Purity Ring Giveaway

March 29, 2010 at 8:35 pm (Announcements, Purity) (, , , )

Well, we’ve wound up the posts…and now we’ve got one last thing for you…

Cornerstone Jewelry has generously donated a purity ring for one of our readers!  Cornerstone has lots of lovely rings with great messages–we recommend checking them out.  In fact, a ring might make a perfect gift or a great reminder of your commitment to purity.  The one they’ve donated for the giveaway is sterling silver and comes in whole sizes 5-9 and looks like this:

Cute, huh?

We’ll be holding a public auction…excuse me…giveaway starting now and ending April 9th at midnight.  And remember, purity is for married women, too, so anyone can enter!

Here’s how you can enter:

1.  Share with us a scripture that has encouraged or convicted you in your purity journey.

2.  Share your thoughts or purity testimony on the post “It’s Your Turn!”

3.  Share a link to the purity month posts on your blog, facebook or twitter.

4.  Subscribe to the Pearls and Diamonds blog by e-mail or in a reader of your choice (see the options in the right sidebar?)

5.  Come visit Lauren and me and help us with our housework.  Oh!  Wait, that’s shamelessly self-serving…never mind.

Giveaway ends April 9th at midnight.  Be sure to leave a separate comment on this post for each entry!

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It’s Your Turn!

March 17, 2010 at 1:08 am (Announcements, Love, Marriage, Purity, Singleness) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

We’ve spent the last week or so sharing purity stories (in case you hadn’t noticed)…each of us has been walking a path that the Lord has used to teach us the price and value of purity.

Lauren shared that purity in our lives reflects our relationship with the Lord–we’re not supposed to daydream about other lovers, but we’re supposed to love the Lord purely!  She also shared that meeting the “perfect” man wasn’t a signal to lay down her arms and give in–it was actually just a stronger call to keep fighting the battle–even protecting her physical purity during her engagement so that she could give herself entirely to her husband on her wedding day!  And as a married woman, she shared that the same love that inspires “keeping” as a single woman, inspires “giving” as a married woman.

Megan shared the power of God’s redeeming love as the basis for all purity.  With that in mind, pride doesn’t lead us to true purity.  She expressed that purity is far more than physical boundaries–that it begins with a pure mind and heart and humility!  She also shared how God’s powerful love can redeem even our mistakes and sanctify them for our growth and use them for our blessing!  As a wife and mother (with a fifth on the way!), a pure mind and heart are no less important now!

Amy shared that an invaluable secret to protecting “chastity” is godly accountability–particularly parents!  Contentment is an act of trust and the foundation for trust is knowing and understanding God’s character–that He is good and gives good gifts.  Even when “Mr. Right” entered her life, the Lord still had growth planned for her!  And even after her marriage, she has learned that contentment is still an act of trust!  The day we trust the Lord is only the beginning of a life of trusting.

Sarah shared the struggle of learning to balance preparation and training to be a godly wife and mother with the commands to guard her heart and keep her daydreams focused on the Lord.  One day she came to her parents.  “For my entire life you have been grooming me to be a wife and mother.   What am I supposed to do, erase 16 years of brainwashing from my head?”  She also shared the struggle of balancing a godly friendship with the teasing of “helpful friends” and her own desires for a godly husband.  She also shared how we can tend to trust “good things” that the Lord provides, instead of simply trusting the Lord.

Ana Marie shared the importance of filling our lives with the right things–nature abhors a vacuum, and where there is nothing, usually there is plenty of room for stumbling!  She shared the value of a tender conscience and also the power of confessing even motives to her father.  She also shared how necessary it is to guard our brothers–hearts and eyes–in worship to the Lord.

Abigail shared the danger of creating “high ideals” that are often founded in pride instead of in scripture–since they set us up for failure!  God doesn’t promise us our ideal–no matter how we behave.  He just commands us to obey Him.  She also shared the importance of understanding that both marriage and singleness are pure–and glorify God when submitted to Him.   And she shared the the call never changes–regardless of circumstances, pressures or temptations.  Purity must start and end in love–love for the Lord first and then love for His people–all of them.

Now it’s your turn!  We want to hear how the Lord has convicted you and how you’ve responded to the call to purity!  Leave your thoughts and/or post a link(s) to your story in the comments below!

Blessings!

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Confessions of an Idealist

March 15, 2010 at 1:25 am (Godly Living, Love, Marriage, Purity, Singleness) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

Abigail’s Story

My Papa calls me a precocious child—and dramatic.  Add to that an aura of idealism and you have a recipe for trauma.  At least I can keep a secret.  Few know that I was once engaged.  After that, I took a vow of celibacy.

In Which I Tell of My Engagement, Such as it Was

It lasted an entire afternoon.  I was three years old.  His name was Colby and he lived a couple of doors down.  We were engaged, he said, reaching out to hold my hand.  It seemed like an interesting game—whatever “engaged” meant.  When my older brother began teasing me, I discovered that PDA equals humiliation.

In Which I Came to Dread Being a Heart-breaker

Almost as soon as I could speak, my Papa taught me to recite Ephesians 6:1 and explained to me that pleasing my parents was pleasing the Lord.  I might have been six when we visited an elderly aunt.  “What a pretty little girl!” she exclaimed, in elderly-aunt fashion.  “She will be a heart-breaker!”  My parents hastened to say something like, “Oh, no, that’s not what we have in mind at all!”  Their exact words are long gone, but I understood that heart-breaker was not among their goals for me.

In Which I Explain Why Romance Is Embarrassing

I was the girl who closed her eyes during the movie kiss.  When another neighbor boy tried to coax a kiss from me, I declined.  If holding hands earned teasing, I wasn’t about to risk the song “Abi and Colin sitting in a tree…”

Since my early childhood, I have kept myself to myself—my thoughts, my hands, my struggles.  I was always distinctly aware of my privacy and personal space, often excluding my own family.  Secret-keeping, while often masquerading as purity, was simply my method of self-preservation.  I’m introverted.  Intimacy equals vulnerability.  I hate feeling vulnerable.  As I grew and matured, I began stuffing my drama and emotions into a mental closet—to save embarrassment.

My observations of “romance” are deeply engraved in my childhood memories.  Girls acted like giggling goof-balls, said stupid things, tripped over nothing, turned red constantly and whispered secrets to their friends—who announced them to the boy in question.  Boys stole my headband, pestered me, bumped into me, told dumb jokes, invaded my privacy and acted generally obnoxious.  I resented their “immaturity.”  When the preacher’s son made a big ruckus out of sitting by me in Sunday school every week, I took up the matter with his father.  Friends told me, “He likes you” and adults consoled “He’s just sweet on you.”  If that was “sweet” I’d just go sit in the corner with the lemons.

My favorite fairy tale was a version of the Little Mermaid that concluded with the poor mermaid alone, broken-hearted and voiceless after unsuccessfully seeking the prince at whom she’d flung her heart.  Given the circumstances and her disobedience to her father, it seemed a realistic and appropriate ending.  The moral?  Romance is the perfect way to ruin a perfectly good life.

In Which I Decide to Fight Back

I was nine when we attended a small-town barbeque.  My brothers and I joined a group of kids on a squeaky merry-go-round.  Suddenly the boy seated beside me asked my name.  Duly answered, he wanted my age, my grade, and where I was from.  This impromptu interrogation concluded, he turned to his friend and announced, “I got me a pretty lady.”  My ears pricked, curiously.  “I asked her name,” he continued, proudly, “her age, her grade, where she’s from and bingo!  I got me a pretty lady.”  “You ain’t got nothing,” I thought bitterly to myself.  Arrogance!  He hadn’t even asked me!  My brothers thought it was hilarious.  Pondering the event later, it seemed so ludicrous, so stupid, that was almost funny.  I made a decision: if boys were going to be stupid and drag me into it, then I would make them look as stupid as possible.

And I got very good at it.

By the time I was twelve or thirteen, I’d mastered the art of humiliation.  One day after church, a visiting boy began furiously flirting with my buddy and me.  “He’s hitting on your sister,” a friend whispered to my older brother, Nathaniel.  “Just watch,” Nathaniel chuckled.  “It will be funny.”  In an act of deceptive kindness, I boosted the boy onto a trash barrel and into a tree where he perched happily, blowing me kisses.  Then I grabbed the trash barrel and rolled it away, leaving him stranded.  The audience erupted in laughter.  I never paid attention to how he got himself down.

In Which I Accept a Challenge

Before I hit thirteen, my Papa introduced us to the “Bold Christian Youth” seminar by a father and teacher named Jonathan Lindvall.  Lindvall’s message sprang from Paul’s exhortation to Timothy to be an example to the believers—in speech, conduct, love, faith and purity.  He spent three sessions on the topic of purity, delving far beyond the basics of sexual purity and into the issue of emotional purity.  He introduced me to the concept of defrauding: taking something that doesn’t belong to you.  He shared the simple story of how he had met and married his wife, Connie, with his parent’s guidance and her parent’s blessing.  The simplicity, the sincerity and the utter lack of gush appealed to me and I was sold, lock, stock and barrel.

The concept appealed to me for several reasons:  First, it was clearly pleasing to my parents and to the Lord. Second, it made sense.  It didn’t waste time and energy.  And people didn’t get hurt.  (Right?)  Third, it was rather non-threatening to my personality and comfort zone.

I now had a Biblical foundation for battlements to guard body, heart, mind and emotions.  But as I developed my battle-plan and the rules that would protect my borders, I discovered that not everyone was on my team.  In fact, most of the boys I knew seemed like traitorous spies, intent on crossing boundaries at every opportunity.  I remember feeling entirely invaded when one guy friend chased me down and picked me up.  Instead of coming to my aid, several others just laughed (probably because they thought the “smart-mouthed girl” was getting what she deserved.)  With renewed energy and a misplaced zeal, I responded with down-right cruelty.  You pinch my knee, I stab you with a safety pin.  You repeat the offense, I repeat the punishment.  You mess with my hair, I slug you.  You flirt with me, I verbally tear you into sniveling shreds.  I resented any intrusion into my place of concealment and looked suspiciously on any act of kindness.  If I were kind in return, people might think I returned the sentiment.  So I loaded up with sarcasm, cynicism and subtle insults and fired at will.

My parents pulled me aside one day and explained to my horrified ears that “picking on” boys could actually be interpreted as flirtation—it was giving them special attention.  All this time, my efforts to ward off the enemy might have been drawing fire?

I withdrew.  I quit teasing, quit talking to boys, quit making eye-contact.

Chuckling, my parents exhorted me to be kind, to be friendly, but to avoid teasing, insults and “singling out” and to be honest and straightforward about boundaries.

In Which I Discover that Boys Can Be Friends

My mid-teens found me and my brother and involved in a homeschool speech and debate league.  The environment stimulated my mind and brought me out of my shell to look around.  The guys I met behaved like men (well, for the most part) and treated me with respect and friendship.  Most of them were solid believers with strong convictions and when I expressed my convictions and boundaries, they responded with sensitivity and respect.  “I don’t give hugs,” I explained and they quickly apologized.  They became my brothers.  Soon I was developing many friendships that had depth and substance and seemed non-threatening.

Unwittingly, I dropped my guard.

But as my circle of “safe” boy friends grew, something horrible happened.

In Which “Safe” Becomes the Enemy

I had my first crush.

I’d never really liked a boy.  Sometimes, in my early teens, I’d admired a godly young man (usually much older than I), but there was little reason to like anyone.  I was a Papa’s girl with two brothers close to my age.  If there were to be any praises, teasing, affection, drama, conversation, competition, antagonism, attention or good advice, they had it covered.  I’ve heard it said that crushes are a natural part of a adolescence.  So are pimples, but they’re still disgusting.  So when the first crush came, I was aghast.  The world had fallen, my heart had betrayed me, I had lost all vestiges of purity.

