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Decatur Community Workshops: #RealisticRelationshipGoals Highlights

This video provides just a few highlights from our recent workshop "#RealisticRelationshipGoals". Click the link within the video to see more extended highlights. This event was a production of Decatur Community Workshops and was hosted at The Body Church, 3009 Rainbow Drive, Suite #142, Decatur, GA 30034.

Our faith-based group hosts monthly workshops in the Decatur area that are free, interactive and open to the surrounding community. Topics include leadership, personal finances, investing, professional networking, career advancement, real estate, grant writing and many more. We are open to suggestions and are always interested in welcoming new people. If you love to learn new things especially for free, this group is for you. For more info, visit www.meetup.com/decaturcommunityworkshops

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Decatur Community Workshops - Christian Dating

This is an introductory video to our next workshop "Christian Dating". This event is a production of Decatur Community Workshops and will be hosted at The Body Church, 3009 Rainbow Drive, Suite #142, Decatur, GA 30034 on Friday, April 22nd at 7:00 PM. 

 

Our faith-based group hosts monthly workshops in the Decatur area that are free, interactive and open to the surrounding community. Topics include leadership, personal finances, investing, professional networking, career advancement, real estate, grant writing and many more. We are open to suggestions and are always interested in welcoming new people. If you love to learn new things especially for free, this group is for you. For more info, visit Decatur Community Workshops.

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Why Don't We Evangelize? - We Are Afraid of Rejection

Rejection

Written By: Dr. Angel

Welcome to Part 6 of our current blog series; "Evangelism". Click here for Part 5, "Why Don't We Evangelize? - We Don't Know The Word of God".

Do you regularly share your faith? If not, what excuses or obstacles are hindering you from doing so? Are you afraid of rejection? Are you trying to avoid being asked questions that you may not feel equipped to answer? These are the next two hindrances we will discuss in this blog series. Do either of these obstacles resonate with you?

2. We are afraid of rejection. This the second reason we do not evangelize.

Romans 1:16 (NKJV) – "For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek."

Have you ever been in a situation with an individual or among a crowd of people and the Holy Spirit began speaking to you? Perhaps, He told you to do something specific, quote a particular verse, prophesy to someone, or pray but in that moment you did not comply? Prior to being in that situation, your intentions were to obey the voice of God anytime, all the time, anywhere, and everywhere.

However, the fear of rejection by man caused you to ignore the prompting of the Holy Spirit when around a certain individual or crowd. Perhaps it seemed more comfortable to blend in with the status quo and avoid man's potential rejection. Until that moment, you were unaware of your propensity to ignore the promptings of the Holy Spirit, and your fear of rejection prevailed.

Galatians 1:10 (ESV) – “For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.”

1 Thessalonians 5: 19 -22 (NASB) –“Do not quench the Spirit; do not despise prophetic utterances. But examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good; abstain from every form of evil.”

Peter had a similar experience. I believe that Peter truly believed that He would proclaim his allegiance to Christ anytime, all the time, anywhere, and everywhere. A few hours before Jesus was arrested, Peter even spoke boldly of his dedication to the Lord.

Matthew 26:35 (ESV) – “Peter said to him, “Even if I must die with you, I will not deny you!” And all the disciples said the same.”

Matthew 26:24 (NLT) Jesus replied, "I tell you the truth, Peter--this very night, before the rooster crows, you will deny three times that you even know me."

However, just as Jesus prophesied, Peter denied his allegiance to Him three times, that same night. Peter was unaware of the darkness that was still hidden in his heart. He was afraid of rejection. The high priests and the masses all had rejected Jesus and accused him of blasphemy. Peter feared that he too would be rejected if he admitted his allegiance to Christ. Instead of proclaiming his relationship with Christ, he swore and denied all associations. Peter’s heart had failed him at a crucial time and he wept bitterly at this realization. Until that moment, Peter was completely unaware of his propensity to deny Christ. Have you ever experienced this?

Matthew 29:69-75 – “Meanwhile, Peter was sitting outside in the courtyard. A servant girl came over and said to him, “You were one of those with Jesus the Galilean.” But Peter denied it in front of everyone. “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he said. Later, out by the gate, another servant girl noticed him and said to those standing around, “This man was with Jesus of Nazareth. Again Peter denied it, this time with an oath. “I don’t even know the man,” he said. A little later some of the other bystanders came over to Peter and said, “You must be one of them; we can tell by your Galilean accent.” Peter swore, “A curse on me if I’m lying—I don’t know the man!” And immediately the rooster crowed. Suddenly, Jesus’ words flashed through Peter’s mind: “Before the rooster crows, you will deny three times that you even know me.” And he went away, weeping bitterly.”

