End of the Rope with Addiction

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Do you ever feel torn between doing what you know is right, and then doing the wrong thing anyway? Choosing to continue in a sin that you should be able to be free of, yet you keep making the same mistake. We have some comforting words for you, the apostle Paul had this same struggle in Romans 7-8 regarding the Law. The Message translation Bible is not intended to be an everyday Bible, but what it is great at is expressing things in a new light with the same Biblical meaning. This could not be more true of this passage! Here are the phrases Paul uses in his struggle with sin.

  • I need something more!
  • I know the law and yet I can not keep it
  • Sin keeps sabotaging my best intentions
  • I obviously need help!
  • I have the will, but I can’t do it!
  • The moment I decide to do good, sin trips me up
  • I have tried everything and nothing helps, I am at the end of my rope

You should take time and read this entire chapter out loud and hear the urgency and distress in Paul’s voice. Go ahead, read it out loud.

Romans 7 Message Translation

Have you ever felt that way? When it comes to sin in your life like getting drunk, sex before marriage, drugs, lust, porn,and on and on? Have you been at the end of your rope with sin? Do you feel like there is nothing anyone can do for you? Well, there is great news! Romans 7:25-8:1-4.

The answer, thank God, is that Jesus Christ can and does. He acted to set things right in this life of contradictions where I want to serve God with all my heart and mind, but am pulled by the influence of sin to do something totally different. “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in sinful man, in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit.”

Struggle with your addictions and then give them all to God. Make a stand in your life for sin to be “Not an Option!” Have you reached the end of your rope with sin?

Wise Counsel

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Who do you turn to when you have issues in your life? Your phone, social media, a co-worker, or friend? Have you considered the priority order of who you go to? Maybe the order of whom you take your life challenges speaks to your spiritual walk maturity. Consider this:

 

#1 Take it to God

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” – Philippians 4:6

  • Instead of finding someone or something to take your request to, take it to God. It sounds simple, almost overstated. But when something happens in your life and you need help, is your initial reaction to take action or take it to prayer? Keep in mind, prayer is not meant to be a long, drawn out oration with fancy words and a formula for success. It is your heart petitioning your emotions and making a request to our God.

 

#2 Take it to Wise Faith Counselors

Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed.” – Proverbs 15:22

  • It’s not a question of whether an unbeliever can be wise; it’s about seeking someone with similar values when addressing an issue. The person with whom you seek wise counsel should be the one that also shares the most important relationship in your life, Jesus. It’s not that we can’t glean information from those not following the Lord, but ultimately it’s those who hold the same value system as us that we should seek wise counsel from.

 

#3 Take Action

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.” – Joshua 1:9

  • If you’ve already done Step 1 and Step 2, don’t fall short of step 3 and doing something about it. We’re not called to only process the issues and challenges, but we’re called to take action and be bold for our God. Joshua needed the encouragement to move forward, take action, after seeking counsel with God. We should do the same. When faced with a life challenge, we need to be bold and take the steps needed to honor God.

Singles, you need to be complete in Christ to fully approach life’s challenges. A relationship with Christ is the foundational relationship for all others you have or may desire in your future. Live your life now in the way that honors God and places Him first so He may use you in mighty ways for the Kingdom.

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?

How to Start a Singles Ministry or Group

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  1. Pray. This may seem like an obvious step, but sometimes an idea is acted upon out of enthusiasm and not with a clear plan guided by His hand.

You are likely to know several singles in your church. Enlist their help as you pray towards God’s plan. And when asked, “does your church have a singles group,” don’t answer with a simple no. Ask the person to pray with you. Go to the church staff and ask them to pray about it. Talk to your Sunday class about your desire to see singles gathered and request they pray about it also.

 

  1. Gather single adult leaders. Establish a core group of mature Believers with a heart for reaching singles. Listen to their input.

Find others with enthusiasm and willingness for the long haul. Ask for a commitment. Ask for input. Delegate tasks as the core group steps into leadership roles.

