“Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she laughs at the time to come.” Proverbs 31:25
Created on Tuesday, 17 July 2018 09:41
Written by Holly DeKorte
we began looking at the points from Aaron’s sermon on singleness and how they have realistically played out in my own life. I am sharing my story of singleness with the hope it will encourage God’s people to love and value countercultural singles in a tangible way. Let us continue looking at the last four points (editor’s note, we split this last blog post into 2 weeks because of the length. This blog will cover points 4 and 5 from Aaron’s message found here. Next week will finish with points 6 and 7
4. Get your life in order before inviting others into it.
As you may have inferred from the last two blog posts, I am a romantic idealist with achiever-like tendencies. Point number four is the most dangerous for people like me. “Get your life in order” has the potential to morph into works-righteousness, the belief that one can earn God’s favor or blessings. In my twenties, I believed that “getting your life in order” meant getting a master’s degree. Most recently, I went back to school for my Administrator Credential. My job is stable, my savings account is solid, and I even own a house here in Santa Maria. I am prepared for marriage and family! (Proverbs 24:27).
Friends, marriage is a gift, and it is not a gift that I can hope to earn, nor one that I am owed. Marriage is actually one of the first gifts given by the Creator and Sustainer of all things. Yes, there is responsibility on our part. If you are playing video games all the time, are partying like its 1999, or are not living a healthy lifestyle, then I would venture to say you are probably not ready for marriage. These kinds of behaviors are not in step with the way of wisdom Proverbs describes. HOWEVER, God still gives this gift to those who we would say are not prepared. I do not pretend to know the mind of God, but I have seen how marriage has been used to help young people grow up. There is nothing like a sick baby to mature a man!
I have been told so many times, “Holly, marriage will come when you least expect it!” There is a problem with this... now I have something that I
need to do. I need to NOT expect marriage. William Carey, a Protestant missionary once said, “Expect great things from God; attempt great things for God.” Though the theology can be debated, this quote reflects how God has created me as an individual. Placing the “no expectation” expectation on me might as well be telling me not to breathe! Instead of taking a works-centered approach to marriage, I need to be reminded that God is the trustworthy giver of gifts. He has currently gifted me with singleness. There is nothing, absolutely nothing, that I can do that will earn me the marriage gift.
5. Guard your heart.
This point is perhaps the most countercultural of all. Guess what? I desire physical intimacy... isn’t that shocking? A Christian single woman wants “that!” She must be sinning! Quick! Judge her for wanting the rights of marriage! Tell her that at least she has friends and family who love her! Friendship love must be able to take the place of marriage love, right? My heart breaks for all single Christians who find themselves with this unmet, Godly desire, and especially for those who do not feel the freedom to express this grief. We are called quite clearly to marriage and sex only between a husband and wife. Aaron has described this as “the normative call God places on His people.” God proclaims marriage good. He uses marriage to build His Church and also as an illustration of the intimacy He shares with His Church. It is not wrong to desire this call; however, it is wrong (as I discussed last week) to make marriage an idol. Let us assume that most countercultural singles desire marriage, and also desire God’s will above their own. How on earth are they to survive in a sex-crazed culture?
Firstly, I must speak the Gospel to myself daily. My hope is in God alone. It is not in an online dating site. It is not in a man. It is not in family or friends. It is in the One who came to restore His creation back to good. It is in the One who died a death of substitutionary atonement. It is in the One who breaks the chains of Satan, sin, and death. The Gospel keeps my desire for God first in my heart. I desire to proclaim His name among the nations, to reflect His glory, and to disciple others to Him. As the hymn goes, “Thou and thou only first in my heart; High King of heaven my treasure thou art.”
Secondly, I must realize how my heart is guarded. Philippians 4:7 states, “And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
” Jesus is the guardian of my heart; He gives me peace that I do not understand. He really has all authority. As I date someone, I earnestly pray, “God, if this is not the relationship you have for me, open my eyes. Make it clear. Intercede and fight for me.” He does and sometimes I fight back, trying to hold onto something that isn’t right (more about that in point 7). My will does, eventually, become God’s will. My heart is placed in His care. The world of promiscuity is tempting, yet my desire for God is stronger.
