Thursday, April 2, 2015

Singleness Forum and Resources - Trailhead Church - March 2015

Last week I was privileged to lead a forum on singleness with three amazing people at Trailhead.  We had a good evening full of hard questions, thoughtful answers, and good teaching from Redeemer Presbyterian Church (New York, Tim Keller) via video.   We did not record the evening because we wanted the attenders and participants to be able to speak freely without worry of their questions being shared to a bigger audience.  I do want to thank Kristy Wakefield, Meagan Monke, and Kevin Monke for willing to be open and honest and vulnerable.  That is a hard thing to do.  They did it well - to the glory of Jesus.   Here is a brief overview with links.  (If you are short on time - I recommend that you watch the two video clips listed below for Bethany Jenkins and Wesley Hill)

This forum was planned in the middle of the Song of Solomon series at Trailhead Church.  It had to be postponed due to the snow - but we want to begin in that context.  The language of Song of Songs is that of oneness.  Oneness in a marriage relationship.  Song of Solomon 2:16 - "My beloved is mine and I am his."  Jesus offers us that oneness - that belonging - that relationship!!  In John 17:11 Jesus prays for us:  "Keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one."  This is the language of oneness, of community.  The church has historically said that the epitome of oneness is marriage, that true oneness is found only in marriage.  This is false.  The CHURCH is the perfect experience of oneness.  Jesus prays for oneness for you.  He intercedes on our behalf.  Psalm 68:4-6 "...God settles the solitary in a home."  Romans 12:5 "So we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another."

We briefly looked at singleness in the context of the Old Testament (Old Covenant) and New Testament (New Covenant).  What does God think?  This is taken from a sermon by Jenny Salt (From the Gospel Coalition Women's Conference 2012  Listen here.)

Under the Old Covenant
  • Physical blessings most important
  • Genesis 2 - marriage for community just as God has community in the Trinity
  • Marriage was needed to grow the nation of Israel
  • Marriage was needed for protection 
  • Marriage was needed for preserving inheritance.  
  • No voluntary singleness is seen in Israel.
Under the New Covenant
  • Spiritual blessings most important
  • The Church offers community just as God has community in the Trinity
  • Jesus was single - did not need marriage for community
  • Church offers protection for those not in a family
  • Matthew 19:11-12 - Singleness is mentioned as a possibility by Jesus
  • Mark 12:18 - Jesus describes marriage as temporary and if temporary then it is of lesser importance than our standing in Christ Jesus.  Heaven is beyond the limits of earthly marriage - this life is NOT all there is.
  • 1 Corinthians 7:32 - Both marriage and singleness are good.  God uses both.  They are equal - both reflecting the character of God.  One is not better than the other.  
Ms. Salt took much of her information (and gives as a resource) the book Redeeming Singleness by Barry Danylak.  I highly recommend that book as well.  It will be listed in the resource list below.

This was our schedule for the evening:
7:00-05  WELCOME

7:05 - Open with first video:  Questions to Redeemer members about singleness 

7:15 - INTRODUCTION TO THE EVENT/EXPECTATIONS -   Discuss the theology of singleness:

7:45-8:00 Play entire Bethany Jenkins video
Click this link:   
  • Our identities are not founded on what we don’t have, but on what we have been given
  • Family - commitments to spiritual family
  • Kiss - the church should be as affectionate as possible - covering our brokenness and shame
  • Future - Look at the future with eyes of faith: “single by sight, but betrothed by faith”, “let not your hearts be troubled”
  • Stanley Hauerwas - “There can be no more radical act than singleness as it is the clearest, institutional expression that one’s future is not guaranteed by the family but by the church.  The church, the harbinger of the kingdom of god, is now the source of our primary loyalty.”

8:15-8:45  Q&A

8:45-9:15  Play entire Wesley Hill video - CHASTITY (and spiritual friendships)
  • Seeing chastity as part of God’s POSITIVE calling - to enter fully the risen life of Christ
  • Phil 3:4-11 To know Christ, be known by Christ, new identity in Christ, orient his life around Christ, bless others around him (share in Christ’s sufferings)
  • 2 Cor 4
  • Must not see my calling/obedience in negative terms - my primary goal is not to keep myself from doing something.  “Out of enunciation comes a positive vocation.”
  • Two types of love - “You’re mine because I love you.” (Friendship) or “I love you because you are mine” (God given friendships - they are given, vowed, not-negotiable.)  Mutual commitment.  I am called to this vision.  Don’t have to be married to wait for this relationship.  Fully honorable loves - not second class love.

9:15-9:45  Q&A

Book - Redeeming Singleness:  How the Storyline of Scripture Affirms Singleness by Barry Danylak

BEST resource:   Sermon on The Theology of Singleness from Gospel Coalition 2012 (audio only):

Four Books on Singleness recommended by The Gospel Coalition:

Video by David Platt “Don’t Squander Your Singleness” (17 minutes) which is a call to mission

Best resource about same sex attraction (and loneliness and struggling against sin for everyone):  Book - Washed and Waiting by Wesley Hill

The entire S!NGLES forum put on by Redeemer Presbyterian Church, Tim Keller's church in New York City is available to stream.  It is worth your time!

