IT’S GOOD TO BE NEAR TO GOD

Have you noticed how everyday there seems to be more and more bad news?  We all know the news programs strive to have the worst possible scenarios for us to consider.  For instance, when there is snow on the horizon, the weather is given to us every 15 minutes on the radio.  Preparations are encouraged to be made as if there is going to be a snow apocalypse.  Then, as we all know, we get two inches.  Even though this happens, it’s true that the world is in a bad way.  The world has turned away from its creator.  There are consequences to that.  As a follower of Christ, I need to keep in mind who holds my hand, who carries me, and who is my greatest comfort.  As all of the information of this world’s problems flood my mind, how can I remember God.  I am easily distracted and need to be reminded.  How does that happen?  Let’s look at the idea of being near to God together.

BE YOUR OWN ALARM CLOCK

 Alarm clocks are not really our favorite possession.  They are a necessity.  We need them to get us up on time. The alarm goes off and we have to stretch and get out of bed.  The noise it makes alerts us to the start of another day.  When we allow this world to overwhelm us, we need to give ourselves a wake-up alarm.  Truth needs to buzz our minds back to our Father God.  He has things well in hand.  We can remind ourselves, “The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the Lord; he turns it wherever he will.” Proverbs 21:1  BUZZ!!  There is no leader on this earth that God doesn’t hold in his sovereign hand! 

HAVE A BACK-UP ALARM CLOCK

There are those of us who may sleep so deeply that a second alarm is needed.  You may put it across the room so that you have to get up to shut it off.  It takes more effort but it gets you going and you can start your day.  Sometimes being our own alarm clock isn’t enough.  We have to put forth the extra effort to contact someone who can be our back-up alarm clock.  “Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ,” Ephesians 4:15  BUZZ!!  A brother or sister in the Lord is a great back-up alarm clock to remind us of the truth of who God is!

HEAR GOD’S LOVING ALARM

Do you remember when you first had to start using an alarm clock?  Your parents gave you instructions on how to set it and then made sure you knew you were on your own for the morning.  What was the problem with them waking us?  They were up anyway so it would be easy to shake a shoulder.  However, our parents wanted to teach us responsibility.  They wanted us to learn independence.  It didn’t mean they didn’t love us, quite the opposite.  Teaching and training is a loving thing for parents to do for their children. God wants us to remember his character and live trusting in Him.  “Therefore, be imitators of God, as beloved children.” Ephesians 5:1  BUZZ!!  God is our example and we can trust his character!

How do we stay near to God?  We believe the truth of who he is and what his word says.  We have to get our own attention, rely on someone else, and fully embrace God’s love.  When we get our minds on so many other things, our eyes begin to wander.  We spend more time looking at others than we do our Lord and Savior.  Looking at how this world’s people respond will not help us be near to God.  In fact, we will be getting farther away from him.  What do you need to change in your life in order to be near to God?

“But for me it is good to be near God; I have made the Lord God my refuge, that I may tell of all your works.” Psalm 73:28

SINGLE WOMEN – PART 3 Single Women and the Church

Originally posted 4-10-2018

SINGLE WOMEN

You are not a victim of circumstance.  Your identity is either in Christ or in the world.  If you are a follower of Christ, then you have a charge from the Word of God.

“her aim is to be devoted to the Lord in both body and spirit” 1 Corinthians 7:34

You are to be devoted to the Lord.  What does that look like?  Does it mean that you will never marry?  How does the Lord want to use you?  How are you going to fit into your church?

Being devoted to the Lord is quite a concept.  We don’t really like to devote ourselves to anything because it’s hard work.  Being devoted is complete dedication.  This requires a commitment which is so hard to give…what if something better comes along?  That is how we normally think; but what could be better than God, himself?  If you are single you can be in complete dedication to God as the scripture says; your interest is not divided with a husband.  God is part of every decision at work, at home, at church, in your family, or with your friends.  This will only happen as you choose to seek his counsel from the Word of God regularly.  In doing this, you will begin to understand God.  As you understand who He is, your decisions will be influenced by what you know of him.  You will find yourself in devotion to him.

Does that mean you will never marry?  No.  Following hard after God opens many doors and behind one of them may be a wonderful Christian man who would make a great husband.  The priority is not the man but God.  That is where so many single women get hung up.  They spend so much time on desiring a husband that they lose sight of God.  Do you trust God to handle your life?  Do you trust God to help you in your singleness?  Do you trust God to lead you to a husband?  When you are devoted to God these questions have a simple answer and it is YES!  God’s plans and purposes will not be thwarted.  If he has marriage in mind for you, it will come about in his time and in his way.