As the Church, pray. Pray that those living a countercultural single life will see how God uses them to proclaim His name and pray that their foremost desire is for Him. Also, if you know singles who are compatible (meaning they both currently walk with the Lord, are in the same age range, have similar lifestyles, and desire to be married), play matchmaker! Sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn’t. That is okay! Many singles appreciate an introduction and look at it as an opportunity to get to know someone new. Always check with both individuals, though, before proceeding and certainly pray about it.
“Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.” Proverbs 4:23
Created on Tuesday, 10 July 2018 09:17
Written by Holly DeKorte
I left you on a bit of a cliff hanger. I shared how God brought me back to Santa Maria and how the attitude of my heart was challenged as He was guiding me home. Finding myself back in Santa Maria meant something of an identity crisis that I inadvertently placed on myself. I wasn’t “Holly, Child of the Most High King.” I was, “Holly, Matt’s sister,” “Holly, the DeKortes’ daughter,” “Holly, the world traveler who moved back home,” “Holly, the teacher,” and “Holly, the single.” In the years that have followed, God worked through His Word, the Holy Spirit, and even His Church to renew, redeem, and restore my identity.
Aaron’s sermon on singleness is an excellent platform to discuss how God has accomplished this mighty task of restoring my identity and equipping me to live as a counter-cultural single. The seven sermon points will also show how we, the Church, the Bride of Christ, can do a better job of valuing and loving singles. Let’s face it...singles need a whole lotta love, but probably not how you might expect! I don’t need another meme sent to me about waiting on the Lord. I need your families. I need your hugs. I need laughter. I need the Gospel.
1. Open your eyes and look around to what God is doing.
In my own words, be willing to accept the gifts that God has given or will give. This might be lifelong singleness or finding yourself as a stepparent to three kids. We do not get to dictate God’s grace in our lives, but we have the choice to be obedient to His call. He sees the bigger picture and knows our hearts! I’ve wrestled with this quite a bit and have had many a conversation with God about it. “But God, what if I don’t like
the person you bring into my life?!” Remember, He is a good father. Good fathers discipline and establish character in a loving, non-abusive, non-manipulative way.
Looking around to what God is doing has helped me move past self-centeredness. Just this past fall, I took a class called Perspectives on World Mission (which I HIGHLY recommend). God used the class to break my heart for those who do not know Him, who have not heard the good news of the Gospel. After taking the class, I began to believe that God might be calling me back overseas as a tentmaker missionary (one who has a “regular” job, and spreads the Gospel through working the job and living a Gospel-centered life.) I met with a life coach, and he encouraged me to look around at what God might have me do here in Santa Maria instead. That led to joining a prayer team for unreached people groups and also becoming involved with Royal Family Kids. Let me tell you, God has opened my eyes and saved me from my self-centered thinking. There is SO much He is doing in Santa Maria. Praise Him!
2. Don’t idolize (or idealize!) any relationship, worship Jesus!
This is where things get messy. In fact, I don’t really like to talk about it. Four years ago, I heard quite clearly to “be still,” specifically regarding singleness. Do you know how hard it is to be still and to try not to control your own life? A few years ago, I had had enough. I saw God giving good gifts to “everyone,” but me. I jumped on a dating site and met a man, who didn’t follow Christ or honor God. Yet, I let him into my life and heart because I so very much wanted marriage and a family. God, like He has done with all my relationships, protected me, and the relationship ended. Like the mother hen, He sheltered me under His wings. I got angry; I questioned His love for me. He took away what I wanted and I threw a fit, just like toddlers and even seasoned Christians are known to do.
This led me to Redemption Groups, a ministry offered at Element. In my group, I was challenged to see marriage as what I had made it: an idol. Michelle Gee asked me, “Would you still love God even if he never gave you a husband?” In my anger, I couldn’t answer that I would. During the weeks that followed, God clearly showed me that He loves me. The phrase “the steadfast love of the Lord,” began to jump out at me while reading scripture. The Psalms especially illustrate how God’s children can cry out to Him, and by doing so, are reminded of God’s unfailing love (Psalm 145).
I can’t say that stillness and knowing that God loves me came overnight. I had another big bump or two along the way, but Redemption Groups was definitely the catalyst God used in revealing my idol of marriage and who alone is worthy of worship.
