Jesus and the Single Life

Have you ever thought about the fact that Jesus was single? My dear friend Jenni and I were talking last year before a wedding she was attending, and we were talking about how challenging it can be to attend a wedding alone, especially as you get older. But she said “If Jesus could go to a wedding by Himself, then so can I.” I love that perspective, and it got me thinking about what else we can learn from Jesus about being single. If Jesus is our model for living a holy and perfect life (not that we can ever be perfect this side of heaven, but that He is and showed us perfection), then it naturally follows that as Jesus was single His entire life, we can look to Him to learn what our lives as singles should look like.

As I read through the gospels looking for parallels to the single life, here are 5 things I discovered:

1. The goal of Jesus in every place and every situation was to be a blessing to those around Him. His focus was on them and meeting their needs, rather than on Himself and His own status or situation. The ease in which we get so caught up in ourselves and the frequency of our fixation on relational status is somewhat alarming. We are so quick to look inward instead of focusing outward. How different would our churches and communities look if those who are single were intent on being a blessing to those around them in every situation? What if we looked up and out, instead of always bemoaning our lack of a companion? What if we sought to serve generously, to give of our time and resources, to bless those around us as long as we are single?

2. Jesus intentionally surrounded Himself with community. In a culture of independence, isolation, and the detached relationships of social media, true community is becoming obsolete, especially among my generation. Jesus stands out as an example of one who entered into the lives of others and invited them into HIs own life as well. He built deep friendships with all kinds of people – men, women, married couples, the sick, tax-collectors, and prostitutes. He did not limit Himself to befriending only those who looked like Him or came from the same socio-economic or religious background. He loved all people, and actively pursued relationships with them.

3. Jesus did not squander His time, but used it wisely and with purpose. This does not mean He was always busy. Again, this does not mean that He was always busy. That bears repeating, because we often think the only way to use time “wisely” is to fill every moment with something important. We have plenty of examples of Jesus resting, going away to pray, sleeping on a boat, hanging out at wells chatting with people, eating dinner with friends, etc. He shows us what one person can do in a short amount of time. We have a plethora of opportunities and excuses to waste time in today’s culture, and Jesus shows us the importance and feasability of time well spent.

4. Jesus lived on-mission. Everything He did was on purpose, and His whole life led to the cross. Where is your life leading?

5. Finally, Jesus did not shrink back from hard situations. He went to weddings by himself, funerals of dear friends, large gatherings, and even the cross, all in joyful obedience to the Father. He saw the value in celebrations and goodbyes. He confronted false religion and heresy (as a sidenote, this goes back to the first point – even in His rebuke, it was for their ultimate good). He was willing to be ridiculed, shamed, and persecuted, because He knew that He spoke the truth. He walked through hard times trusting the Father to sustain Him.

If you are single, how can you start living more intentionally today, following Jesus’ model for us? If you are married, how can you be encouraging the single people in your life to live with purpose? How can we mutually enter into community and seek to be a blessing to one another?

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Embracing Winter

Extreme cold and I are not the best of friends. We are not the worst of friends either, but with negative wind chills, snow that stays for days, and limited sunshine, I am reminded of why I call this season “neverwarm”. In this weather being outside for more than a few minutes causes my glass eye to become an ice cube, making it impossible to blink. I’m not tall enough to reach the top of my car to clear off all of the snow, thus becoming one of the very people who drive me crazy on the roads with snow flying everywhere. And even with multiple layers, my hands and feet are always cold. Always.

Suffice to say, Winter is not, and never has been, my favorite season. Some would claim that the above statements give me good reason for that. With gritted teeth I found myself this past week growing increasingly perturbed at the lingering arctic vortex that swept through the region and then decided to stick around, telling myself to just get through the days until Spring finally arrives.

Then, I was reminded of two things. One, 1 Thessalonians 5:18 says “in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” Everything, Lord? Even this ridiculous weather? Yep. Two, winter has a purpose. Without the cold, and the snow, and the darkness, we would not have such beautiful Springs, or the ability to appreciate the vibrant colors, warm temperatures, and sunshine. So this week I have been asking the Lord to help me see the beauty in winter, and to learn to embrace this season, even a little bit.