As soon as I discovered my heart’s betrayal, I gathered together my forces and declared war on my unsuspecting crush.  Mentally, I shot slime balls into his person and character until he simply wasn’t worth liking.  I focused on his faults, his weaknesses, his annoyances.  Bingo.  He was history.

After all, I wasn’t getting married.  Which made liking a guy the token failure of my purity standard.

See, as the Biblical call to purity had echoed across my heart, I’d felt a powerful desire to be an example to the believers.  If I was to be an example of purity, wouldn’t the best and clearest way be to prove that a woman could be entirely devoted to Christ for her whole life?  Marriage had never been paramount among my desires (remember, I had an intimacy issue).  Now my dramatic side embraced the concept of singleness—serving the Lord perhaps in work with orphans or the inner city.  After all, in a situation like that, singleness could be a decided asset.

Between the conviction that I would stay single for the glory of God and my fault-finding tactic, I survived rather splendidly.

In Which I Finally Grasp Marriage

My family was holed up in a cabin at a family camp in the Ozarks the summer I turned seventeen.  I’d spent the week watching my parents as they waded through some rough issues.  One night, as they sat whispering on their bed, I lay in the bunk above them and finally understood.  Marriage was beautiful.  Across the wooden panels of the cabin ceiling paraded the powerful wooing of Christ toward His church and the picture that a godly marriage could portray of Christ’s love and the church’s obedience.  It was a picture so sadly lacking in the culture I’d witnessed (even the Christian culture) that I suddenly understood the divine calling to live it out.  Marriage had always seemed fine for those who desired it, but I’d reasoned that singleness was better.  As I lay there, sleepless, I grasped for the first time that a pure marriage was just as powerful an example as pure singleness.  Both were from the Lord and both brought Him glory.

In Which I Vow to Remain Single

This revelation did not negate the value I placed on singleness.  Paul’s teaching on the freedom a single woman has to single-mindedly serve the Lord still hangs prominently in my heart.  But the revelation did make the single-mindedness a bit more difficult and I felt like I was battling towering odds.  My grandmas had made bets with my brother that I would be married at 18 and I ranked top on friends lists of “who will marry first.”  My obstinate determination not to marry had guarded my heart for so long, but with my growing appreciation for marriage, I began to feel exposed.  I’d been convicted of my cruelty in tearing guys down to avoid liking them and abandoned it for a more Biblical approach of kindness.  As I approached the magical age of eighteen, the romantic suggestions increased exponentially.  Now I actually thought marriage was cool?  With all of my self-defense mechanisms crumbling and my ammo tossed to the winds of the past, how could I ever stand guard over my heart?

Feeling vulnerable, I dug a trench.  I took a vow of celibacy.

In Which I Learn to Focus

My “vow” was really just a year-long commitment.  I promised the Lord that I would devote myself entirely to His service, refusing to consider marriage, but focusing on knowing and loving Him passionately.

I don’t recommend taking vows like this, but the Lord mercifully used the promise for good in my life.  I developed disciplines of taking every thought captive, ignoring “boy attention” and refocusing my thoughts to the Lord.  My spirit flourished and I fell so entirely in love with the Lord that year that I knew without a shadow of a doubt that I could be single forever—and He would be God Almighty, my Betrothed.

In Which I Lose My Last Defense

During this time of focus, I’d leaned heavily on one last defense:  the art of evasion.  Like a timid hare, a single threat of romantic interest would send me scampering to hiding.  “Um…Charlie’s here,” my Mom announced as a guy I’d been kind to in the library turned up on our doorstep.  “I’m not!” I cried, and fled out the back door.

One day my dad gently explained to me that avoidance could also be a form of “singling out”—giving special treatment to certain guys.

In Which My Ideal Goes the Way of All Fairy Tales

I passed my eighteenth birthday, leaving my year-long vow behind, and my heart wavered again toward marriage.  I passionately desired to be a shining example of emotional purity and I pleaded with the Lord that I would be neither distracted nor a distraction.  I’d watched Nathaniel and Lauren struggle through four years of distractions and determined to guard myself well against a similar story.  My ideal had always been simple and practical—something that permitted me to be entirely oblivious until it suddenly became obvious that I could better serve the Lord married and married to Mr. X.  The end.  No drama.  No romance.  No struggle.  No distractions.  Let’s all just be sensible, can we?

But I’d overlooked a fundamental problem:  oblivion was never included in my many faults.

Over the next several years, my ideal broke into a thousand pieces.  You know how Cinderella wore glass slippers?  In real life, no one wears glass slippers.  My ideal was like a glass slipper—beautiful in theory, but unable to stand the pressures of real life.  Being pursued several times didn’t fit my ideal any better than struggling for four years—both were distractions.  We’re taught not to view every young man as a potential suitor, but what happens when it’s not my mindset I’m battling?  What happens when, like Amy or Sarah or Lauren, a girl thinks she might have met Mr. Right?  Or when a young man is pursuing in an upright manner?  Or when others are trying to “help”?  I wasn’t the only one lacking oblivion.  People asked nosey questions, made nosey suggestions, tried facilitate my “happily ever after,” pushed me, pulled me, poked me and prodded me until I felt like the weepy girl who’d been forced to center-stage.  I was anxious, nauseated, confused, disillusioned and battling resentment.  How was I supposed to guard my heart when it was constantly under attack?  I felt like my reputation was being dragged through the dirt as I was quizzed about one guy after another.  Did people think I just bounced from one guy to the next like that?  Did they think I didn’t uphold my own standards?  What was I supposed to say?  Or do?  I was convinced that to intentionally encourage, where I did not have the blessing of my parents as well as wisdom and my own conscience, was cheating!  As I struggled with distractions, I felt like I was failing my own purity ideals and I was haunted by the words “heart breaker.”  I just wanted the drama to stop!  This romance stuff wasn’t just embarrassing—it was a nightmare!  My dramatic, precocious nature was ready to build a tower with no door or vanish into a nunnery.

Slowly I understood that I couldn’t survive on my own—I was helpless, weak and confused.  I felt so stripped of my privacy and defenses that I was willing to open myself to intimacy with my parents.   And with my heart feeling as crushed as my ideals, I was driven to scripture to see what the Lord truly expected of me.  I’d always assumed distractions were bad, but “bad” things drove me to my parents and to the scriptures for anything to which I could cling.  I found that the purity battle is won, not on the defensive, but on the offensive.  I was trying not to “fall in love.”  Instead I should love.  The purity standard never changed, regardless of my circumstances.  I should love the Lord first, using everything that entered my mind to turn my thoughts toward Him.  When tempted to be distracted, to worry, to consider, I should springboard into praise, worship, truth, trust.  I should love my brothers—regardless of appearances or intentions.  I should seek my brother’s good, seek to turn their minds to the Lord, seek to treat them with kindness without showing favoritism, seek to encourage them.  I should love all my neighbors equally—even those who are prying into my heart.  I should extend grace to those who may not share or understand my ideals.  And I should seek my parent’s accountability and guidance.  I won’t pretend it wasn’t painful, but Christ’s sacrificial love drove Him to endure unfathomable suffering–trusting that He was doing right.  It is His love that controls us and enables us to lay down our lives for others.

From the ashes of my nightmare rose a powerful call to purity and love.

In Which I Share the Moral of the Story

This time you get the moral before the end of the story!  After all, I’m still living, and until I meet Jesus there is no “happily ever after.”

Looking back, I have no regrets regarding sexual purity—well, except perhaps holding hands during my “engagement.”  But until recently, I’d been ashamed of my emotional purity struggle as an overwhelming failure–a complete waste of time, energy and emotion.  I had completely failed all my own ideals.  What was the purpose?  I’d been intensely grateful to the Lord’s grace and to my parent’s wisdom in protecting me from any relationships, but it seemed like a battle I should never have had to fight.

Then I experienced a failed courtship—through the eyes of a friend.  As I wept with her over her broken heart and ideals, I understood God’s healing power.  Another friend recently married—the only guy who’d ever been interested in her.  “How nice,” I thought, but she shared that she had often felt discouraged and undesirable.  As I listened I understood that each person’s struggle will seem hard to them—“bad” to them.  “Hard things” are life and “bad things” happen, but God promises to redeem them for our good.    In fact, God never promises us our ideal—no matter how well we behave.  He just commands us to obey His word—to love Him and His people as worship.

Purity isn’t about ideals or rules that I make up—it’s about obedience to God’s word!  My actions and attitudes must flow, not from pride in my high ideals, but in recognition of my weakness!   I am forgiven for mistakes in my past, I am not to guess at the future and I am to live today in worship of Almighty God.  It’s encouraging to be reminded that I am not responsible for circumstances or results—I’m just responsible to obey the Lord and love my brothers. You don’t have to be strong to win the purity battle, you just have to depend fully on the Lord and His grace.  May the grace of our Lord be with you!

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“Lord Willing”

March 14, 2010 at 1:30 am (interviews, Purity, Singleness) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , )

Ana Marie’s Story

Abigail writes:  When Lauren and Nathaniel started attending a church in Tulsa, they were attracted to the love of the brethren and the fellowship they found.  So was another family that started attending about the same time—Ana Marie’s.  Over the last several years, Lauren has gotten to know Ana Marie and in the few times I have visited, Ana Marie has reached out to me, as well.   We’ve both been encouraged by Ana Marie and her desire to use her single years for the glory of God.  Incidentally, a few months back I had one of those “aha” moments when I suddenly realized where I’d seen Ana Marie before.  On the chance that any of you were once readers of HopeChest magazine, so was I—and so was Ana Marie!

Pearls & Diamonds:  What do you say when someone asks “So, what kind of job do you have?”

Ana Marie: For the past 2+ years, I have worked as an assistant to my father who is the Director of Administration at Literacy & Evangelism International. I have the privilege of doing routine financial work to enable him to focus on various other tasks. My work also includes researching/purchasing office supplies. Another job I enjoy is teaching violin, currently at Saied Music Studios. Occasionally, I have the opportunity to work election polls and do some babysitting. Entrepreneurship is an interest of mine, and I hope to run my own businesses from home.

P & D:  How did the Lord woo you and bring you to Himself?

AM: When I was 6 years old, I would daily write things I was sorry for in a “Sorry Book”. On one of those days, my mom explained to me the need for forgiveness and that God was the only One Who could grant the forgiveness I sought. That day, I understood what Jesus had done to save me from my sins, and accepted His payment for them. Since then, doubts about my salvation have come and gone, but it is reassuring to know that God’s grasp on His children is greater than their faith, and nothing will snatch them out of His hand. As I consider the growth He has accomplished in my life, I know that He continually works in me to conform me more to His image. Realizing that His work in me will be carried on till completion is a great comfort when I am discouraged with my own failures.

P & D: What does it mean to you to be a sensible, pure worker at home?

AM: For me, this means contentedly embracing the sphere God has placed me in and not running from the difficulties in it. Home may be the hardest place to serve, but it is the place I must learn to be content in if I am ever to be content anywhere else. How should a grown daughter in her parents’ home live? Good question! It is one I am studying myself these days.

P & D: Do you hope to marry and keep a home someday?  What inspired your desire to marry and keep a home? How are you preparing for marriage now?

AM: Definitely! However, I must preface that by saying “Lord willing.” It is an issue I seek to leave in His hand. Over the years, my desire for marriage has progressed from immature fantasy to (I hope) more mature consideration of the topic (such as how to prepare myself for being a godly wife and mother). I must rein in my desires, knowing that God brings along the right seasons at the right time. I credit Him with growing the hope for a family someday in my heart. Over the years, He has increased my appreciation for godly homemaking. The greatest preparation for me is growing in character and trust in the Lord. As I spend time with Him and seek to glorify Him in my thoughts, actions, and relationships, I am preparing to glorify Him in a future marriage and family.

Books such as Female Piety by John Angell James and The Family by J.R. Miller have helped me understand God-honoring womanhood and family life, respectively. These are reading material I highly recommend!