Like Peter, have you ever been shocked by the hidden darkness that was in your heart? "Where did that come from? How did that get there? You were puzzled by your weakness. Jesus knew the depths of Peter’s heart. Jesus also knows the depths of all of our hearts today, yet He still loves us deeply. All the more reason to reciprocate His love by telling others about your love for Him. Today, choose the approval of God over the approval of man and evangelize!

1 Samuel 16:7 (NLT) – “But the LORD said to Samuel, "Don't judge by his appearance or height, for I have rejected him. The LORD doesn't see things the way you see them. People judge by outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart."

Jeremiah 17:9-10 (NLT) – “The human heart is the most deceitful of all things, and desperately wicked. Who really knows how bad it is? But I, the LORD, search all hearts and examine secret motives. I give all people their due rewards, according to what their actions deserve."

Do not allow the fear of rejection to hinder you any longer from evangelizing. Be bold and do not shrink back from the opportunity to share the good news with those around you. Declare today; "I am not ashamed of The Gospel!" Get ready! Tomorrow, we will discuss the third reason we do not evangelize.

Romans 1:16 (NKJV) – “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek."

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Join The Conversation: Building Apostolic Communities

Fostering and Forging Apostolic Communities

Psalms 133:1-3(NLT) - Behold, how good and how pleasant it is For brethren to dwell together in unity! It is like the precious oil upon the head, Running down on the beard, The beard of Aaron, Running down on the edge of his garments. It is like the dew of Hermon, Descending upon the mountains of Zion; For there the Lord commanded the blessing— Life forevermore.

This Thursday, August 20th, we are excited to have as a special guest at Coffee Shop Conversations, Apostle Jemma Duncan, the author of "Fostering and Forging Apostolic Communities". This will officially kick off, "Building The Church", our revolutionary weekend of meetings at The Body Church with both Apostles Jemma and Emanuel Vivian Duncan. For this week, this blog will serve simply to whet your appetite as we await The Word of The Lord through the Apostles.

Acts 2:1-12(NLT) - When the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. Then there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance. And there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men, from every nation under heaven. And when this sound occurred, the multitude came together, and were confused, because everyone heard them speak in his own language. Then they were all amazed and marveled, saying to one another, “Look, are not all these who speak Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each in our own language in which we were born? Parthians and Medes and Elamites, those dwelling in Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya adjoining Cyrene, visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabs—we hear them speaking in our own tongues the wonderful works of God.” So they were all amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “Whatever could this mean?”

Our latest sermon series at The Body Church is called "One" and it's an intense study of unity in the local church first and then in The Body of Christ as a whole. When we look at the beginning of The Church in Acts 2 we see a couple simple things happen in a very specific sequence with fascinating results. Let's take a look.

How The Church Was Built!

1) Jesus left a group of 120 people to wait for The Holy Spirit in The Upper Room. This was the first step of the process. Jesus said wait for The Holy Spirit before doing anything else and they obeyed.

2) They were unified in one place until The Holy Spirit showed up and anointed everyone of them. The Bible said that they were in one accord in one place. That's the type of atmosphere that's ripe for a move of God's Spirit.

3) They all received a common language (The Language of The Spirit) which enabled them to say the same things (testify of God's wonderful works) with completely different tongues, none of which were native to them but were easily understood by the foreigners gathered around listening to them.

4) Apostle Peter stood up and preached the first church sermon ever and it was a long one. Someone has to say something even though everyone experiences the power of The Holy Spirit. Church communities cannot grow without good teaching. Talking in tongues, prayer, prophesying, dancing, falling out, etc. are all good but preaching is important too.

5) The message ended with an altar call during which the first 3000 people got saved. Peter taught the people about the crucified and resurrected Jesus and they responded by committing their lives. Jesus was lifted up from the earth and He drew all men to Himself. He just did it that time through Peter.

6) The Church developed from 120 people waiting for The Holy Spirit in a room to a community of at least 3,120 who engaged in some very specific activities outlined in the following verses.

