17 for ’17: New Year’s Resolutions for Christian Single Adults

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Which resolutions resonate most with you?

1) When I’m at the crossroads of making a decision, I’ll commit to the path that will glorify God the most even if it does not bring me the most immediate personal satisfaction.  (Revelation 4:11)

2) My relationship status will not define me in 2017.  My relationship with God will be the foundation of my identity.  (2 Corinthians 5:17)

3) God’s word will be a lamp to my feet and a light to my path, informing and illuminating every step that I take.  (Psalm 119:105)

4) I will not hold my past sins against me since God doesn’t.  (Psalm 103:12)

5) I will depend more on God’s strength than believing I can do it all on my own.  (Philippians 4:23)

6) When I am blessed, I will in turn use that blessing to be a blessing to others.
(Genesis 12:2)

7) Any new dating relationship will be measured against one simple criteria: Will it bring me closer to God or move me further away?  (James 4:8)

8) I will thirst for God in ways that I have never thirsted for Him before.  (Psalm 63:1)

9) I will graciously serve others with a desire to point them to God’s compassion and mercy.  (Matthew 5:16)

10) I will surround myself with wise voices that will pour God’s Truth and loving correction into my life.  (Proverb 15:22)

11) I will not let my singleness inhibit my involvement with and contribution to the Body of Christ.  (1 Corinthians 7:32-35)

12) I will carefully reevaluate anything in my life that  begins to take a greater priority than God does.  (Exodus 20:3)

13) During the difficult times when I am immersed in the valleys, I will hold on to God’s promise that He can work all things together for my good.  (Romans 8:28)

14) I will freely offer forgiveness not just to absolve others of their guilt but also to extend freedom to myself.  I refuse to let others’ past offenses against me define me and hold me back.  (Ephesians 4:32)

15) I will relinquish to God any anger that I am holding in my heart before I rest my head on my pillow every night.  (Ephesians 4:26)

16) I will not covet what others have, including their marriages.  (Exodus 20:17)

17) God has spiritually gifted me as a believer, and I intend to find purpose in a special and unique way as I serve in the sweet spot of that giftedness.  (1 Corinthians 12)

Resolutions are only as good as their follow through.  May God bless you with an incredible 2017 as you live out your singleness fully devoted to Him.

Dr. Greg Belcher, Lead Pastor of Fellowship Church of Burbank (California), former Pastor of Single Adults @ Hope Community Church (Raleigh, NC)

What’s Most Attractive About a Christian Man? (Hint: It’s Something to Pray About!)

Tech Insider magazine recently released a list of “11 science-supported traits” that women find most attractive in men.  A sense of humor made the list. Owning a dog seemingly does the trick as well, as does wearing the power color red.

Moreover, according to science, having a good heart full of altruism and philanthropy speaks to a woman’s heart in a special way. So heartfelt depth can’t be overlooked.

And yet, science shows that attractiveness can be pretty shallow too, given that men who drive expensive cars are seen as more appealing to the opposite gender. Is it really true that a man who drives a Porsche or BMW is more attractive than one who drives a Honda or Toyota? Apparently so according to science.

It’s a pretty interesting, albeit somewhat confusing, list. But it’s also intriguing to see what’s not on the list too.

Consider this . . .

I recently stumbled across something that Christian single women find attractive in Christian men that didn’t quite make the science-supported list. It seems to make sense, but I’m not sure Christian men, or science, realize the full magnitude of it.

The non-scientifically proven trait that I’ve stumbled across is none other than a willingness to pray, which may sound super spiritual.  But see if this makes sense, spiritual sense if not scientific sense. . .

Recently I discovered that Christian women find a Godly man who consistently prays for a woman to be an incredibly appealing trait. Who knew it could be that simple? And yet apparently it’s something that speaks not only to the heart of God but also to the heart of a spiritually minded woman.

A couple of years ago I began a daily devotional Facebook page (www.facebook.com/solelydevoted) for Christian singles, and it’s grown quite dramatically, approaching 15,000 followers/likes. It’s nothing too involved, just a simple way to encourage Christian singles in their relationship with God on a daily basis. As it turns out, about 80% of those who follow the page are women, which is important to note when considering the overwhelming response to a post made to “Solely Devoted” not long ago.