P & D:  How does a single woman balance a desire for marriage and preparation for that with keeping focused on the Lord and keeping your heart pure?  What are some ways you recommend for finding encouragement and focus?

AM: A big part of living pure lives, especially in the season of singleness, is filling our time with the right things. Spending excessive amounts of time watching movies, reading novels, and talking with girlfriends about guys is a sure way to nurture inappropriate thoughts. I have made decisions to not watch certain movies or read certain books or listen to certain music based on romantic content that may have led my mind the wrong way. I have also limited my reading of material on purity and courtship. While commitment to a godly approach to marriage is important, much time spent reading courtship stories can foster discontentment and impure thinking. Not everyone struggles with the same things, so it is important to evaluate your own tendencies and struggles. Ruthlessly refrain from or eliminate from your life those things and activities that could lead you to wrong thoughts. This is not about rules and regulations. This is about guarding our hearts for the glory of the Lord and honor of our future husbands.

It isn’t enough just to decide what not to do. Fill your time with worthwhile pursuits. Learn as much as you can about valuable topics. Develop skills. Start businesses. Mentor and be mentored. Build relationships. Serve. Read books that can teach you important things. Think deeply about things and journal your ideas/thoughts/lessons. Memorize Scripture. I have made New Years Goals for many years, but then promptly forgot about them. This year, I wrote down specific things I want to accomplish and posted the list on my blog. This provides some accountability, and though I may not achieve everything, I most likely will accomplish more than I would have without a public list. Now, I have something I can review every month, and my blog readers see my progress. Consider what method for accountability would serve you best, and then go for it!


P & D: Did you have examples of godly women that you look up to? How influential were your parents in your life and life choices? Are they influential in your purity battle?

AM: I have been blessed by several friends who have motivated me to pursue God’s best for my singleness. One friend would, during my teen years, regularly (almost every time we met) ask what God was teaching me. This motivated me to keep studying His Word so that I would not be without an answer! Friends who ask important (and sometimes hard) questions are a great asset.

My parents have been valuable companions in my quest for purity. Though it is the hardest thing to do, I have found peace and strength in sharing my struggles with them. Knowing that my dad knows how to pray for me is a source of encouragement to me.



P & D: How are you spending your single years?  Do you have any regrets?  What would you encourage younger women to pursue during this time?

AM: I am by far not a great example of how to spend one’s single years! The ideals I have had in my mind have not been fully accomplished. However, when I am tempted to be discouraged, I need to remember that God has ordained my path. Walking with and growing in Him is the main thing. My “accomplishments” do not matter that much. When evaluating my previous years, I wish that I would have fought the battle for purity with more zeal. I wish that I would have studied Scripture and academics more earnestly. I wish that I would have persevered in a schedule that it became an almost unshakeable routine. These are some things I would urge other girls to make priorities in their single years. I am grateful that God never gives up on me and has given me more time to grow in these areas.

P & D: What does “purity” mean to you?  Have you ever felt like you failed your own standards?  How did you deal with feelings of “failure”?

AM: According to the Webster’s 1828 dictionary, purity is “freedom from guilt or the defilement of sin; innocence; as purity of heart or life” and “freedom from any sinister or improper views; as the purity of motives or designs” among other definitions. Truly, a life of purity is a life of true freedom – the freedom from enslavement to sin. Because Jesus Christ washed me clean from my sin, I can walk in freedom from sin and pursue a life of purity. If you have not been set free from sin by Christ’s payment for them, this is where you must start. You will never be able to live purely without His cleansing.

I have found my motives to be one place where the battle for purity must be zealously fought. A few times, I have felt really guilty for certain things I did which maybe didn’t look wrong to anyone else, but I knew my motives were impure. Confessing those instances to my dad brought freedom.

P & D: What does it mean to you to treat young men as brothers in Christ?  How does this practically work itself into relationships?  Have your relationships with your own brothers been encouraging in this area?  How do you seek to avoid “defrauding”?

AM: Another area for me to work on! I am so grateful that God gave me brothers. It is definitely a good idea to not see each young man you meet as a potential suitor :-). It is beneficial to see each young man as someone else’s future husband. Seek to eliminate stumbling blocks for them as much as you can.

We should be careful about what we expose young men to. Is there anything in that picture (that I would so much like to post on Facebook) that could cause a guy to stumble? Is there anything in the way I carry myself that could attract inappropriate attention? Is my speech liable to cause their thoughts to go in a direction they shouldn’t? It is better to be too cautious than to cause our brothers to stumble. (Note: I do not believe that girls are the only ones to blame for guy’s thoughts, but do think it is important that we not allow ourselves freedoms which could ensnare them. This is a way to demonstrate godly love and care for the souls of others. Romans 13:8-15:7)

I sometimes think about what I want to save for my future husband alone. I try to guard the thoughts and hopes that I share when in mixed company. I think emotional and mental purity are as (if not more) valuable as physical purity. Being too open about feelings, hopes, and dreams when in the company of young men could result in regret for not saving those secrets for your future husband. Sharing your heart results in a kind of attachment to the one’s you share it with.


P & D:  Anything else? Feel free to share anything that’s on your heart!

AM: The battle for purity is worth fighting! You will never reach perfection in this area, but you will not regret pursuing a pure heart, mind, and life. Make the most of every opportunity to love the Lord. Live life today in a way that would enable you to have a beautiful pure love story someday.

We encourage you to visit Ana Marie’s personal blog and the family blog she updates!  In fact, here’s a couple of places you might like to start:

Pondering Death

Valentine’s Day is coming up on Thursday.  While the world focuses on an imitation of true love and pleasures which soon fade away, what should Christians focus on?  This week, I will be pondering death.

Pondering Love

What is love?  Is it a feeling?  Is it deeply caring for someone?  Is it knowing you can’t live without someone?  Is it being willing to die for someone?  Is it something indescribeable?

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Sarah’s Paradox

March 13, 2010 at 1:23 am (interviews, Marriage, Purity, Singleness) (, , , , , , , , , , , , )

Sarah’s Story
Lauren gives some history:  Sarah is a dear friend whom I met nearly 11 years ago when I first started attending a wonderful little Bible church back in my home state of Texas.  It was the beginning of high school, and I was a one-year-old believer.  I didn’t fit in all that well with churched kids, since I was mostly Bible-illiterate.  But Sarah was one of the first people to welcome me and made me feel right at home (dispelling any stereotypes I may have held about homeschoolers).  Eight years later my then-fiance Nathaniel and I attended her wedding to Evan, and a few months after that, she was one of my bridesmaids.  Nathaniel and I still try to get together with our wonderful friends whenever we’re in the same state!  It’s always a great time of fellowship, sharing what the Lord is doing in our lives.  I hope you’ll enjoy as Sarah shares her story.
P.S.  You might happen to recognize her husband, Evan…he played the evil reporter on “The Widow’s Might.”

Have you always desired to be a homemaker? What inspired your desire to marry and keep a home?

I have the blessing of being the daughter of a very godly woman, an amazing teacher, and a homemaker extraordinaire!  From as early as I can remember she poured her life into teaching me to love our Lord and others and to live to serve.  The older I get, the more I realize how she threw her intelligence, creativity, energy, diligence, and love into every task, even the most mundane, and how she shaped and guided my development as a young woman through her example and through her teaching.  By living in her home, I never saw homemaking as an inferior choice or something to be done in half measures.  It always seemed such a high calling, to be a teacher, chef, interior decorator, advisor, accountant, and so much more…just like my mother.  Now I am even more amazed at all she did and how her love for the Lord permeated her life at home.  I still want to be just like her when I grow up…

Was it difficult desiring a godly husband and home before the Lord brought it about? How did you guard your heart and keep focused on the Lord?

One day when I was about 17, I realized the paradox of wanting to be a homemaker.  I sat down with my parents and said “Ok…so, for my entire life you have been grooming me to be a wife and mother.  When I help Mama in the kitchen it is “so that you can be a good wife.”  When I am playing with a neighbor’s child, you say “You’ll be such a good mom!”  When I am in charge of preparing meals one day a week, it’s so that I can be ready to run a home of my own.  When I work in the garage with Daddy, it’s “your husband will love working with you if you…”  When I get ready to teach the younger kids at our church, you say “Here’s something that you can do someday with your kids!”  Everything you taught me aims toward a husband and a home!  Then, as soon as I am close to the age to be able to actually think about having a husband and a home, all I hear is “Don’t think about it!  Don’t pursue it!”  What am I supposed to do, erase 16 years of brainwashing from my head?”  (As you can tell from this conversation, I am still learning the whole gentle and quiet thing!)

My parents have hearts that are captive to the Word of God, so they understood my dilemma and gave me godly advice for the next years of my life.  They told me, “You are right…there is a paradox there.  You (rightfully so!) desire something that you cannot actively pursue.  But here is what you need to do: Pursue serving the Lord.  Cultivate the gifts that He has given you to the best of your ability, and prepare to spend your life serving Him – either alone or with a husband.  That is what He has called you to do.”

We talked about my goal of going to school and earning a teacher’s credential lest I ever need one in order to homeschool my kids.  We talked about the love and facility that the Lord had given me for language.  We talked about some options that I should pursue with my life.  But I was still struggling.  “So you mean that you want me to just go on blissfully planning my life as a single woman and then just drop the things that I am pursuing if a man walks into my life?”

Their answer: “Quite possibly!”  Of course, my independent spirit rankled at the thought of having to set aside my own plans.  I would much rather have just married before I had plans I would have to give up!  Why go to all the trouble of making plans only to drop them like a hot potato?  Wouldn’t that mean that my plans were not really a part of God’s will for my life?  Was I being rebellious to pursue something other than being a wife and mother?

Then my mom gave me an analogy I have never forgotten.  “Sarah, when is it easiest to steer a car?  Can you steer a parked car?  No!  But when a car is moving at an appropriate speed, it is no problem to direct it wherever you need to go.  Think of your life like a car.  If you sit there, you are making it more difficult for God to steer you.  Just start moving!  He’ll guide the course of your life, sometimes in directions opposite from your plans.  But if you are willing to submit to His “steering”, you are not sinning when you start moving.”

How did you spend your single years? What were the blessings of this time period? Do you have any regrets?

With this advice from my parents, I went to college at Oklahoma Baptist University and earned a degree in Spanish Education, allowing me to be credentialed to teach K-12.  During this time, the Lord blessed me, taught me more that I could ever imagine, and prepared me for where He has placed me now.  My first year away from home I learned that all my life I had been saying that I trusted and depended on God, but when I was removed from all my “props” – my family, friends and church – He showed me that I had really been trusting in those good things rather than solely on Him.  It was a difficult but sweet time of drawing near to the Lord in dependence, realizing my desperate need for His grace and strength each day.  Through those four years, He blessed me with some wonderful, godly friends, and allowed me to learn how to be an excellent teacher through the classes I took.

How did you and Evan meet and marry? What drew you to Evan? How did you approach purity in your pre-marriage relationship?

Evan and I had actually known each other since junior high.  We had been quite good friends as young teenagers.  I loved the way he would sit and talk with me about things that mattered!  As we grew to be good friends, people started teasing us about liking each other.  I was so concerned that our friendship would be ruined that I didn’t even consider romantic attraction an option.  (Evidently Evan’s view differs here – he was just biding his time…)  As Evan started college and then I went away to school as well, we gradually stopped seeing each other as much at church and with our families, who were good friends as well.