Brothers and sisters, please stand by the Christian singles who will need to grapple with that very difficult question: “Would you still love God even if He never gave you a spouse?” Pray that the Holy Spirit will open their eyes and hearts, that they will undoubtedly know their lives belong to God alone. Do not shame them; do cry with them. Do not give them false hope or stories about a 70-year-old woman who finally met her husband; do point to the source of all hope.
3. Seek wisdom and understanding.
My family is a picture of a gift I could not begin to deserve. God gave me wise, understanding parents who continue to walk beside me through this season of my life. Their support has not always been perfect, but their wise counsel and prayers have helped me to live a counter-cultural life. When they do not have the counsel that I need, they point me to people who might. “Talk to your brother. Talk to your sister (in-law). Talk to your married friends. Talk to Deb Harman. Talk to God.” My mom will often say these words, sometimes in one sentence. Its great advice given by a great mom.
I still have a desire for marriage, so a few months ago, I started talking to the four members of my immediate family about re-joining dating sites. I wanted them to give me feedback on my heart and whether it was ready for the online dating rollercoaster. The last two months indeed have been an up and down journey. Imagine receiving paragraphs and paragraphs from an eligible man and then the messages abruptly stop. Imagine beginning a conversation with a person who then wants to meet you the very next day. Imagine men who like to post pictures in their underwear and then wonder why you don’t feel comfortable Facetiming them. Imagine meeting someone with potential and then letting that person go. My family and close friends continue to pray for me through this process. I am so thankful for their wisdom and support.
Next week, we will look at Aaron’s last four remaining sermon points regarding singleness
. In the meantime, find a single to invite over for dinner! Get to know his or her story. You might be surprised to find a passionate, God-loving heart hidden behind the “single” identity.
Created on Tuesday, 03 July 2018 14:09
Written by Holly DeKorte
“The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.” Proverbs 16:9
I love my life. Truly, I do. However, my life does not look like the typical almost-forty-year-old woman’s life. There is no husband to love, no children of my own to nurture, and no goodnight kisses, prayers, or hugs. I know what you are thinking. I know, because I have been told...
“Be thankful that you don’t have an abundance of dishes to do!”
“Enjoy doing what you want to do; you don’t have to worry about anyone else!”
“Treasure those quiet, peaceful moments at home. If you’re married, you have to compromise ALL the time!”
“You’re so lucky you don’t have to get kids home to bed.”
Singleness is a gift that I have not always wanted. In my ordered scheme of things, I would be married with four children by now. As William Shakespeare might say in this context, singleness was thrust upon me! God in his goodness, has taught me and shepherded me through this very, very long season of learning to navigate singleness. His rod and staff have guided me and comforted me. Over the next few weeks, I’ll be sharing a bit of what it means to live as a counter-cultural single, how I have failed, and how the Church can become equipped to love and value singles. Important to note: every single person has a different story. I am only telling the story that God has written for me.
So, my story…
After college, I had two assumptions: 1) I’d get a job, and 2) I’d get married. The job came (albeit in Bakersfield!), but no husband. So...I did what achievers do and earned a Master’s degree. Feeling accomplished, I again assumed that God would send me a husband. After all, I had a house that I owned, an excellent job, two degrees, a solid knowledge and love of the Lord, and a pretty great personality! I was a twenty-six year old grown-up. My expectation was that God would soon partner me with someone with whom I could build a family, especially since my part of the “life equation” appeared in order. During this time, God started to fan a different desire, one that had been placed in me as a teenager. On the eve of my twenty-ninth birthday, I was hired to teach at an international school in Albania. I sold my house, quit my job, and eight months later moved to the Balkans.
Teaching overseas was an absolute joy. I did miss my family and friends, but revelled in the experience. My mom always calls my time in Albania, “the perfect storm.” I was gifted with fellow adventurers. Practically the minute I arrived, I met three other single girls who loved people, traveling, fun, wine, and food. Our shared interests united us. Here, my singleness did not ostracize me from community; it gave me community. This was freeing. Then, after two years, I moved to Ukraine where I was greeted with different community. There were many Christian couples with small children. The couples embraced me as a sister and the children loved me as an auntie. The burden of singleness was not so heavy with others to share it. I am thankful that while I lived overseas God gave me opportunities to travel, work with orphans, share the Gospel, live in authentic community with other Christians, and truly love people who think and behave differently than me. He was expanding my heart and I believed I had found my life’s purpose.
