Why being single ISN’T the end of the world!

This post aims to talk about relationships, which is a huge subject (often complicated and emotional), especially for Christians. As a young man, the issue of being single is one that can play on your mind from time to time, and I hope that this post gives encouragement and helps you on your way.

Being Happy

Do we need to be in a relationship to be happy? A few years ago, I would have said it plays a big role in being happy.  And this is where my first point starts.  You don’t have to be in a ‘relationship’ to be happy; period.  Now, living in a liberal world, it feels as though if we are not in a sexual relationship, there’s something wrong with us. Everything in society is geared towards a sexual relationship.  Our identities are formed by our sexual lives, rather by who we actually are. As Christians we need to be different from the world, and therefore in relationships, as well as in the rest of life, we have to show this difference!

Biblical perspective

The Bible speaks a lot about relationships, and tells us that being single is a gift from God (1 Cor. 7:8), that some of us are called to live single lives (Matt. 19:10-12 & 1 Cor. 7:38), which could be for a short while, or it could be for the rest of our lives. Being single is by no mean a curse!  You can do so much more, especially when it comes to helping spread the Gospel message.  We are not tied to anything and we can put so much more energy into our evangelism.  I have come to know a lot more peace than I ever did at university.  I have come to understand that God is sovereign over all, and he knows what is best for me.  I now realise that the world is wrong: being in a ‘relationship’ isn’t the be all and end all, but it took me a little while to figure it out.

Singleness is a gift. You don’t have to spend loads of money on a significant other; you don’t have to worry about forgetting their birthday, making the right impression. You can just be you, serving God with all your might (1 Cor. 7:33-35).  Don’t worry about what the world think!  Focus on the kingdom and see what God will do in your life.  Do not fret, do not worry, pray to God, and trust in him!  We already have a relationship with our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ, we need nothing else!  Remember how close he is to you, how much he loves you and that he is everything to you!  Anything else in life is a bonus!

Patience is a valuable virtue

Brothers and sisters do not rush into a relationship, I did and it was a mess. I have never felt further away from God, my conscience was telling me it was wrong, that God didn’t approve. I tried to suppress the feeling, but it got worse and worse.  Take time, take everything to the Lord in prayer and listen to what He tells you.

This can be related to the question; do we have to date a fellow Christian?  For young people, the answer may not be what they want to hear, but I think the best way to answer this is that it is best for your spiritual soul if you do. “Do not be unequally yoked,” (2 Cor. 6:14-7:1).  You have someone to share your faith with, whom you can pray with and whom properly understands the Christian life.  This is vitally important for our spiritual well-being and our spouses.

Dear friends, be patient. God knows the future, he is in and out of time, and he guides us in the way we should go (Psalm 119:105 & Proverbs 16:9).  He knows what lies ahead of us, and that goes for relationships too.  There is no need to rush, to worry about this.  He has it all in his more than capable hands.  Trust in the lord, and see what he will do in your life.   I can imagine quite a few of us young folk, look around our churches, noting that there are no young females or males, wondering if you will ever be in a relationship.  Don’t worry, God is in control!  He might have someone lined up for you in the future, in some other location, he may bring someone into the church, he may never bring someone into your life, but that’s great!  He knows what’s best, and as long as we follow him, and not go our own way, we will be blessed.

At the same time, we shouldn’t be painting an ideal image of a life-partner. If we did, then I would be waiting for a God-fearing historian, who loved Skillet, loved football, voted Conservative (I seem to have more enjoyable conversations with those on the right at the moment, weirdly enough!), was smart, funny and above all focused her life entirely on Christ.  Now for most of those ideals, I have to realise that they are selfish and to be honest, rather unrealistic.  The only ideal point we should ever want in a spouse is that they love Christ first and foremost.  Of course spouses have to connect and share interests, but Christ and the gospel should always be our number one passion, interest and priority. If we share Him, we share everything.

Dating sites and ‘flirting’

So what about Christian dating sites and apps, is it OK to use them? I do think we have to be careful when we use websites to find someone.  You do not know the person at all, and have no idea if they truly are a Christian.  It can be very dangerous, I wouldn’t use them, personally, at all. But I do understand that for some people, being on these sites gives them some comfort, but it’s important to question our heart motives – are we serving God or ourselves?  So before you go anywhere near a dating website, ask God for guidance, consider the pros and cons, and whether it will actually be beneficial for you.

Now, I wish to briefly consider flirting. Is it OK? Now this all depends on what you mean by the word.  If you like a girl, you are undoubtedly going to have a bit of banter and say some stupid things, I know I have said some really daft stuff before, where you’re trying to be funny or intelligent, but in fact you look like an idiot (!), but you shouldn’t be flirting in a sexual or even vaguely suggestive manner (1 Thess. 5:22).  That is completely wrong.

Is it OK to be romantic? Well I hope so; I’m often called a hopeless romantic by my family!  Sometimes I feel that as we are not of the world, therefore we have to be emotionally dead.   Our services are emotionally dead.  But we should thank God for emotions, for joy, for laughter but also for sorrow as it allows us to express ourselves in a way words cannot.  Therefore, there is nothing wrong about being romantic.

