Reflections on Singleness

Any day now, my son will be born. I am having irregular contractions as I write this devotion. This period of waiting has caused me to be reflective about my life. As I consider my wonderful husband, the life that we are building together, our son that is on the way, and the goals that we have set as a family, I have one thought: God has given me the desires of my heart. It was not that long ago that I was asking God for a husband. I also remember that while waiting on God, I was looking for ways to get all that I could out of my singleness. This devotion is dedicated to those who are single and waiting on God for a mate. I found two short verses of scripture that I believe will bless you. Here is the first one:

Find rest, O my soul, in God alone; my hope comes from him.” ~ Psalm 62:5

I love that the verse tells us to find rest in God. This is a good anecdote for the person who has gotten tired of dating aimlessly—jumping from relationship to relationship. I’ve seen men and women do this for such a long period time that by the time they become tired of dating, they don’t even know who they are anymore. They spent years accommodating the “person of the moment,” developing a taste for that person’s likes and dislikes. It got to a point that they couldn’t give an authentic answer to the basic question, “What do you do for fun?” They would probably know who there were if they’d simply spent some time alone.

Find rest in God. If you are unhappy with your singleness, jumping into a relationship is not going to fill the void. It will be a temporary solution to a void that it cannot fill. And as soon as you realize the void is still there, you will leave that relationship for the next one, hoping that the next one can do what the previous one couldn’t. What does it mean to rest in God? It means to bring all of your desires to him. If you are lonely, tell him. If you are longing for a mate, tell him. If you are frustrated, tell him. The amazing thing about God is that he has the ability to fulfill every need that we have.

You might wonder: Well, Sheridan, I am horny. How is God going to fulfill that need? God is powerful enough to quiet that desire until the appropriate time comes for it to be awakened. My husband and I can testify to this. I think he is the finest man in the world, and I know he thinks I’m pretty fly. But with God at the center of our relationship before we were married, we were able to fight for our purity. We fought for God’s reign in our lives because we wanted God’s blessing. If a sexual appetite keeps you restless, be real with God about it. He already knows about it anyway.

Here’s the second verse: “Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge.” ~Psalm 62:8

This is for those who have trust issues. Maybe you’ve been cheated on, deceived, or completely taken advantage of. Maybe you grew up in a household that did not provide a model of what a healthy relationship looks like. Whatever the case, your experience has made it difficult for you to trust the men or women that you date. I was one of these people. I was cheated on. I was lied to. I was taken for granted. I felt like I did not know how to trust men anymore and I became so frustrated that I took a complete break from dating. The scripture that helped me with this is Proverbs 3:5—Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding.” I had to learn to put my trust in God, rather than the men I was dating. For me, not leaning on my own understanding meant trusting God for discernment. I did not need to spy on my suitors because by exchanging my understanding for God’s I could trust him to reveal any deceitfulness that might be taking place. I cannot tell you how much peace I had once I learned to trust God in my relationships. By the time I met my husband, I had so much peace in this area that I felt free enough to get to know him. I was free enough for God to take the relationship where he wanted it to go. And let me tell you—the discernment was so strong that I even had a dream of becoming engaged to him months before he even proposed.

Be honest with God about your loneliness, sexuality, frustration and anything else that you might feel. If you are feeling impatient, talk to him about it. My prayer is for my single brothers and sisters to become comfortable with this period of singleness, while continuing to trust God with the future.


The ‘But’ of It All

We’ve all been guilty of them. We’ve allowed our minds to reason our way to them. We have used them to avoid situations or responsibility. We’ve used them to mask issues that we did not want to discuss. In some cases, using them involves telling a lie. Maybe we just didn’t want to hurt someone’s feelings, or felt someone wasn’t quite ready to handle the truth. In either case, we turn to these as little saviors in the midst of life’s demands. We use them to explain why we haven’t made any progress, why we haven’t pursued our dreams, and why we fall short of God’s standard of living. We call them: excuses. We make excuses to validate ourselves. To excuse mediocrity and avoid owning up to the fact that if we’d been serious about what we had originally set out to do, we could have accomplished it.