Acts 2:40-47(NLT) - And with many other words he testified and exhorted them, saying, “Be saved from this perverse generation.” Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them. All the believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, and to fellowship, and to sharing in meals (including the Lord’s Supper), and to prayer. A deep sense of awe came over them all, and the apostles performed many miraculous signs and wonders. And all the believers met together in one place and shared everything they had. They sold their property and possessions and shared the money with those in need. They worshiped together at the Temple each day, met in homes for the Lord’s Supper, and shared their meals with great joy and generosity all the while praising God and enjoying the goodwill of all the people. And each day the Lord added to their fellowship those who were being saved.

7) They devoted themselves to The Apostle's teaching. In other words, The Apostles kept teaching and the people kept doing what they were taught. One sermon from Peter, though quite effective, was not enough. The same applies to us.

8) They devoted themselves to fellowship. People spent time together which meant that even though they were different they learned to get along. We can't hate each other and fellowship. Church communities share life together. Lone rangers have no place in church. Plug in!

9) They devoted themselves to sharing meals including Communion. When people eat together it builds community. The same way families grow when they all sit at the table together, church communities grow when people eat together. Note that I didn't say churches grow. I said church communities. There's a difference. You can have a big church but that doesn't make it a community. 😉

10) They committed themselves to prayer. Have you ever heard the saying, "the family that prays together stays together?" Well, it applies to church families too. When it's time to pray we should all show up in the same numbers as when it's time to listen to The Word, hang out together or eat. All four are crucial to building the church community. You can't leave out any of them.

11) When the top ten were complete, God moved through miraculous signs and wonders among The Church. That was the order. The first miracle was The Holy Ghost falling upon everybody, then other miracles followed.

12) They helped each other out. Church communities take care of their own. We look out for each other first even before we try to look out for the community around us. We are a community already. It starts at "home".

13) They went to church consistently. You can't build a church community if people don't go to church. That's an easy step to follow because it's directly related to being devoted to The Apostle's teaching. People who show up on Sunday morning get something to follow during the week.

14) They hung out at each other's homes. This one's special for me because I grew up in a pastor's home where people would show up at our house uninvited, some of whom we did not even know. Thankfully, those days are over. However, church communities grow as people spend time at each other's homes when invited, of course.

15) They enjoyed each other. This seems too simple to make the list but it's pretty important. We have to enjoy each other's company. When people like each other, they enjoy each other. Truthfully, you don't have to like everybody you meet or even know, but at the very least, you should like the people at your church. To build the community you should enjoy each other's company.

With these 15 characteristics in place The Church community grew daily as God kept adding people. Additionally, miracles and wonders were done consistently at the hands of The Apostles. If that does not describe your church community, you're invited to Coffee Shop Conversations on Thursday night. If it does, you're also invited because we would love to hear how you do it. Today's blog is just a quick introduction. It doesn't do justice to what my mother, Apostle Jemma Duncan will teach from her book, "Fostering and Forging Apostolic Communities". If you live in the Atlanta area, don't miss it. What are your thoughts? Join the conversation.

Dedication Flyer

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Spiritual Unity

Spiritual nity

Ephesians 4:1-6(NLT) - Therefore I, a prisoner for serving the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of your calling, for you have been called by God. Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other's faults because of your love. Make every effort to keep yourselves united in the Spirit, binding yourselves together with peace. For there is one body and one Spirit, just as you have been called to one glorious hope for the future. There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism, and one God and Father, who is over all and in all and living through all.

Only The Holy Spirit can make The Church one. We have tried for centuries to come together and it has never worked. Even on the most basic issues we find difficulty in creating common ground across all of our varied denominations. Some of us can't even agree on the validity of the version of The Bible we read so we can't accept certain interpretations of the same scriptures. Nevertheless, Paul revealed some secrets to spiritual unity that will work if we implement them. It starts with humility and gentleness. None of us completely understand everything in The Bible and that should calm us down when we feel like making doctrinal arguments when someone else has a valid point.

Next, we must be patient with each other and create room for the faults of others because of love. Before we even try to come together we must decide ahead of time that it's okay for others to be wrong and still join with us. Let's now combine this with what Jesus said in John 17:20-21(NLT), “I am praying not only for these disciples but also for all who will ever believe in me through their message. I pray that they will all be one, just as you and I are one—as you are in me, Father, and I am in you. And may they be in us so that the world will believe you sent me.” Our unity with each other begins with our unity with Christ. Until we are each joined with The Lord according to 1 Corinthians 6:17 and become one spirit with Him, we cannot have unity in The Body of Christ. Meditate on John 17

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Watch The Company You Keep!

