Limiting Guests at Holidays Limits God’s Kingdom

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Matthew 9:10-13 tells us that Jesus gives the perfect example of who He feels should be at our dining table. “Then it happened that as Jesus was reclining at the table in the house, behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and were dining with Jesus and His disciples (NASB).”

Jesus did not always dine with family and friends and didn’t block opportunities to eat with sinners, nor should we.

Jesus sometimes dined in the homes of brothers and sisters in Christ. Six days before Passover, Jesus ate with Mary, Martha, and Lazarus in a house that was not His. But in Luke 14:12-14, Jesus instructs:

When you give a luncheon or a dinner, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors; otherwise, they may also invite you in return, which will be your repayment (NIV).”

His instructions expressly point to inviting strangers to dine with us.

Although following these instructions is not the norm during the holidays, it may take us out of our comfort zones. The rewards we reap will be earthly, and, more importantly, Kingdom rewards may be found. Since the Believer’s mission is to share Jesus, a casual dining experience lends itself to getting to know a stranger, establishing trust, and allowing an opportunity to share Jesus. Sometimes the conversation is opened to the chance during the first dinner. Often it takes several meals where you may feel led to share Jesus. With consistent prayer and effort, God will open the door, and you will be able to discern the time to do so.

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Jesus even took the time to dine with those others considered His enemy. In Luke 7:36, we are told, “Now one of the Pharisees was requesting Him to dine with him, and He entered the Pharisee’s house and reclined at the table (NASB).” Jesus didn’t hesitate. He didn’t consider the thoughts of others.

Jesus took action, knowing full well how others would perceive His actions. He led by example.

Even if the first meal with an acquaintance doesn’t seem like the opportunity to share your testimony, your actions and words, including prayer before the meal, can serve as an example and open conversation. Your new friend may ask, “Why do you pray?” or “Do you pray before every meal?” The most straightforward action may open the door for a stranger to become a brother and sister in Christ.

Four Things the Single Parent Needs from the Church

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Single parenting! I remember those days well! When I entered into this stage in my life I had just left the military but little did I realize I was entering into an even bigger challenge. One that would demand more physical and mental stamina than my Drill Sergeants had demanded from me.

My daily routine consisted of getting not only myself, but the kids, out of bed and ready for the day. I’d get them to the babysitter or school, then off to work I’d go. After work it was time to pick up the kids from the babysitter, arrive home, fix dinner, clean the house, help with homework, bathe the kids, then sit down to work on bills, plan meals, get up to clean the daily clutter and wash the dishes–all before collapsing in bed at night, depressed with the thought  that tomorrow would start the routine all over again. It felt like each day was a battle that left me exhausted, sometimes bloodied and bruised. I’d wake with the new sunrise, facing another battle to be won.

Chances are that within your church are many of these brave troops . Whether you are on staff or a concerned brother or sister, these brave soldiers need you and your church. They may not admit it, they may not even know it, but they need fellow believers to come alongside them in their daily battles.

Here are 4 things all singles need from the church to accomplish the goal of raising children who love and honor God.