After teaching for two years in Albania and three years in Ukraine, God gave me a different call. “Move home,” He said. A peace I never knew before surrounded me as I searched for jobs back home in California. I pictured myself in the Bay Area or Sacramento, surrounded by movers and shakers and ideal would-be marriage partners. However, God’s call was literal. I applied to over one hundred teaching positions in Northern California and no doors opened. I started questioning my decision to move home--whether I really had heard from God, or if it was just a wave of homesickness. By then, I was humbled enough to apply in Santa Maria just weeks after I had informed my mother, “I will NEVER move back to Santa Maria.” (I didn’t have high hopes for life as an older single in a small town.) Within days, of course, I had two job interviews lined up and then a solid job offer. I was home.
Next week I will be focusing on the points from Aaron’s Singleness sermon
and how those points have shown up in my experience as a single. Now you have the backstory.
Created on Tuesday, 26 June 2018 21:32
Written by Nicole Teixeira
Before I share my thoughts regarding singleness I would like to state the views and opinions expressed are based on my experiences and interpretation of Christ living in my life.
This past Sunday Aaron gave a sermon on singleness
and my first thought was, “If I have to listen to another sermon on singleness I’m going…” My second thought was, “this is probably the last time I will listen to a sermon on singleness as a single woman.” My wedding is scheduled for later this year! Since my engagement I have been thinking about the 20 years I have been an adult single (I’m 36). Twenty years seems a bit dramatic because I probably would not have been married at 16, but this is the age I was allowed to date, the year my dad gave me a promise ring, and the year I really started thinking about being in a dating relationship with the hopes of marriage. I desired to be married at a very young girl, but at the age of 16 it seemed like the start into the chapter of relationships. I read books about dating, I listened intently in youth group, and I prayed asking Jesus to protect my future husband. This is all great, but the journey which lay ahead was filled with much disillusionment and disappointment.
The summer of 2011 Aaron did a sermon series titled “The Summer of Love.” I officially called it “The Summer of Pain” because I was still raw from a year long relationship ending because I would not compromise myself or rather “because of my rules” the relationship was not going to work. Although, I am glad this relationship did not end in marriage, it was still a loss which I was grieving. The sermon series seemed to put salt in the broken wound and remind me that I was not married and not even close to being married.
I share this story because the church can be one of the loneliest places for a single person. Being in a room full of married individuals of all ages and seeing their children can be very difficult when you do not fit into this category. Aaron stated on Sunday that our society does not promote healthy singleness, but from my experience, neither does the church. I am not stating this specifically about Element, although at times I have experienced it at Element, I am speaking about it as the Christian Church and Christian culture. Yes, majority of the population seems to get married or at least cohabitate, but a single woman in her late 20’s or early 30’s who is questioned as to why she is not dating someone as to insist something is wrong with them is unacceptable. Although I have energy around being verbally questioned or patronized I believe Christ calls us to live day in and day out in the different seasons of life He allows us to go through. At the age of 36 I have had many years in the season of singleness and as my wedding is fast approaching I have found myself actually grieving the loss of my singleness.
I do not want this to sound like I am not excited about my singleness coming to an end...Mark (my fiancée), I love you. I am excited to become a wife and commit my body and soul to one man, but I also know marriage, just like singleness is going to bring a new set of challenges. I have not wasted my singleness and took advantage of the freedom and flexibility to follow my dreams. And although I have been single for all of my adult life I have had the companionship of close family and my few kindred spirits. Mark asked me last week what I was looking forward to the most about getting married and I said, “knowing who I am going to marry and not living in the tension anymore.”
I could write an entire blog about living in the tension as a Christian woman who is dating, but what I found myself thinking about even as I write this blog is the concern I had over what society thought of me because I was “of a certain age and not married.” How much more could I have enjoyed my life if I focused on the season I was living instead of the new season I wanted to be in? I wanted to be classified into a different category, a category I felt had more respect and less judgement than a single woman.
