Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Being Single

Being Single Ralph Hephzy Ehiabhi (His Inextinguishable Power Hovering Over People is Life Ministries {HIPHOP is Life Ministries}.)www.hephzy.blogspot.com +234-806-5976-701, eazyraph@yahoo.com Recently, a friend asked me a question that has popped up occasionally in my time in ministry: Should I stay single or should I settle down to serve Christ in a life-long commitment to another? To both singles and married folks alike, I’d love to share this exchange with you in the hopes that it would encourage you all to keep Christ the focus of not only your relationships, but your lives: From: xxxxxxx xxxxxxxxx Sent: Friday, January 20, 2012 11:01 AM To: Pst. Ralph Subject: I’d like to hear your thoughts… Hey Ralph, I’d like to hear what you have to say about this since you are a Godly single man seeking after Christ. This past semester in my local church our Bible study was over 1 Corinthians. As an unmarried man I have been wrestling with/considering 1 Corinthians 7 (primarily vs 7-9). I certainly know that Paul does not forbid marriage and that there are many benefits of it, spiritual and non-spiritual. What initially caught my attention was that Paul says that he wishes more people were like him (single)…and elsewhere in the book that married men are focused on things of the world whereas single men are focused on the things of the Lord. (Obviously only disciplined and Godly single men are focused on the things of the Lord and being single does not automatically make one focused on the Lord…I also take the statement about married men being focused on things of the world as Godly men being focused on the world only to the extent that is necessary for them to take care of their families…not a sin just a non spiritual necessity). I believe that Paul talks of marriage and celibacy as different spiritual gifts, that one is not necessarily better than the other. I know that God calls people to different lives and that marriage and singleness are both callings that he equips people for. Perhaps part of the reason I have been wrestling with this passage is because I had not really studied it or heard it preached on in the past. I also feel that most Christians and churches in Africa do not take singleness seriously because it is counter culture and seeing that might also be why I have been wrestling with it. (Obviously I have not been to most of the churches so I can not necessarily make that statement with evidence). You may have already discerned that the reason for this email is that I am a single man who wants to pursue the Lord and righteousness above all else, who is nearing life decision points in his life, and I have been weighing and evaluating these scriptures and God’s will for my life. I have been dating the same girl since high school. I certainly believe that God has blessed our relationship and that it has often been used to glorify him (and of course we have had our struggles and hard times). My girlfriend has been and become a wonderful, Godly woman who I would be incredibly blessed to be married to. And this has certainly been my (and our) thought for a while. However, there are a few reasons why I have been searching to see if God has called me to singleness ever since I had my 1 Corinthians Bible study. For one, I feel called to work in a demanding/non family friendly and dangerous career. However, my girlfriend has sincerely expressed willingness and desire to go wherever the Lord sends me be it dangerous or not, so that is not that big of a reason anymore. I am concerned about my career as I know I will be a workaholic. This is a blessing and a curse because if God gave me a family I do not want to be an absent father, so I know there would be conflict between being the father that is needed and performing the career I feel called to serve in. I can see how the Lord has equipped me to be single more so than most people I know. For one, I enjoy solitude (though I never consider myself alone, but I enjoy being free of distraction and the world) and I believe that I grow the most spiritually when I am away by myself or my girlfriend and I are away from each other. The biggest reason I have been weighing this is certainly the scriptures. I know that God made marriage and gives it as a blessing. But I feel Paul is also saying that God has made some to be single and it is better for them to be singularly devoted to the Lord. I certainly take scripture as the authoritative message of God and will do (try to do) what it says. I have talked to my dad about this and he brought up the point that marriage can provide the support and encouragement to better serve the Lord. I agree with him and appreciated that input. I can easily see how the scripture would encourage singleness. So going back to my main point I would like to know what you feel led to share with me on the matter as you are a single man that is serving the Lord. As I have told my girlfriend when discussing this, I do not yet know what God is calling me to in this situation. But I am seeking His will so that I can say/act/live with certainty that I am doing the right thing and that I have carefully considered the scripture and the truth. I am very sorry for the length and density of this email. I know that ultimately God will guide me according to his will if I seek after him. If anything this has helped me filter my thoughts. I appreciate anything you might have to say. Of course I would appreciate your prayers that God will give me direction and boldness to go where he calls me to and to serve wholeheartedly in all aspects of my life. From: Ralph Hephzy Sent: Wednesday, January 25, 2012 4:17 PM To: xxxxxx xxxxxxx Subject: RE: I’d like to hear your thoughts… Sorry to just now be getting back to you as