Here was part of His answer:

Sunset on the snow
Sunset on the snow
The sunset reflecting on the snow in the front yard
The sunset reflecting on the snow in the front yard

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It is difficult to capture in a photo what you actually see, so as pretty as these pictures are, understand that the real life experience of standing on the sidewalk and looking at the sun glittering on the snow as it disappeared behind the surrounding houses was breathtaking. There is beauty in winter; we just have to choose to see it.

Where do you see beauty in winter?

Beginning the Year with Purpose

Sunrise in Nepal last April
Sunrise in Nepal last April

Let’s start at the end. Who do you want to be when 2014 is over?

Have you thought about that? I am not talking about resolutions that will be forgotten by next month – this is about constant, gradual growth that results in ending a year different from who you were when the year began. One of the most important lessons I have learned about growth is that it does not happen by accident. Very rarely does someone look up after plodding the same path year in and year out and realize that they have become a different person. Growth requires intentionality, a pursuit of knowledge, and the willingness to try life in a different way than you have done before. Change comes when we resolve in our heart to think, act, speak, and live with purpose.

As each new year begins, I sit down with the Lord and answer three questions:

  • How did I grow in the previous year?
  • In what ways did God provide for me as my Jehovah-Jireh? (We are given an example all through Scripture of taking time to remember God’s faithfulness to us, and celebrate what He has done for us. This is a beautiful way to begin a new year!)
  • How do I want to grow in the new year? 

 

Last year, I chose Proverbs 31:25-26 to serve as the theme for my growth and development. The verses say “Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she smiles at the future. She opens her mouth in wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue”. As I stood on the brink of a year of major change, my prayer was that these two verses would be reflected in my life: that I would face each new day with strength and dignity, and my lips would speak with wisdom and kindness.

2013 was a significant year, because for the first time my trust in the Lord and in His plan was so much stronger than my own will and desires. O, Praise Him! Slowly, slowly, I am learning to trust the One who is eternally trustworthy. So often my own feeble will rises up and declares that I know better, that I can manage my own affairs; yet time and again my way fails. The gospel enters then, reminding me that even my best effort is worthless, compared to Jesus. In His grace, the past 365 days have brought me deeper intimacy with Jesus, a greater reliance on Him & insight into His will and plan, and a few steps closer to becoming like the One I have chosen to follow.

Another noteworthy area of growth over the past year was in seeing my singleness as a gift, and choosing to embrace this time in my life. Recognizing that marriage is not the holy grail – it is a gift from the Lord, full of its own challenges – but singleness is also a gift, one to be treasured and used to bring God glory, a time full of potential and hope! And whether married or single, my focus and my treasure must be in Christ alone.

This year as I prepared to work on answering the questions, I was challenged by speaker and author Tim Elmore to take it one step further and write out a plan for each month of ways to grow in the specific areas. As an almost OCD-planner type, I can’t believe I haven’t done this before. I am so excited for 2014, and to see where I am in 12 months!

2014 Growth Plan:

Theme Verses: “A new commandment I give you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” – John 13:34-35.

Areas of Desired Growth:

  • Leadership
  • Writing & Photography
  • Community
  • Priorities
  • Relationship with Christ

I have written out specific ways I want to grow in these five areas, and have picked out 25 books to read during the year (two for each month, with one extra) on a wide variety of these topics, decided what conferences I am going to attend, and located areas in my life that need change in order to re-adjust my priorities.

The Lord has designed each one of us differently, and maybe all of these lists and having so specific a plan sound like torture to you. Everyone’s growth plan should look different, because we all grow in different ways. My challenge to you is to live this year with purpose. To start by asking the Lord to help you know who you are right now, and what He wants your life to look like by the time the year ends. Whether you answer the three questions above, or completely different ones, the goal is to dream big, and trust the Lord to grow you in mighty ways this year. As we grow, our impact on His kingdom most often grows along with us! What joy to experience growth brought about by the Holy Spirit, and make an eternal impact on the world.

Happy New Year! May the Lord richly bless you this year as you walk in obedience with Him.