The post simply looked like this . . .

SD.post

That’s it.  Nothing too special.  Nothing too insightful.  Or so I thought.

Because suddenly it went kind of viral. Sort of. Not Bieberish-viral. But as an administrator of a Facebook page, you can keep track of how many people are reached by a post. Typically the more a post is liked and shared and commented on then the more it becomes visible in the newsfeeds of Facebook fans.

Occasionally a post stands out in a notable way on the “Solely Devoted” page as it gains special attention, but this particular post, as simple as it was, began to reach tens of thousands more people than a typical post would ever reach. Basically the 80 percent of Christian women who follow the page began to respond to and spread the post everywhere, and they sent a clear message every time they liked it, shared it, and commented on it.

And it totally surprised me, but maybe it shouldn’t have. Because it got me to thinking . . .

For the believer attractiveness is so much more than exterior physical characteristics or the kind of car you drive. Or even how funny you are or whether or not you have a dog.

For the believer attractiveness is much more than any of that because it’s much more than external criteria, definitely more than that which is just skin deep.

For the believer attractiveness goes straight to the heart, especially when someone has a heart for the things of God.

And when a man consistently and faithfully prays for a woman, it sends a clear signal that:

  • He wants God’s best for you
  • He believes you have great value and worth in the eyes of a holy God
  • He’s thinking about you, albeit praying about you, even when He’s not with you
  • You’ve captured a part of His heart that God has also captured
  • He’s willing to put you before himself, even in the words of his prayer life
  • He’s sensitive to your hurts and pains in life
  • He values the deeply spiritual, not just the shallow physical
  • He believes God has a purpose and plan for your life through every daily struggle and every momentous success
  • He’s a humble man who knows God can do more for you than He ever can

ManPrayingScientists didn’t come up with this particular finding, and it didn’t make Tech Insider’s list of what makes a man attractive to a woman. Truth is, I stumbled across it rather unexpectedly in a viral sort of way. But after giving it adequate reflection, it just makes sense. Good spiritual sense.

And so for all the Christian single men out there, there’s no doubt that we all do a lot of things to appear more attractive to the opposite gender. And yet a lot of what we do barely scratches the surface. The bigger reality, from the perspective of Godly minded Christian ladies, is that a humble, gracious, God fearing man who’s willing to get on his knees in prayer and pour out his heart on a woman’s behalf may just be the most attractive man alive — both to God and to the watchful eyes and sensitive ears of a spiritually inclined female.

What’s most attractive about a Christian man? It really is something to pray about!

15 Resolutions for Christian Singles in 2015

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1. To love people more.  To love God most.  (Matthew 22:37-39)

2. To use the comfort that God has given me through my past hurts to be a comfort to those who are now hurting.  (2 Corinthians 1:3-4)

3. To be slower to give my own advice and quicker to listen to the advice of others.  (Proverbs 12:15; James 1:19)

4. To make every effort to strengthen myself spiritually even more than I do to strengthen myself physically.  (1 Timothy 4:8)

5. To use my words to build others up, not to tear them down.  (1 Thessalonians 5:11)

6. To remember that my times of weakness can actually be times for God’s strength to shine through.  (2 Corinthians 12:10)

7. To be more diligent with my thought life, keeping my mind focused on those things that are true and noble and pure and lovely.  (Colossians 3:2; Philippians 4:8)

8. To recognize daily that I am in a spiritual battle.  (Ephesians 6:12; 1 Peter 5:8)

9. To be more thankful for the little blessings in addition to all the big ones.  (1 Thessalonians 5:18)

10. To be more authentic in my faith by going out of my way to be there for those who don’t have others in their lives who really care about them.  (James 1:27)

11. To make the hard decisions to eliminate those things in my life that cause me to conform to the pattern of this world rather than be transformed into Christlikeness.  (Romans 12:2)

12. To recognize that God is there with me during the difficult times instead of thinking that He’s forgotten about me.  (Psalm 23; Hebrews 13:5b)

13. To be patient and realize that God is working things out in my life for my good that I can’t quite see at the time.  (Romans 8:28)

14. To surround myself with others who sharpen my faith walk instead of those who tend to take me down wayward paths.  (Proverbs 27:17; 1 Corinthians 15:33)

15. To never lose hope even when all seems hopeless.  (Isaiah 40:31)

Which resolution resonates the most with you?

