Do You Have a Plan?

adviceGreat Advice!

Sometimes….I wonder…I observe…It seems…..

Sorry! It is challenging me to START this post….I want to be sensitive but it isn’t my style. I need to be tactful but I don’t know how…So, here goes

*DO YOU HAVE A PLAN? (for dating, working, for serving, for growing…..)

  1. Are you committed to doing it right (til the end)?
  2. Will you stick with it regardless of setbacks?
  3. Will you be satisfied with the result?
  4. Are your expectations realistic?

In the Bible, Acts 19:11 and following, there is a story of the “Sons of Sceva”. These men observed the miracles that Paul performed and wanted in on the action. But they did not understand what they were doing. They did not have a commitment to the action, did not expect setbacks, had no goal or expectation of satisfaction beyond immediate gratification. And they were beaten and fled naked into the streets…..

Do you have a plan?Hannah    That’s right! A plan? Does your life (including dating) glorify God? When you meet your soul mate, will you commit? Can you handle setbacks (there will be many)?  What is your goal? Will you be satisfied and content with results of your choices?

The Sacred Ministry Of Not Being A Jerk


MeanPerson

By this, they wilt knoweth that ye are my disciples; if ye throwest the greatest shade.
-Jesus, The Wishful Thinking Translation

Sometimes I can be a real jerk; selfish, petty, arrogant, sarcastic and mean—and that’s on my good days.

And although I should (and usually do) internally despise my profound jerkiness, far too often I find myself outwardly defending it, justifying it, even celebrating it. 

It seems as though social media has hardened us all into professional posturers; less apologetic for our nastiness and more openly defiant in it. We begin to almost revel in our malice instead of repenting of it. Where we once viewed these hateful traits as fertile ground for personal renovation, we now see them as moral virtues to be flaunted and applauded.

As someone daily immersed in the public discourse over matters of faith, I feel a heavy sadness seeing the cruelty which now seems standard issue for Christians; the sarcasm, snarkiness and venom we so regularly wield with our words. These are the wildly mismatched accessories for a follower of Jesus, which we’ve all somehow convinced ourselves actually fit. When we publicly skewer someone or one-up their insult or shame them silent, we feel quite proud of ourselves; morally vindicated even if nothing in our conduct gives off the slightest whiff of the goodness of Christ.

Sure, these attack strategies that we employ in order to deflect criticism or avoid meaningful dialogue or sidestep deep reflection often accomplish their intended tasks, they also pretty much urinate all over our public testimony as well, in the process.

That’s because most of us now really cherish winning an argument over reflecting Christ’s compassion and humility. We’d rather put people who oppose us on blast, than love and pray for them.

We have become far too comfortable in our own viciousness and diluted ourselves into worshiping a false Jesus, who somehow is cool with the sheer jerkitude we daily dispense in his name.

Ironically, we regularly unleash all manner of verbal awfulness upon people and then dare to wonder why they reject faith or run from the Church or avoid us like a root canal.

The more time I spend on this planet and the more I seek God, the more compelled I am to simply try to see individual people, to listen to their stories, and to treat them well. So often I witness my brothers and sisters out there in the world wagging their fingers and spewing hatred and beating their chests and tossing insults from a distance, and I just want to grab them and shake them and say, “Can you just try to be a decent human being? You’ll be amazed at the difference it makes.”

The truth, is kindness is simply transformative. Jesus already modeled the much better way. (See: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John)

You can’t berate anyone into belief, you can’t simultaneously be both sarcastic and sincere, and you can do anything good in a person by treating them horribly. If you win an argument and your words leave someone feeling less than human—you’ve lost. If you shout someone down or shame them into silence or ridicule them, you simply haven’t loved them as Jesus would and no amount of tap-dancing with the facts or stretching the Gospels stories will change that.

A few quick ways to practice a decidedly non-jerk spirituality:

Don’t mistake social media for conversation. What transpires on timelines and profiles and comments sections is not dialogue. It is at best, a volleying of separate monologues that doesn’t allow the necessary elements of recognition of tone, real-time course correction, and nuance. If you can’t speak in person, the words that you begin to type to someone, hit backspace and pause until you come up with something more redemptive.

Have some Jerk-alarms in place. In the speed and emotion social media generates, it can be difficult to notice how we are really coming across. I have some great people in my life; people I respect, who won’t shy away from giving me hard words when I need them. They tell me the truth even when I’d rather have something far less invasive and far less honest. Good friends let you know when you’re being a jerk, so find yourself some and then listen to them.