My prayer would be for the Church and society to view singleness, not as a category nor as a state which is inferior to the happiness of being married. My prayer is for single women and men to strive to live a life of integrity. I have witnessed, if you cannot be trusted in the small things it is impossible to find contentment or happiness in a relationship where the goal is marriage. Having integrity is such a better category to be put into than being placed into the category of a single woman.
Created on Tuesday, 05 June 2018 10:42
Written by Aaron
There is this old saying that goes, “Monkey See Monkey Do.” It means when we see someone do something dumb, we are more inclined to do that dumb thing. Today I was the monkey when I had an encounter that revealed how terrible I am and how my natural reactions are NOT like how Jesus would react. I drove down to the Santa Maria post office and pulled into a spot pretty far from the door. As I got out of my truck, I looked up just in time to see a bearded man in disheveled clothes (no, not Jon Gee) ride an aqua blue beach cruiser directly in front of me. He didn’t stop…he just rode in circles. I smiled, ducked my head to say, “Hello,” and he yelled, “F*@K YOU” at me.
I was a little taken aback. I thought I was being nice and unobtrusive someone yelling an expletive isn’t the typical cultural response in these situations. He made another circle on his bike, yelled, “F*@K YOU” again and punched the rear fender well of my truck. He then eyeballed me and said, “What are you going to do about that?” That question should have made me stop and think before reacting, and ask myself, “What are you
going to do about that?” Instead of pausing a beat, I asked him if I needed to call the police.
Here is a good bit of advice if you have not spent a lot of time dealing with some of the mentally unstable homeless people in our city: do not engage in rational conversation. You can call for help, but do not expect that rationality will get them to be rational. His response was an ever louder, “F*@K YOU” accompanied by a finger gesture that essentially meant the same thing. I probably could have diffused the situation a bit by asking if I could pray for him in any way (asking to pray for people usually makes them pause for a moment because they can’t figure you out). Instead, I fell into my natural state without Jesus, sarcasm. I didn’t yell, but I also didn’t see the brokenness of his humanity as he rode away flipping me off and yelling his expletive. In the end, we probably just looked like two mentally unstable people trying to have a dialogue about what the nature of “F*@K YOU” actually meant.
I tell you this story because as we go through our series on Proverbs, wisdom, and counter culture, I want you to know how hard it is to actually live differently in our world. The second the guy was out of my line of sight (and hearing), I stopped and asked myself if I made anything better with my reaction and sarcasm; the answer was no. My first response wasn’t Jesus’ response, which would have been to recognize this man’s brokenness…instead, my first response was, “What a jerk, I can out think him” (which is debatable). In the end, what I realized was my own less-than-stellar emotional and cognitive intelligence in functioning as God’s image bearer in this world.
I so often speak about Matthew 25 and looking for and acknowledging the “least of these” in our society, but when confronted in a way I didn’t like, I didn’t respond as I hoped I would. In Hebrews 13:2 the author speaks about entertaining strangers, who may be angels in disguise. Whether the author is speaking metaphorically or literally, it makes me think of this TV show where they set up uncomfortable circumstances and film them to see what people would do. As I went about the rest of my day, I thought about that moment because it was so surreal. Someone could have easily jumped out of a bush and asked, “Why did you respond that way?” My answer might have been “I don’t know,” but the real answer is that the circumstance reveals what is truly in my heart.
Last Sunday I mentioned the illustration by Amy Carmichael, who was a missionary to India in the early 20th
century. She speaks of two glasses of water—one filled with sweet pure water and one filled with bitter dirty water. She says when you bump the glass, what comes out is simply what is in the cup already. The bump didn’t turn pure water into bitter; the bump reveals what is already in the cup. We will be bumped against our entire lives; in those moments, we get the great blessing of seeing what is truly in our cup…and what was in mine wasn’t the greatest.
It is also in these moments of reflection that I am reminded I don’t need to live in shame or guilt at my failing. I can lay myself at the feet of Jesus and trust Him to change me day by day. I can once again surrender my heart and will into His hands and trust Him for His great grace to restore me. My hope in the end doesn’t come from response in the post office parking lot; my hope comes from Jesus, who has loved me and allowed me to once again see how far my heart has to go in my daily life while still being fully accepted and loved by Him.