I have been out of town for a few days. Unsurprisingly I am very encouraged with the way you have been processing this and searching through what God would have in store for you next. Love how have been unpacking 1 Corinthians 7 to see how it applies to you. A few thoughts…and I’d love for you to share this with your dad and the other guys from your Bible study as they know you/your relationship best and can counsel your situation consistently. For starters, while marriage is a largely important part of most people’s adult lives, we weren’t created to eventually get married…we were created to know Christ and make Him known. We were created to “not be alone”….but that doesn’t require marriage and sadly many married folks don’t pursue oneness with each other or with others in biblical community as Christ intends. Marriage is required for us to biologically “be fruitful and multiply” but we certainly can (and should) do that spiritually as single Christ followers. Check out a message I heard 2 years ago called, “The Complete Single: Oxymoron or Option”. The first question I would have you ask yourself (which it sounds like you done to some degree) is what circumstances will allow you to do that best? Will marriage be a place where you can partner with another to serve the Lord, understand your own struggles more intimately, and grow in your faith, or will it hinder you from following Christ in any way that He is asking you to do? Tommy Nelson did a good job with this topic even longer ago when he gave a message titled something like “The Monkey of Marriage and How It Can Grow To Be the Gorilla of Distraction”. He talks about 1 Corinthians 7 and I think I refer to it some more in my message. You might enjoy both. On another note, I would caution you some more against giving too much weight to your future job pursuits (while they deserve some consideration and certainly are something you should be communicating with your girlfriend about). I would encourage you to live fully in light of today instead of making decisions based on an uncertain future. I am fully confident that you can achieve these high goals that you have set for yourself, but only God knows exactly what our future is (James 4:13-15). He will take care of you and your hopes and dreams whether you are married or single….keep seeking him like you have so far, with ALL your heart soul and mind and marriage/career/future will be a joy. I would also encourage you to think through your implication (resignation?) to be a “workaholic”. You know God is glorified when we work hard in all we do (Colossians 3:23, 1 Corinthians 10:31), but that doesn’t have to look like a role that puts you in a position to trump family and your relationship with Him. Our first calling is to be a follower of Christ, and if we are married, our second calling is to care for our spouse…I would never counsel anyone to decide early on in life that they would put themselves in a job function that elevates the day-to-day of that ahead of either of the things above. I understand your concern about bringing a family into the jobs you want to pursue, and that is valid as those industries need devoted followers of Christ ministering/serving in them…but above all set yourself up for success in a vocation that gives you room to abide with Him….and to Paul’s point, single soldiers (2 Timothy 2:3-4/1 Corinthians 7) have less homeland concerns so they can be less distracted/encumbered/responsible for/concerned by/obligated to other things than the war at hand. BUT…don’t underestimate marriage as a gift from God….for more than kids or sex. It is a great place to learn things that can only be learned in the furnace of trial and commitment. Luther once said, “l learned more about spirituality and surrender in marriage than I ever did in the monastery”. Frances de Sales (17th century Christian writer) replied to a young woman asking him what he thought about her friend’s advice that she should not get married because it was “more holy” to remain single, care for her father and to devote herself as celibate to God by saying, “The state of marriage is one that requires more virtue and constancy than any other. It is a perpetual exercise of mortification…from this thyme plant, in spite of the bitter nature of its juice, you may be able to draw and make the honey of a holy life.” So not only have you not sinned if you marry….you are set up to be sanctified in great ways if you stay committed to your commitment. As you know, Relationship has been a blessing to me as it has grown me in ways nothing else has (worldly speaking) and certainly given me blessing and encouragement as well…whether you choose to pursue marriage, to remain single for a time, or to remain single for your time on earth, your #1 priority is your relationship with the Lord. Bottom line…be faithful where you are. Whether married or single. Be a faithful student of the word, friend, son, boyfriend, and servant. Honor your girlfriend in dating by continuing to pursue her as long as with her, and by guarding her heart if you feel led to step away from that relationship. Given that y’all have been together as long as you have been….it is getting REALLY close to the time to release her to pursue others who have the desire to enter into a covenantal relationship or let her know you are pursuing that with her. It is not as if y’all need to get to know each other better…and keeping her around in case you do want to get married someday is not exactly putting her interests ahead of your own. Be free….but be considerate and willing to live with your indecision or decision; that is what Godly men do. Philippians 2:3-5. Praying for you…may you be devoted to Christ and center all of your relationship around Him. May He bless you as you serve Him as a single man today. I am proud of you and rejoice with you at God’s kindness in your life. This email back is not complete….use it to get the conversation going with your guys/Dad/Lord…don’t use it as dogma. Romans 14:22, Ralph Hephzy