I have been in relationships at university and in all seriousness, I realise that it was not the right time for me to be in a relationship, and as time goes on and on, I see that that still have much to learn. One day perhaps, but for now, I’m content in prayer and in the company of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

Concluding thoughts

Finally to those who are reading this, who are already in a relationship, then remember to always keep the Lord in your heart and that you honour Him first, well above your spouse. Relationships, and especially marriage are gifts from God, and we thank him for them, but so too in singleness!

Remember friends, unlike the world, we search for a life-partner, not something to amuse us for a little while, so to speak. Our ultimate goal in a relationship is to marry; of course this doesn’t mean that if you date someone that they will be your married partner! Look around you in the church, take inspiration from those who are married, and listen to their advice without judging.  Let it be a blessing to you. Marriage can be an immense blessing.

So to conclude! Don’t rush, Don’t panic, Don’t worry!  Make sure you flee from sin (be like Joseph, run!!), from the desires of the flesh, and run to Christ.  Make sure that you don’t fall into the same mistakes I, and many others have.  I do recommend that as a Christian, you find yourself a fellow Christian to date. Above all, put your faith in Jesus, seek first the Kingdom of God, and let your heart put him as your no.1.  God is good, God is great, God is love, and he is amazing.  Rejoice that you have a friend like no one else; you have a love that no unbeliever has.  You have Jesus! Amen!

 

Serving Christ on a Beach Mission

As Christians, we may often talk of ‘believing and doing’. But when was the last time we shared the gospel with a person or a group of people? We are called to take the gospel into all the world and make disciples of all men. This is part of our faith; we should be active and alive. This is where organisations such as UBM (United Beach Missions) play an important role.

Serving the Lord on a beach mission offers a brilliant opportunity for Christians to share their faith to children, families and individuals on beaches up and down the country. Whilst our lives should be continuous testimonies before the Lord and men; too often we can slip into a routine of saying little and doing little, blending into the world, or even leading a ‘double-life’. For this reason, beach missions are a great opportunity, especially for young believers. They are a real challenge and test of your faith.

Introduction to Beach Missions

Essentially, beach missions consist of small-ish teams of Christians, working with children on beaches across Britain (as well as parts of Europe). Each mission lasts a week (although many places run for several weeks) with the stated aim of building lasting friendships with children and parents, and more importantly, pointing them to Christ. The following video (although a little dated) provides a good overview of how UBM achieve this:

Blessings

Beach missions aren’t just about serving others, there is time set aside for personal study and spiritual growth, as well as collective prayer and worship. Being with other brothers and sisters in Christ (from mixed backgrounds), day in, day out is one of my favourite things about beach missions. It is so refreshing and revitalising, compared with day to day life. There is no swearing, no crude humour, no girl-boy flirting, immodest dress or other temptations. This difference was something that was brought home to me in stark form yet again as I arrived back home from a mission in Cornwall on a Saturday night. Almost everyone was boozing or getting ready for a night-out.

Instead of judging the poor souls who ‘live for the weekend’ and the sex, drugs, alcohol lifestyle, we should be filled with compassion, a love for the lost, a burden for lost souls, a desire to share with them the most amazing gift of God that we have. 1 Peter 3:15-16 says:

“In your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behaviour in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.”

When we do so, we will be blessed, you can be sure of that!

One of the greatest things about beach missions is the fact that the gospel is being proclaimed to a receptive audience, publicly on a beach (something we still have freedom to do, although opposition abounds). The sight of boys and girls eagerly singing songs of Christ and listening attentively to Bible stories, and their parents watching on, happy to have a break from parenting; is one of the highlights for me.

Challenges

A beach mission is a test of your faith, your character and a test of your ability to survive with not that much sleep; but with God’s grace it’ll be a doddle and great fun too.

For the first couple of years I dreaded going on a beach mission, my shy old self wanted to hide away. It was only with the persuasion of my parents that I somewhat reluctantly went along. I loved every minute of my first beach mission however, having just turned fifteen, but no sooner had I returned home than I retreated back into my shell like a tortoise.

Now, having aged a bit and lost some of that shyness, I can look forward to beach missions with great anticipation and excitement; it is now one of the highlights of my year. This year, I was given much more responsibility, which is daunting and scary, but with God’s grace I survived! Beach missions are an excellent training ground for building yourself up into an effective soldier of Christ. The uniform, the team, make it easier (although it’s still hard!) talking to strangers, inviting them along to beach events and pointing them to Christ, perhaps by sharing your own testimony. Before every event there’s prayer, always a primary focus – we go not in our own strength with our own message but as servants and children of God bringing his message of forgiveness to the world.

 

So next year, put your name down for a beach mission! You won’t regret it.

UBM can be found online at: UBM.org.uk

 

(With thanks to Stefan Kindall for providing the featured image).

That Homeschooling Lark

Proverbs 22:6: “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.”