Don’t misunderstand me…when an unstable person accosts you in a parking lot, you do not need to have a conversation and are more than free to get to a safe place. What I am
saying is that we need to see God’s image in others before we first see the offense that we take upon ourselves.
Created on Tuesday, 15 May 2018 16:58
Written by Aaron
A few weeks ago Element started a new sermon series going through the book of Proverbs. Proverbs is a book that is centered in wisdom, how to live in God’s world in a way that reflects who He is and what He has done in our lives. As a matter of fact Proverbs is part of a section that was (and is) known as the “Wisdom Literature.” We are calling the series “Counter-Culture” because we want to bring about hope, life, healing, and grace which seems to be so counter to our culture of self-centered interest.
One of the things that Proverbs leads us to is the difference between knowledge and wisdom. Biblically speaking, knowledge is good and we should learn things (lots of things). I believe Christian’s should be a people who are known by “knowledge,” but I also think that knowledge in and of itself is can be bad. If knowledge doesn’t go anywhere, or it isn’t lived properly, it has the power to destroy and not build up. Knowledge is principles and wisdom becomes the practice of how we live certain things out in our lives. Knowledge must become wisdom and it does that through life experience; this is why we are reminded in James 1:22
to be“doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.”
In the first two messages in Proverbs I talked about the difference between good and bad knowledge, but I believe the message left it on the surface and didn’t go much deeper. I mentioned that in the book of Genesis humans were supposed to trust God for ALL good knowledge and listen to what He said, but we went in search of bad knowledge and so destroyed our relationship with God, ourselves and even creation. When I say “bad knowledge” what I mean is that man was never supposed to have knowledge of sin and death because they werenot necessary to real and true life (they knew
what sin was, but they didn’t need to experience sin themselves). We do not need to have the personal knowledge ofalcoholism, drug abuse, or infidelity in relationships, there is some knowledge we simply don’t need.
I asked a friend of mine last week while our Gospel Community gathered together why he was so quiet, his response broke my heart, “I don’t have anything to share, my whole life seems to be the accumulation of bad knowledge.” Not to make it all about me, but I instantly felt like a bad preacher and pastor because I didn’t mean to heap guilt and shame on people, I meant to lead everyone to a place where they understood that our bad knowledge is meant to lead us to Jesus for the good knowledge of His grace and salvation.
As honestly as I can say this, my friend’s response should be most of our response because when we see the reality of our lives they become a clear picture of the accumulation of bad knowledge. The beauty of the Good News of Jesus is that He can even take this bad knowledge and turn that into wisdom for His glory and our ultimate good. The difference between good and bad knowledge was not to say that there is some people who only live in good knowledge and that if you have experienced detox, a divorce, or a country music concert then your life is a waste; it was meant to say that all of our lives are a waste without the goodness of Jesus and His rescue of us.
We do not need to hide in shame and guilt from our bad knowledge, instead we must take an honest look at our accumulated bad knowledge in order to understand what our lives look like when not centered on the Gospel. Good and bad knowledge is only ever meant to be the first step (it is facts and truth), good and bad knowledge can both transition into wisdom when we begin to live it out in ways that honor Jesus. 1 Corinthians 8:1 we know that “all of us possess knowledge.” This “knowledge” puffs up, but love builds up.
All knowledge, good and bad, if not transitioned to wisdom will become self-centered self-reflection. Knowledge comes very fast because every day, every situation, we are accumulating knowledge. Wisdom on the other hand comes slow because it takes the knowledge from those life experiences and looks for ways to view them in light of the cross.
James 3:13 Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness
(humbleness) of wisdom.
One of the first things wisdom brings is humility, a focus that is not on ourselves. It means that in becoming wise there were probably lots of mistakes along the way (bad knowledge), instead of that leading to guilt and shame it can (if we let it) instead lead us to humbleness before God’s good salvation. If we want to see our culture and world change it will always start and end with the Jesus’ wisdom, not our own. We need wisdom and knowledge so we can participate in God’s work of creating a culture that honors who He is in all things. It is why we don’t run from or hide our bad knowledge, instead we lay it at the feet of Jesus so we can use even that bad things to grow us in His wisdom.