Talk to a person, don’t play to the crowd. I see so many Christians who respond to public calling out with an equally public, yet usually more vicious response. Fueled by the easy high of Retweets and Likes, we all end up from time to time sucked in, caught up in the adrenaline-injected moment, and briefly forfeiting our souls to gain some social media kudos. It’s a bad play every time. Seek private, direct conversation as often as you are able, and resist the buzz of the atta-boys from a choir of acquaintances.

Use sarcasm sparingly. Seriously. We have become so comfortable with tongue-in-cheek, half-hearted speech that many of us have lost the ability to be genuine, to be humble, to be dignified. I’m as guilty as anyone, but I’m continually resisting the temptation to remain in that lazy, insincere language. Sarcasm is a place you want to visit now and again, but no place you should live.

When in doubt, shut-up. Note: A response is not always necessary. Questions do not always need to be answered, false information doesn’t always need immediate correction, and uninvited personal attack doesn’t always require a defense. When Jesus was falsely accused, mocked, and beaten on the way to his wrongful execution, he was simply silent. In response to the manufactured drama that we face every day, shutting-up may be the most sacred and faith-affirming thing we ever do.

Practice ruthless self-examinationHold on to the very real possibility that you could be wrong at any given moment; that you could be misinformed or misguided or just plain terrible. We who follow Jesus, need to be more adept at our own personal inventory than in identifying the mess of others. The first place to look for jerky behavior should always be in the mirror.

Repeat. This is a moment-by-moment process that we’ll be in until our very last breath. When you think you’ve arrived—keep going.

Friend, both you and I will most surely miss the mark here and much sooner and more frequently than either of us would like, but we can’t let that keep us from being relentless and steadfast in our search for a better version of ourselves with which to face conflict and discord and opposition.

If we’re truly looking to share our faith and reflect an accurate picture of Christ to the world (and not just win the Internet today) we’ll do the painful, repetitive work it takes, and we won’t be satisfied until we’re more in his image than we were yesterday. 

May you and I pursue the elusive, difficult, but so very Jesus ministry—of not being a jerk.

*Incidently, this also works extremely well for non-religious folk. You too can seek compassion, kindness, decency, and understanding, and beautifully de-jerk your life quite well…………John Pavlovitz

SEVEN Truths about Marriage You Will not Hear about in Church

Ever wish you had the answers to a test before you walked into the classroom? Maybe some of you did have the answers, but you better keep that to yourself. I took some really hard tests during my time in college.

And if you spent time in college you remember review days. The professor would walk into a class full of students (some of which I had never seen) and give some insights about the impending test. Miss review day, and it would be foolish to expect a passing grade.

But it never failed. I would follow the guideline. I would study the handout. But on the day of the exam, the professor would put the exam on my desk … and there it was. A foreign formula or equation. It wasn’t in the notes. It didn’t show up on the study guide.

Looking back, I realize something … the teacher did not intend for the study guide to be comprehensive. It was simply not possible to include everything from the required readings, class notes and lectures.

The same is true with the church and marriage. I am grateful for the foundation the church gave me in regards to marriage. It was a good study guide. But there some things on the test I did not learn until marriage began. So, I am going to give you some answers to the test that some of you might not expect to see. I grew up in church. I spent most of my time with Christian people. I was told much about marriage. But these seven truths about marriage I never heard in church.

1.) Sex is a gift from God. Explore It.

Make no mistake … God created sex. But through the years, God’s people allowed Satan to steal this gift. Without a fight.

God created sex. If you’re married, explore this gift to the fullest.

I was never educated about sex … and I grew up in a Christian family. My framework for sex was built by my friends and the movies I watched. Big UH OH. The cloud of lies formed during my teenage years still hinder me from enjoying the fullness of sex.

It is time for God’s people to take back the gift of sex. The lies surrounding it are ruining lives and marriages. If you are married, here’s a challenge. Explore sex. Explore the fullness of it. Pray for sexual intimacy with your spouse.

Parents … it is time to stop allowing Satan to define sex for our children. Educate them. Start early. The average child is exposed to pornography at age 11. Eleven!! And many parents wait until high school to have “the talk” with their children. At that point, you are not building a foundation for sex. Your’re trying to destroy a foundation Satan has already built.