If you don’t marry, God is going to use you right where you are.  You can fit into your church by serving in the areas where your gifts are needed.  Seek the Lord and the counsel of others to determine your gifts.  After you know what they are, use them for God’s glory.  Don’t let your singleness stop you from serving God.  You can be a part of many lives regardless of their position in life right now.  Look for ways to serve and then do it!  Join in the fellowship with other people from different places in life.  We can all learn from one another.  Don’t run and hide because you don’t have a mate!  This is not God-honoring.

Devote yourself to God! Seek to please him in all you do!  Live as a follower of Christ!  Remember Miriam…God used her and He will use you too.

THE CHURCH

The followers of Christ make up God’s family.  As God’s family, we are to contribute to, encourage, enjoy and spur-on one another.  The family of God isn’t a group of couples. It’s much broader than that.  We are couples, singles, children, widows, widowers, and divorcees.  Various backgrounds and experiences are represented by each member of the family of God.  We need to remember our job is to benefit one another.  “As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace.” 1 Peter 4:10  Our gifts are for the benefit of others in the family.

In the church, we judge single people and find them lacking because of the place they are in their lives.  We are so wrong!  A single person can contribute wisdom in the body of Christ.  Marriage doesn’t equal wisdom.  God’s Word is wisdom.  Our single sisters study, pray, and meditate on the Word.  They are learning much that can be helpful to others.  Our judgments get in the way of reaching out and allowing ourselves to interact with our single sister, instead we dismiss her.

Another judgment that is made against single women is that they are all out to grab a husband.  Because of this judgment women don’t want to invite single women over to dinner out of fear.  They’re afraid that the single woman will be a threat to their marriage.  This fear can cause suspicion, jealousy, and withdrawal.  This fear will lead to a missed opportunity for fellowship and enjoyment.  Be careful to not create this world!  We have to remember that not every single woman is grabbing for a husband.

As followers of Christ, we are all on the road of progressive sanctification which means ups and downs with many changes in our lives.  We have to realize that life doesn’t stay the same.  If we have been in community with all women, married and single, we will gain varied wisdom.  God wants to use every member of his family in many different situations.  We must remember that not only can the single community contribute to the church but the church is to help the single community.  It’s a give and take relationship. God has designed it that way!

Don’t judge the single community!  Embrace the single community!  Unite together to become a family of Christ followers which can’t be separated by role!

“I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”  Ephesians 4:1-3

 

SINGLE WOMEN – PART 2 MIRIAM

Originally posted 4-5-2018

Let’s take a look at a single woman from God’s Word.  Her name is Miriam, the sister of Moses and Aaron.  It would be very difficult to call this woman a victim in her singleness.  God chose Miriam to be one of the leaders of the children of Israel as they left Egypt and their slavery behind.

The first time we see Miriam in scripture, she is following the instructions of her mother by watching her brother, Moses, floating along in the Nile River in a basket. “His sister stood at a distance to see what would happen to him.” Exodus 2:4   Moses was in danger of losing his life.  Remember Pharaoh wanted all of the Hebrew male children killed but Moses’ mother hid him until she couldn’t do it anymore.  She put him in the basket which was prepared to be waterproof and placed him in the Nile.  Miriam watched him from a distance.  The daughter of Pharaoh saw him and knew he was a Hebrew child.  God uses Miriam here to provide a nursemaid for Moses. “Shall I go and get one of the Hebrew women to nurse the baby for you?” Exodus 2:7b   Who does she get to nurse the baby?  Miriam brings back her own mother who is able to keep Moses until he is weaned.  God used Miriam to save the man who would bring the children of Israel out of the bondage of Egypt.  What a task for this single young lady!

In Exodus 15:20, we are told Miriam was a prophetess.  This means she was used by God to be his mouthpiece for the people.  God used a single woman!  She didn’t have to be married or have children to be used by God.  She was a lively woman who was not afraid to express her emotions as she praised the Lord.  She sang, played tambourine, and danced as she praised God for his delivery of the children of Israel from the Pharaoh and his army.   We are told other women followed her joining in with tambourines and dancing.  She was followed.  She was a leader.  God used a single woman to lead others who may have been married, mothers, or widows.

Why would God use a single woman to lead?  There were so many parts of the life of a woman she hadn’t experienced so what did she have to offer?  When God chose prophets or prophetesses, relationship was involved.  Miriam had a relationship with God.  She didn’t ride on the backs of her brothers.  She loved god and rejoiced in Him because of her own relationship with him.  She was a leader because God called her to be one.  It wasn’t based on her experience as a woman but on her calling by God.

