Gift of Singleness?

A few days ago I woke up with a thought. One of those that just hits you over the head and you have to process and fill in the gaps and then get it out in a straight line to see if it all makes sense and then you stare at it thinking why did I never think of this before!? And why have I never heard this topic spoken of this way before. And because I have never heard this topic spoken of this way before…am I wrong?
The thought stemmed from the night before reading a terrible article on the gift of singleness. I hadn’t realized before reading this article exactly how much it bothered me that ‘the church’ (for lack of more precise term) whenever presented with a young (or old) person who is not in a relationship and/or has never been in a relationship immediately they get slapped on ‘you have the gift of singleness, next!’. Sometimes, I hear it referred to as ‘well, you have the gift of singleness but this can be a temporary gift.’
This has always bugged me, but I had been too lazy to sit down and figure out *why*. I know part of the why, and that is often it’s like a brush off and comes across as a ‘stop whining’. But there was something else and that was my lightbulb moment.
Taking it back to Scripture, I want to start with the passage where we get this concept of the gift of singleness. For context, read all of 1 Corinthians 7. But I’m going to pull some passages to copy here:
“But this I say by way of concession, not of command. Yet I wish that all men were even as I myself am. However, each man has his own gift from God, one in this manner, and another in that. But I say to the unmarried and to widows that it is good for them if they remain as I. But if they do not have self-control, let them marry; for it is better to marry than to burn with passion.” 1 Corinthians 7:6-9
Here is how I have heard this section taught, outside of a directed at singles context. If you have the self control, stay single and focus on the Lord. If you crave intimacy- get married.
“But I want you to be free concern. One who is unmarried is concerned about the things of the Lord, how he may please the Lord; but one who is married is concerned about the things of the world, how he may please his wife, and his interests are divided.” 1 Corinthians 7:32-33
Through the Christian life there will tribulation, and especially when Paul was writing to the Corinthians- it was difficult times, what he is saying here is it is easier to focus on the Lord when you don’t have a spouse to focus on! If you read through the whole chapter (which I highly recommend) you will see how Paul is basically saying don’t commit sexual sins if you ‘burn’, get married! But if you don’t burn, and are alright with being alone- that’s great, focus on serving the Lord.
The single person being referred to in this passage is someone who does not desire marriage. That is why I do not think it is inaccurate to call it a ‘gift’. I do not believe Paul is referring to a single person who desires marriage.
God is not a cruel God. His gifts are good gifts. Let’s stand on those two truths for the rest of this post. If we are going to accept those two facts as truth, then why would He give a ‘gift’ of singleness to a person who craves marriage with their heart and soul? That is not a good gift, that is the act of a cruel God.
I am firmly established in my later 20s, and I have seen older singles who desire marriage and a family with every ounce of their being. They have cried out to God, and begged Him for a spouse. And before you prepare your list of ‘well if they only..’, these are intelligent, sociable, handsome/beautiful people. They have done everything ‘right’, and for reasons only the Lord knows, they are single. I do not believe these people have the ‘gift’ of singleness. They remain pure because God commands it, not because they don’t desire intimacy.
So, if we’re stripping away that singles who desire marriage do not have the gift of singleness, and establishing that God is a good God who loves us, what does that leave us with? I believe this passage is the answer:
“Because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, for this reason, to keep me from exalting myself, there was given a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me- to keep me from exalting myself! Concerning this I implored the Lord three times that it might leave me. And He has said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.’ Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.” 2 Corinthians 12:7-10
God gave Paul a ‘thorn in his flesh’. We do not know what it was. But when Paul asked God to remove, God answered with an amazing answer that literally gave me chills as I typed that out: My grace is sufficient for you.
I want to argue that for the single who does not want to be single, God is not giving them the ‘gift of singleness’, but instead for that time in their life (or their whole life) that is their thorn in their flesh. Their challenge that God has given them so He can shine brighter through their weakness. And His grace is sufficient.
This is how I choose to view it. And the mere concept of Christ being reflected all the more powerful through my weakness? Amazing. Simply amazing. I’ll lean on His grace through my weakness, and hopefully encourage others.
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The Local Church