Me, Meet, and Mentor

Me, Meet, and Mentor Ralph Hephzy Ehiabhi (His Inextinguishable Power Hovering Over People is Life Ministries {HIPHOP is Life Ministries}.)www.hephzy.blogspot.com +234-806-5976-701, eazyraph@yahoo.com Whenever someone wants to spend time with me, I almost ALWAYS ask them who they are already running with and what their specific questions are. I LOVE getting with groups, and frequently “demand” that any individual who asks to meet with me bring with them 3-5 others who they “run” with or want to influence themselves. I do this for several reasons: It multiplies my time. Life change happens best in the context of relationships. It keeps the conversation going and multiplies the questions. It removes the “excitement” of getting to be “the guy” who got some time with “the guy”. It minimizes any confusion that might come in something I said because only one set of ears heard it. (Of course, the opposite is also true. My stupidity could be confirmed by the masses and I’m willing to take that risk. I have had a lot more trouble with the former than the latter. People who are “advice seeking” love to isolate their counselors so they are the sole arbiter/interpreter of what they heard from their “multitude” of counselors. Meeting with 10 different “counselors” one at a time is infinitely worse than meeting with the 10 of them together, and since it is hard to get 10 counselors together at once the next best thing is to have your community with you when you meet with any counselor.) It produces immediate accountability if something is shared that needs to be acted on. Nothing else comes to mind, but 7 is the perfect number, and I wanted to put something that looks like I had perfect thoughts on this. The other thing I almost always share with people, and ask from them, is for them to come with questions. The majority of the time, I ask for the questions, or at least a good representation of what the main question(s) are going to be, in advance. I know from experience that if folks really have questions, firing them right back is NO problem. If, however, they are a victim of the “if I can just get a meal/cup of coffee with ‘the guy’ then my life will change, my dating life will pick up, my career will advance, I will become more popular and Jesus will be able to use me more” mentality, I sometimes don’t hear back. So read the below, use the above, and keep seeking Jesus with all your heart. Jesus is available, is worth telling others you know Him personally and you can spend all the time alone with Him you want. Proverbs 4:7 Five Ways to Find a Mentor By Michael Hyatt (This is a guest post by Daniel Darling. He is the Senior Pastor of Gages Lake Bible Church in the northwest suburbs of Chicago and is the author of iFaith, Connecting with God in the 21st Century. You can read his blog or follow him on Twitter. If you want to guest post on this blog, check out the guidelines here.) The value of a mentor cannot be overestimated. A mentor is someone who is a few laps ahead of you in an area of life where you wish to find success. More than formal training, more than a book or a seminar, a good mentor brings his or her personal experience to bear on your life in a way that may shape it forever. But how to find one? It’s actually easier than you think. Here are five ways to find a mentor: Don’t Start with Seth Godin or Max Lucado. Yes, we’d all love to have someone at the top of our profession mentor us. But not only is this unrealistic, it’s also unhelpful. Chances are that the advice of someone at the very top would be intimidating or unhelpful to you at your current pace of life. Instead, look for someone a few levels ahead of you in your chosen field. Someone accessible to you. There is a pastor in my community whose church is medium-sized, but not mega. Since I pastor a small church, he’s perfect for me and has the time. Attend trade functions or gatherings in your community. As a pastor, I regularly attend pastor’s gatherings in our area. I’ve also done this in the Christian publishing field. Simply attending and meeting new people has led to many rich mentoring relationships. If you stay inside your office your entire life, you’ll never experience the opportunity to be enriched by the wisdom of others. Make friendships through simple conversation. You don’t find a mentor by asking someone, “Can you be my mentor?” That’s a bit awkward and may seem to put a heavy burden on someone who doesn’t know you very well. Instead, meet people, develop relationships through conversation and let natural human interaction be your guide. Follow up with a request to meet again, one-on-one. If you’ve gotten to know someone you think you can learn from, get his contact information and ask him something like, “Hey, I’d love to sit for coffee and pick your brain on _______.” This is the intentional part of finding a mentor. I’ve done this a number of times both with pastors and with writers and have found them eager to share what they know about their chosen field. Ask questions. When you do meet for coffee, pepper the mentor with questions and then sit back and listen. Ask him questions like, “How did you get into this field?” “What have you learned over the years?” “What do you think of this idea?” Don’t try to wow him with all you’ve done. You’re there to learn from his success. Mentoring relationships are valuable . . . and they aren’t complicated. They are simply friendships which have the potential to help shape your future. Oh, and a bonus tip: pick up the tab. The wisdom you gain is well worth the price of a latte.