  1.  Love: This is such a no-brainer really. We all need love, but single parents need to experience unconditional love and acceptance from the church. Single parents come in all shapes and sizes. Single parents can be widowed, divorced, or never married. They may have purposely adopted children while single. They may be taking care of nieces and nephews or grandchildren. They need to be known and loved for who they are and who they can become. Every situation, every single parent family is unique and face unique challenges but they all hold great potential and can be a great asset to your church. They just may need a little extra help to get there.
  2.  Protection: To begin with, the church must be a safe place for their kids. Your children’s ministry should be clean, safe, well-staffed and maintained. Make sure the staff knows who is allowed or not allowed to pick up the kids. A check-in system is vital in any children’s ministry. Single parents may be going through custody battles and who picks up their child could mean the difference between life and death. Additionally, I believe single parents may need protection from predators who may target their children based upon their vulnerabilities. This can be especially important for young mothers. We have all heard the horror stories of children being abused by a stepdad or mother’s boyfriend. Single parents who are left to deal with life alone may, in some cases, let their guards down because they are desperate for companionship and in real need of help in the home. The church can and should protect against this by coming alongside single parents to provide them with the very things that leave them vulnerable. Families of the church can help single parents by offering things like child care and assistance with transportation to events or sports practice. Churches can provide classes and advice about dating, what to look for in a man or woman, and how to introduce them to your children. These are only some of ways the church can provide protection for the parent and the child.
  3.  Help: This can come in many forms. Everything from outside yard work, handyman work in and outside of the house, babysitting, or providing housing. Assistance can come in many forms, but the most effective help comes from knowing the single parent personally so you can know the best ways for the church to step up. The single parent may need assistance education about handling their finances, dating advice, or classes on parenting techniques. Unless the church makes an intentional effort to get to know the parent and discover their needs those needs may never be met. The church needs to be proactive in offering assistance. Don’t wait for them to ask for it, or an incident to occur before offering help. Be intentional about connecting single parents with the church community and with leaders who can offer help and or advice.
  4.      Encouragement: For the single parent, this need is second only to love. At times, single parents become overwhelmed with their life and daily responsibilities. In the dark times it can be hard to see a way forward. To single parents It may seem as if there is little hope for their future or their children. Sometimes it is hard to see the future when you are mired in the present and haunted by the past. Single parents need to be reminded they follow a great God! One who has amazing plans for them. They need to be reminded that even if life seems challenging now, what they are experiencing is only temporary, God is doing something amazing in their life. The church should give them hope for the future. When I look back at the man I was then, compared with who I am now, I realize my time as a single parent was a period of growth. I failed many times, but no matter what life brings, God taught me He is enough.

He taught me to rely on Him alone for everything and then later He brought an amazing woman into my life. This year we celebrated 21 years of marriage. I am a pastor at a church in south Florida, and God is continuing to use my experiences as a single dad to encourage others. My hope is your church recognizes the incredible potential of single parents. Yes, they may need some extra attention, but the payoff is worth it in the end! Learn to see beyond the present and look to the future that God has in store for the single parent in your local church.

5 Things Married People Dont Get About Singles

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1.   How singles date now.

  • Dating for singles now is the same as it has always been, but completely different. Confused? Singles now interact with technology in every part of the dating experience. From finding that person they would otherwise never meet online, to texting post date to affirm feelings. In fact, not using technology to date is harder than it is to embrace it and use it.

2.  Why singles wait so long to marry.

  • Some people will say the single is “too picky.” The mature Christian single hears the stats, sees friends or family members with unhappy marriages. We hear the horror stories about divorce but rarely hear the positive.

3.  We are Complete without a spouse.

  • No one needs a spouse to be fulfilled. But, what each and everyone of us, married or single, does need is a Savior. We said it before and we’ll say it again, Complete in Christ.

4.  How we spend our money.  

  • Being single does not mean you have an excess of funds. Singles have the same expenses as marrieds: rent or house payment, utilities, car insurance and car payments, food, medical insurance, student loans. For the single parent, there’s the child expense. No different than the married couple with a child.

5.  Where we hangout.

  • small groups. The local church offers the opportunity to intermingle with the body of Christ.
  • with co-workers. Those on the same team working towards a similar goal.
  • with others like ourselves: It could be the same hobby or interest. It could be others with the same calling, on the same mission, at the same place.
  • social events. Meeting friends of friends, friends of family. Meeting the stranger who enjoys the same type of music. Meeting the stranger who admires the same piece of artwork at an exhibit. Attending sports events.

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.

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  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.

Time with God

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There are some excellent reading plans available to read the entire Bible in a year or even 90 days. These plans are great, and we encourage you to try one at least once. As a follower of Christ, you need to build a relationship with Him and know Him better. This comes through many venues. You can worship the Lord in praise. You can read about Him in His Word. You can also spend time with Him in prayer. All these require one thing: time.