Watch The Company You Keep!

He that walketh with wise men shall be wise: but a companion of fools shall be destroyed. - Proverbs 13:20 KJV

Have you ever heard the saying; “Birds of a feather flock together?” Essentially, it means the same thing as Proverbs 13:20. People in relationships tend to develop similar traits. When it comes to your philosophy there's probably no greater factor of influence than those around you. Great insight is achieved through conversation and the continuous exchange of ideas.

Ancient Greece was famous for its philosophers who exhibited great wisdom which they shared with the world. Some say they formulated such deep insight from sitting around sharing ideas with each other. The Apostle Paul said; “It should be explained that all the Athenians as well as the foreigners in Athens seemed to spend all their time discussing the latest ideas” (Acts 17:21 NLT).

People teaching other people to think is exactly how cultures are formed. It was their culture in Athens to discuss grand ideas and concepts and with each successive generation they continued that culture. Any group of people who spend significant time together develop certain cultural attributes that are unique to them. Let's take a look at the definition of the word “culture” again.

Culture is defined as:
a) The characteristic features of everyday existence or a way of life shared by people in a place or time
b) The set of shared attitudes, values, goals, and practices that characterizes an institution or organization

Source - The Merriam Webster Dictionary

How are attitudes, values, goals and practices shared? Through relationships. Nobody figures out their own culture. That's why people in the same social group develop many of the same characteristics. People who impact the world tend to hang around each other. Great minds don't just think alike for no apparent reason, they exchange thoughts through conversations and shared experiences.

History merely repeats itself. It has all been done before. Nothing under the sun is truly new. Sometimes people say, "Here is something new!" But actually it is old; nothing is ever truly new. We don't remember what happened in the past, and in future generations, no one will remember what we are doing now. - Ecclesiastes 1:9-11 (NLT)

Since nothing exists in a vacuum, the seeds for your philosophy of life came from somewhere. You might pride yourself in being original but you're not. If you had the ability to trace the path of your thoughts you would be able to see the historical significance of past experiences. For instance, several mindsets in Western society can be traced to slavery and beyond.

Many people of African descent might be unaware of the limits they have placed on their philosophies due to relationships with others of previous generations. This generation learned how to think from the previous generation who learned from the one before them and so on. Eventually, we will be able to see that genes were not the only gifts we received from our ancestors. They also passed down their mindsets.

Do not be deceived:"Evil company corrupts good habits." - 1 Corinthians 15:33-34 NKJV

Even if you consider yourself to be a generally good person eventually your life will become a reflection of your inner social circle. The people you keep closest to you will determine the course of your life. As I once told a friend, each person in your life is either part of the problem or part of the solution. Unfortunately, it's not always easy to accept that someone is part of the problem.

Do not be deceived! The Apostle Paul had to say that before he made his point about evil company. Obviously, he knew that in the area of relationships people are constantly deceived. This is one area of the human experience which is fraught with bad decisions and a lack of general common sense. Why? People tend to evaluate relationships with their hearts instead of their minds and that can be dangerous.

The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it? - Jeremiah 17:9 KJV

Probably no area of our lives is more driven by emotions than relationships. Hence, it's a great place for us to be vulnerable to major falsehood. From the outside looking in, it's easy to identify toxic relationships in other people's lives because sometimes they are so obvious. On the flip side, when you're as emotionally involved as the person in the relationship nothing's clear anymore.

The facts may point you in one direction. The truth may be exposed before your eyes. Yet your heart can fool you into believing a lie. If you don't want something to be true then you just won't accept it. Therefore, people tend to let relationships greatly hamper their progress. That continuous exchange between friends can shape your view of the future and take precedence over your own beliefs.

As iron sharpens iron, so a friend sharpens a friend. - Proverbs 27:17 NLT

One of the core characteristics of highly successful people is their relationship choices. In high school I learned that no man is an island. There are no self-made success stories. Everyone's success has been powered by at least one good relationship. Several history makers openly admit to being at least indirectly mentored by someone else.

When you decide to dedicate your life to shaping culture be very selective of your friends. Choose wisely the people who will sharpen and challenge you in important areas. In case you didn't realize it, sharpening is a painful process. When an object like a knife is sharpened what really happens is that fragments of it are forcibly removed by friction to reveal a sharp edge.