Church leaders … I am convinced of this. The situation in our culture today is too urgent to allow parents to override you here. Talk about sex. If parents refuse to educate their children, you do it. Do not let Satan beat you to the punch. A false understanding of sex is destroying young people. It is destroying our nation. It is destroying the world. And we are doing nothing!

Sex is a beautiful gift created by God for a man and a woman that have vowed to spend the rest of their earthly lives with one another. If you are married … open this gift and enjoy the fullness of it.

2.) There is more than one person out there for you.

Soul mates are made … not born. I am not sure where this idea of soul mate originated, but it is false. Maintaining a healthy relationship is more about commitment than perfection. Every person on earth has imperfections. And the reality is we could spend our lives with more than one person.

Tiffani (my wife) is not perfect. There are nuances about her that frustrate me. But I realize these frustrations are really a result of my imperfections. I love her so much. And I love her more every day. I am committed to her.

I meet too many young people waiting for something that is not real. “I just couldn’t marry her because she smacked her food.” “He just wasn’t the one … he had this weird twitch when he smiled. But I know my soul mate is still out there. I just have to keep looking.”

Or you might have just missed him or her.

What if God does not want you to find a perfect person, but an imperfect person that will draw you closer to Him? What if God desires you to marry a person with flaws to expose yours? What if God wants to teach you the value found in committing to one person forever, not the exhausting pursuit of searching your entire life to find the perfect person?

Soul mates are made … not born.

3.) The first year of marriage is hard … really hard.

What have we done? Are we going to make it? Why is this so hard? All questions I asked myself many times during my first year of marriage. We were arguing. We were fighting. It was really hard. And every day I thought something was wrong. I thought we had a bad marriage. Nobody warned me about the first year. But take this as a warning … the first year of marriage is difficult.

If you are in the first year of marriage and thinking about giving up … congratulations. You are now … married!

But let me encourage you … things get better. Every marriage has struggles. Yours is not unique. Don’t give up. There are better days coming. Your marriage will get better. Do not walk out. Nothing worth having comes easy. If you walk out now you disqualify yourself (and your spouse) from years of joy.

4.) A spouse does not complete you.

I hate you, Jerry Maguire. You brainwashed a generation to believe a lie. Spouses do not complete people. I bought this lie, and it wasn’t until I let go of any notion my wife could fill some void that I was able to truly love her. Until then, I was always frustrated. I expected Tiffani to do something she was incapable of doing.

If you are empty, broken or insecure, and you believe a spouse is the silver bullet to your problems … buckle up. Marriage will be a bumpy ride. Only God can fill those voids. You will never be able to enjoy the beauty of marriage if your spouse’s job is to complete you.

You can’t experience joy in your marriage if your spouse’s job is to complete you.

5.) Marry somebody with similar goals, dreams and passions.

Marry a Christian, yes. But I would go even further. Marry somebody with similar passions and dreams. Now, I understand this breaks down at some point. People are not machines. No two people want exactly the same thing in life. However, if you love foreign missions and your potential spouse hates going overseas, some tension will arise.

Synergy is extremely important in a marriage. If your spouse has the same vision as you, they will understand your struggles and support your pursuits. They will encourage your walk. They will be empathetic. There is much power in two people doing life with the same goals, dreams and passions for life.

6.) Marriage is not for everybody.

Paul talks about this in I Corinthians 7. He tells the church at Corinth to remain in their current situation. If unmarried, then stay unmarried. If married, then stay married. He later says this …

So then the person who marries his fiancee does well, and the person who doesn’t marry does even better. 1 Corinthians 7:38

Even better? I never heard that in church. Maybe it is time for God’s people to accept the reality. God has not called everyone to marry. I talk with young men and women that are consumed with finding a spouse. And most of the pressure comes from … US. The church. Once a person reaches mid-20s, we assume they have a fatal flaw if they aren’t married.

“Bless your heart. You are almost 30 and not married? I know this must be hard!?”

Shame on us. I am worried many failed marriages are the result of Christians pressuring people into something God did not design them for. Marriage is holy and good, but it is also possible to follow Jesus without a spouse.

7.) The wedding day is a lie … don’t buy it. 

I love weddings. I love officiating them. It is a rare moment where I get to make a divine proclamation that forever changes the status of two people. Powerful.