As a single adult you might have been told “you have more time than married adults, so it is easier for you to spend time with God.” Nothing could be further from the truth. Every human has 24 hours in a day and can use that time as they choose based on priorities. It is a priority to get to work on time, so you do. It is a priority to eat food a few times a day to stay healthy, so you do. But it is the things we don’t prioritize that get shuffled lower on the to-do list and not accomplished. Single adults may or may not have children to tend during the day, and married adults have responsibilities to their spouse (1 Corinthians 7:33-35), but everyone sets priorities.

If you value exercise, you wake up early to work out. If you value TV time, you stay up late to catch your favorite shows. If you love the Lord your God with all your heart and all your soul and with all your strength, you will make time for Him and He will be a priority in your life (Luke 10:27). Time with God does not always have to be reading His Word, although that is how we grow in the knowledge of Him. It may be just meditating on Him for a few moments every day and giving praises to Him for the great things He has done (Psalm 111).

Make time with God a priority as a single adult. If your relationship status changes, this will serve as a successful foundation for your marriage. Accepting Christ as your Lord and Savior is the first step. The next step is to follow and know Him better.

What do you do to make time with God every day?

I Don’t Need You Today, God

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Going a day without prayer is like telling God “I don’t need you today.” Wow. As followers of Christ, would we ever want to even think such a thing? But we all do, we all go a day without praying sometimes. Maybe it is because you had a long day, or you are busy and can not fit in a quiet time daily.

Regardless of your situation, you need to be praying daily and here is why. You have conversations every day with people on the phone, in person, online, or in your head.  We build relationships with others through communication, and the Lord wants us to do the same with Him. God wants us to ask ANYTHING in prayer and He just may give it to us, Matthew 7:7-12. If you know of someone who is sick? Pray–James 5:14-16. Are you anxious about anything? Pray–Philippians 4:6-7.

How do you pray? You can pray throughout your day, giving God praises and asking for His help–1 Thessalonians 5:17. Pray out loud using your voice and have a conversation with God–Psalm 66:17. Find a quiet place if possible and pray honestly to God without worry of what others will say about your prayers–Matthew 6:5-6. Martin Luther said, “The fewer the words, the better the prayer.” And, if you need a template of how to pray, Christ gives us one in the Lord’s Prayer–Matthew 6:9-13.

Every day you should pray, and when you lie down at night you can quickly pray Psalm 3:5 as your final thoughts of the day, “I Iie down and sleep: I wake again, because the Lord sustains me.”  As a single adult you have the opportunity to pray undivided to God daily–1 Corinthians 7:33-34. Use this as a chance to pray for others, friends who need to know Christ, and as a way to build a relationship with Christ. Spend time in prayer and never go a day saying you don’t need God.

Distracted

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Life is full of distractions. We’re distracted at work, at home, with media, and even our local churches. It’s not hard to wonder why it’s so hard to stay focused on the most important things in our life. How we handle distractions is a part of maturing our faith. Choosing the difference between a distraction and God’s calling is vital to following Christ.

“Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.” (Matt. 4:19, NIV)

Do you find yourself starting a task, only to pick up your phone at the first ding of text notice? Could you go more than an hour without picking up your phone? Longer?

I often remind myself, I survived for years without a cell phone. I didn’t always get a phone message until I arrived home and checked the answering machine. Sometimes that was late into the evening. Friends didn’t panic. Family didn’t call 911. We just trusted that God had a plan and it didn’t usually involve immediate gratification and the distractions of media devices.

“Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.” (Luke 9:23, NIV)

Jesus instructed his followers to do just that–Follow. He didn’t add, “when you can.” “If you have time.”

Being obedient requires a focus and Him and His calling for you this moment, this day, this week, this life. It may mean saying no to events. It may mean saying no to the four-hour marathon of your favorite show. And, yes, at times, it may mean not filling up our weekend schedule with friends and family. Sometimes we just need to turn off the world off for an hour, a day, a weekend, a week and spend time with Him.

When I find I’m getting agitated with the little things, I’m reminded that I’m not doing the Big Thing. Shutting off the noise of music, television, computer, phones brings me back to where I should have never left.

We all know we need to sometimes turn off the distractions, but how often do we take the challenge? Is it time? Turn off the noise. Ignore the distractions. Turn up the volume of Christ in your life. Spend time with Him today and follow where He leads.