Dating Resources recommended by Desiring God:
Two Highlighted:
  • Quotes:  “While the great prize in marriage is Christ-centered intimacy, the great prize in dating is Christ-centered clarity.”
  • “Focus on the harvest, and you’re bound to find a helper. Instead of making it your mission to get married, make your mission God’s global cause and the advance of the gospel where you are, and look for someone pursuing the same.”
  • “Don’t let your mind marry him/her before the rest of you can.”
  1. The questions:  Is My Boyfriend (or Girlfriend) Godly Enough?
  2. Is There “Too Fast” In Christian Dating?
  3. Has Facebook Ruined Dating?
  4. Should My Church Help Me Get Married?
  5. Should I Date a Godly Girl I Do Not Find Attractive?
  6. Should a Boyfriend “Lead” His Girlfriend?
  7. Keys to Sexual Purity in Dating?
  8. When Should a Single Stop Dating?
  9. Dating and Marriage for the Victims of Past Abuse
  10. What Hope Does God Offer Lonely Singles?

A Story of Friendship and Kentucky Blue

It is March.  That means March Madness.  My team is doing pretty well.  I am happy.  Today I am actually wearing my Kentucky sweatshirt.  That used to just make me think of my beloved Wildcats team.  Lately, though, I think more of my friends when I where this.  There is a lovely story.  I'll share it with you.

Back in the early fall of 2014 I woke from one of those mesmerizing dreams that leave you wishing you could go back to sleep.  I dreamt that it was my birthday and all I wanted was hot fudge sundaes and time to pray with a group of eight specific women.  So I promptly emailed all eight of them and told them about my wacky, beautiful dream.  They did not all know each other and we all live in far away places, so getting together is impossible.  But I wanted each of them to know how fun my dream was and how someday in heaven we would have hot fudge sundaes together and plenty of time to pray!

Fast forward to my actual birthday.  Wouldn't you know it, but one of those women is a beautiful instigator!  And she worked her tail off to plan a way for all of those wonderful women to secretly come to my house - everyone made it except one who needed to stay home (but she was so very missed!).  The funny thing is that I was actually cleaning my garage when they showed up!  Steve had taken me out to birthday dinner and then I had asked if we could spend some time working on our colossal disaster of a garage!  (Yes, I know, I know.  Not very cool.   But "acts of service" is my love language!)  I teased him later that he could have said, "Yes, dear.  But you may want to put on a cute shirt to do so!"  He did not.  So I was scrubbing mud off of the back door while wearing my big, well worn, very unflattering Kentucky sweatshirt when my first friend walked in!

In comes  beautiful friend #1 with ice cream.  She said she wanted to give me a hot fudge sundae for my birthday.  Hooray for me!  Nothing too unusual.  Then two more beautiful friends showed up.  I should have been suspicious when I noticed my Arkansas friend wearing a UK shirt.  However,  I was so excited I didn't really process that.  Then my most cherished, lovely Kansas City friend strolled in and I could start crying even now when thinking of how elated I was to see her!  We proceeded to make our sundaes.  Then... they kept on coming!  One at a time!  My beautiful friend from Wisconsin.  Oh, the tears!  And as soon as I stopped crying in walked my lovely friend from Memphis!   More sobbing and hugging!  Then, my lovely friend from Florida waltzed in and I was a weeping fountain of tears!  Y'all - there is video.  I am not joking.  But I will refrain from sharing that... you are welcome!  It was so sweet, yet heart wrenching, to hear that my dear, dear beautiful friend from St. Louis had been
unable to join us for reasons outside her control!    (But boy did we pray for her!)

Bonus - they were all wearing Kentucky blue!!

Oh everyone... have you ever been overwhelmed with how loved you are?  I am so rarely overwhelmed (except maybe by fear!).  But they did it.  I am told that I ate a hot fudge sundae - but I truly don't remember it.  And it was the sweetest time of prayer that I have EVER experienced.  Sadly, at the end of the evening - well, in the early morning, everyone had to go back to their homes and families.  It was truly like a dream.

What a story of friendship and sacrifice.  It was hard to leave families and responsibilities and drive for hours (one friend with a broken tailbone even! and one friend hopping several different flights)!  But I am grateful.  They are such a picture of the sacrificial love of Jesus to me.  Every day.  They love me well by praying and pointing me back to Jesus.  Makes me think of the verse in Hebrews 10:26  "Let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works."

It is difficult to write a post like this - for I have so, so many good friends.  I cannot tell you where I would be without my Trailhead Church friends and family.  They love me day in and day out and I love them right back!  Truly.  And my husband and parents and sisters and my children!  But these ladies made a dream come true.  Literally.  :)  And I am thankful.