But in an increasingly individualistic, “me” culture, weddings create a potentially dangerous situation. “Every girl lives for her wedding day.” It is all about the bride and groom. Everyone looks at them. Encourages them. Congratulates them.

Don’t buy the wedding day lie. Marriage is not about you.

Many couples buy the lie of the wedding day … it is all about me. But marriage is at odds with this mindset. A successful wedding day is one where everyone serves you. A successful marriage is one where you serve your spouse. The wedding day is a day where the spotlight is on you. Marriage has no spotlight. The wedding day is about saying a bunch of words that most couples never take seriously. Marriage is about putting the words into action. The wedding day is joyous and celebratory. Many seasons of marriage are about persevering and not letting go through the storms.

Embrace your wedding day. Prepare for it. Celebrate it. But do not make the mistake of believing the lie. After your 20 minutes of fame, the spotlight is gone forever. It is no longer about you (and this is a good thing … you will see).

____________________________

What are some truths you have discovered about marriage the church hasn’t taught you?

Frank Powell is a minister at the Campbell Street Church of Christ in Jackson , TN and ministers to College and young Adults..

Self Worth! ( a guest written post by Michael Ogunbameru)

adam and eve 

Subject: SELF WORTH (Very Deep!!!) In a brief conversation, a man asked a woman he was pursuing the question: ‘What kind of man are you looking for?’ She sat quietly for a moment before looking him in the eye & asking, ‘Do you really want to know?’ Reluctantly, he said, ‘Yes. She began to expound, ‘As a woman in this day & age, I am in a position to ask a man what can you do for me that I can’t do for myself? I pay my own bills. I take care of my household without the help of any man… or woman for that matter. I am in the position to ask, ‘What can you bring to the table?’ The man looked at her. Clearly he thought that she was referring to money. She quickly corrected his thought & stated, ‘I am not referring to money. I need something more. I need a man who is striving for excellence in every aspect of life. He sat back in his chair, folded his arms, & asked her to explain. She said, ‘I need someone who is striving for excellence mentally because I need conversation & mental stimulation. I don’t need a simple-minded man. I need someone who is striving for excellence spiritually because I don’t need to be unequally yoked…believers mixed with unbelievers is a recipe for disaster. I need a man who is striving for excellence financially because I don’t need a financial burden. I need someone who is sensitive enough to understand what I go through as a woman, but strong enough to keep me grounded. I need someone who has integrity in dealing with relationships. Lies and game-playing are not my idea of a strong man. I need a man who is family-oriented. One who can be the leader, priest and provider to the lives entrusted to him by God. I need someone whom I can respect. In order to be submissive, I must respect him. I cannot be submissive to a man who isn’t taking care of his business. I have no problem being submissive…he just has to be worthy. And by the way, I am not looking for him…He will find me. He will recognize himself in me. Hey may not be able to explain the connection, but he will always be drawn to me. God made woman to be a help-mate for man. I can’t help a man if he can’t help himself. When she finished her spill, she looked at him. He sat there with a puzzled look on his face. He said, ‘You are asking a lot. She replied, “I’m worth a lot”. Send this to every woman who’s worth a lot…. and every man who has the brains to understand!!

 

 

A Pastor’s Apology To The Single Community

Originally posted on john pavlovitz:

woman-alone-in-church

This is a message to all those who are single or who have spent any years in the Church as a single person.

As a pastor who has served in local church ministry for the past 17 years, I wanted to apologize to you on behalf of so many of us who minister and who too often have failed you.

I am deeply sorry.

I’m sorry for the ways we unintentionally distanced you from community; the times that we overlooked your deep needs and your unique challenges as we planned and prepared.

I’m sorry for the times we relegated you to the segregated ghettos of Singles Ministry, making you feel that was enough to hold you over until you eventually graduated from your relational purgatory.

I’m sorry for the times you felt like an afterthought in our worship services. 

I’m sorry for the times you felt unwelcome or extraneous in our small groups.

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GOD Loves the Single Too!- (For the Christian) Is There Life Apart from Marriage?

manalone     51% of the U. S. population is single. If you look at church budgets, ministry planning and focus you would believe this to be a false statement.