Left Out at Christmas

LeftOut

We all know what it feels like to be on the outside looking in. To be the last one picked for a playground game of basketball. Or to be leered at by laughing eyes because of some physical characteristic that is beyond our control.

 

Those are inevitably times of isolation and doubt – times that leave us wondering about our value and our worth.

And yet we’re neither the first nor the last to ever encounter the outside-looking-in syndrome. In fact, in Scripture we find that Joseph and Mary knew all too well what it meant to be left out, to be turned away, to be scurried along. They had trekked the arduous seventy mile journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem as part of a census issued by the Roman government. As such, it wasn’t so much an option as it was a heavy handed requirement.

And the journey was even more complicated because Mary was pregnant and was closing in rapidly on the delivery date of her first child. It’s not difficult to imagine the frustrations that must have crept into her mind – a young, first time mother traveling literally dozens of dusty miles and a handful of days either by foot (or perhaps the traditional donkey) to a city that was not her home.

And though Joseph and Mary were pledged to be married, the ceremony had not yet taken place, meaning that there was a certain stigma attached to their situation even though it was a miraculous God event that had happened in their midst.

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Upon arriving in Bethlehem, which was basically the hometown of Joseph’s family, they quickly found doors closed and no vacancy signs lit, partly because the city was overcrowded with people and perhaps even more so because their entangled situation was an embarrassment to anyone who called them relatives.

And so after seventy miles of unpaved roads and labor pains, Joseph and Mary settled down for the evening in the only place deemed acceptable for such a motley crew of two soon to become three. Scripture refers to it simply as “there was no room for them in the inn” (Luke 2:7). And yet there’s a lot encased in that simple statement upon realizing to whom the “them” is actually referring. Young couple. Unmarried. With child.

In a city bustling with Joseph’s long lost cousins, maternal aunts, fraternal uncles, nephews, nieces, and grandparents galore, no one bothered to look and help. Or perhaps they did look and intentionally decided not to help, because the stigma attached to this young couple given their struggling situation was as magnified as the pride of both close and distant relatives alike.

And not even the imminent delivery of a tired and searching young lady could soften their hearts. There was no room for Mary, for Joseph, or even for Christ. Doors were closed. Lights were out. Tongues were surely talking. On this night.

Which is all a good reminder for us this Christmas.

How easy it us for us to not find room for Christ even at Christmas? Would we have missed out on that first Christmas as did so many? Or can we see God working through seemingly impossible situations and settings? Can we recognize Him doing something remarkably beautiful in even a dire dilemma?

There was no room for them that night. No room even for the glorious birth of Christ. Make it your prayer that there will always be room for what God wants to do in your life. Of how God wants to make Himself known in your midst. Even if it doesn’t quite fit your preconceived notions or initial impressions.

A Valentine’s Day Prayer for Singles

Heavenly Father,HappyValentinesDay-FINAL

In my heart I know today is just another day.  24 hours.  1440 minutes.  86,400 seconds.  Same as yesterday.  Same as tomorrow.

But in another sense it’s different from any other day.  Very different.  And I confess to you that sometimes throughout today I’ll let it get to me.  Let it get me down.  And even let the enemy get a foothold if I’m not careful.

I love to see the joy in the faces of the other ladies in my office as they smell the flowers and consume the cards with an unrestrained smile greeted by a cherished tear.  There’s nothing more special than that.  Knowing that someone didn’t just remember you.  But they remembered you enough to go out of their way to make a public display.  A spectacle of their love for you.  Now that’s special.

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The “One Thing” Experts Say a Good Relationship Must Have

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What is the “one thing” experts say a good relationship must have?