One of the dangers of being a leader is falling into the sin of pride.  Miriam was not exempt from this temptation.  She and her brother, Aaron, began to grumble against Moses. 

“Miriam and Aaron spoke against Moses because of the Cushite woman whom he had married, for he had married a Cushite woman.  And they said, ‘Has the Lord indeed spoken only through Moses?  Has he not spoken through us also?’  And the Lord heard it.”  Numbers 12:1-2

As we read this passage we can sense some jealousy between the siblings and also pride.  After all, the Lord had spoken to Aaron and Miriam too, why should Moses be the leader of the camp?  The talk concerning the wife was a smoke screen to cover up the real issue of their jealousy toward Moses’ leadership and relationship with the Lord.  The Lord dealt with this by giving Miriam leprosy.  Aaron intercedes on Miriam’s behalf to Moses who in turn intercedes on her behalf to the Lord.  She is confined outside of the camp for seven days and then returned to camp healed.  Miriam is not heard of again until her death in Kadesh.

Miriam was instrumental in the leading of the people of Israel.  She gave them hope through her music.  She gave them an excitement for praise as they followed God.  She was God’s mouthpiece to the people.  God didn’t allow the fact that she was a single woman stop him from using her for his purposes.

The identity of Miriam wasn’t that of being single but of being a God-follower.  She lived as a God-follower.  A God-follower is conscious of God and lives to please him.  She worships him in all her actions.  Being a God-follower is what sets her apart.  We learn from Miriam’s life that a God-follower isn’t perfect. When her eyes were not on the Lord but on herself, she sinned.  This is a warning for all of us because we too can fall flat of our faces as we trust in our own ability rather than in the Lord working through us.

In our church today we have single women who, as followers of Christ, can have an impact on our community.  God can use our single sisters to encourage, confront, help, rescue, lead, and walk alongside other women of the church regardless of their role.  Don’t discount advice from a single woman!  Don’t disregard rebuke from a single woman!  Don’t take advantage of a single woman!  What should we do?  We should see our sisters as followers of Christ and as family.  We can trust God to use each of us for his purposes.

So pick up your tambourine and let’s dance together in celebration of the gospe

SINGLE WOMEN – Part 1

Originally posted 4-4-2018

Sharon was a single young lady in the church.  She was in church every time the doors were opened.  She was part of a class of people her age but most of them were beginning to pair off and get married.  It was obvious that she was out of place many times at gatherings being one of the only ones who was not married yet; in fact she was not even dating.  Sharon wanted to be involved other’s lives but it was getting harder and harder for her because she didn’t have a wedding gown to talk about.  She began to think of herself as “single” with no place to belong.

Jane was in her fifties and still single.  She had endured many years of not fitting in with the couples’ classes at church.  What she found was that as she grew older she was becoming friends with women who were divorced or widowed.  However, she did not have a lot in common with them.  She had not lived the same life so she couldn’t relate with some of the things they would talk about.  Jane had not really dated in her lifetime.  She, therefore, had no experience with men with the exception of saying hello in the hallway at church.

Debbie was also single in her thirties.  The one thing she could always count on was the invitation to baby-sit for the couples in her Sunday School class during a fellowship program.  There was an assumption made by her class that she really didn’t want to attend the fellowship.  They didn’t want her to feel left out of the group, so they would ask her to baby-sit for them as part of the fellowship program.

Mary was a divorced single mom.  She wanted to be part of the church but felt judged and out of place in group activities.  Her life was hard as she had to work full time while juggling her children and their needs.  Mary had a need to be with other adults but it was hard to pay sitters to watch her children.  There were so many times she felt like a charity case or a fifth wheel.  The church was trying to help her but didn’t understand all that she faced on a daily basis.

Sharon, Jane, Debbie, and Mary represent single women in our churches today.  They don’t always feel like they belong.  They are identified as single by others in the church.  This identity can become cause for people to feel sorry for them as if being single is some kind of curse.  The people of the church may think of these lovely women as victims.  There are many statements people make concerning those who are single.

“Surely they aren’t complete without a family.”

“A single person can’t possibly be happy.”

“She has a lot of time on her hands because she’s single.”

“I have to set her up with my cousin’s cousin.  I think they’ll hit it off.”

“I’m so sorry for her.  She must be so lonely.”

The truth is the church hasn’t handled single women very well.  There has been such an emphasis on marriage that the single woman can feel left out or less than.  We’ve made “single” an identity.  It becomes the thing that these women are known as until they believe it themselves.

What needs to be different?

We, as part of the church of Jesus Christ, should be focused more on our sister’s identity in Christ than we are on the role God has called her to fulfill.