A recently divorced man stated, ” I am having a difficult time living in a single world. Everywhere I go I see couples.” Granted in this time and age, many “couples” are not legally married but the people involved still have someone to love and share their lives with. Not a spouse but a significant other, a partner, a companion. And regardless of faith or emotion, a person will still feel lonely. And, even now in 2015, most church activities are geared towards married couples. Holidays come and family is emphasized. TV laughs at marriage. The alternative lifestyles, living together without planning for marriage and one time hookups are what the world is living. It seems even harder for the committed Christian single to remain content and alone, especially after a divorce of death of a spouse. Honestly, when I first entered into singles ministry (unpaid volunteer of course) I was shocked that most of the singles in our churches had a sex life! Really! Some seemed surprised that I was actually celibate. One man was living with a woman and their child and looking for a Christian woman on the sly. I kid you not. And, from experience, I can attest to the challenges of being single and alone. One Christian sister told me that her preacher insinuated how peaceful she seemed when they bumped into each other at a restaurant. He was with his wife and kids and said that he “envied” her quiet time with a book and dinner. She “envied” that he had a family and she was sick and tired of time with a book.

So, what is the answer? Marriage isn’t the complete answer. Many married individuals are frustrated and unhappy. Marriage brings a different set of challenges. Add children and a lot of stress is present. Celibacy is a challenge. In Judges, we find a whole group of people that God had requested to keep a celibate life. The purpose of this celibacy was that they might devote their lives solely to the service of God and his people. Some today may practice a similar lifestyle for similar reasons. The married person always has the added responsibility of family.

God wants you to do his will. In Genesis 24, we find Rebekah awaiting the arrival of Isaac. She was willing to meet him and thankfully he was worth having! We see David awaiting the will of the Father but also impatient and choosing for himself. Mikal and Bathsheeba brought much grief but a good woman, Abigail brought peace. Remember, God knows all about you and cares about what you do. He understands your feelings. Hebrews 4:15, 16 says: “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way….” We have a god who cares about us in every detail and who wants to be involved in your every moment. He cares when you sit alone with a book waiting for your dinner or when you are stressed by the family. He cares when you lie awake at night alone. He knows how it feels to be rejected. He cares so much that the scriptures tell of his relentless desire to reconcile with us. He cares so much that he allowed Jesus to go to the cross for our sins.

Yes, there is a life apart from marriage.

God Loves the Single Too! -What am I doing here?

“Today is the first day of the rest of your life” is a popular and significant slogan. Today, when I awoke, it was if I were born again, with new life and new opportunities. Then I showered and went to work……

You might ask yourself if this is the life you want to continue. Are you the person you intend to be? Is there a significant role for you as a single person in society? You have been created in the image of God, now what are you going to do with all this value he has placed on your being? You may be asking yourself these very questions. You might be at a crossroad where you are seeking directions, answers or a higher purpose. Or, you might be at a standstill. Other questions could be related to being too old, too young, too settled, too attached or too single.

What are you going to do with your life? Some of you will always be single. Some of you have the gift of contentment in being single and others are just single. It can be frustrating. Most of you will marry. The challenges will not stop with marriage and new concerns will creep in. There will always be something to overcome and also an opportunity to make a difference. Don’t you want to make a difference? An impact? You can! Jesus told us (in Matthew 17: 20) :if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, nothing will be impossible for you.”

There was a man in the “Old Testament” who parallels our need for God’s guidance. Remember Moses? Moses was living in the wilderness in a foreign country when he saw a burning bush. He identified that God had come calling and in Exodus 3:4 he stated “Here I am”. We can start with that statement. Turn our life over to God and see what he wants to do with us. Moses was used to challenge Pharoah and free millions of Israelites, then lead them across a wilderness to the promised land.

It all starts with a little faith. Evaluate your life. If you are content then thank God and serve him as a single. You may be content not married but want a different job or a better economic state. Explore your options. Do you need to go back to school? Do you need a budget? You could always start small and take a class to see if you are on the right track. Are you living where you need to be? How are your social skills? Are you emotionally and physically ready to meet someone new and consider dating that could lead to marriage? Use your single time to prepare to share more of your life, whether single or married.

Remember the woman with the bleeding disorder? She had hemorrhaged for 12 years and she had enough of that. She got dressed and went to find Jesus. Even though in a state of uncleanness, she reached out and touched the hem of his garment. Life changed immediately! It all started with a change of attitude and routine!

You are a person of value! You as a single person have been freed of some obligations for a purpose. Don’t bury your talents in the past or sit on them waiting for the future. Live for today and with the help of God make plans for your life.

“Today is the first day of the rest of your life”