Called to be Single? Jesus Was!

“I want you to be free from anxieties. The unmarried man is anxious about the things of the Lord, how to please the Lord. But the married man is anxious about worldly things, how to please his wife, and his interests are divided. And the unmarried or betrothed woman is anxious about the things of the Lord, how to be holy in body and spirit. But the married woman is anxious about worldly things, how to please her husband. I say this for your own benefit, not to lay any restraint upon you, but to promote good order and to secure your undivided devotion to the Lord.” (1 Corinthians 7:32–35 ESV)

Many Christians are single. They are looking for the right person, that special one that God has for them. Some singles are looking to fill a void that was left by someone else. They may be widowed or divorced. Some have never been married. They look forward to the companionship that a life partner brings. They desire to grow old with someone. I can’t blame them. How satisfying it would be to have a live in friend, companion, co-worker, and lover. I have spent many years dreaming of this too!
Isn’t it odd? Paul says, stay unmarried, so you can be free from anxiety. Do you want to have less stress? Stay single! In this way, your focus will be on God and his kingdom rather than on another’s interests. Wait! When you try to integrate two individual lives into one cohesive life, there’s worry, stress and divided interests? Yes! So of course, there will be difficulties!
The fairy tales and romance movies don’t often show the hard work and time it takes to make a relationship work. They don’t often illustrate the difficulty involved in meshing lives. They never show the struggle of balancing spiritual and earthly responsibilities. It can be extremely difficult to serve God and keep up with the demands of a family. It is easy to see how it divides your loyalties.
I think that is why Jesus was not married. He came to earth to do a job for the kingdom of God. It required focus and undivided attention. His travels and early death would have been difficult for a family. Looking back, it seems best that Jesus didn’t have a wife and children. I am sure it wasn’t easy though.
He was in a body of flesh. I am sure that he, like all of us, felt a need for human touch and tenderness. He saw cute couples holding hands. He went to weddings and celebrated with couples who had found companionship and love. He ate in happy homes. He loved children. And yet, Jesus chose to remain single and focus on the purposes that God had for him. He is an example of what Paul was explaining to the Corinthians.
All people are not called to be single. Paul addresses that in the next few verses. But for those that are single, it is an opportunity to serve God unentangled by many of the world’s cares and worries. It frees us to serve God with abandonment. It is a chance to know Jesus better. It may only be for a season of life, but it should be an occasion to celebrate as we allow God to be the lover of our soul.

The Bread of Life and Blueberries

035“For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” (John 6:33)

This morning I decided to start my day with a healthy breakfast. As I looked through my refrigerator, I thought that I should have a fresh fruit smoothie. Then I changed my mind, and I thought I should have oatmeal with fresh fruit. After thinking of many terrific options, I settled on French toast smothered in syrup. Not the healthy breakfast I had envisioned. It smelled so yummy, and I was glad I had decided to make it, but I felt a little guilty for not eating a healthier meal. I decided to top the French toast with blueberries. That eased my conscience a little.
Adding blueberries did provide a generous dose of vitamin C, fiber and antioxidants. So they helped make my breakfast a little healthier. It would have been better though if I left out the syrup and powdered sugar. I had noble intentions when I got up, but I quickly got enticed by the sweets and fats in my kitchen. The Lord used this situation as an opportunity to remind me of the passage we studied on Sunday.
The pastor taught from John 6. This passage talks about Jesus, the Bread of Life. He is the healthy food I need. I get up every day with the intentions of making it a fantastic day with Jesus, but it doesn’t always work out that way. Many times it works out like my breakfast. I have plans on feasting on the Bread of Life, and something else will grab my attention. I end up feeding on something less than the best. I give up the healthy option for junk. When I realize that I made a poor choice, I try to throw a scoop of Jesus on top to ease my conscience.
Although there are some benefits to this, it isn’t the healthiest option. I do get some spiritual nutrients and vitamins. A healthy meal without fats and tons of sugar would be better, though. If I want to be spiritually fit and healthy, I need to feast on the Bread of Life. I shouldn’t just try to add him to top of my desires and plans. It might ease my conscience a little, but it still isn’t best.
Feasting daily, consistently on the Bread of Life needs to be a daily habit. It is a discipline that I must develop. It will take some self denial. I will have to go on a spiritual diet. I may have to give up things that aren’t bad, they just aren’t the best. If I am going to be strong for Jesus, I need to feed my heart and mind with the Bread of Life.
Next time I will choose the fruit smoothie and quiet time with Jesus.