As I finished my sophomore year of college, I spent a month in Venezuela with some missionaries, came home, and prepared for my junior year.  I felt that it was a point at which I needed to decide what I wanted to pursue after college.  If I wanted to be a missionary or a teacher, it would take planning to be ready as soon as I graduated.  I was very worried, and once again had a long conversation with my mother about what to pursue as a young single woman who wanted to serve the Lord.  Oh, and I should mention that the winter before I had developed a very bad crush on Evan…

Lo and behold, the very week that I finally stopped worrying about my future and trusted the Lord to continue guiding my life as I pursued Him, Evan asked me to start courting him!  We enjoyed a year and a half of deepening our already-existent friendship, thinking and praying about our futures, and spending time together without being teased incessantly by our friends.  We were careful to be together only in our families’ homes or in public places during this time.  Physically, we moved along slowly, only progressing to hand-holding after a year of going out together.  Looking back, we chuckle about the awkwardness of a relationship where you are aiming toward marriage but must be careful to remain pure.  Thanks to the Lord and to being surrounded by friends and family with high standards, we do not feel that we were overly tempted to be impure during our courtship.  Following our parents’ advice, and due to the Lord’s timing, we were only engaged for a short period of time (3 months), which was a great aid in maintaining purity.  Even those three months almost seemed too long to wait!  We were happily married in July 2007…after approximately 8 years of friendship and 2 years of courting.

How has God sovereignly worked in your life to prepare you for serving Him with Evan?

It has been so wonderful to see the small ways in which the Lord prepared me to be Evan’s helper.  My mom loved music, so I grew up in a home where it was always played and where I was encouraged to play and sing to the Lord.  Evan is a very skilled musician and a choir teacher, so now I can relate to the things he loves the most.  Also, while I am not the most spontaneous and flexible person, my father was, and my husband also is.  In learning to submit to and serve my father, I learned many little lessons that have helped me submit to and serve my husband.

What have been some of the challenges and rewards of making a home for your husband?

I think my favorite part of making a home for Evan is that he loves having people over to visit and fellowship.  It is so rewarding to prepare my home to be an inviting place where he can carry out his ministry of hospitality.  Ministering at his side in our home, at church, and with unbelievers in our community is such a privilege!

As a married woman, are there struggles to be content? Is the purity struggle still alive?

Um, yes!  It is SO important to realize that home, husband, job, child, and circumstance have NOTHING to do with being content!  Contentment is resting in God and delighting in His provision, no matter what is in my life at the moment.  The sad thing is, no matter how He blesses, my sinful heart still finds something to complain about.  It is my daily battle to find joy in the moments and the circumstances that God sovereignly places in my life.

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A Chaste Bride

March 12, 2010 at 1:21 am (Family, Friends & Ministry, Homemaking, interviews, Marriage, Purity) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

Amy’s Story

Abigail says: When I was nine or ten, my family began attending a small, Bible church half an hour away from us.  It was the fellowship and the precious people who drew us there.  My father had always encouraged me to learn wisdom from watching those around me, and he quickly pointed out to me three young ladies at the church whom he recommended as virtuous girls, worthy of imitation.  One of them was a young woman named Amy.  She seemed old to me at the time (about my current age ;)), but as I watched her cheerfully serve, teach, reach out to the younger children, I began to understand how powerful a woman’s single years could be, when devoted to the Lord.  I remember  Steve visiting our church with Amy’s family and watching their story unfold was like peeking over the top of the candy counter to see something exciting.  I think I might have been twelve when I sat in a cushioned pew at their wedding and watched Amy’s father give her away with a promise that has echoed in my mind ever since:  he promised Steve that she was a chaste bride.  When Lauren and I decided we wanted to share the testimonies of women who are seeking to live out the command to be sensible, pure workers at home, those words haunted me until I sent Amy a message.  Below is her story!

Pearls & Diamonds: What do you say when someone asks “So, what kind of job do you have?”

Amy W: I LOVE this question! I will share a typical scenario of how this conversation goes:

ME: (Enthusiastically) “Oh, I LOVE my job! I work with INVESTMENTS!” (Then I look them in the eyes, and SMILE !

THEM: “REALLY? Wow!” (They usually look very satisfied or impressed with my answer.)

ME: “YES! My top investment is my husband, and next to him, are our four beautiful girls!” And the compensation is really good too – actually incomparable! I know it will pay huge dividends in the end! It is a lot of hard work, but a lot of fun, too, and very rewarding!

THEM: (With a positive look of new revelation) Oh! Wow! That is GREAT! You know, that is REALLY TRUE!!

ME: I wouldn’t trade it for anything else! You know, I’ve never yet heard a woman regretfully say, “Yes, I’m afraid I spent too much time with my husband and children! I wish I‘d done more for myself!” But I’ve heard plenty of them regret that they missed so much because of other priorities.” (Then again, I look them in the eye and give them my warmest smile so they (Lord willing) know that I don‘t share the enthusiasm for my “job“ with any criticism toward their choices!)

THEM: Wow! That is really great that you ARE ABLE to do that!

ME: It does require sacrifices to live on one income, but the reward is definitely worth it!

P & D:  Have you always desired to be a homemaker? What inspired your desire to marry and keep a home? How did you prepare for marriage before it was an option?

Amy: Undoubtedly the little seeds of love for making a home were planted in my heart from my most tender years and onward by watching and adoring my own mother and father; desiring to be like my mama, and dreaming of marrying a man just like my daddy! Our home was very close and loving. In my mind, who would not want to make the same when they grew up? We were also encouraged to play with baby dolls, make mud pies, and develop our maternal qualities! My father wisely began training my mind and heart regarding young men while I was still very young, so as to help me not give my heart or emotions away before the appropriate time. I still remember sitting at the table as a family (the place where so many good memories and training took place) and my father looking at my sister and me and asking, “Girls, what will you do some day when a young man asks you to go out on a date with him? What will you say?” There were giggles and a few smirks from older brothers, but my dad instructed us that we should refer the young man to him. As we got older, this was not a command, but rather, through training and prayer there was instilled in my heart the desire to do what was right. So one way I prepared for marriage was by keeping my heart with all diligence; by not practicing divorcing relationship after relationship through dating.

Additionally, we memorized much Scripture during our schooling years, and this instructed my heart greatly! Just a small example: I remember reading Prov. 31 when I was about 14 and taking it very seriously. “…She will do him (her husband) good and not evil ALL the days of her life”. WOW! I thought ALL the days of her life? Does that mean today? I am not even married! I likely haven’t even met my husband-to-be. Yet I realized, as I pondered this question, that what I did today was not only a reflection on my father and my Heavenly Father, but also on the possible man who would ask me to take his hand in life. And how I invested my time now would also have eternal consequences. Another example I recall as a young teen was when I was memorizing Ex. 20:5. I remember thinking, “Oh, WOE is me! Any sin I choose to engage in (whether outwardly or in my heart) will have consequences on my own posterity!” So when tempted to do questionable activities, scripture instructed me, influenced me, and gratefully kept me from much sin!

Lastly, I was better prepared for marriage before it was an option by learning many skills that would be useful as a wife and homemaker. I was taught a sense of duty to our family. My sister and I both learned early to work hard, and enjoy working and serving others. We learned to garden, can and freeze produce, milk our cow and goats, care for animals, cut up meat for the freezer, manicure the yard, work along side our father to carry in firewood or help build a project, or work along side our mother to clean, organize, and decorate our home, sew and mend clothing, bake and cook nutritious meals, show hospitality, cut and trim hair, run errands, care for younger siblings and others’ children as well. We were also taught a sense of duty to our country. We learned to serve our community and country in love and care for the less fortunate, serve in-depth in political campaigns, teach children in various public schools, serve as interns at the state house and understand the world in the whole vs. our own tiny world of friends that surround us. And most notably, we were taught a sense of duty to God, the One who gave us life and breath itself! To serve and obey Him, and give Him our desires and our cares, to be a wise steward of money and other resources He has given us, and to live according to His design. Through building these skills, the Lord also built much-needed character into me to the same end.

Now as a married woman of 10 yrs on Feb. 5, 2010, I am so glad I did not wander aimlessly about on a bed of ease, or fill my time, heart, and mind with romance novels, frilly dreams, or frivolous short-term relationships. I have needed and used every single one of these skills I formerly learned, to serve my husband and family. I am so very, very grateful to the Lord for His Word and Spirit guiding me, and for my parents who trained , encouraged, and prayed for me in the way that I should go, as well as for others who influenced me toward more godliness!

P & D:  Did you have examples of godly women that you looked up to? How influential were your parents in your life and life choices? Were you close with your father? Were you close with your mother?

Amy: Yes, I had examples of godly women that I looked up to, but truly none even came close to comparing to what I saw in my own mother! I KNEW her! I lived with her! I saw and felt (to a greater or lesser degree) many of the struggles and challenges she faced through the years – which were nothing to scorn! I’ve heard many women come to my mother and pour out their aching hearts to her, and she always gave wisdom from the struggles and successes of her own life and walk with the Lord (which usually left them speechless and without excuse). Today she still supports and serves my father and youngest sister with sacrificial faithfulness! She is a prayer warrior! She taught me feminine virtues and the skills of womanhood! She has been a great comfort and inspiration to me over and over! Although she is not perfect, I cannot say enough! With the Lord’s help, I can only hope, pray, and strive to be half the woman she is! I was very close to my mother! I was also very close to my father! I felt I could share anything with them anytime! And I did! If ever I felt like I needed help or counsel for anything, they were there! Sometimes I had to wait my turn when another sibling was in line ahead of me, but they would always stay up as late as needed to talk and share with me! As I approached my later teen years and beyond, I would share with them everything about my relationships with others – particularly sharing with my dad my relating to young men. Any gentleman that became even a little extra friendly, I would share with my dad what I sensed from him. And I would also share with dad where I was with any young man.

P & D:  How did you spend your single years? What were the blessings of this time period? Do you have any regrets?

Amy: I already shared briefly how I spent my single years: learning to rejoice in serving my family, gaining skills needed for the future, memorizing and studying scripture, watching and training children, volunteering time at church, kid’s camp, and neighborhood Bible clubs, tutoring or counseling juvenile delinquents in the inner city, working in my brother’s race for public office, serving as an intern for him at the Statehouse, teaching in the public schools, visiting godly widows, gaining artistic and secretarial skills and more.

My only regret is that I didn’t spend more time helping the younger families in our church and community! I had no idea how tremendously big a blessing and encouragement a single, godly, young woman could be to a very tired young mother who is convicted to only have excellent role models for her children until I found myself in these shoes! There are so many silly young girls who waste a lot of time on vanity, movies, dating, novels, etc… who influence young children in such a way that after she leaves, it takes more work (several days of consistent training) for the already tired mother to bring her children back to where they were before the single woman came, actually turning any help she gave into far more work instead! There are so few singles who offer to help, and much fewer excellent, godly role models that a young mother CAN accept genuine help from! By far the most help I have ever received was from those who influenced my children toward godliness through their own life example!

P & D:  Was purity a large part of your upbringing? What kind of standards did you have for relationships as you were growing up? Did they change or become more personal convictions as your matured?

Amy: Maintaining purity in thought and action was taught very early in our home, but it very soon became a personal conviction (again through the guidance and instruction of the living Word). It was my personal conviction to be with male friends in a group or public setting only, rather than alone. And I may have seemed a bit stiff to male friends if they were the continuously-huggy type with girls, but it was not what I felt I could express or portray. My father also helped me understand how very differently young men think! (I Thes. 4:4-7) An occasional little hug at a graduation or some other “occasion” was okay, but beyond that – no thanks! And a beautiful outpouring from these convictions was the pure joy of true fellowship with many young ladies and gentlemen without a trace of jealousy or envy intermingled in these relationships! Because of this freedom from jealousy, envy, and the like, we (friends and I) were able to focus on studying the Bible together, prayer, and many ministry projects we did together for fellowship! This also resulted in more joy from being a blessing to others! These single years were truly so rich and full of growth and joy, despite the inner struggles of desiring a husband and home!

P & D:  How did you and Steve meet and marry? What drew you to Steve? How did you approach purity in your pre-marriage relationship?