Did you know if your hands get cold at the office they turn red? I thought they’d turn blue, but no, it looks like a small child attacked my knuckles with a sharpy. Only on my right hand, my left hand apparently is living in a different climate because it is fine.
I asked the midget what I should write on today, because a couple hours ago, when I couldn’t write, I had a bunch of great ideas! …And then I walked down the hall and got distracted. (There wasn’t even anything shiny!)
She said to write on ‘stop being so hard on the church’.
It is very popular to list how terrible ‘the church’ is. How it is full of hypocrites with plastic smiles, and how church culture has replaced Scripture in importance. It’s an easy target, because there is truth. There are churches who focus more on being relevant with today’s society then they do with standing on the Word of God. And there are people who put on a show when they go to church and make sure they only show a squeaky clean image.
But what I fear often gets forgotten in these rants is this: The church is made of sinners. Christ came to die for sinners. If Christ loved those (you) sinners so much to die for, why is it unforgivable that sinners are in the church? Let me pause for a moment: the following is not an argument for you to stay in a church where you feel you do not belong. There are times where it is perfectly acceptable to move on. That said, that is not what I want to focus on.
The church is not perfect. And frankly, if it says it is, and everyone says they are inside— I think it’s time to find a new church. But neither are you. (This is not an excuse to be a jerk to people who are trying their best to be their best– you can tell the difference between someone striving and someone putting on a show) The purpose of going to church on Sunday is to grow in your understanding of God’s word, and to have an opportunity for ‘iron sharpening iron’ (Proverbs 27:17). Ideally, it is to be a save haven for you to go to. Your local church has alot to live up to.
In my opinion, why so many people are angry and hurt by the church is they have rested their faith and security in the church instead of Christ. I have seen church splits, and church discipline of people who I looked up to, it is devastating. Heartbreaking. And makes you want to reject ever trusting another human being (or believer) again. But going back to people are sinners. I am a sinner. My pastor is a sinner. Which is why our faith needs to rest in Christ and Scripture alone.
In conclusion, work to build up your local church, not tear it down. Rest your faith in Christ, and know that He will not fail you.

Relevant is Irrelevant

Recently the midget and I were visiting a church. We had done our homework, knew this church was a solid Bible believing church. There was an opportunity to visit a ‘get to know our church!’ meeting, so we jumped on it. I for one was curious how the church would present themselves when they were ‘pitching’ their church.

We went, sat down in the cozy little room with a few other people, and the pastor sat across from us and started into his prepared speech:

“We as a church aim to be relevant.”

Midget and I must be excellent Vulcans, because neither of us showed any emotion at this but each of us were dumbfounded at this being the first thing stated. If we had not already educated ourselves to this particular church, my immediate reaction would have been to write it off as not worth my time.

Why the strong reaction? Because I would like to argue that if as a church your first goal is to be hip and in the know with the world, to use the words of Blimeycow– you’re doing it wrong. Going to Scripture:

“If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you.” John 15:18-19

 
Believers are supposed to be odd ducks. In our work places, lives, relationships, there is supposed to be something different about us. (I’m not talking about legalism here- but I will in a later post.) How I live my life, my actions, my speech, my dealings with other people, should be different from ‘the norm’. I am not relevant. There are choices in my life that I have made that for the world and culture I live in today make me irrelevant. My goal for my life should be to reflect my faith and trust in Christ. Then, if I am to reflect Christ, why should my church try to reflect the world?

 I understand the motive behind the statement the pastor made. We need to live in the world, even if we aren’t of it. And to do that we need to be aware of what is going on and not live in little Christian bubbles. But I think we need to be careful in our quest to make the church approachable and not lose sight that we will never ‘fit in’  100% with the world, and if we do, we need to seriously re-evaluate our actions. 

Context

Days like yesterday I love having animals. It’s like after a long day of fighting with technology here is something that is just squishy. And wants dinner.