Excuses are dangerous because by using them we excuse ourselves right out of victory. Was it an excuse that kept you in that relationship longer than you should have stayed? Did you use an excuse to explain why you did not perform as well as you could have? Do excuses keep you from budgeting your money properly so that you can climb out of debt? Excuses are a powerful weapon that the enemy uses against us.

I could have, but…

I meant to, but…

I wanted to, but…

I said “No,” but…

If we are not careful, excuses will abort our opportunities. What kind of excuses have you made lately?

Excuses are not a recent invention. There are several accounts in the Bible in which people used excuses to validate the decisions that they made. Remember Adam and Eve eating from the tree (See Genesis 3:1-13)? What did they do when God confronted them about it? Adam blamed Eve, and Eve blamed the serpent. Neither of them owned up to what they did.

The text for this devotional is found in Haggai. In this passage, the people of Judah have returned from exile. Before the exile occurred, the Babylonians destroyed the temple of God (See Lamentations 1:10). If we fast-forward a little bit, Persia overthrows Babylon, and the Persian king gives the people money and materials to return to Judah and rebuild the temple. The message of the prophet Haggai is that God wants the people to rebuild the temple. So, the people take the money and materials, and return to the land. But what do they do instead? They built their own houses! Here is the passage:

“This is what the LORD Almighty says: “These people say, ‘The time has not yet come for the LORD’s house to be built.'” Then the word of the LORD came through the prophet Haggai: “Is it a time for you yourselves to be living in your paneled houses, while this house remains a ruin?” ~ Haggai 1:2-4

The people were given the money and supplies needed to rebuild the temple. Still, they made the excuse that it was still not time for the temple to be rebuilt. I love the way the prophet got to the point of God’s message, basically asking them: Is it time for you to live in beautiful mansions while God’s temple remains in ruins? Somebody must have said “ouch” on that one. The people excused themselves out of rebuilding God’s house in the same way that we excuse ourselves out of doing what God has asked of us.

I have one question for you: What do your excuses reveal about your priorities?

I would spend more time with God but…
I would make time for my husband or wife, but…
I would pay this overdue bill, but…
I would say ‘Yes,’ but…

Excuses reveal a lot about us. When people use excuses with me, it shows me how they prioritize me in their lives. At some point, we need to stop making excuses and own up to the decisions that we make.

I can only wonder what would have happened if Jesus made excuses while hanging on the cross. God, I love these people, but…

I am so grateful that he carried out his assignment to the end, offering a pathway to eternal life for all who might believe and follow him. I’m so glad that God did not make an excuse instead of offering his only son for us. Think about it. God’s priority was clear. It was clear when he created man and woman, and remained clear when he redeemed the human race. He has never excused himself out of loving us.

I challenge you today. Consider the excuses you have made and what they reveal about your priorities. It is so easy to lose track of where our priorities are. My prayer is that we will lose the “but” and stop making excuses.

Empowered by Unity

“How good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in unity! It is like precious oil poured on the head, running down on the beard, running down on Aaron’s beard, down upon the collar of his robes.”~Psalm 133:1-2

I love pretending that I am a choir director—directing my imaginary choir while listening to music. My husband teases me because he knows that I enjoy it to the fullest. My favorite part is always when the sections separate: sopranos, altos, then tenors! Don’t let me get started. If I could have selected the gifts that I wanted, one would have been the gift of music. Sometimes I have to remind myself to stay in my lane when it comes to music, and stick to appreciating it.

I mention the choir because in order for a choir to sound good, all of its members must sing on one accord. They have to follow the same beat, sing in the same key, and follow the direction of the choir director. If each member were to sing his or her own song, then they would not be creating beautiful music. It would be utter chaos. The choir conveys a sense of unity, and I believe that Psalm 133 is conveying the importance of the unification of all believers. Regardless of our racial or denominational affiliation, we are a part of one body—the same body—of Christ.