Walking while waiting

Christmas snuck up on me this year. With Thanksgiving being so late, a visit with the grandparents in the middle of the month, and working up to Christmas Eve, the holiday has arrived and my heart feels rushed and unprepared. So, on Sunday, as the final day of Advent drew to a close, I spent some time reading the story of Jesus’ birth from the gospels of Matthew and Luke. I was struck anew by the stories of waiting that surrounded this greatest day in history. Waiting is what Advent is all about – the hope of the coming Savior, the preparation for His arrival, the joy of His birth, and the love He showed in coming to earth.

Advent [noun]:

  • A coming into place, view, or being; arrival
  • The coming of Christ into the world
  • The period beginning four Sundays before Christmas, observed in commemoration of the coming of Christ
  • Middle English; Latin – Adventus; arrival, approach
  • Beginning or arrival of something anticipated

Beginning or arrival of something anticipated. Can you feel the excitement in the air? Imagine! The promise of a Savior…followed by 400 years of silence. An entire nation, waiting for the promised Messiah, anticipating the salvation and redemption He would bring.

As I read, these other examples stood out to me as well:

*Zacharias and Elizabeth get married, and then they wait for a baby. And they wait. And wait. And pray. And wait, until Elizabeth is long past child-bearing age and all hope seems lost forever.

*Zacharias is rendered mute, and has to wait at least 9 months before being able to share what God had spoken through the Angel Gabriel.

*Simeon is given a promise that he will not see death until his eyes have seen the Messiah. Old age begins setting in, and still no Messiah is appearing.

*Jesus himself waited 30 years to begin his public ministry.

Do you know what the Bible says about Zacharias, Elizabeth, and Simeon in the midst of their waiting? Luke 1:6 says that Zacharias and Elizabeth were “both righteous in the sight of God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and requirements of the Lord.” And Luke 2:25 says that Simeon was “righteous and devout, looking for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him.”

Here are four thoughts from their example of walking faithfully with the Lord while waiting:

1. God’s sovereignty is sure, and His timing is perfect. At the exact appointed time, Elizabeth conceived John, Zacharias got to tell everyone about the glory and goodness of the Lord, Israel’s promised Messiah came, Simeon witnessed the dedication of Jesus, and Jesus began his public ministry. Not a day too early or too late, but exactly on the day each event was supposed to happen. Psalm 139:16 says “In your book were written ALL the days of my life before one of them came to be.” God is the one in control, and He brings all things to pass in His good timing and perfect plan.

2. Waiting is not painless, but the result makes it worth walking through the dark days. Imagine 400 years of silence from God. Or going through an entire pregnancy and birth with a husband who could not respond to you. Or waiting years upon years for a child until hope seems lost. Or getting older and wondering each day if you would finally see the promised Messiah. Or preparing for a public ministry knowing that it is going to end with your death and resurrection three short years later.

3. Obedience is not contingent upon God’s response. Zacharias, Elizabeth, and Simeon were all described as being faithful to follow God, even when they did not always know if or when an answer would come. Jesus was the only one who knew the end from the beginning. The others chose to trust God and walk in faithfulness each day regardless of what the outcome was. Again, their obedience was not contingent upon God’s response to them, but rather on the knowledge of who He is and their trust that He would fulfill His word (for more, check out Heb 10:23 and 2 Tim 2:13).

4. We can trust God with our future in the midst of waiting. Back to Psalm 139:16. He already knows every day of our future. He has gone before us, laying the way and offering to lead us on the path as our Light and Guide. Proverbs 3:5-6 calls us to trust in Him, lean not on our own understanding, and He will direct our paths. Psalm 119 is full of verses where David exalts the Lord as righteous and true, and declares the Word of God as trustworthy and and worth leaning our full weight upon.

What are you waiting for today? A baby, like Elizabeth? A new job? A spouse? Healing from an illness or chronic pain? An apology that never seems to arrive? The redemption of a friend or family member? An answer to a hard question? Direction on where you are supposed to go next? The return of Jesus and the making of all things new?

Whatever you are waiting for, I pray that you will be encouraged by this to continue trusting the Lord and walking faithfully with Him, no matter what may come. As you read the Christmas story, rejoice that the silence was broken, the Savior came, and through Him we have hope and salvation! See it with fresh perspective, and be reminded of God’s faithfulness, sovereignty, and perfect timing.

Merry Christmas, and may the peace of Jesus Christ be with you as you celebrate His birth.