Dr. Neil Clark Warren has been a widely recognized clinical psychologist for 30+ years, is acknowledged as one of the nation’s leading relationship experts, and is perhaps most known as the founder of eHarmony.  When asked about the “one thing” absolutely necessary for a good relationship, this is what Dr. Warren had to say . . .

“I was talking with my good friend and colleague Les Parrott about the qualities of a good relationship when Les asked me, ‘Neil, if you could offer one word of advice to someone who is about to be married, what would it be?’

Without a moment’s hesitation, I replied, ‘Get yourself healthy before you get yourself married.’  The health I see as crucial for your relationship to survive and thrive is emotional health.

If you want to build intimacy with another person before you have done the hard work of getting yourself whole and healthy, all your relationships will become attempts to complete yourself.  Moreover, if you are not healthy yourself, you will almost always attach yourself to another person in hopes of validating your self-worth.  It’s as if you are saying, ‘He (or she) seems to have it all together, so if I attach myself to him, I can be healthy because he makes up for all the things I am lacking in my emotional stability.’

That’s why [an] essential dimension of a great relationship has to do with the quality of your self-conception and that of your partner.  A person who has a good self-conception doesn’t depend on anyone else to provide validation and meaning for life.  He or she is strong enough to face life alone if necessary.  He is prepared to deal with the ups and the downs, the good and the bad, the joys and the sorrows, and the harsh realities of life.

Over the years, I’ve counseled with thousands of individuals and couples, and I have discovered a provocative truth.  Most of those couples did not first and foremost have marriage problems; in almost every case, one or both of the partners had emotional problems that were magnified under the intense friction and heat that marriage produces.

The relationship between two people can be no healthier than the emotional health of the least healthy person.

– excerpted from “Falling in Love for All the Right Reasons” (Center Street, 2005) by Dr. Neil Clark Warren

14 for 2014: Resolutions for Single Adults in the Year Ahead

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14 for 2014.  Resolutions for single adults culled from 3+ years serving as Pastor of Single Adults at one of America’s largest churches.  Which resolutions resonate the most with you?  What would you add to the list?

  1. Instead of being consumed with trying to find someone to “complete” me, I will passionately pursue getting to know the One who created me.
  2. Life is too short to just let it pass me by.  I will laugh more in 2014 than ever before and put the “little things” that used to hold me back from pursuing my dreams into their proper perspective.
  3. When I think about the traits that I desire in a future mate, I am determined to be that type of person myself.  I want to embody the characteristics that I’m looking for in a spouse.
  4. I will back away from any dating relationship that crosses physical boundaries that are not honoring to God.
  5. I will be known as more of an encourager than a complainer.
  6. Focusing on my health and living well will be a top priority.  Eating right, getting consistent exercise, and establishing good sleep patterns will be everyday goals.
  7. I will take it to heart that God loves me unconditionally and that He can use even mistakes in my past to mold me into the person He wants me to be.
  8. I will take God at His Word to not be “unequally yoked” when it comes to relationships.
  9. I will not take friendships for granted but will go out of my way to be there for those who are always there for me.
  10. When others remind me that I am “still single,” I will respond with a smile and think to myself that this is a significant season of my life that God has set aside to serve Him in an especially faithful way.
  11. I will be grateful for what I do have in my life instead of focusing on what I don’t have.
  12. I will devote myself to understanding God’s Word like never before, even if it means cutting out other things in my life to have the necessary time that I know it’s going to take.
  13. I will be careful about what I expose myself to in 2014 when it comes to the Internet and other media.
  14. I will not hold on to hurt and bitterness from past relationships but will seek healing from God that allows me to live thankfully with a forgiving spirit.

May God richly bless you in 2014!

 

Dr. Greg Belcher – a single adult who has pastored churches in North Carolina and Georgia, most recently serving as the Pastor of Single Adults (and Young Professionals) at the rapidly growing Hope Community Church (7000+ weekly attendance) located in Raleigh, NC.