Scripture says that it is wonderful when we live together in unity. There is power in being unified. The passage continues by describing unity as the oil that flows down Aaron’s head, beard, and collar. Consider this with me: Jesus is the head of the body that Christians are all a part of. Might it be that the anointing starts with him, and flows to us? Can we consider ourselves the beard that is connected to the head? … And what about the collar of Aaron’s robe? … Can we consider the collar of the robe to be the different vocations that we have been called to work in? Whether it’s teaching, preaching, writing, serving as a missionary, or working as an administrator… The point is this—we are anointed because we are connected to the body of Christ. He lives in our hearts, and we live as members of his body. The anointing flows directly from him to us, and from us to whatever we put our hand to—provided that it is in line with the will of God, and we are working in unity.

If we consider the scripture in its original context, we will find that the people lived in anguish after being separated during a period of exile. First, their nation was divided into two separate kingdoms. Later, both kingdoms were overthrown and the people were banished from the land. Those who survived made periodic trips to meet together and worship God. After being divided against their will, being together was a cause of celebration.

It is my prayer that we will become as anguished as these people were, about the things that divide the body of Christ. Whether it is preferred styles of worship, music, or cultural differences. I don’t see a problem with us worshiping in ways that fit our cultural contexts, but why can’t we create more occasions for us to come together, as a collective body and worship in unison?

I wondered about this oil that was poured on Aaron’s head, and found its original reference in Exodus. This was olive oil, that had been mixed with myrrh, cinnamon, fragrant cane, and cassia (see Exodus 30:23-25). God required these four spices in order for the olive oil to become a holy oil that could be used for anointing. Could these four spices represent the different ethnic groups on our planet? Might they be representative of the different denominations that have been created in the church? When I picture these spices being blended together in the olive oil, I also view them as becoming something greater than they were when they were apart. The cinnamon is no longer just a spice for food. Now it is part of the anointing. If that cinnamon weren’t included, however, the anointing would not have occurred. It would have simply been olive oil mixed with spices.

When I think about the choir, the sound of collective voices amazes me. Have you ever tried to sing a choral song by yourself? I have…and quite frankly, it does not sound the same. I might hear the other parts in my head, but it still isn’t the same. The sound of the collective choir is greater than the individual parts of its members.

I can only wonder how much power there will be when the body of Christ unites. We’ll become more than individual ministries. I’m not suggesting that our individual ministries are not anointed, but I do believe that we’ll receive an even greater anointing when we combine our efforts. Together, we can become much more powerful. Scripture urges us to come together on one accord (see 1 Cor. 1:10). Lord, help us get there.

Red, Yellow, Green Light

In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.”~Matthew 5:16

Did you play “Red, Yellow, Green Light,” as a kid? My siblings and I used to pretend that we could drive, and we’d maneuver our imaginary cars through the living room of our house. One of us would yell the light phase and the rest of us would act accordingly. If I yelled, “Red light!” then my brother and sister would stop in their tracks. If I yelled “Green Light!” then they’d drive fast, and if I yelled “Yellow light!” then they would begin to slow down. We couldn’t wait to be old enough to drive, so this game of pretending to drive was the closest we could get to it.

The scripture tells us to let our light shine, that people may see our deeds and praise God. What is the light that you’re displaying? Are you a red light—telling others to stop and not approach you? You’re not comfortable in your faith walk so you prefer to live in isolation. Perhaps you use the excuse that you’re an introvert in order to avoid being around people. (I’ve been guilty of this) You worship God by yourself. You praise God by yourself, and this seems to work for you because people are only distractions. How is this effective? Scripture tells us to go and make disciples (see Matthew 28:19). If we’re living in isolation then we are not sharing the light of the gospel, but are merely keeping it hidden. I’m not sure about you, but most of my stretching and growth experiences have occurred when I’m among people. That is when the consistency of my language and walk are challenged. Don’t get me wrong, there are appropriate times to be alone, and there are several accounts of Jesus withdrawing in order to have his private time. We still, however, must balance it with making sure that we are allowing our light to shine before others.