Arguably the most important stage of a person’s life is their childhood, their upbringing. Take one look at the packed prisons up and down the country: nine times out of ten, for many of the poor inmates who seem to know no better, it all went wrong from the start. There is a clear correlation between how a child was brought up and where they end up. Although, of course, it isn’t always as simple as that.

My first day of school was September 11 2001. A day synonymous with another dreadful event, a harrowing reminder of the dangerous world we live in. When I was almost seven years old, my parents took the decision to home educate me and my siblings. This decision has impacted my whole life, and ultimately I believe was the right decision.

So yes, I am one of those weird homeschooled kids, not from a necessarily large or particularly wild family (as far as home educated families go!). It is my desire in this brief piece to reflect on my homeschooled childhood and weigh it up as I see it. Hopefully you’ll find it interesting, if not edifying.

 

Broadening one’s horizons

Home-schooling/home-educating/home-edding/CHEddering (or whatever term floats your blow-up dinghy) opens up new doors and opportunities whilst closing others. Basically – it’s quite different from the orthodox state-school approach (as anybody with even the faintest idea of what it is will agree).

One of the fun things about home-education is that you get to do everything, washing clothes, cooking dinner, cleaning out gutters, emptying drains, carrying out archaeological digs on veg patches, etc. These, all being things that normal kids don’t often get the opportunity to do, with schoolwork and homework. Home education is very hands-on, although different parents do different things.

On a practical level, for a homeschooled family, outside of the state school system and holidays: you can do what you want when you want. Discount term-time holidays; trips to adventure parks, museums, and swimming pools on weekdays minus the usual hustle and bustle; and etc. are all in order.

Due to the lack of a class-room atmosphere, and depending on how strict your parents are (and how much else they have on their plate), home education offers up chances of skipping work to focus on more ‘fun’ activities (I speak from experience!). We got up to all sorts…

Another result is that us home-educated kids can end up a narrow-minded lot. Our main sources of information are our parents, siblings and other home-educated kids. Whilst we miss out on some of the often erroneous and arguably dodgy teaching in public schools (as well as the increasing atheistic/humanistic agenda), we basically grow up in a bubble, protected from the outside; this can be good and bad. When the time comes to venture out into the big wide world, it can come as a bit of a shock!

 

Myth-busting: homeschool style

However, with all this, there are many popular myths flouted around by namby-pamby type people who don’t know any better (just kidding of course!).

One such is the perceived lack of social life. This isn’t completely true, and really annoys homeschooled kids. Home education groups offer children the opportunity to mix and interact in different circles, with older and younger children – a very rewarding experience, and something you don’t necessarily get in the same way in classrooms at school (bully from the year above anyone?).

Home education holidays, weekends and conferences take things further, with the added benefit of home-edding circles being fairly small.

Overall, I guess we do kind of miss out on social interaction outside of home education circles, but you do miss out on school bullies, and other school mischief (although home-educated kids can certainly get up to plenty of mischief on their own!).

 

The legal stuff

Fact time. In many countries, across the world, home education is illegal, including Germany where Adolf Hitler reportedly first banned it (a fact you may well hear often in home education circles). As you can see in the graphic below (Green is legal, yellow is legal in most political subdivisions but not all or is practiced, but legality is disputed. Red is illegal or unlawful. Orange is generally considered illegal, but untested legally. – cut n’ pasted from Wikipedia)

The United Kingdom is one of the few places where home education can be practiced with minimal interference from the state, a fact home educators are very grateful for. Up to 100,000 children are home educated in the UK, and roughly 2.5m in the USA. These figures have risen steadily over the last few decades, as dissatisfaction with the school system grows and (of course) the astronomically high birth-rate of home educated families (something we are all so dearly fond of).

As a slight diversionary note: In 2009, in England, home educators were required to register and report back annually to local authorities. This was based on a review conducted by a certain Mr G. Badman. Taking a leaf out of John Bunyan’s book, if names are anything to go by, this was resented by home educating folk!

However (and thanks to Peter Reynolds and others for pointing this mistake out to me in the comments section) there was such a large uproar over these plans that they were never actually passed through parliament.

Consequently, with understandable motives, there is a growing movement to discourage home education and better ‘support’ parents.

 

Concluding thoughts

Home education is a whole world apart from orthodox state schooling. In some ways it is less demanding on parents than school (my Mum was glad to be rid of the schoolrun!). However, it also presents new and different challenges for the family, which can be much more demanding in different areas. For the parents, you’ll never get away from the kids!

My home educated childhood has been the most important period of my life, a period of molding and shaping. I am immensely grateful for this upbringing. At times, I admit, I was envious of school kids; but hey, the grass is always greener on the other side, right? I knew many state-schooled kids who thought just the opposite…

Whilst on both sides, we can adopt a ‘them’ and ‘us’ attitude, our Christian faith and love transcends any such barriers. We should never judge each other, “This is how it should be done.” We are all different and should respect that. For many others, the situation is different, going to school is completely the right thing to do (much also depends on the local schools too and possibly a whole range of other factors). Both my parents happened to be teachers, giving my family a bit of a headstart. For me, home education was definitely the right step to take and so far I think I’ve turned out pretty good (although some might say otherwise!).