Amy: Whenever a gentlemen would request to go out, or spend time getting to know me in a singled out fashion or purpose, I always referred them to my dad. Often that was enough to send mediocre guys out the door for good, and I was very grateful for a father who cared enough for me to spend the time necessary to respond to the guys who had enough backbone to actually go to him. This definitely kept a heavy load off my shoulders as there was never a better filter for any girl than for her father to screen the young man and keep all but “Mr. Right” at bay. But one day something unusual happened. I was house-sitting with my older brother for a few months at the home of a godly, elderly couple who visited many churches during their travels. Eventually they returned to their home with a list of all the “wonderful young men” from which I was expected to pick.. They were confident that one young man in particular was THE man for me, and so Ramona commenced repeatedly to request my permission to give him my address. As you all know, for singles there is never-ending help to find Mr. Right. I was usually able to dampen folks’ enthusiasm, but all my experience was to no avail with Ramona! Finally out of desperation, I told her she could call my dad and ask him. Without a moment’s hesitation she turned and called his number! After talking with my dad, he thoughtfully gave his consent to give the young man my contact information. I was floored! My jaw HIT the floor! And Ramona laughed triumphantly at my shock and prepared to send my address. I couldn’t believe this new response from my dad. Previously he had always graciously said no! Later I inquired of him his reasoning. He said, “Well, honey, you never know how the Lord might work.” That was it!

Thankfully, nothing much ever came of Ramona’s gentlemen for me. But a short time later I was helping at a Bible Memory camp when an unusually godly older couple whom I greatly respected and admired, and whom I’d known since childhood came and talked to me and (much like Ramona) asked permission to give my phone number to a “godly young man” that they had gotten to know through their home church. I began to thank them but defer their offer when I remembered what dad had said. “Well, Honey, you never know how the Lord might work”. This was a very similar situation, so instead, I told them I would go home and ask my dad, and if it was NOT okay, he would give them a call. Otherwise, they could give it. They mentioned he was shy, so he might not call anyway. Regardless, I talked to my dad first thing upon arriving home. I don’t think he thought much of it either. But a few weeks later I got a call from “Steve… who???” He said the Clarks had given him our phone number and he wondered if he might come down (a 3 ½ hr. drive) and meet our family. Thus began a casual friendship with Steve. That first day he visited, we all (he and our family) went to a picnic fellowship outing with our Bible study group at a nearby lake. There we were able to get to know each other better and share how we came to know Christ, how the Lord had grown us in Him, and how He was presently working on us. By the time Steve returned home I felt I had another brother in Christ with whom to fellowship; a new edifying friend in the Lord.

(There are a lot of details that time and room won’t allow me to share here, so I am leaving out a lot of unusual details and just sharing the more pertinent parts.)

After Steve’s initial visit (which I learned by the way, he does not have a shy bone in him) he occasionally visited our family and attended our Bible study or church fellowship with us, and he kept me updated through email about the Christian group he led on campus at the secular college he attended. About a year later I realized that I was beginning to grow in my respect for Steve, and later began to struggle with my own emotions toward him. This was not a result of any infatuation or emotional dwelling on him. Looking back I see even more clearly, that it was the Lord who placed him on my heart. Truly, HE drew me to Steve as I saw in Steve a sincere heart to do the Lord’s will unconditionally, and live 100% for Him! At this time I began to feel inwardly vexed because I knew a few other young men whose hearts were also very fervent toward God, but I was not drawn to them with quite this same respect. I fervently wanted to be certain that I was not deceiving myself, becoming infatuated, or playing foolish emotional games. But I also knew I was genuinely doing all I could (focusing on the Lord, His word, quoting scripture during times I struggled to get Steve out of my mind, praying and crying outloud to the Lord, sharing my heart of hearts with Him, asking Him for help and strength, and truly desiring to be obedient even if it meant I never married.) Still yet I knew I was very human and realized that it was quite possible to fool myself. To be sure, I went to my parents and asked them if they thought I was infatuated or was deceiving myself. They encouraged me as they shared that they did not believe so. I also asked them if I should cease any emails or contact with him. (This would not have been easy at this point, but I was determined to guard and save every bit of my heart for my future husband alone.) There was a long silence as my dad thought through the question and slowly (to my surprise) said he didn’t think I should cease the contact, but that I should continue emailing and do my best to guard my heart. And so together we began praying that the Lord would either remove Steve from my mind and heart, or show us whether or not he was the man I would someday join in life’s journey as my husband. So Steve and I occasionally wrote and he continued his visits of fellowship with our family and church and was a very encouraging brother in Christ, but made no sign of any additional interest. And I was increasingly careful NOT to give him any indication of my inward struggle or growing respect for him because I wanted to know for sure that it was not ME, and that it was the LORD that would bring the right man as my future husband at the right time!

Then guess what? Yep, that is right! As the Lord would have it, after Steve finished college he bought a one-way ticket to ALASKA and began flying as a bush pilot/mechanic!! So I was sure I had my answer from the Lord! No more emailing, out of sight, out of mind, right? Uhmmm! Well, okay, maybe not quite! The no more emailing and out of sight part was accurate. But the rest….! No way! In fact this was definitely the most difficult time of all! I yearned to have a husband and home, and now I knew THIS godly young man, whose respect for him seemingly would not leave my heart no matter how I tried to keep it from being there, and yet there was SILENCE from him! It just did not add up in my mind. Was I somehow making it more difficult than it really was? More than anything else, I wanted to keep my heart, focus, and energy on living for the LORD! I did not want any distractions! If I was to be Steve’s bride, I wanted the Lord to show me so I could move in that direction knowingly. If not, I did not want to lose the struggle in guarding my heart. But there were many nights I went to sleep on a wet pillow after crying my heart out to the Lord!

P & D:  Was it difficult desiring a godly husband and home before the Lord brought it about? How did you guard your heart and keep focused on the Lord?

Amy: Difficult??? Yes, ALL of difficult! Sometimes the struggle was incredibly intense! Sometimes it was so difficult I didn’t even want to have the desire for a husband and home at all because it was heart-wrenching to desire a godly thing but not be the one to actively bring it about. All I could do was to pray, be content with where God had me, and work hard to guard my thoughts and heart! (It has always been my personal conviction and belief that God created the man to be the head of the home, [Eph. 5:23] therefore he bears the greater responsibility before God for the home, and likewise, he should be the one to initiate any relationship with the intent to marry, rather than the woman initiating.) I couldn’t count the times I told the Lord I really DID want HIS plan and timing, but it was very difficult to wait on Him and His timing! I recall asking the Lord if it was his will for me to remain single, would He PLEASE take the desire for a husband and home AWAY! But the desire only grew, which caused me to lean on the Lord all the more, and in time made my walk with Him even deeper and more precious!

Eventually I came to the place (while Steve was in Alaska) where I desired a godly husband and home more than ever, yet I could truly say from my heart of hearts, that I was content and totally joyful in Jesus Christ alone! If I never married, I was Christ’s! I know this was none of my own doing, but was completely a work of the Lord, alone!

Interestingly, it was only AFTER coming to grips with giving Him my desires, CHOOSING to be content and trusting GOD and His timing that the Lord opened the relationship with Steve beyond casual friendship. Waiting on the Lord, and trusting in Him became a choice I learned to praise the Lord for…praising Him for all the things He was teaching me in this struggle that I would not have learned any other way. Just for the record, I sure did not FEEL like being content and joyful at times. Initially it was an act of TRUST and OBEDIENCE, but eventually the emotions followed! And, ahh, so sweet was the rest in yielding my spirit!

One August morning, after Steve had been gone a little over 1 year, I received a call from him. He was back for a time with an Alaskan missionary’s airplane! He had brought it back from Alaska to completely refurbish it with new avionics, an engine overhaul, and other repairs, and complete it with a new paint job.

Now Steve resumed his occasional visits. However they became more and more frequent! He invited my dad to go on a three day road trip with him to get the airplane engine overhauled in another state. Steve had worked with my dad on several of Steve’s family visits, but this one-on-one time was especially growing for dad and Steve’s relationship. They were able to talk a lot! Dad wisely took the opportunity to impart practical wisdom with which any father would want to bless a young man!

In early October, unknown to me, Steve made an appointment with my dad for a private dinner at a nearby restaurant. There Steve asked for permission to ask me more pertinent questions relating to marriage and life. My dad granted him permission. During the next few weeks we spent a lot of time talking. (Again, time will not allow as much detail here as I wish.) Then Oct. 25th, Steve flew to my parent’s home (without my knowledge) and asked my dad for permission to marry me. Again, dad granted him his permission and blessing.

It was now October 28th, and I was about to complete my work day at the local home-care office when Steve appeared at the front desk with a beautiful bouquet of 12 red roses! I was shocked! His visit was very much a surprise, as well as red roses! He asked if I was ready to go! He said he had called my employer (in another city) and had gotten permission for me to leave work early! Once outside, Steve offered to take me flying. We went home, changed clothes, put the roses in a vase of water, and set out for the airport. An hour later we were flying near a well known lake in Missouri where we landed and walked quite a distance before arriving on the lake shore. It was a beautiful evening as the sun was just lowering behind the horizon. The pink and yellow from the sun was reflected in the water, and the waves swept gently against the rocky shore. Steve and I looked out over the water and I was taking in the awe of God’s creation when Steve turned and faced me. He took my hand and knelt down. I thought since he took my hand we must be going to pray, so I too knelt down beside him. Steve gave me a puzzled look as I knelt down beside him. Then his eyes looked deep into my own as he paused, smiled, and said, “Amy Joy, you are the love of my life! I believe the Lord can use us to serve Him better together than apart for the rest of our lives! Will you marry me?!!! It was only then I realized I was not necessarily supposed to be keeling down beside him. But no matter! I returned his smile, paused momentarily to choose my words carefully to reflect my true heart, and said, “Steve, I would be honored to be your wife! Yes, I will marry you!!!” His look of an eager question in full anticipation was replaced with extreme joy and relief! At first we were too joyful to speak. Just sat smiling and living in the moment! Then Steve stood up and worked his masculine fingers deep into his jeans pocket and brought out a soft, small wrapping. He knelt back down beside me on the shore and carefully unwrapped it to reveal a beautiful engagement ring with a single, brilliant diamond on the top! I loved it! (Of course!) How had he known? I was secretly hoping we would not go ring shopping together, but that STEVE would pick out a ring HE liked for me. If he liked it, I would love it! He slipped it onto my finger and exclaimed how much more beautiful the ring looked on my hand! The sun was quickly retiring, casting long shadows over the road as we walked quickly now, to return to the plane before darkness fell completely. On the way, Steve explained the significance of the ring he had chosen. There were four strong prongs surrounding a very pure diamond. Whenever I looked at my ring, he asked me to think of two of the prongs as representing Steve’s arms, the other two prongs, the arms of our Lord Jesus Christ. He asked me to think of myself as the diamond with him and the Lord surrounding me, holding me secure!

Soon after our engagement, I remember thinking, “What if Steve really wants to show more physical affection as the wedding draws closer. How far is okay?” Immediately I prayed and asked the Lord. And just as immediately, the answer came to my mind. If Steve wanted to link fingers, or at most, hold my hand, that would be okay, but I would most prefer nothing at all until our wedding day. Not because the desire was not there to be more affectionate, because it was, but rather because our relationship had developed, first becoming one in spirit, and secondly, becoming one in soul (mind, will, and emotions). I did not want the focus to be on the physical aspect (which would be a natural outcome of becoming one in spirit and soul) until after our wedding.

Only a few short days later when visiting his parents’ home, Steve asked if we could talk about physical expression (or the lack thereof) before our wedding. He said the most physical he was willing to be was to link fingers or hold my hand if I wished, but that his first preference would be to save all physical affection until our wedding day so that our focus and priorities would remain on the Lord! My heart rejoiced as I heard him speak the words! The Lord had laid on both of our hearts the EXACT same desire; HIS desire for us! And although there were all the normal desires to express our love for each other through hugs and holding, we were grateful to have the support of each other and conviction and confirmation from the Lord that carried us in purity to our wedding day! The only exception to this was on the occasion that we prayed together. Steve always took my hand in his in prayer.

