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.

The Non-Practicing Homosexual

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Table for One Ministries reached out to friends who had mentioned their accountability group included men who struggle with homosexuality. Intrigued by that situation, we set-up a meeting with two such men to find out more about what it meant to struggle with homosexuality and why they felt comfortable in their current church to speak about that struggle. Their names have been changed to respect their privacy.

Jim grew up in a “normal” Christian home with a loving family and support from both his parents. At a young age, Jim remembered being touched inappropriately by a male close to the family. While this abuse has gone unreported for decades, from that young age, Jim was curious about same-sex relations. As Jim grew older he knew those feelings were deviant and suppressed them, pretending on the outside to be just like any other male adult. He never once took physical action towards homosexuality; it was a struggle in his thoughts and visually in the world around him. Jim has a deep commitment to the Lord and through the years tried to stop having these deviant thoughts. One day in a church-sponsored accountability group he revealed his secret to the group. Immediately he felt a wave of relief that others knew his struggle and could support him as he continued to walk away from thoughts he knew were wrong. Through this group, Jim was empowered to end this struggle and has since gone on to have healthy heterosexual relationships. The church provided Jim a place to be accountable to God’s Word, and His Word finally changed Jim’s sexuality.

Sam’s story is different than Jim’s. Sam was raised by his mother, absent of a father, and for years struggled with feminine behaviors. To combat this, Sam continuously would do “macho” activities and sports to try and fool the world to who he truly desired to be. While thoughts of the same-sex were prevalent for Sam, he too was in church every Sunday like Jim and no one would have suspected he struggled with those thoughts. Sam came to the same accountability group as Jim and would confess his deviant thoughts to the group. Since then, Sam has actually become more feminine in his behavior. Yet, his desire to act out as a homosexual has lessened. He described this as becoming who God created him to be, while being what God desires him to be. Sam does not foresee a time when he will be attracted to the opposite sex, nor does he ever intend to let homosexual behaviors drive his attraction. Sam is what Jesus talks about in Matthew 10:12 “those who choose to live like eunuchs for the sake of the Kingdom of Heaven.” He is choosing not to act on any sexual behavior for the sake of the Kingdom and God is glorified.

Both of these stories point out something that is troubling in our churches today. The church may think there are no homosexuals within its walls, but it must assume there could be a few sitting in the pews every Sunday. It is troubling to think churches do not consider this an issue in their church. One study shows that while the perception is there are an overwhelming amount of homosexuals in America, there is actually only 4% of the total population in the LGBTQ[1]  community. The same study also shows that 11% of the population (25 million) acknowledges some same-sex attraction.[1] This information leads this writer to conclude that while the perception is same-sex attraction is a rapidly growing demographic, statistics reveal more people struggle with the idea of same-sex attraction than thought.

Therefore, it is the role of the church to education both these segments, but particularly those considering same-sex attraction a way out of that feeling. That way out is through knowledge of God’s Word, accountability to another Christian, and most of all the power of the Holy Spirit though the regenerated life of a believer to accomplish anything for the Kingdom. Targeting those who struggle with same-sex attraction but have not chosen the life of homosexuality will make a more fruitful ministry as these seekers are open to walking away from those feelings. While the 4% in the LGBT community have made a choice to act on those feelings and can change, a more challenging road of change awaits them due to their actions and current lifestyle.

So do you agree in such a thing as non-practicing homosexual? Is it possible to love God, honor God, struggle against same-sex attraction feelings, and be a Christ follower?
[1]. The Williams Institute, How many people are lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender?, http://williamsinstitute.law.ucla.edu/wp-content/uploads/Gates-How-Many-People-LGBT-Apr-2011.pdf (accessed October 3, 2012).

The Emperor Has no Clothes: Bruce Jenner and Gender Dysphoria

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Something is wrong; horribly, disturbingly wrong. And it has to do with the way our culture celebrates a mental disorder. Bruce/Caitlyn Jenner has brought to the forefront a condition that is growing in notoriety in our culture today, Gender Dysphoria.

This public spectacle reminds me of the old fable, The Emperor’s New Clothes. In this story, the Emperor’s vanity has allowed him to be duped into believing that he is wearing magical clothing that can only be seen by those who are wise. He doesn’t see the clothes himself but is afraid to say so for fear of being labeled a fool. In fact, no one sees the clothes because they do not exist, but no one will speak up for the same fear. One day he parades through town with his new “clothes” until one little boy has the courage to speak up and tell him that he is in fact naked.

Back to Bruce Jenner. Those who suffer from Gender Dysphoria, also known as Gender Identity Disorder or G.I.D. for short, have strong feelings that they are the opposite gender of their biological reality. Often they choose to have their bodies altered to reflect what they feel to be their true identity. This is what Bruce has done and now his decision is celebrated and applauded by nearly every media outlet.