 

  1. Have an outreach plan. Use the core group to make a plan, set goals and deadlines.

Communicate, communicate, communicate. The core group not only needs a plan, they need clear goals and deadlines for the steps to form an active group of singles with a heart for Christ.

 

  1. Plan ahead with events, missions, etc. As you meet with the core group, it will become obvious who has the heart for playing host or hostess. Divide the duties so no one feels overwhelmed.

Start with a big bang but have events in place beyond the first call to singles. When there is momentum, you don’t want to lose individuals by saying, “we’ll let you know what’s next.” Instead have a second and perhaps third event already in the works from the core group. Then share those details at the initial singles group gathering. For every social event plan a missions event and weekday Bible Study opportunity. Keep in mind you will offer more than people will attend, but opportunities spur growth.

 

  1.  Keep the momentum going. Try new events. Invite others. Establish small groups for specific tasks.

Move forward, seek out new ideas, keep praying and make certain established members of the group welcome new members with an open heart. Remind the group how difficult it can be to enter a room and not know anyone. And, when someone shows up for a second time, make them part of the group by assigning even a small task.

#LOVEWINS? The Attempt to Silence Truth

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No doubt you have seen the hashtag #LoveWins attached to many a Facebook status and tweet. At first glance you might assume that it is just another way to celebrate the SCOTUS decision to legalize same-sex marriage in all 50 states. You may interpret it as declaring love wins because now you are free to love whomever you please, but we have always been free to love everyone. However, to truly love anyone, you must understand the meaning and nature of love, but that is the subject of another blog.
Today we are going to talk about the not so subtle message that the hashtag #LoveWins really communicates. It is the same tactic that has been so effective in shutting down opposition to anyone who opposes the redefining of the institution of marriage. You see if love wins then hate lost, or at least that is what we are suppose to believe. As a society we have been given only two options from those who support same-sex marriage. You can either choose love and support same-sex marriage, or you are a hater and a bigot. There is no middle ground, or at least that is what we are led to believe.
It is an effective way to shut down the debate, because for most, there is an aversion to being labeled as a hater and a bigot, so one remains quiet. What is worse, and very dangerous, is that many Christian have begun to believe the lie that to oppose this issue or any other viewpoint that is counter to the Bible is equal to hatred.
As one meme I saw yesterday stated, “It is God’s job to convict, it is my job to love.” Even though the individual facts of the statement are true, the subtle message of those who posted it was “Shut up! Don’t tell me I am wrong. That is God’s job, you are just suppose to love me.”
But there is a real problem with that kind of logic. Matthew 28:19-20; Acts 1:8; Romans 10:14; the example of every prophet and apostle tell us that we must speak Biblical truth. We cannot be worried about how the message of the cross will be received. We are to speak. God will use the words we speak to convict, and yes, we are called to love. Love like no one has ever seen before! Love enough to face name-calling, disparaging remarks and jail time, and even death if necessary. Love enough to tell someone they are wrong. Remember the story of John the Baptist? He spoke out in defense of marriage and was thrown in jail, and eventually beheaded.
Need more convincing? Did Jesus hate the Pharisees when he pointed out their arrogance? Did he hate the woman caught in adultery when he told her “Go and sin no more?” When a parent corrects a child, is that an act of hate or love?
I want to be perfectly clear, disagreeing with someone does not equal hate. Telling someone that their lifestyle is not part of God’s design, and that He wants so much better for them is not hate. Standing up for God’s design for marriage is not hate.
God designed marriage to be an example of the gospel to the world. Marriage is a picture of Christ and the church Marriage is the vehicle through which mankind was meant to populate the earth with loving children supported by a man and a woman. In order for marriage to fulfill its purpose, it must remain as God designed.
With this understanding, drawn from Biblical truth, I ask you to love like very few are willing to love. Love the truth of God’s Word. When the world tells you to sit down and shut up, love enough to speak the truth. Love enough to cry with and support those who struggle with same-sex attraction. Love enough to listen to our LBGT friends and invite them into your lives. Love those who are like you and those who are not. Love those who agree with you and those who don’t.
Love, but don’t be silent, because that is not love at all.