Since Steve wanted me to return to Alaska with him, and the missionary organization was needing their plane back as soon as possible, our wedding date was planned for Feb. 5th, barely 3 months away! I was now 24. After keeping my thoughts and body under submission for so long, and with everything now happening so quickly, the fact that I was now engaged to be married very soon did not even seem real. It was a very joyous and busy time, wrapping up my life there with so many, preparing for our wedding, and preparing to accompany my new husband to Alaska!

P & D:  At your wedding, your father promised Steve that you were a chaste bride. How could he say this with confidence?

Amy: My dad KNEW me, and we had an extremely close and excellent relationship! He knew my convictions and saw me live with the Word as my guide. He didn’t just know WHAT I did, but I also frequently shared my thoughts and motives with him and went to him for counsel and advice. From my youngest memories I can recall, there was a growing relationship with growing trust that was not unfounded. I trusted my dad, that he truly had my very best interest and welfare at heart. I strove to be as transparent as possible, realizing he would be best equipped to protect and provide for me in this way. And he trusted me as well! As I look back, I am still amazed how much he really did trust me, yet I knew it, and always wanted his trust to be backed with a genuine reality that I was worthy of such trust, not giving any false front, or sneaking anything behind his back. Again Scriptures such as Prov. Instructed and influenced my life. “He that covereth his sins shall not prosper, but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy.” So, this is MY answer. But I thought rather than assume why he could say this, I would just call my dad and ask him why he could promise Steve, with confidence, that I was a chaste bride. Following are his words he shared with me:

“Why could I , with confidence, promise Steve that you were a chaste bride? Well, whatever I said to you, Amy, you listened to; what I had to say was important to you, whether it was regarding your car, or work, or your friends, or relationships. It did not matter. In all areas I could tell that you were paying attention to what I said. I knew you paid attention in many little ways. I knew there were no unusual responses that would have occurred if your relationships had not been completely pure. There was no rebellion. I never did sense rebellion in you, which was a tremendous sense of blessing to me. You were not afraid to ask some hard questions. You did at times. It was not like our relationship was superficial. Rather, it was very heartfelt! We were (and still are) VERY close! This made a tremendous difference! Even as you are asking me this question before writing Abigail back, you are not assuming my thoughts. You are willing to take my perspective on it! I appreciate that! I also knew the people that you associated with. And (with good reason) I trusted the people you roomed with. I knew the music you listened to, the services you went to and listened to… everything all figured in pretty well, so that I was confident that you were the person that I thought you were. Our relationship, and my trust was nothing that we cooked up over the last few days or years, but was longstanding since you were a very little girl! It was not a short-term thing. I had had some opportunities to counsel and instruct, pray and teach and work with other young ladies and young men in various situations in the past, and so I felt that it was not my own “think so”, but there was enough experience with others, that I was confident with what I was doing with my own family. This was not a brash, foolish, prideful confidence, but a confidence born out of ministry and experience from working with people for some years previous to your marriage. I believe the confidence that I had was born in our relationship and the understanding that I had of you, your situation, and your life.”

P & D:  You’ve moved around a bit–sometimes rather far from “home.” Has it been difficult and how have you worked to make a “home” for your husband?

Amy: LOL! Yes, as I write, I am 3700 miles from our folks and family! And if we excluded our last 2 moves, we have averaged moving about every 6 months. It was a lot easier the first couple of times with few to no children! I am glad I can laugh about it now because there was a time in our marriage that I would not have. I think this is so, because I was so deathly sick with pregnancies and Steve was gone working as a pilot so much of the time, (often days or weeks and occasionally months at a time!) It was extremely difficult for me! When single, I was VERY active in our church and community. It was not unusual for me to put 100+ miles on my car in one day. I love people, and I knew and interacted with many people! So to get married, and 10 days later move away from EVERY one and everything familiar to me, and arrive in the bush of Alaska, with the only way in and out by airplane or dog sled, with ice and blowing snow or dark clouds of mosquitos outside (depending on the season), this was hardly peaches and cream to a now pregnant and sick, outdoor-loving, tom-boy, country girl who had to stay inside, alone, day after day!

The Lord blessed me with severe sickness in pregnancy and unhealthy outdoor weather as it forced me to come to a complete STOP from the pace I was so used to. This was vital to my ability to be a successful wife and mother as I needed to learn to stop focusing on ministering to others all around me as I had done before, and to refocus on the Lord and my husband alone! This refocus also enabled me to keep my priorities right, and kept me from engaging in outside activities. This was very healthy and bonding in our marriage relationship. All my energy and creativity went into knowing, loving, serving, pleasing, and praying for Steve, keeping our home as a tidy and orderly haven for him and a center of hospitality and ministry, and reading and preparing for our coming baby!

Additionally, some of the greatest things I did to make a home for Steve were actually simple things that I learned in our home growing up; things that were strengthened in my single adult years as well, and applied on a more intense level within our own home and marriage. These were, to take great delight in my husband, focus on Steve’s strengths and overlook any weaknesses, strengthen my communication skills with him, find joy, contentment, and a grateful spirit in every thing (both the good and joyful times, and the very challenging and difficult times) and learn to take my cares to the Lord and TRUST HIM, rather than being a nag or striving to change things outside my jurisdiction.

P & D:  As a married woman, are there struggles to be content?

Amy: There is always the fleshly pull from the world we live in to lower myself to its illusion of what a woman should be. We get pressure from the news, through magazines, the beauty salon, schools, institutions of work, at the grocery store, on billboards, and from the next door neighbor. But in our many moves, I often found one of the most intense influences toward DIScontentment was surprisingly the church! It is easy to let my guard down at church when I am talking with a brother or sister in Christ, and suddenly feel great pressure from them to conform to the world‘s mold. I find that I NEED the influence and power of the Word and Spirit daily! It is Jesus Christ who renews my mind and spirit, cleanses my heart, keeps me pure, guides my way, restores my soul, and keeps my affections set on things above! It is His Word hidden in my heart that keeps me from sin against Him (Ps. 119:11). When I am not in His Word, then it is very easy to be discontent and even complain when there are so many blessings to focus on and for which to be grateful! When I am in the Word and living in the Spirit, I find I am truly grateful for everything – even the most painful, heart-wrenching or near death times, though they are very difficult.

P & D:  Is the purity struggle still alive?

Amy: Gratefully, the purity struggle for me was over at our wedding altar! Although not completely perfect, my wonderful, godly, masculine, self-sacrificing, loving, handsome, best friend, husband, and hero, Steve, truly has my heart! Absolutely, ALL of it! He was and is my only lover and I am so very grateful I never dated anyone else or gave them a single kiss or even a fraction of my heart! Steve is mine, and I am his!!! (SONG 2:16)

P & D:  You have how many little girls? Paul commands older women to train the younger to be sensible, pure workers at home. How has this affected your raising of your daughters?

Amy: Steve and I have been richly blessed with four beautiful daughters! (I had 1 miscarriage and do not know if this baby was another daughter or a son.) I have always loved kids and enjoyed and interacted with them a great deal when single, but I never realized just how deeply the joy could flow in having four daughters of our own! I am learning over and over again that children are often the very best at keeping us accountable to do what we say because all training of children is far more caught than taught! They see and know who we are by watching us more than by what we verbally articulate to them. They are true immulators. They also often show others who we really are behind closed doors by what they say and do when the doors are open! So Paul’s command to train the younger to be sensible, pure workers at home has influenced me to be all the more transparent, and live my life within my home for the Lord and for my husband with joy, and openly share my life with my daughters as I live it. I intentionally teach them the skills my mother taught me, and as we home educate our daughters and so spend each school day close together, I strive to view the “interruptions” of each day as teachable moments that God divinely appointed, and try to utilize them rather than hurry over them. I also strive to portray before them the joy I have in serving my Lord, my husband and my family, and express to them the love and delight I have for their father, and exemplify honor to him! Further, we are teaching them the Word of God so that they will recognize error from sound doctrine, so it will reprove them, correct them, and instruct them in righteousness. (II Tim. 3:16) They are also learning to hide God’s Word in their hearts so that they will be sensible and not silly women led away by man‘s “wisdom“, and so the Word will purify their hearts and minds and keep them from sin.

P & D:  What does it mean to you to be a sensible, pure worker at home?

Amy: The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. I believe a sensible, pure worker at home is one who fears God rather than man, whose focus is on the Word of God rather than the ways of others. A woman who truly fears God launches into her work as a wife and mother with a passion, and uses her home as a base to minister the life of God to others. From there she can assist, encourage, and pray for her husband in a way that no one else could; she can train and disciple her children; she can use her talents to encourage, bless, and refresh other believers, help the needy and model the life of Christ. Her home/family is a reflection of her diligent work and faithful stewardship, seen both in her husband and children, as well as the home itself (as orderly and efficient as possible).

P & D:  Anything else? Feel free to share anything that’s on your heart!

Amy:  * When God gives you a standard or conviction based on His Word, do not allow others to influence you to lower it in any way!!! MANY times I was told by many people that my “standard” was too high, especially at it related to a marriage partner. As my heart was tender to receive wisdom from older godly people, this was very difficult because I heard this from them as well! But I am SO, VERY grateful that I did not lower anything! And God (in numerous ways, over and over, too many to write here) confirmed that Steve was the right man at the right time, and I, as a married woman now, am truly eternally grateful to the Lord for HIS wisdom and guidance!

* I want to encourage all young ladies that feel like they don’t have the “perfect” father or situation, to seek counsel and help from a godly father figure – someone who can “screen” potential young men for you. A godly “father” will be able to see things that women cannot see in young men. They will be able to protect and help guide you and save you from substantial grief as a married woman!

* Write down your convictions as God reveals them to you. If they are written down, you can read over them and strengthen them in your own mind and heart so that when a young, handsome man tries to woo you, you will not deceive yourself or become emotionally charged and unable to see clearly, but can go back and look at your list, and think sensibly about him.

* Memorize God’s Word! It will reprove, correct, and instruct, you as needed! Surrender YOUR will, dreams, desires, and hopes to the Lord! Determine to obey the Lord no matter the cost! (It is really an invaluable investment!) I love what John Quincy Adams said. “Duty is ours. Results are God’s” You will never have regrets with God at the controls!

Steve and Amy just celebrated their 10th wedding anniversary!  They are back in Alaska and about to move again…

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Redeeming Love: Megan’s Thoughts on Purity

March 11, 2010 at 1:00 am (interviews, Purity) (, , , , , , , )

Megan’s Story

Megan Graham, who graciously shared her testimony of God’s beautiful redemption with us, has also answered some interview questions on the subject of purity as it relates to her experience.  We hope you’ll enjoy hearing what she has to share!

Pearls and Diamonds:  When you were 16, were you pursuing purity?

Megan:  When I was a teenager, I didn’t give much thought to biblical purity. My thoughts were limited to general rules such as “premarital sex is wrong”. I don’t remember being challenged to think about what purity means to God or anything beyond physical purity (i.e. emotional, heart, etc.).

P&D:  Did you have any boundaries?

M:  No, I didn’t give much thought to boundaries. I knew I wouldn’t be sexually active before marriage, but I didn’t think about “lesser” things like holding hands or kissing.

P&D:  What boundaries do you think would have been appropriate, looking back?

M: Looking back, I would have no physical contact. No hugs, no holding hands, and certainly no kissing. I would also desire to have very, very limited time alone.

P&D:  Did pride have any bearing on this issue of purity?

M:  Absolutely. I had desires for approval which boil down to pride. Lust of the flesh, lust of the eyes, and the boastful pride of life were each contributing sins.

