when he approached God’s throne asking for permission to harass Job. At the end of the dialogue, Satan pushed the Hard Button, and God allowed it!

Pause Button. What’s that about?

After Job’s first round of turmoil, God proclaimed that Job, a man with integrity, would not deny His (God’s) name. Indeed, Job did not:  “In all this, Job did not sin by blaming God.” (Job 1:22 NLT)

Later in Matthew, when Jesus contradicts accusations of him teaming with Beelzebub, He does so by first pointing out how illogical it is that the Father of light would team up with evil. After mentioning the unpardonable sin, He continues by saying that “anyone who speaks against the Son of man can be forgiven.” (Matt. 12:32) NLT

Job was considered a man of integrity because he did not speak against God even with the presence of life turbulence. He did not call God evil; and what God calls Himself in Mark 10:18, “no one is good except God alone” means that God is not the operator of the Hard Button. God did not introduce evil and sin into the world–Satan did. God is the giver of Life. Believing this is essential to recognize He is good and the rewarder of those who diligently seek Him (Hebrews 11:6)

When we shake our fists at God in seasons of drought and deep desire, we are calling Him the author of evil in pantomime. When we fall silent and stop praying, in our hearts perhaps we are proclaiming, “God you are doing this to me!”  If we doubt His love for us when He calls Himself love, if we say He commits evil when He says that He is the Author of only good, we show a wavering faith.

But God forgives and restores us when we falter and blame Him for being the sole proprietor of the pain in our lives and the world.

In the midst of life’s difficulties, we must remember to call God as He calls Himself: good.

Even when the Hard Button is pushed down, God is not only good, He is good TO US. He loves each of us individually, personally and intimately.  Believing this fundamental truth will carry us through life’s difficulties.