Are you a yellow light—so cautious in your walk that you are inauthentic in your relationships? Has the word of God become more like a set of rules that you are following, rather than a lifestyle? I know when I rededicated my life to Christ, I found myself trying to be a law-abiding Christian. It became exhausting, and I found myself second-guessing everything that I said and did. I think this phase is normal as a beginner Christian, but we must get to a point where we become so mature in our faith that we are able to operate freely in our walk with Christ. A yellow light tells others to proceed with caution. In other words, it communicates that you cannot handle everything and that people need to be careful when they come your way. This is different from setting boundaries (i.e. asking others to not use profanity around you). This is the type of Christian that some will say has become so “heavenly minded that you are no earthly good.”

Are you a green light—meaning that you operate freely with the light of truth? You are mature in your faith. You know when to let your light shine before others, but you also know when to withdraw and spend some time alone with God. You know that it is unhealthy to be green all the time, and are therefore able to maneuver between the three light phases. You use red to protect your alone time with God. You use yellow as a means of moving to a slower pace so that you can be light to those who have been overlooked or forgotten. Light is truth. We should challenge one another to become mature enough to operate freely in the light of truth. This maturity means using all three phases at the appropriate time.

Jesus is the light of world. As followers of him, we are light in a world of darkness. How we share that light is important. Are you a red, yellow, or green light? Have you matured enough to operate in all three phases? The light is our ability to influence those who are around us. I admit that I still have plenty of room for growth in sharing my light. I hope that you will grow with me.

Throw Some Salt on It

You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men. ~Matthew 5:13

My husband is a snacker. Our home is not quite a home if he does not have a ready supply of his favorite candy, chips, and soda. He’s notorious for making late night runs to the store, just to get something to snack on and something good to drink. I thought about his snacking tendencies as I reflected on this salt passage. I love to drink water. I can go for weeks at a time without drinking any other beverage. For him, however, water is not enough to quench his thirst. He needs a soda, some juice, or at least some type of sports drink—just don’t….give…him…water.

Salt makes me thirsty. Prior to knowing Christ intimately, I found myself trying to fill my thirst with carnal things. I couldn’t buy enough clothes or enough shoes. If I was sad or depressed, my first instinct was that shopping could make it better. While my issue was usually sadness or depression, some people will find themselves trying to fill the void of loneliness. They will spend time with the wrong people just for the sake of not being alone. Or maybe you know someone who gives things that they really can’t afford just for the sake of keeping a relationship—things such as sex, money, or even their precious time. Have you ever paused to ask yourself—What are they thirsty for?

I’ll be the first to say that Jesus is the best thing that ever happened to me. Every thirst that I have can be quenched in him. But getting to know Jesus requires looking at ourselves—the ugliness…the vices…our REAL issues. It causes us to examine our priorities and whether our thirsts are really legitimate. The more I experience Jesus quenching my thirst, the more I find myself thirsting after him. The more I experience the peace of having my desires met, the more I long for others to experience the same level of wholeness.

We should make people thirsty for a relationship with God. Thirsty for a life of knowing Jesus as their personal Lord and savior. But, how do we do this? We need to be the salt that makes them thirsty. The salt that makes them desire the peace that we have, which surpasses all understanding (Philippians 4:7).

Did you know that salt is required for our physical survival? Your body needs it in order to maintain fluid in your blood cells and also for transmitting information in our nerves and muscles. Our bodies cannot produce salt, so we are dependent on getting it from the food that we eat. Salt is essential to life. Spiritually, we need salt to keep us thirsty after God. In the Old Testament, salt was even used in battle. After combat, a warrior would scatter salt on an enemy’s land in order to prevent it from ever producing plants again—thereby making the land uninhabitable (see Judges 9:45). Yes, salt was used in battle.

What do I gather from all this? If my food doesn’t taste right, throw some salt on it…But know that I’m going to need a drink to quench the thirst that follows. Likewise we must be the salt in the world that causes people to thirst after God. If your situation doesn’t look right, throw some salt on it. Salt can keep the enemy from setting up camp near you. If you’re trying to be a light in the midst of your relationships with people, throw some salt in it. Don’t underestimate the power of salt. It’s in you, my brother and sister. Put it to use.