A true friend who sharpens your life will help you to remove what is making you dull and ineffective. Through friction, that person will help to expose areas of compromise in your life that keep you locked in a cycle of mediocrity. Sharpening is not supposed to be a comfortable process so friends of that type don't always rub you the right way but the results are undeniable. So how do you pick these friends?

You can identify them by their fruit, that is, by the way they act. Can you pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? A good tree produces good fruit, and a bad tree produces bad fruit. A good tree can't produce bad fruit, and a bad tree can't produce good fruit. So every tree that does not produce good fruit is chopped down and thrown into the fire. Yes, just as you can identify a tree by its fruit, so you can identify people by their actions. - Matthew 7:16-20 NLT

Jesus could not have made that any clearer. You judge people by their actions. That remains true even though God said in 1 Samuel 16:7; “People judge by outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” Since you are not God you don't have direct access to someone's heart and have no option but to judge by what you see.

If you are not careful you may allow those who paint the picture of success through their fancy words and fake reality to lead you astray. Therefore, before you invest time, emotional energy or material resources in any relationship pay close attention to the evidence. Does this person's life over a period of time provide consistently inextricable proof of anything that's being said? If not, leave the person alone.

In sum, before you can go any further on this journey to maximizing your God-given potential stop and evaluate your philosophy of life. First ask yourself the questions; “In my eyes, what does a perfect world look like? What would I be doing if nothing could stop me from making that possibility a reality?” Then ask yourself, “What am I doing about it now?”

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Ask Donnell: What is The Will of God Concerning Romantic Relationships?

Ask Donnell: What Is The Will Of God Concerning Romantic Relationships?

We received the following questions from Jamie;

"a) What is the Will of GOD concerning romantic relationships?
b) When do you know you are ready? (Do you prioritize academics, then career then relationship?)
c) When did you realize that Angel was a good person to get to know more and vice versa?

(There were one or two guys who seemed to be interested in me but I blanked them all. I do not even try to have good friendships, other than through casual church activities. I just say hi, hello and bye then I usually run away. What questions should I ask yourself and others?)"

What's the Will of God concerning relationships? That's a loaded question. 🙂 Hence, we have to address it in segments. I know when you first submitted your questions you asked about relationships in general but some of your questions do fall into the category of romantic relationships. Last Friday we addressed your question on friendships in "Ask Donnell: What Is The Will Of God Concerning Friendships?" We're moving on now.

Today's emphasis is on romantic relationships and believe me, there's much to say. Romantic relationships always make for good conversation. I recently attended a discussion forum on this topic with a bunch of other young adult Christians in Atlanta. My wife and I were the only married couple there so we had a great time adding our perspective to the mix. Anyway, enough of the pleasantries, let's get down to business.

We have to approach romantic relationships from the perspective of potential marriage relationships. Obviously, we can't expect every romantic relationship to grow into marriage but that should be the ultimate goal when the time is right. Why? If you enter a romantic relationship without any possibility of marriage it's most likely going to end at some point. When it does end, somebody is going to get hurt and it just might be you. Broken romantic relationships take a heavy toll on your heart so you don't want to set yourself up for serious emotional issues if you don't have to. Jesus had some interesting things to say about this topic so let's start there.

Matthew 19:10-12(MSG) - Jesus’ disciples objected, “If those are the terms of marriage, we’re stuck. Why get married?” But Jesus said, “Not everyone is mature enough to live a married life. It requires a certain aptitude and grace. Marriage isn’t for everyone. Some, from birth seemingly, never give marriage a thought. Others never get asked—or accepted. And some decide not to get married for kingdom reasons. But if you’re capable of growing into the largeness of marriage, do it.”

Marriage can be heaven on earth but it can also be hell on earth. Which one it is depends on the two people involved. According to Jesus, everyone is not mature enough to handle marriage. That's a harsh reality. Some don't want to believe that but let's not live in denial. There are both married and divorced people right now who wish they never got married because it turned out to be nothing like they dreamed. They thought they were ready because they were "in love" with Mr/ Mrs Right. Unfortunately, they realized quickly that emotional love doesn't keep two people together for the rest of their lives. It takes a little more than that.

The Biblical conditions of marriage are very strict and few people have wholeheartedly committed themselves to that high standard. If both people do what God says in their marriage God will take care of their marriage regardless of the challenges they face. However, like many other aspects of Christianity we expect God to give us everything but He often asks for more then we are willing to give Him. Therefore, as the standard of commitment to The Lord drops all around us so does the quality of marriage in our society. We choose to do what we want so we pay the price for our choices.