Can I Ask God for a Spouse?

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This question is one we get from time-to-time at Table for One Ministries. Usually backed up  by Matthew 7:7.  Ask, seek, and knock, and it will be given to you. So, is it okay to pray for a spouse?

One summer’s day the sun was beating down on the Texas earth and a single adult was out playing ultimate frisbee with some friends. Hot as it was, it was nice to be outside with friends and meeting new people. In the middle of the game at the height of a tied game, he said, “I wish I was married.” Not even knowing where the emotion came from, it was tossed aside and focus went back on the game.

In the evening as these friends gathered for prayer time, the verbal statement overwhelmed the discussion and the prayer list. When it happened, the group prayed for spouses.

It is not a problem to pray for a spouse, in fact there are verses like Matthew 7:7, James 1:1-9, and Psalm 21:2 that encourage this. Here is the defining emotion in this type of prayer request:

Are you praying for a spouse to be complete, or for the “icing on the top” in life?

What we mean is, a spouse is nothing you need to be complete. The Apostle Paul and Jesus were very good examples of that! It is merely the little extra something that life has to offer in one aspect of your life.

For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form,  and in Christ you have been brought to fullness. He is the head over every power and authority.     Colossians 2:9-10

For this group, the response was clear. Although they found completeness in Christ they wanted to be married. And, although marriage would not define them, they still voiced the desire to be married.

This one spoken desire grew into a well-defined group prayer until the day God divinely placed potential spouses in the lives of this group of friends.

This was years in the making, not just one simple prayer. So yes, pray for a spouse if the Lord has led you to be married, but live a life that is Complete in Christ so that He will receive the glory in all things you do.

So, do you pray for a spouse?

A Biblical View of Masturbation

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Recently on ask.fm Table for One Ministries was asked, “Is their a Biblical view on masturbation? Is it ever, okay?” Well, that’s a question that could have a volume of responses. So we are going to do our best to respond to the main theme of this question: Does the Bible have a stance about masturbation?

No. The Bible does not reference masturbation. Matthew 5:28 does talk about lusting in ones heart and often masterbation acompanies these thoughts.  It does reference “seed” but never in the context of the question presented. However, it is assumed that many times in the Bible where prostitutes are mentioned that masturbation was happening, and since the fall of man, living in a sinful world, it is an issue. The Bible does however speak about sin, addiction, and turning to the Lord in your area of weakness.

“And He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you,

for My strength is made perfect in weakness.

Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities,

that the power of Christ may rest upon me.”

2 Corinthians 12:9

In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.

Hebrews 12:4

For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. 20 Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.

Romans 7:7-25

As awkward as the topic is, masturbation is a big issue singles face. Is it okay? Can I really stop? What if I never get married? All of these questions and more arise as singles fight against that which Paul talks about in 1 Corinthians 7:9 when speaking of “burning with passion.” Having a sexual drive is not a 100% reason to get married. In fact, if you read all of Chapter 7, Paul is almost sarcastic in words about getting married to fix your “passion” problem. Reading further in Chapter 10, Paul says:

No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.

1 Corinthians 10:13

You will not be tempted beyond what you can bear as a Christ-follower. There is always a way out. Masturbation is not a necessity, it is a means to an end. The final judgment of whether it is a sin or not lies between you and God. If it is an addiction or something that stands between you and God, it is a sin.

So to our anonymous question-asker, we hope this gives some Biblical grounds related to the issues of masturbation. Always remember the greatest commandment: Love God, Love Others. Make sure everything you do aligns with that core commandment.