P&D:  When you finally trusted in the Lord fully, was there any sense of “new purity” or a clean slate? How did His redeeming love affect your views on purity or your view of yourself?

M:  It took much, much time for me to come to the point of seeing myself as God did- clothed in the righteousness of Christ. I spent several years trying to earn favor in God’s sight and make up for my sin. Once my eyes were opened to His free grace, I did see myself as a new creation in Christ.

P&D:  Did you expect that God would bring you a husband? Or did you think that that was beyond your reach?

M:  No, I did not expect that God would bring me a godly husband. I didn’t think a godly, Christian man would desire a wife who already had a child. I did think it was beyond my reach.

P&D:  Once Gabe came along, did you approach your relationship with him differently than you had past relationships?

M:  Yes. At that point the Lord had matured me and refined me to a point where I was content to do things God’s way or be single.

P&D:  It may be helpful to describe both the consequences of your sin and the blessings that God brought despite it.

M: An obvious consequence was pregnancy. And yet my daughter is also a gift from God and a tremendous blessing. Only God can take the vileness of sin and bring good from it.

P&D:  Any counsel for girls that are pursuing purity?

M:  Purity is far more than physical boundaries. Keeping your heart and mind pure and undefiled is far more important. The physical impurity won’t happen until after the heart and mind have already been defiled. The consequences from impurity are far reaching. I still have images and phrases that pop into my head from many years ago that I pray God would remove. The vividness of movie scenes or imagery painted by words in a romance novel has the same effect in staining a heart that physical impurity does. I would strongly caution any young woman to seriously consider what she puts into her heart by means of novels, movies, or television.

Thanks Megan!  We praise Yahweh for what He has done in your life!  And we’re quite thankful to have you as a friend!

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Redeeming Love: Megan’s Story

March 10, 2010 at 1:18 am (Purity, stories) (, , , , , , , , , , , , )

Megan’s Story

Megan Graham is a fellow sister and friend who I have enjoyed getting to know over the past two years. She is a hard-working wife and mother of four (with a fifth on the way!). Abigail and I think her story is absolutely beautiful—a wonderful tale of God’s redeeming love and His power over our sin—whether it is in the open for all to see or hidden in the deep recesses of our hearts. We hope you’ll rejoice in what the Lord has done in her life as you read her story! Here’s Megan:

To write of what God has done in my heart and life, to speak of Him who redeemed me, is truly a joy and an opportunity I’m so very thankful for. While writing out my testimony I’ve been able to review God’s faithfulness, love, and mercy towards me. And there is so very much to speak of! During my review of the abundant grace I’ve been mercifully shown, words penned by William Cowper have run over and over in my mind:

E’er since, by faith, I saw the stream
Thy flowing wounds supply,
Redeeming love has been my theme,
And shall be till I die.

I was born 30 years ago in Tulsa and was raised in the same house until I moved away to attend college. My brother is eight years older and my sister two years younger. Early memories consist of my mom taking my sister and me to the little Free Methodist church down the road each Sunday while my dad stayed home. I do not remember too much of the theology I was taught, but distinctly remember learning that Jesus Christ was God’s son and that He died on a cross for sin.

It was during this time period, I’ll say I was around seven years old, that I remember driving home with my mom one evening and asking her something along the lines of “how do I become a Christian or how do I go to heaven?” My mom told me that I needed to acknowledge that Jesus died on the cross for my sin, ask for forgiveness, and ask Jesus into my heart. So, I remember turning to look out the window and praying for Jesus to come into my heart and make me a Christian. I told my mom what I’d done and we soon went to our pastor, who talked with me and shortly thereafter baptized me. I knew the gospel message, but I knew nothing of a holy God, the sinfulness of my sin, nor was I convinced that I deserved punishment for my sin. My life reflected this as I grew.

Although my mother, sister and I attended church often, church was very separate from my home life. My father was, and still is, not a believer. There was no biblical training and little example of godliness. I saw much of the world and the sin of man, both of which were appealing to me. While I was not raised in a Christ-exalting home, I praise God for the parents He purposed to give me. I love them dearly.

As a child, pride was the prominent attitude of my heart. I was involved in many activities; I was a good athlete and made excellent grades. It was easy to think I was the golden child of my family. While I was doing so well in school and getting complimented on what a nice young lady I was, my older brother was an alcoholic and drug addict by the age of 15 and my younger sister struggled terribly in school and was labeled as ADD. I took great pride in being the good girl. I can remember a friend’s mom saying on several occasions, “why can’t you be more like Megan?” And I loved hearing this. Along with a heart full of sinful pride, I longed for the praise and approval of man. I would have said that I wanted to please God, but the attitude of my heart and my actions proved that Megan was the person I wanted to please most. As a teenager I may have performed well, but at home I was a hateful, rebellious girl with a serious attitude.

During this time I was attending an independent Baptist church where knowing the date and time of your salvation was given great importance. I didn’t know that date and time of my prayer as a young child and thus proceeded to walk the aisle and be baptized around the age of 13. J.C. Ryle writes that “men will never come to Jesus, and stay with Jesus, and live for Jesus, unless they really know why they are to come, and what is their need.” I had a date and time to write in my Bible, but I didn’t truly have a need for a savior.

Although I was active in church, the world was so very appealing. I knew full well what was wrong in the sight of God, but I did what was right in my own eyes.

One week after my 16th birthday I found myself sitting in a Planned Parenthood office with a positive pregnancy result and a counselor asking me if I’d like information on an abortion. God graciously pricked my conscious and gave me a heart that knew I would keep the baby. I praise Him for the blessing of a child, even in the midst of sin. My sin grieves my heart, yet I am so very thankful for the gift of my daughter Kaitlin. Children are a gift of the Lord, even to a rebellious, unwed 16 year old child.

Becoming a parent at the age of 16 caused me to grow up fast in some ways; but, more than growing up, it brought out more of my prideful, sin-stained heart. I graduated high school a year early and moved Kaitlin and myself to Norman to attend the University of Oklahoma. My family, friends and even strangers praised me for being such a success story. And remember, I loved to be praised. What people couldn’t see was a heart that was determined to prove to the world and to God that I could make up for my sin. I truly thought I could show a holy God that I was good enough. I put a burden on myself to excel that was very heavy, not to mention impossible.

My time in college was used by God to show me Himself and to open my eyes to the sinfulness of my sin. The Lord surrounded me with believing friends and involved me in a church that challenged me to study scripture. I can’t tell you a specific date or time in which I truly humbled myself before the God of the universe, but I can look back over my life and see this time as a turning point in the desires of my heart.

Shortly after graduating from college I moved back home to Tulsa and began working for a large accounting firm as an auditor. Through events that could only be the meticulous work of God’s providential hand, I became involved in a solid, Bible teaching church and was surrounded by Believers who sought to follow Christ with all of their lives. Many weekends were spent in the home of a Godly family where I saw what God’s design was for a husband, wife and children and how disciples who truly loved the Lord lived lives committed to Christ. Over the next year, God prepared me through His Word, other Believers and books for the next course of my life.

Fourteen months into my career as an auditor, I was married to Gabe, my Beloved, and was able to retire. For the first time in eight years as a single mom, I was able to stay home with my daughter. God is so very good! When married, I left my church and joined Gabe’s Southern Baptist Church. This first year of marriage was difficult, not in terms of my relationship with my Beloved, but because God used it as a time for me to wander in the wilderness, so to speak. I was no longer hearing meaty sermons or being fed spiritually. God showed me that much of my faith had been lived vicariously through the lives of those around me and He graciously and mercifully showed how lazy I was, both spiritually and practically. He caused me to learn to depend on Him and live out my own faith.

Over the past few years I’ve been learning more of the nature of sin, the attributes of God, the Bible, and my own heart. I’ve been challenged in ways that have made Christ increasingly beautiful to me. God has taken me to new depths by challenging me with the words of a dear saint who said, “The great thing about the kingdom is the King!” I remember hearing that and thinking “Is Christ what I’m most looking forward to?”

God has done a mighty work in the heart of this sinner. I can stand before the Lord clothed with the righteousness of Christ. My heart sings a new song:

E’er since, by faith, I saw the stream
Thy flowing wounds supply,
Redeeming love has been my theme,
And shall be till I die.


Praise the Lord! Tomorrow we’ll hear from Megan again as she shares with us on the topic of purity.

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Purity and the Bigger Picture

March 9, 2010 at 1:00 am (A Slice of Life, Godly Living, Purity) (, , , , , , , , , , , )

Lauren’s Story

A number of our readers have asked questions about my personal “purity” experience: What were some of the boundaries you set when you were single? Did those change when you got engaged? And what about now that you’re married—how do you relate to men other than your husband? I hope to address each of these questions as I tell my story below, and I’ve divided my life in to five “phases” that I hope will help to illustrate spiritual and practical changes that have taken place in my life.

Phase One: The Formative Years

Though not raised in a Christian home in my early years, I was certainly blessed with very conservative, loving parents who wanted to teach me right from wrong and protect me. Somewhere around the age of 8 we had a discussion about dating and sex. My parents told me that I should save sex for marriage and that the house rule was no dating until I was 16. It all sounded very reasonable to me, so I agreed without hesitation.

Even having those barriers in place, my little heart was already all astir with romance. I remember dragging a boy around by the arm on the playground in preschool—forcing him to marry me. And later, in second grade, I remember wishing I could kiss a little boy in my class. Most people see this as cute and innocent. But it was lust on a lower level. Disney movies probably didn’t help. And as I grew older and my movie selection broadened to romantic comedies, I was carried away by my own romantic daydreams. Isn’t it amazing how little-girl daydreams turn into bigger-girl fantasies?

So my thought life was less than clean, even at a young age. I had accepted my parents’ rules without question, but my heart had its own fun in the meantime. I seriously thought I’d get my first kiss when I was 16 and able to date—as though some wonderful guy was waiting for me to hit that magical age and then sweep me off my feet! Thankfully, the Lord saved me when I was 13, and the Spirit began His work in my heart…

Phase Two: Decidedly Single

I had a sincere relationship with the Lord from the time I was 13 and on. So as I actually approached the legal dating age, I began to evaluate my life and wonder if I was ready to date. I figured that dating wasn’t a good idea until I was comfortable with where I was in my walk with the Lord. This seemed very wise at 15, and others commended me for my view. But in the back of my mind I wondered, “When can I ever say that I’m happy where I am? How can I say, ‘OK, God, we’re doing fine, I’m deep enough with you now, so I can afford to be distracted by a boyfriend’?” At that crucial point, my mom heard about I Kissed Dating Goodbye and bought it for me. That book, though I wouldn’t say it’s perfect, helped fill in the gap on the dating question. If I’m not at a point where marriage is an option, I don’t need to date at all! I’m free to focus on the Lord and not worry about a relationship for now!

That was great in theory, and for the most part it worked in practice—I’ve never dated anyone but my husband, and that is such a huge blessing! On the other hand, purity goes a lot farther than “not dating” or “saving it all” for your husband in the way we usually understand it. Purity is a heart thing. And I’d developed some bad habits of clinging to crushes, imagining myself marrying them, and allowing my thoughts and emotions to be swept away by someone who wasn’t my husband. That was anything but pure. And to top it off, I was really shy about liking boys, unwilling to open up to my parents (especially my dad) about anyone I liked. So not dating actually made it easier to hide what was in my heart from those who loved me most. While I do recommend not dating, I don’t recommend keeping your heart from your parents.

So my high school years were a constant struggle against lust and raging emotions—old habits that had been around since preschool. Looking back it makes me sick to think that I obsessed over certain guys like I did. No, I wasn’t “boy crazy” in the since that I drooled over any “cute” guy that walked by, but when I did have a crush, I certainly paid him too much attention—attention intended for only one man–allowing my heart to wander from the Lover of my soul.