50 Years is a Long Time to Hear Someone Snore

oldercouple2Fifty years is a long time to be married.  And growing increasingly rare too.  Considering that you have to marry young.  And live to a relatively significant age.  To reach the fifty year marriage mark.  So part of it is purely logistical.  (The average age of both men and women when they marry for the first time continues to rise.  For guys, their average age for first time marriage is 29.  For ladies, their average age is 27.)

But there’s another reason why it’s increasingly rare for marriages to last fifty years.  And this reason may surprise you.  If you’ve been married for twenty years, it no longer means that you’re likely to make it to thirty.  Or if you’ve been married thirty years, it no longer necessarily means you’ll make it to forty.  Because, according to the National Center for Family and Marriage Research at Bowling Green State University in Ohio, those who are over age fifty are now divorcing at an accelerated pace.  In fact, the divorce rate for those over fifty doubled between 1990 and 2010.  Presently, 1 in 4 divorces involve those age fifty or more whereas in 1990 that number was only 1 in 10.

And so when you come across a couple that has gone the distance in marriage.  Especially if they’ve reached their fifty year anniversary.  Then you’ve come across a special, and increasingly rare, couple.  And they probably have a lot to teach all of us!

With that in mind, a survey of couples that have reached the magic fifty year anniversary mark gives us some important insight into what makes a marriage go the distance.
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Life is Full of Surprises

CharlieBrown-LifeIsFullOfSurprises2  “Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine. . .”
– Ephesians 3:20 (NIV)

Life is full of surprises.  And so is God.

In almost seven years of attending seminary, I heard some of the most distinguished theologians of our day describe God in astute terms.  He’s the God of the immutable.  He’s the God of the omnipotent.  He’s the God of the transcendent.  He’s the God of the immanent.  The God of the benevolent.

All magnificent words with which to characterize God.  All applicable.  All appropriate.

But never once do I remember one of my esteemed professors describing God as the “God of surprises.”  Which is surprising. 

It can be difficult for us in our learned ways to characterize God in terms that would appear to defy our mental grasp.  Even if it’s a surprisingly simple term.  And so we box Him in.  Like a caged tiger.  Or an aquariumed shark.  Or even a jailed criminal.  With words that aren’t so surprising.

So that He’s safe.  You’re safe.  I’m safe.  We’re all seemingly safe.  Since the tiger can’t bend steel.  The shark can’t bite through glass.  The criminal can’t do much of anything without a key.  And God is safely within our control.  And our grasp.  Within the box.  No surprises.

And yet God seems to do His best work when we try to box Him in.  Only to catch us, and everyone else, by surprise.
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When Romance Meets Reality in Every Relationship

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There’s a point in every relationship in which you eventually begin to see the other person not as the idealized self that your heart has romanticized but as the flawed individual that he or she necessarily is.  It’s happened to you.  It’s happened to others.  It’s happened to anyone who’s ever dated for any length of time.  Or crossed the threshold of marriage into reality.  And it’s at that point that you have to decide if you’re just in love with being in love or if you’re truly in love with a flesh-and-blood human being who faces the same struggles that you do.

Dr. Les Parrott, a professor of clinical psychology, and his wife, Dr. Leslie Parrott, a marriage and family therapist, have written about this key turning point in every relationship in their insightful book “Saving Your Marriage Before It Starts” (Zondervan, 1995).  Whether you’re presently in a relationship that’s headed to the altar or not, their description of what it means to come face-to-face with romantic disillusionment gives helpful direction to us all.  The following excerpt is taken from their book chapter addressing myths in relationships that must be confronted if you’re going to progress to a deeper level of intimacy.

“Most relationships begin with an emotional honeymoon, a time of deep and passionate romance.  But this romance is invariably temporary.  In The Road Less Traveled, Dr. Scott Peck says that ‘no matter whom we fall in love with, we sooner or later fall out of love if the relationship continues long enough.’  He does not mean that we cease loving our partner.  He means that the feeling of ecstatic love that characterizes the experience of falling in love always passes.  ‘The honeymoon always ends,’ he states.  ‘The bloom of romance always fades.’
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