Between Separation and Divorce

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Between Separation and Divorce, there is the:

Opportunity to focus on Christ.  Do you move forward with divorce? Seek wise counsel.  Look to His Word and as 1 Thessalonians 2:16 instructs us, pray continually.

Opportunity to grow your relationship with Christ.  Dust off your Bible and dig in. Look for verses to strengthen your heart.  Seek His comfort.

Opportunity to volunteer.  The adage that helping others will bless you may never be truer than if you are wallowing in the aftermath of a separation.

Opportunity to pray for healing the marriage.  No matter how angry or hurt you may be, Malachi 2:16 reminds us God hates divorce.  Step back from emotions and be certain where God is sending you.

Opportunity to reconnect with friends and family.  If you don’t move into the light, depression will set in.  Call the friend you haven’t seen in a year.  Spend time with that aunt you haven’t seen for months.  Gather your hugs and support where you can.

Opportunity to learn from mistakes.  When every option leads to a broken marriage, take time to assess the damage.  It may be financial. It might purely be emotional.  But changes will happen.

Opportunity to seek counseling.  DivorceCare, even while only separated, can offer clarification and practical advice.  Many churches offer wise counsel and group support for this difficult time.  Take advantage of any chance to heal and grow in a safe environment.

Opportunity to honor God.  Matthew 6:33 tells us, “Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.”  (NLT) This is not a time to seek a new partner.  You are not single and hanging out in social environments geared towards singles is not wise.

Single Struggles: Big Purchase, Big Decision

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Big Purchase, Big Decision

For single adults, financial decisions often feel like something you have to do on your own. Sure, you have friends and family to help. But friends and family are not always the wisest counsel when it comes to large purchases.

Who do you trust when you have to make a  tough choice?

Do you go with Internet reviews?  The article about Top Ten Cars? The brother-in-law who is a mechanic?

Mortgage websites can provide information but you can also find conflicting information about the choices when buying a house. Some say choose a fixed rate, some say a variable. And, let’s not even start a discussion on reverse mortgages.

Your singles group at church can certainly show support with prayer and bouncing off of ideas. There may even be wise singles in the group with a financial career. Maybe someone who recently spent a large sum of money on the very item you are considering. Connect with that individual and seek advice.

Collect the information to make a wise decision but don’t move forward without seeking the wisest Counselor we have.

Proverbs 3:5-6 says:

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.” (NAS)

While doing your research, pray about whether God has the specific purchase in His plan for your life. Trust in Him to open doors that lead to making that large purchase or close doors that require a waiting period.

Can’t Sleep?

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Psalm 4 is an interesting look in the heart of David’s struggles as he sleeps. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC) 40 million people have sleep disorders. 40 MILLION! 62% of adults experience weekly sleep problems keeping them from resting a full eight hours as recommended. Many people struggle with nightmares, restlessness, and even heart issues all because we lack good sleep.

“In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, Lord, make me dwell in safety.”

Psalm 4:8

When do you pray? After a long stressful day of being a single parent, or working extra hours at your job, how do you wind down? In this passage God gives us 8 ways to lead ourselves into a restful night of sleep.

  1. Pray God would give you relief from stress (4:1)

  2. Know the Lord has set you apart as faithful servants (4:3)

  3. The Lord hears our us when we call (4:3)

  4. Be silent and hear from the Lord (4:4)

  5. Sacrifice for the Kingdom (4:5)

  6. Trust the Lord (4:5)

  7. Let the Lord fill your heart with joy (4:7)

  8. Dwell in safety of the Lord (4:8)

God wants us to rest in Him and His safety as we rest. Maybe if we spent more time in prayer before we slept, we would find our sleep to be a restful experience enhanced by trusting God with our rest. If you suffer from sleep disorders, by all means seek medical help and assistance through modern day God-given solutions. But for many of us we need to start with prayer and taking rest in our Heavenly Father.

“I lie down and sleep; I wake again, because the Lord sustains me.”

Psalm 3:5