Let's now answer your specific questions.

a) What is the Will of GOD concerning romantic relationships?

Proverbs 4:23(AMP) - Keep and guard your heart with all vigilance and above all that you guard, for out of it flow the springs of life.

Don't rush into romantic relationships. Protect your heart because it determines the course of your life. Do not be quick to let people in who have no business being there. It might be fun to date but getting your heart broken is no fun at all. As we clearly stated in, "Ask Donnell: What Is The Will Of God Concerning Friendships?" there are categories of friends so keep everyone in the right category and avoid potential trouble.

There are seasons in your life when you don't need any romantic relationships and that's fine. There's no need to make something happen out of it's season. Focus on building your relationship with God and establishing good friendships with people. If you don't need to give your heart to someone don't do it. In fact, before you give someone else your heart remember you're giving the person your life also. If you can trust someone with your life only then can you trust the person with your heart. Now let's look at some good advice from Apostle Paul.

1 Corinthians 7:1-9(NKJV) - Now concerning the things of which you wrote to me: It is good for a man not to touch a woman. Nevertheless, because of sexual immorality, let each man have his own wife, and let each woman have her own husband. Let the husband render to his wife the affection due her, and likewise also the wife to her husband. The wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. And likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does. Do not deprive one another except with consent for a time, that you may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again so that Satan does not tempt you because of your lack of self-control. But I say this as a concession, not as a commandment. For I wish that all men were even as I myself. But each one has his own gift from God, one in this manner and another in that. But I say to the unmarried and to the widows: It is good for them if they remain even as I am; but if they cannot exercise self-control, let them marry. For it is better to marry than to burn with passion.

In a nutshell, Apostle Paul addresses the reality of sexual tension. It's as real as the air we breathe. For single people, it's not the best reason to get married but if you meet someone God has for you and you both know you're ready to get married just get married. Don't make it hard for each other to stay right before The Lord by dragging the process along. For married people, part of the deal we make at the altar is to satisfy our spouse's needs. While single people have to discipline themselves to hold themselves back, married people have to discipline themselves not to hold themselves back. This is an area where many people fall in The Church. We try to be stronger than the grace God has given to us or place unrealistic expectations on someone else.

Apostle Paul makes it clear that these words are not meant as commandments but let's be honest, that doesn't matter. This is Godly advice from the man who wrote most of The Bible by the inspiration of The Holy Spirit. He basically taught The Church how to operate. He defined the word, "Apostle". If he speaks about anything we need to listen. Purity in the area of our sexuality is a huge challenge but as Christians we have to give it our best shot with the help of The Holy Spirit. Before marriage, it's important to engage in romantic relationships in a Godly fashion and remaining pure is at the top of the list.

Ask Donnell: What is The Will of God Concerning Romantic Relationships?

b) When do you know you are ready? (Do you prioritize academics, then career then relationship?)

This is very subjective. The Lord will guide you to the right order for your life. However, I'll share with you the pattern I modeled my life after and you can make your own choice. It is working out quite well for me so I have peace with my decision. The perfect example for my life in that area comes from God's original order for the first man He created. In theology this is called "The Law of First Mention". How God did something the first time should be considered as God's original plan.

It's true that God makes adjustments as time goes on but His adjustments usually coincide with our bad decisions. For instance, because Adam failed, God sent Jesus and that's why Jesus was called the last Adam in 1 Corinthians 15:15. When Israel demanded a king first they suffered under King Saul but God eventually gave them King David according to Acts 13:22. Adam and Eve were originally vegetarians but after they sinned God killed the first animal to give them something to wear in Genesis 3:21. God has a perfect plan but He adjusts because He is merciful and gracious. Here's how God did it with Adam. Like Apostle Paul said earlier, this is is not a commandment but sound advice.

Genesis 2:15-25(NKJV) - Then the Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to tend and keep it. And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, “Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” And the Lord God said, “It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper comparable to him.” Out of the ground the Lord God formed every beast of the field and every bird of the air, and brought them to Adam to see what he would call them. And whatever Adam called each living creature, that was its name. So Adam gave names to all cattle, to the birds of the air, and to every beast of the field. But for Adam there was not found a helper comparable to him. And the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall on Adam, and he slept; and He took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh in its place. Then the rib which the Lord God had taken from man He made into a woman, and He brought her to the man. And Adam said: “This is now bone of my bones And flesh of my flesh; She shall be called Woman, Because she was taken out of Man.” Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed.