Ask God: What can I throw some salt on today?

My Source

‘“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways,’ declares the Lord.”

~ Isaiah 55:8

God’s thoughts and ways are unmatchable. As lovers of God, we have to stay connected to him as our source. It is impossible to operate as powerful believers in the tangible realm if we are not connected to the source of that power. Just as an electrical appliance has no use without power, so are we powerless if we are not connected to God. He is the source of our supply. He is the expert of anything we could ever wonder about in life—whether we are unsure about our relationships, career, or any important decision that we need to make. If you are uncertain about anything, talk to God. He reveals himself to those who seek after him. Just a few verses before, Isaiah tells us that we should seek the Lord while he may be found, and call upon him while he is near (Isaiah 55:6). I believe that God promises to draw near to us, if we draw near to him. He will reciprocate the effort that we put into experiencing intimacy with him (see James 4:8).

I am a planner. I love to know what my next move is. As if my life were a game of chess, my mind always tries to stay two moves ahead. If I’m honest, I’ll admit that I’m horrible at chess. While the game is fun to me, I have never mastered the act of developing a strategy. I can last in a game, but it takes me a long time to make a move. I will even refuse to play if there is a time limit. Every move has a degree of uncertainty to me, and I am not experienced enough at the game to anticipate how my opponent is going to advance.

Just as I’m inexperienced in the game of chess, I am also inexperienced in the game of life. I don’t have all of the answers. I don’t always know what decision to make. My life story is a series of events in which I have seemingly “landed” in places, only to learn later that God was involved in the journey all along…that He had a purpose in every turn and every obstacle that I experienced. It was only later that I started to grope after his thoughts behind the paths that I had to endure.

Just as I am an amateur at chess, I still feel like a “beginner” in the game of life. I need to seek God constantly…inquire of this thoughts and ways for me. Oftentimes it seems easier and more exciting to make my own decisions. But I have to realize that I can save myself a lot of heartache, anguish, and wasted time, if I remember to stay connected to the source. My thoughts are not his thoughts. My ways are not his ways. But I can ask him to share his thoughts and ways with me. And God, in all his sovereignty, can respond as he sees fit.

Are you connected to the source?

Jesus: A True Companion

“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize in our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin.” ~ Hebrews 4:15

What is the role of the priest? In the Old Testament, the priest was responsible for atoning for the sins of the people through committing sacrifices. It was a dirty job—that involved slaughtering animals, and following strict rules in how the sacrifice was conducted. Purity laws kept the priests busy as there were specific sins that had to be atoned for, as well as specific sacrifices that had to be given.

When Jesus died on the cross, resurrected, and ascended into heaven, the priestly sacrifices were no longer required. Jesus became the high priest, fulfilling a role which superseded the role of any priest before him. Before Jesus, priests had to atone for sin repeatedly, offering sacrifice after sacrifice. Jesus’ sacrifice, however, was enough to serve as an eternal atonement, covering all prior sins, as well as every sin that would occur in the future.

Even in his role as our high priest, Jesus sympathizes with us. It is one thing to sympathize with someone who is going through something that you have never experienced, and quite another to sympathize with one who has gone through what you have already experienced. This is what Jesus does for us. He has been tempted in every way, therefore he understands what it is to wrestle with temptation, inconveniences, and the tough times that life might throw at us. Knowing that he has already experienced the issues that I might talk to him about adds a certain level of intimacy to my conversations with him.

Yet, he was without sin. He withstood all temptation. His commitment to his call as the Savior of humankind would not let him fall into temptation. When tempted, he either responded with scripture, or he simply remained silent. This challenges my response to situations. How do I respond?

As my true companion, Jesus challenges me, and this is the role that any companion should play in our lives. As iron sharpens iron, so one person should sharpen another (Proverbs 27:17). As you consider Jesus as your True Companion, use your relationship with him to audit the relationships that you have with people. Do they sharpen you? Do they serve to challenge you by making you a better person than you already are? And finally, do you challenge the people that you are in relationship with? How are you making them better?