“For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.”  Romans 12:4-5

The church is one body made up many members.  These members are different from one another.  We all have different gifts given to us by God through His Spirit.  Our identity in Christ doesn’t depend on whether we are married or single but only on Christ’s finished work on the cross.  We are put together within the church so that we can learn from one another and encourage one another.  Our personalities and roles need to be different in order to make a complete body of Christ.  Why is it that we want to put people in a box?  Why do we think everyone needs to be married?  What makes us think that being married gives us more to offer the body of Christ than our single sisters?

Our job is to look at our hearts and evaluate how we view our single sisters.  If we aren’t focusing on their identity in Christ first, then we have a problem which needs to be solved.  We are to be united in Christ not separated by the roles to which God has called us.   Our single sisters have something to offer the body of Christ.  Let’s be part of the solution by, in unity, following Christ together whether married or single.

 

Why women need to be on the church staff!

Originally posted on 8-26-2016

In many evangelical churches today, there are no women on the church staff.  The reason for this is understandable, “men are to lead the church” in the role of Elder/Shepherd.  This would include the pastoral staff as well as the ruling elders.  Women’s ministry is usually an afterthought of men thinking the women need something to do.  Therefore it is left to a group of women volunteers to put together events that attract the women of the church.  A woman on staff, however, has value for the church.   A woman on staff promotes the health of the church body, both men and women.

Before you stop reading because you think I am a rebellious woman, I want you to know that I believe in male leadership.  It is biblical.   I also believe in the creation account.  In Genesis 2:18 we read, “Then the LORD God said, ‘It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.’”  This is the statement made by God when he created the female.  The man needed someone like him to help him as he lived out his life.  This help, however, has to go beyond marriage because not everyone is married.  There is still a purpose ordained by God for single women.  It only makes sense then that this help extends to the spiritual, as male and female serve God side by side.

A woman on the church staff provides opportunities for this spiritual help to male leadership to take place.  I have enjoyed the privilege of being on my church staff since 1989.  I have served as the Children’s Ministry Director and currently as the Women’s Ministry Director.  It has been a humbling and a real growing experience for me.  I have learned so much over the years but along with that I have been able to help.  There are times when one of the male leadership needs to hear my thoughts on a subject.  There was a time when we were discussing the idea of foot washing around the staff table.  I simply said, “What about panty hose?” and the discussion ended.  There are times when I can help with a large program or project.  Most recently I have worked alongside one of our associate pastors to organize a counseling seminar.  I am glad that my church has seen the value of men and women learning and growing together.

Another reason to have a woman on staff is that the average church membership contains more women than men.  In our own church, we are around 55% women.  This tells us that a woman’s voice needs to be heard at the leadership level.  Women have different points of view which need to be brought before our male leadership.  This is not stating she is always right but rather there are times when her input would be valuable for the health of the entire church.  What are the women of the church thinking concerning ______________?   You can fill in that blank when there is a greater connection with the female membership.  Women will share with other women things they would never share with a man, especially one in leadership.  Women may discuss the leadership of the church, the direction of the youth, the impact of the church in the community or the role they can have in making a difference in the church.  These things will rarely be brought up by a woman to the male leadership.

Let’s talk counseling.  I believe that women should counsel women.  This is so crucial.  The obvious reason is the guarding of both the pastor’s heart and the woman’s heart.  It is so easy in an intimate counseling setting to begin to get too close and that is dangerous. My pastor will see a woman on a one time basis but if long-term counseling is required, he turns her over to me. This is wisdom.   Another reason, women should counsel women, is women face issues with which other women can relate.  These issues can be physical or emotional.  Women will more readily share about menopause or body issues with another woman.  Not only that but women hear another woman’s counsel with more acceptance than when the same counsel comes from a man.  For instance, a wife may hear the words, “submit to your husband”, from her pastor and become angry thinking he did not hear her.  This same wife can receive the same words from a woman and listen long enough to learn how to submit.

We also need women on staff for “Fluff Prevention”.  What is that?  It is the advancement of theology for women and the prevention of superficial material being taught.  Our women love theology.  One of the reasons they do is because there is someone on staff who works hard at promoting the study of theology for women.  This love for theology in our church was a progressive journey we have been on together.  I am so saddened by the number of women’s ministries in churches that are full of shallow activities and lacking in the study of God.  A woman on staff can set the tone for the women of the church by striving to grow in theology and then passing it on.  This really goes back to being a helper.  We cannot be good helpers if we do not fill ourselves.

I believe that men and women working alongside each other in the church is biblical and necessary.  After all in the Kingdom, that’s exactly how it will be so let’s begin to practice now.  The health of the church depends on it.