As a Christian I struggle with knowing how to react when the culture celebrates someone’s decision to chase their happiness through drugs, hormone therapy, and gender reassignment surgery. I want to know what I should do, what I should say. Should I just remain silent? Celebration and applause doesn’t feel right. If I speak about my misgivings will I be castigated in the court of public opinion? How do I speak words of hope and healing when I don’t understand what people like Bruce, or Caitlyn, if you prefer, are going through?

I begin with two truths from God’s Word. First, God created us male and female (Gen 1:27). Second, there was intention in how each of us was created (Psalm 139:13-16). We can, therefore, deduce that the gender we are born with is not a mistake. We are who we are because that is God’s will for us. If I decide not to follow God’s will for my life, God calls that rebellion. Now there is something I know a little something about (a lot, really).

G.I.D. is really just another symptom of the fall of man. I don’t mean to oversimplify such a complex issue as G.I.D. However, original sin makes us all want to be something different than what God wants for us. We are all prone to choose our own way. Sin has distorted our view of God, it has distorted our view of others, and it has distorted our view of ourselves.

So back to how I react when faced with the media storm surrounding Bruce Jenner. First, I react with love, love for a fellow human being who needs the love and mercy of a righteous and just God. Then I speak the truth in love. Bruce Jenner will not find peace in being someone other than who God has created him to be.

There is only one way to peace, hope, and joy in who you are created to be. It is found in Jesus. Placing my faith and trust in Him means that I trust that He created me just the way He wanted me. I am not too short, my skin is not too pale, and I am the gender He wants me to be. All feelings to the contrary are a rebellion of who God has created me to be and therefore sinful. All sin leads to death (Rom 3:23) and for anyone to encourage others to revel in their rebellion is not helpful; it is destructive and mean.

I just feel like someone has to speak the truth!

 

How Does Your Church Preach on Same-Sex Attraction?

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Three Actions to Take Now to Reach Those Struggling with SSA

When was the last time your pastor preached on same-sex attraction? Did he even call it that or did he call it homosexuality, gay, and other terms? Singles ministry and this issue are biblically woven together. The majority who struggle with or engage in same-sex attraction are single. Often times, when pastors are so focused on condemning the sin, they neglect important points:

1. Call it what it is, Same-Sex Attraction (SSA)

Some words are so arming that the message of love and acceptance is never heard. Encourage your pastor to use the term Same-Sex Attraction when talking about the issue. Reason being, someone may hear “gay” and think they aren’t, but hear SSA and think “Yeah, I do struggle with that.” Words matter.

2. Singles Ministry can reach those who STRUGGLE with SSA

Many churches are not comfortable dealing with this issue, but singles ministry should be. Regardless whether your church has a singles minister or not, singles ministry is a place for those that struggle to find healing, hope, and love in a church environment. When the church can align biblically on this issue, they have the opportunity to provide love instead of condemnation.

Struggle is the key word of SSA. When someone is struggling, they are open to God’s love. If they are not fighting the battle with sin, the Holy Spirit cannot work in their lives. Encourage the struggle!

3. Define the “Win” for those who struggle with SSA

The “win” here is not for those that struggle to be married with three kids. Nope, the victory in this sin, like all others, is found in the power of Christ changing lives and Him becoming the most important relationship. Being complete in Christ and not an earthly relationship is the win, not acting out in a heterosexual lifestyle due to struggling with SSA. After all, with any sin, choosing to act on our worldly desires is the issue, not the fact we all struggle with sin.

Table for One Ministries is committed to reaching singles of all backgrounds and generations. We want to build community through discipleship for all single adults. If you need more information on this issue, contact us at [email protected]. We would love to help!

True Love Doesn’t Have to Wait

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True love doesn’t wait. That’s right. All our lives we were taught by Disney, ABC, Hallmark, and others that someday our one “true love” will come and sweep us off our feet. Get married and have perfect children and live happily ever after. But is that what Scripture teaches us? Christian programs talk about this issue, but we are not talking about physical attraction love only. Paul encourages a life of singleness over being married for the sake of Kingdom work in 1 Corinthians 7. Jesus was single and said “Come and Follow me” (Mark 1:17) and died upon a cross for all mankind’s sins to rise again three days later victorious over death. John 3:16: God loved us so much he sent His one son to die for you. True love. 1 John 4 talks about how God is love and we know God’s love by loving one another. The Bible is clear. Be complete in Christ now and know true love!

True love is what Christ has done for us, not what Prince Charming or Snow White has to offer. Singles, do not buy into the lie that marriage is the only way to experiencing true love and be complete. Be complete now and if marriage is in God’s plan for your life,  then great! If not, you are complete and whole knowing the truest love this life has to offer.

Taming the Single Tongue

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“With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth comes praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be. Can both freshwater and saltwater flow from the same spring? My brothers and sisters, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water.”   James 3:9-12 (NIV)

As a single adult, taming the tongue is particularly important when speaking about your singleness. At Table for One Ministries we believe singles are complete in Christ. Nothing else will satisfy you or even come close to His love shown you.

So why talk negatively about being single like it’s a curse or an unwanted gift? This verbiage displays a lack of trust in the One who controls everything in our lives.