Dear Jesus, I thank you for your gift of salvation. I thank you that you continue with me on my journey. I thank you that you provide all the spiritual nourishment that I need. Let me feast on you. Let me gain my daily strength from the power that comes from above. Keep me from being distracted by superfluous and unnecessary fulfillment. Teach me to find fulfillment and contentment in you.

The Piñata Principle

pinata 1“But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.” (2 Corinthians 4:7)

I was driving down the road the other day when I saw pieces of a yellow Big Bird piñata scattered along the way. I thought that it was sad that it was all broken up and a mess. Then it dawned on me. If it was not broken, nobody would have been able to enjoy the contents, the candy!

I thought about this verse from 2 Corinthians. s were traditionally made by decorating a clay pot. And they hold treasure. They hold treasure that someone has put inside. The person that put it inside did not want it to stay there. They intended for it to be shared and enjoyed.

For the treasure to be enjoyed, the clay pot must first be broken. A whole piñata looks pretty but if it isn’t broken to reveal the treasure then it hasn’t fulfilled its purpose. A piñata is created to be destroyed. Only after the piñata is broken and the treasure is revealed does the crowd get excited.

We are clay pots, fragile and easily broken. We are all decorated differently and we work hard to keep looking good on the outside. Our natural inclination is to stay safe and whole, looking good to the world, but we must be willing to be broken. “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise” (Psalm 51:17).

God wants to reveal his glory through our lives. Unless we are willing for the old life to be destroyed, we will never fulfill our true purpose. The crowd will only ring out with joy and excitement if the treasure is revealed.

God fills us with good gifts. “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” (Romans 15:13). God fills us with hope, joy, and peace. The trials of life break away the facade we carefully built around our clay pot. Then, God breaks off the old papier-mâché and cracked clay pot. This allows the sweet treasure he has filled us with to pour forth and bless everyone around us. The good gifts of God can then be
shared and enjoyed.

Lord, it is painful to give up my pride in my own beauty and strength even though it is only papier-mâché and a clay pot. Brokenness is necessary. I want to reveal your hope, joy and peace to the world. This is the purpose to which You have called me. I will not reveal your goodness or grace if I keep your treasures hidden. Make me brave Lord. Give me the courage to accept the beatings that will break away the outer layers to reveal your hope, joy, and peace inside. Let the crowds ring out in joy and praise because You have poured forth blessings and gifts through me. Let me fulfill the purpose You have called me to, even when it is painful and hard. May all glory go to the one who gives the gifts, the host of the party, You Lord, and you alone.

Laying Aside Every Weight

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. (Heb 12:1)

 

I was talking with a friend at the coffee shop. During our conversation, she expressed a desire to free herself from the burden of too many possessions. She was going to start by getting rid of old school books. A few days after she mentioned this, I was with another friend who said he had been moving his college text books with him for over 25 years. He said that he thought they may come in handy for reference, but he had never used them after finishing the courses.

This got me to thinking about all of the books that I owned. My vast collection contains many wonderful books. I keep buying bookcases and unpacking more great books. So much knowledge and so many lofty and fantastic ideas are contained within those covers. There is enough information to keep my mind occupied for many lifetimes. Included in my collection, I too have college text books that I kept for references. I haven’t used them.

My friends and I thought we had good reasons for keeping all of these books. It is with the best intentions that we held on to them. It is not bad or wrong to have them. In some ways it is considered noble and honorable that we desire knowledge and continue to learn. But all of those books can be a problem. We all realized this when we had to move them. They are heavy bulky and require storage space.