Which did God give first to Adam? A job or a wife? A job! Before Eve came along in the flesh, God gave Adam more than just a job. God gave him an assignment. He was told to tend and keep the garden first then he was required to name all the animals. Only then did God decide to put him to sleep and give him a wife. Why wasn't the first thing on God's mind giving Adam a wife? We can only speculate but if God gave Adam a wife to help him, Adam needed to be doing something she could help him with. Adam needed to know his God-given purpose as a single man and also needed to prepare the garden before his wife "moved in".

Now let's break this down. At the very least a man needs to be able to provide for his family before he gets a family. Outside of an inheritance, winning the lottery or committing a crime the only way to do that is to work. Hence, a man should have some kind of career before he gets married. The type of career is his choice but it directly affects the type of "garden" his Eve will move into.

Your garden can be bare and full of thorns like a desert or it can be prosperous like the Amazon forest. Some careers that pay well require advanced education and that takes time. I believe in finishing school first. For some people that's high school, for others college but for me it meant graduate school. After graduating from school, a man needs to know what God put him on the earth to do so he could start pursuing it before his help arrives.

How long that takes is different for each person. Some men are ready at 18 when they graduate high school but it took me finishing graduate school to be even mature enough for marriage. Also, it's much more difficult to do certain things after you start a family like going back to school. It's possible to get married first then go back to school but that's if your spouse agrees especially if it's going to cost money and/or time away from working a full time job. Some people choose not to wait so they go for it but there's always a price for every decision.

I started this ministry, wrote several books and became an established professional before The Lord said it was my time for help. It took a while before God decided it was time for Adam to have a wife and that was also my case. Marriage changes everything so it's important to maximize your single life. Consider these things as you evaluate a man you're interested in marrying. Also, don't forget that Adam walked with God for some time before God gave him Eve. She was not responsible for his relationship with The Lord. Adam walked with God first then God decided it was time for Eve to join them. That's proper order.

Here's what Apostle Paul has to say about this.

1 Corinthians 7:32-35(NLT) - I want you to be free from the concerns of this life. An unmarried man can spend his time doing the Lord’s work and thinking how to please him. But a married man has to think about his earthly responsibilities and how to please his wife. His interests are divided. In the same way, a woman who is no longer married or has never been married can be devoted to the Lord and holy in body and in spirit. But a married woman has to think about her earthly responsibilities and how to please her husband. I am saying this for your benefit, not to place restrictions on you. I want you to do whatever will help you serve the Lord best, with as few distractions as possible.

Once you get married your order or priority flips immediately. After your personal relationship with God, your relationship with your spouse comes first then the work of the ministry followed by career and school. Therefore, if you had not done what you were supposed to do for The Lord as a single person there is no guarantee that you will ever have the time to do it on the same level again. When you are unmarried all you have to do is pursue God's plan for your life and that's what you need to do. You can serve The Lord and do the work of the ministry without a care in the world until the day you say, "I do". After that, you and your spouse will have to be in agreement.

Do you want to be a missionary in South America? Go now if you're single. Do you want to spend every day of the week volunteering at the homeless shelter? Go now if you're single. Do you want to give your whole paycheck in the offering on Sunday? Do it now if you're single. It's just you and God now. When He talks you move. All of that changes when you get married. Even if you have a Word from The Lord you have to run it by your spouse first and there's no guarantee you'll both be on the same page. Write your vision and make it plain now so when your spouse comes along you have something to share. God has a plan for your life and it starts now. He's not waiting for you to get married. He has you all to Himself now.

c) When did you realize that Angel was a good person to get to know more and vice versa?

We were platonic friends for two years and during that time learned about each other without any pressure. The last thing on our minds during those two years was getting married. We had no idea that God had something else on His mind. Friendship is the best way to get started in any relationship that could lead to marriage. It's much more authentic than getting to know each other purely out of romantic interests. There's no emotional pressure and you both can be open and honest. Take your time to develop a true friendship before seeking romance because marriage is for a lifetime and you want to get it right.

Single time is a great time to spend working on yourself so you can prepare for marriage. Make the most of it and become the best you that you could ever be. Won't it be great to be "The One" that "The One" you're looking for is looking for?

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