Your tongue has power. In fact, it’s described in verse 8 as “a restless evil, full of deadly poison.” Yikes! That is harsh for the average Christian believing they are mostly good and mostly honoring God most of the time. The issue of taming the tongue comes down to submission to Christ and love.

You must submit your words to the Word of God (James 4:7). Your words should speak love to others so that they may know the love of God.  “Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.” (1 John 4:11-12)

Let your tongue be honoring in all you say!

Single Myths: Every Man Needs a Woman

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Men, let’s be real.

On TV we are portrayed as slobs, unable to control our emotions, irrational, and most of all, hopeless without a woman. The “Homer Simpson” man requires a woman that can pick up the pieces when bad decisions are made and run the home.

When did the idea that men have to have a woman become the prevailing thought in America?

At Table for One Ministries, we believe you are complete in Christ. We say it often and say it proudly, because if you are a single man reading this you know at some point it has been said to you, “you need a good woman” or “you need to settle down.”

We would like to argue it’s not a woman that brings maturity, it’s a relationship with Christ. This most important relationship teaches us how to be humble, respectful, forgiving, caring of others’ needs, and how to love on the deepest level. All those things result in maturity that flows out of your relationship with Christ and into all other relationships.

It’s not marriage that makes a man, it is Christ who makes the man whole.

Men, be like Joshua and be bold and courageous doing incredible things for the kingdom. Be like Paul and be a slave to Christ. These men were complete in Christ, not their relationships with women. Be like Jesus.

Single Myths: Every Lady Needs a Man

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Ladies, let’s be real.

Women on TV are often portrayed as going from one man to another, trying to find completeness in a partner–emotionally, sexually, and sometimes, spiritually.

The idea prevails that women need another person to be complete even if he is just a very close friend. Even strong, independent types seek someone to complete them. With all the improvements of women’s right and equality, our nation still finds a 30-year-old woman to be flawed if she is still single. It is one reason the average age for brides is consistently lower by a year or more than the groom.

At Table for One Ministries, we believe you are complete in Christ. We say it often because it’s the foundation for how we view relationships. Your relationship with Christ builds a respectful, loving, caring, and trusting attitude needed for all other relationships. We argue it’s not the man who makes the woman, but the woman who grows in Christ that makes her into a Proverbs 31 woman of faith.

Women, be like Annie Armstrong and Lottie Moon, go on mission for the Kingdom no matter the cost. Be like Mary, who may have been a single mother but raised a family that honored God and cared for our Savior. Be like Martha, who cried out to Jesus for help when Lazarus died but had faith Christ would bring him back to life.

Be bold for the kingdom as a woman. If your path brings you into a relationship with a man, your close relationship with Christ will be the foundation of knowing true love and give you the ability to be the best possible spouse.

Slice of Humble Pie

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“Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time,

casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.”

1 Peter 5:6-7

Pie is awesome. Very few times will you hear people say no to pie. A good piece of pie is a slice of heaven on earth. But what about some humble pie? Before you go and Google it, this is not a real pie (or maybe it is) but an expression meaning a person needs be humbled sometimes to be a better person. Our God, the baker serves humble pie to all of us so we may grow from the challenges into His image.

How is being single like a slice of humble pie? Maybe the apostle Paul had the same slice of single pie you are having when he was writing 1 Corinthians 7. Many times pastors and well-meaning friends will refer to the years you are single as a refinement for a future marriage. Nothing irritates a single adult more than being told their singleness is because they are too immature to marry. We have seen enough immature married people to know that statement is a lie.  This is not the type of humbling we agree with at Table for One.

We all need to be humbled. That is not because of a relationship status. We all need to be humbled before God so He may exalt us one day as we cast all our fears and worries upon Him. He cares for us!!!

How reassuring is the end of verse 7? However, being humbled is difficult for us but it is because He cares. Singles, humble yourselves before our God and serve Him as He calls. Remember, it’s not because of your status you are being humbled, it’s because you are child of the one true King.

I Did Not Plan to be 50 and Still Single

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We had a single adult write us the other day and tell us our blogs and overtones seem to be written towards those who are choosing to be single. This person is in their 50’s and bluntly said, they did NOT choose to be single this late in life, it just happened. The years flew by with lots of adventures and time with family, and before they knew it it had been 50 years and they only had a few dates and relationships to show for it.

This single in this situation did not plan to be single. Some singles are bitter from the years of being alone, while others are saddened by never starting a family of their own and the time for that has passed. We like to think the majority, however, is comprised of singles full of life. And, while they may not have planned this path, they have lived it and can reflect on a full life. A full life is not defined by a wedding and poopy diapers.

A full life is one lived honoring God and living for the day when God may say “Well done my good and faithful servant.”

You may not have planned to be single, but God planned for you to be single.  This path you took was not one that missed the mark, but was a different mark than the world defines just like the apostle Paul describes in 1 Corinthians 7.  Keep living life.  You are complete in Christ!