This week has also seen a lot of stuffing envelopes, so I have been continuing working my way through my podcast queue. I’ve finished Welcome to Night Vale and the sermons from my home church (well, at least until there are new ones), so I started on the sermons from a friend’s church. She recommended it to me because she thought I would really like her church, but she lives too far for me to visit her church, so podcast it is!

And while she was right, I am thoroughly enjoying the messages her pastor is teaching, that is not what is sticking out to me the most. The church is located in Los Angeles, and even if you sat down to listen to these sermons and hadn’t read the title, you could guess where the pastor is preaching. I’m also reading a theology book that was written in 1930 and the tone is one that you can tell this book was written after World War I and before World War II. Both the podcasts and the book have more to say than their place in the world or history, they are teaching excellent theology, but both are so much richer when taken in context to where/when they were written/spoken.

Some of the most amazing experiences of my life have been opportunities to see fellow believers worshiping in other parts of the world, or even locally but from a different style of worship. I hope I never lose the feeling of amazement that we are all worshiping the same Lord.

Simplicity of the Gospel

I missed my Thursday update.

I had a good reason, there was Halloween and an advance showing of Ender’s Game. And then the not good reason of I simply forgot to write and schedule a post in advance. (And then the internet went down so I couldn’t post this until later.)

I had this well crafted argument in my head, down to the paragraph breaks—and then time went by and I forgot all of it except the drive behind it. So instead, I want to take this time to write on the simplicity of the gospel.

““For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” – John 3:16 NASB

Now, if you are anything like me, you learned that verse in AWANA right when they were switching over from Old King James to New King James, then spent the rest of your childhood learning Scriptures in New American Standard so whenever you end up quoting that verse you end up quoting a mixture of all three versions. Which is why I pulled the NASB translation directly from Biblegateway.com. Back to my point, the gospel, the Good News, is amazingly simple. God loved us, was not willing to let all mankind perish (predestination/free will argument will not be touched on here today), gave His Son and all we have to do is accept that gift and believe.

That’s it. Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved. You do nothing to earn this. You do nothing to deserve this. And you cannot be too old, or too young, or too screwed up to accept this gift.

It’s so hard because we want control. We want to do something. To have a say, to in some way earn this. I think it is safe to say that it is something we all struggle with.

I am taking this time to draw attention to how simple the gospel is because I see so many articles and videos flying around with I believe well meaning people who try to complicate it. I love studying theology, I want to understand the Bible as best as I can. But you know what…I will never understand it 100% and that is ok. And there are issues and topics that people come to different interpretations and convictions. I am sure that when my time is done, and my understanding is complete there will be some hypothetical headdesking. And ‘why did I come to that conclusion?’ But, if there is a topic that the Word is not 100% clear on and it is not a salvation issue, I do not believe it is appropriate to treat that fellow believer as if they are completely off their rocker if they come to a different conclusion.

When we were kids, a friend of mine and I would disagree on everything when it came to these non-salvation issues. To this day, whenever we agree on something I am shocked. But as well as I can know with anyone- I believe this friend is a believer. She forced me to question why I did believe what I believed. And my faith is stronger for it.

I know people who only wear skirts and wear their hair long, and I have friends with large tattoos and have sported a pink faux hawk. Some people worship quietly sitting down, and some raise their hands. Some people hymns touch their heart and some rap music. The gospel transcends culture, and time and we need to remember that. Just because someone looks different, or worships different does not mean they are not saved or a ‘lesser’ believer.

(Before I get myself into too much trouble, let me state that I am not denying that there are places that teach a watered down gospel. I am not denying that in the least, but that is not the point of my post today.)

To finish up, next time you read an article or see a video, or hear a podcast that says you must be a certain way—check it against Scripture. Verify that the teacher is preaching 1) the passage in context to the rest of Scripture and 2) not just his own opinion of a passage as truth. If it is his own opinion of a passage that is difficult to understand, do your own homework, research God’s word to see what the interpretation is. And you know what, it is ok to say you don’t know and you want to continue studying before you come to a stand on an issue.

Scripture is to be our standard, not man, whoever the teacher is.