Moving, unpacking, organizing, storing, and dusting the books was burdensome. It made me think about Hebrews 12:1. Let us throw off everything that hinders us (NIV), or let us lay aside every weight (ESV). Without realizing it, I was keeping stuff that hindered me. I was holding on to a weight that was slowing me down.

My friends and I realized that we were hauling the books around because we thought they may be useful, but they weren’t. They weren’t bad or evil. There was no sin in keeping them. They were just a problem because they slowed us down and kept us from going forward. They held us back financially. We could have sold some of them back to the college and improved our financial position. They took up time. They were heavy to move. They took up space.

My books sat on the shelf as a reminder of my inadequacy. Why don’t I read more? How come I can’t get to these books? It would be good for me to grow in knowledge. Why are my priorities so messed up? These questions inspired me to reexamine my attitudes about my books. I also realized I needed to look at other things that might be hindering me.

My books were a great picture of the weight we need to lay aside. All too often we think that if something is not a sin then it is ok. But sometimes even good things can be a weight. Sometimes we hold on to things that have outgrown their usefulness. They become heavy and burdensome. For example, a once useful program becomes a drain on resources and no longer provides results. Favorite lessons lose their fire and passion after years of repetition. Pursuing old dreams can keep us from enjoying the exciting life we have.

My friends and I needed to clean out our books. But more importantly, I needed to be reminded that even good and helpful things can become a hindrance. I need to consider which things may be holding me back, keeping me from running the race and running strong. Sometimes I am called to give up good and useful things because they are no longer valuable for me. I need to let go of all that hinders me and run toward Jesus, unencumbered and free.

 

I am guilty Lord of holding on to things that weigh me down. I do not want to be slow or worse, sidelined in the race you have called me to run. Let me give up the things that keep me from running the best race I can run. No matter what I give up, I am running toward something better, You! Thank you for teaching me this lesson. Help me to apply it to my life. You are awesome Lord, and all I really need.

My Smoothie Debacle

“Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” (Psalm 119:105)

This was one of my memory verses from Sunday school. I have had this verse hidden in my heart for many years. And this week the Lord brought it to my remembrance during a comical situation.

Here is the whole embarrassing story. I did not sleep well the other night. I was still very tired when I had to get up and go to work the next morning. I got up and got ready to go. I went to the kitchen to throw together a smoothie to drink on the way, because I didn’t leave myself enough time for breakfast. I didn’t turn the overhead light on. The night light on the microwave was on and I thought that was enough.

I grabbed some strawberries and peaches from the freezer. I got some OJ and yogurt out of the fridge. I put my ingredients in the blender. At the last minute I decided to add some coconut. I grabbed it from the dark pantry. I bet you can see where this is going.

I added the “coconut” and quickly poured my smoothie into cup. I put the lid on and ran out the door. As I started drinking the smoothie on the way to work I noticed that my coconut was really hard and not sweet. I was still so tired and had trouble even thinking through what the problem could have been. I drank the smoothie because I needed breakfast and the hard coconut seemed edible.

I made it through work and came home. I took my cup to the kitchen and put it in the sink. I started to clean up the mess I left from morning. I put the yogurt cup in the recycling and the empty strawberry package in the trash. I picked up the coconut to stick it in the pantry and noticed it was rice! The hard, not sweet coconut was uncooked rice!

I started laughing out loud. How stupid. The rice and coconut were sitting near each other on the shelf, in similarly colored bags, and both were closed with wooden clothespins. I just grabbed the wrong one in the dark. I made a mistake because I couldn’t see. It would have been so easy to prevent, just flip a light switch. I neglected to use the resources and power at my finger tips.

Psalm 119:105 came to my mind. God’s Word lights my way. How many preventable errors do I make because I don’t flip the switch? In the Word of God we find the power that floods our world with light, just follow Jesus. “Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (John 8:12). If I walk in the light, follow Jesus, then my life (and smoothies) will be sweeter.

 

Thank you, Jesus, for using simple things from my day to remind me that you are there and you care about me. Thank you for communicating with me through your Word. Thank you for reminding me that life can be even sweeter as I walk in your light. You are so good. Help me to continually access the power and illumination you have freely provided. Let me walk in the light and not in darkness.