Join Already!

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“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.”

James 4:13-15

Singles are great at committing to not committing to anything! As a single adult, you know it’s true! Singles are great at checking “maybe” on a Facebook invite and then waiting to see who will actually click on the “yes” box before they make that commitment. All of this and more is true when it comes to joining a local church. Single adults are transient people. Having only one opinion to consult in decisions to move to a new job, relocate for school, or move across town to a new place all result in single adults not joining a church for fear they may move again soon.

Stop the non-committing! Christ wants you to be “all in” for Him and His people. The excuses are endless, but if you are in a church that is honoring God, preaching His Word, and you are growing in your relationship with Him through that congregation, JOIN! Stand up today single adults and be where you are for however long the Lord will have you there. Join a church, get involved, give of your time, money, and resources to the church you are actively participating in.

Ask the Lord if it is His will you would join the congregation you are in now. If it is not, then you need to start looking for a place He does want you and join. For many singles, when they join a church it may be their first time ever joining a church on their own. They may have been in the church all their lives because their parents were members. Now is the time for you to grow in your faith, invest in a local church, and join in with God’s family.

I Am a Widow, But Do I Have To Be Single?

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The death of a spouse is tough. In addition to the grief, there can be the confusion of changing financial arrangements, and the assumption of household and family responsibilities that were once shared. For many, there is also the added challenge of discovering where they now “fit” among the social circles present in their local congregation.

Single adults who were once married cannot be lumped into one big “Single-again” category.  Many widows/ers do not think of themselves as single at all. They carry on living, in many ways, as if their spouse were simply away on a trip. Others, however, see a completely new chapter of life before them, and choose to seek out new friendships and opportunities.

Table for One Ministries wants all widows/ers to know you are not alone. The decision to be “single again” is yours and yours alone. We do, however, believe it can be a positive step. After the loss of such a close relationship, the void in life can seem unfillable. Many widows continue on with their current married environments only to find they have less and less in common with them as time moves forward. Widows need other widows and singles who understand their life stage and can sometimes minister to them more effectively than their previous group.

Becoming a widow is not the end of the road, but a new stage of life where bold things can be done and serving the Lord should be center stage. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 8 & 9: “Now to the unmarried and the widows I say: It is good for them to stay unmarried, as I do.” Embrace your new life stage as a widow and see where the Lord will lead you next. Your singles group will embrace you with loving arms and you will find a place to connect.

Separated or Single?

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He walked out on his marriage a month ago and comes to your church. He’s brand new and comes to the singles group. He seems nice and you greet him, talk to him, and connect him. Over lunch that week, he mentions that he is recently divorced. As the conversation progresses, you realize that when he says “divorced” he mean that he has left his wife and the “paperwork” is still “in process”. So then, is this person divorced? As a minister of the Gospel, how do you counsel him? Is he single or is he married?

A real world problem for singles ministries is dealing with a person who is separated but not divorced or, in our view, even single. Table for One Ministries defines divorced as “The papers are filed” for a reason. We believe that until a divorce is legally finalized that person is married. Marriage is a sacred commitment and by all means should be fought for until the end. Separated is nothing more than married but not together. It’s still marriage.

This is NOT to say singles ministries cannot help. The church can and must help in this situation, but singles ministry should be for singles not married adults. The problem is introducing a hurting, frustrated, married person to a group of happy, healthy single people does not encourage the married person to seek God’s strength to fight for their marriage. Instead, it encourages them to abandon their marriage and seek the “happy single life” they see in front of them.We can hear the criticism now:  “Every case is different and there should be exceptions,” “Divorces can take years,” and “Things are over, so why wait?”

We encourage the waiting to give God time to work. Emotions run high during separations, and they need to be given time to let God speak to BOTH people involved.

To those separated: marriage commitment is a big deal. Leaving it should not be a simple task. Allow God to move and even if that divorce takes months to sort out, take time to heal before looking to engage the single adult world. Leaders, protect your singles from getting involved with a married person, and encourage the separated adult looking to get involved in a married adult group first, giving God time to work in their life.