Phase Three: The Real Battle Begins

Something different happened when I met Nathaniel in the first week of my freshman year of college. Maybe I was a little more grown up, a little wiser, the Spirit having a little more sway on my heart, but when I met him and found we were like-minded (and I was interested in him), I told my parents as soon as I went home for Labor Day a week or two later—and I openly told my dad.

This new person was unlike any of my old high school crushes. Not that I thought marriage wasn’t an option with the guys I liked in high school, but when I met Nathaniel things were much more realistic. Here was a guy I really could see myself marrying—to the point that it made all my previous crushes seem silly. After I knew Nathaniel for only about 2 months, I was fairly certain I wanted to marry him. I can’t say that’s exemplary (or wrong, for that matter), but it’s my story.

Now, meeting the man of your dreams four years before marriage is a viable option makes for quite the difficult journey! And it was rough on his end, too. I remember reading and re-reading Elizabeth Elliot’s story in Passion and Purity and asking, “Lord, are you really going to make me wait four years like you made her wait???” Thankfully, unlike Mrs. Elliot’s case, Nathaniel said nothing to me about “us”. He worked very hard to guard his own heart and mine—refraining from expressing his feelings for me—until he would ask me to marry him almost four years later.

One thing that impressed me about Nathaniel, and that will give insight into my own personal standards of purity in guy-girl relationships, was that he never tried to hug me—in fact, he didn’t really touch me at all. That was quite refreshing, as I had developed a somewhat hands-off approach to guys since high school when a friend hugged me quite tight and made me uncomfortable. “Casual” barely begins to express the way guys and girls related to each other in college. Physical contact wasn’t thought to be a big deal—long hugs were given in every direction. So to find someone who had never dated, wanted to save every expression of physical affection for marriage, and who sought to guard a girl’s purity about as much as his own was an amazing blessing. That’s not to say that other guys weren’t also a blessing in that area, but Nathaniel was exemplary (then again, I may be partial…).

There were a few points of compromise over those four years. Though we both thought it best to avoid spending time alone with members of the opposite sex, we happened to end up running together when after two weeks the rest of our running buddies dropped out of the habit. We continued to run together until the end of the semester, and then just never brought it up the next semester—both of us convicted that we didn’t need to be spending that kind of time together.

Another point would be playing the “slug bug” game on road trips. Granted, these road trips included more friends than just ourselves, but somehow I think Nathaniel and I enjoyed punching each other more than anyone else…

So the standards we each (separately—we never discussed “us”) sought to uphold were not to spend time alone together and not to express any kind of romantic interest or affection—physically or verbally. I can’t say we did this perfectly, but those were our goals. I thank the Lord for guarding my heart on more than one occasion when I felt helpless to guard it myself. There were times I was dealing with something and I wished Nathaniel would have hugged me—but I’m so thankful that he didn’t. He gets to give me plenty of hugs now. And I learned to better rest in the arms of my Father at that time.

About half way through college I wrote a poem that dealt with the struggle of surrendering my dreams of marrying Nathaniel to the Lord. The poem continues to bless me every time I re-read it, and I hope that it will be helpful to others, as well.

It honestly doesn’t seem like most of college was especially difficult until the last semester. We were just friends, after all, and we enjoyed our college experience without the drama of a relationship–or of a potential dating relationship.  It was easy to keep things at this level since we both knew that marriage wasn’t an immediate option (I’d heard along the way that Nathaniel didn’t want to get married until he finished college and had a job lined up to support a family).  But when graduation was on the horizon things were different.  That “far off” time when something might come of our friendship was staring me in the face.  And much to my chagrin, I had to make plans for my life after college without expecting anything. I applied for jobs, even got offered a good one, but I was miserable trying to figure out what to do. Nathaniel had wanted to propose earlier in the semester, but the Lord delayed things on his end, which made my struggle wane on, but allowed my heavenly Father to work in my heart a complete surrender. I praise Him for His timing! During this time, I still saw Nathaniel as a close friend, but was letting go of my desire to be with him. It hurt. Misplaced emotions eventually have to be dealt with, and it’s not a pretty sight. Praise be to God that only a few days after my final surrender, Nathaniel did ask me to marry him!

Phase Four: Betrothal/Engagement—Have the rules changed?

Having been promised in marriage to Nathaniel, my life took a new turn. Where before expressing our feelings and longings would have been inappropriate (for lack of a commitment), now we were supposed to let down our guard emotionally in anticipation of our coming union. I don’t think I really “fell in love” until about three days after Nathaniel proposed—when the initial shock wore off and the last line of my defenses laid down their arms. Having worked so hard to guard my heart up until this point, I can honestly say I’ve never been in love with any other man. Despite my less than admirable infatuations in my earlier years (which now seem so trivial), I can rejoice that my heart is fully my husband’s.

In the physical sense, Nathaniel and I vowed not to touch each other until our wedding day. No holding hands as a couple, hugs, or anything. In effect, our “physical relationship”, which was non-existent while single, remained the same during our engagement. At this point, we could claim each others heart, but not each others body—that would come later, in one package. And so the way I related to other men didn’t change either. I was still guarded emotionally and physically. Hand shakes, high-fives, and holding hands in a group prayer was about it with anyone. Thankfully, our commitment was not too hard to keep since Nathaniel was in Oklahoma and I was in Texas during this time. That kind of long-distance engagement was quite nice as it encouraged communication—which we had much to do having not talked about sharing a life together before this point! We talked about all aspects of our upcoming marriage. It was a great time of anticipation and preparation!

Phase Five: Purity in Marriage

We shared our first hand-holding, kiss, and hug at the altar on our wedding day (which are a very special part of the “whole package” intended to be shared in marriage). I’m getting giddy just thinking about it. The pay-off from having saved everything was just wonderful, and I wouldn’t have it any other way!

Now that I’m married, purity has taken on a new dynamic. It is pure to give myself away now—to my husband. One of the best ways to guard mine and my husband’s purity is to completely and continually give what I’ve been saving for so long!

As far as other men are concerned, I’m surprisingly a little more relaxed in my standards. I don’t get offended as easily when someone tries to hug me, though I do try to turn it into a quick side hug! There is somewhat a difference to me now. I’m secure in my husband’s arms, and when there is a brother in the Lord who has a pure reputation and consistently hugs everyone around him to greet them, it doesn’t bother me—especially when we’re with another couple who we’ve known for years. There’s just something about knowing both a guy and his wife that makes things a little more comfortable. That’s not to say every woman should act as I do, but that’s my own experience. I still do shy away from any man who strikes me as flirty—even if he’s not apparently biased with his hugging. There are a few people who make me uncomfortable enough that I would work hard to avoid getting a hug from them! And in general, I don’t offer hugs, just hand shakes and high-fives! And Nathaniel is fine with my “standards” for relating to other guys.

On non-physical issues, I don’t find myself “needing” to have deep conversations with any other man. I may ask a teacher a question every now and then, or join in a group discussion over a meal, but my practice is to pick my husband’s brain and enjoy talking to him about everything! In doing this, he and I grow closer to each other and grow together in the Lord—which is the real goal of purity anyway!

My Story and the Bigger Story

I hope that what I’ve shared can help you to pursue purity in your own relationships. But beyond mere temporal application, I hope you can see the beautiful design God has for His church, and what kind of pure love we are to have for Him. You see, we were all once daydreaming about other lovers—some of us even acting on those dreams. But then this One guy came along…

When we come to see Jesus for who He is, we begin to see how petty and even ugly our devotion to other lovers has been. This brokenness leads us to plead for His mercy, and to our astonishment, He not only pardons us based upon His own sacrifice, but purifies us and makes us His bride! But we’re only enjoying the thrill of the betrothal or engagement now. One day He will come for us, and then the real celebration begins. For now we are to fall more and more in love with Him—in preparation for going to live with Him forever. We forsake other lovers, purifying ourselves because we have this amazing hope of seeing our God face to face! That is the real purity we pursue: Pure devotion and obedience to our Lord and Savior. If we miss this, we’ve lost sight of the purpose of our living as Christians. Purity in relationships here on earth is just one small part of the bigger picture! Get excited!

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Part Six: Love and Today

March 8, 2010 at 1:00 am (Articles, Attitudes, Godly Living, Love, Marriage, Purity, Singleness, Worship) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

Posted by Abigail

I can look back on the past 20 years of my life with entire confidence that, when it comes to love, I’ve been an overwhelming failure.  Praise the Lord, His love never fails, and it stretches to mercifully cover my short-comings.

God’s commands for purity are not for yesterday.  Certainly there are consequences to our poor choices and we should do our best to rectify our mistakes, but the past is a part of something the Lord has bought back and promised to redeem for our good.  He is in the business of using even bad things for His glory and our good.  That is the power of God’s redeeming agape love.

Today we are commanded to seek to love purely—the Lord first and our neighbor as our self.  It’s not something that just happens–it’s a battle.  The command to “keep” our heart bears connotations of surviving a siege.  As long as we are fighting, we can overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us.  A purity battle fought is not a purity battle lost.  We lose the battles when we stop seeking the Lord, when we give up, when we sit down and give in to temptation or greed or discontentment—in any form or appearance.

I don’t intend to impose law, but to lift up the Lord.  “The goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.” (1 Timothy 1:5)  My challenge to you is the same I extend to myself:  Pursue the Lord!  Flee youthful lusts, but pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace with those that call on God from a pure heart.  This is worship.

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Part Five: Love and Matchmaking

March 7, 2010 at 1:34 am (Articles, Attitudes, Godly Living, Love, Marriage, Purity, Singleness, Worship) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

Posted by Abigail

Nathaniel and Lauren each arrived at college quite certain that they would not meet their future spouse there.  Two weeks into the semester they had met and both were beginning to have second thoughts.  Long before the first semester of her freshman year was over, Lauren had measured Nathaniel by her list of character qualities and found him to be exactly what she’d hoped for.

Thus began an epic four-year purity battle.

And when she should have had friends rallying behind her, helping her “keep” her heart and focus on the Lord and serving others, many were traitors, firing cupid’s love-darts behind her back, making suggestions, asking questions, “helping” her to snatch the pen from the Lord’s hand and write her own love-story.

Sometimes I wanted to grab shirt collars, knock heads together and shout the rebuke that these well-meaning friends needed to hear.  Perhaps I’m a little over-dramatic, but few heard Lauren’s heart weeping and bleeding as she struggled to gain control over her desires.  Few saw her weariness and tears the way I did as she struggled to tie each dream to the altar and burn it in worship to Almighty God.  Few knelt beside her on the battlefield, as she bowed her head, too tired to get up and keep fighting for focus.  It seems like a pretty story, reading of her four-year struggle and final triumph in giving up at the marriage altar, but the struggle wasn’t pretty.

In fact, as I watched, I made a solemn promise to myself.  “That is never going to happen to me!”

Ladies, never make a promise concerning something that is entirely out of your control.  You will assuredly break it.

I thought that if I was careful enough, guarded enough, chaste enough, no one would ever have anything to question, tease, prod or poke me about.  Apparently there is no such thing as enough.  I gave it my level best, but found myself harried at every step.  Everything from questions, teasing and “help” regarding particular guys, to unsought “sympathy” and “encouraging” prophecies of coming marital bliss were flung at me under a cover of smiles and nods.  Much of the time I felt entirely bewildered.  What in the world was I doing to make people say such nonsense?

The greatest part of the difficulty lay in treating my brothers with love—while being questioned or teased about them.  The self-protection in me wanted to push them all away as harshly as possible and save the remaining scraps of my focus.  Ah, but to do so would not be loving.

What was awkward has proved for my good in forcing me to search out godly responses (at which I don’t always succeed).  Perhaps you’ll appreciate the results of my dilemma.  *

Love your enemies

The fact is, sometimes when you’re fighting a purity battle, those well-meaning matchmakers feel like enemy forces.  “Friendly fire” they call it when your team is shooting you up, but the bullets whistling around your head hardly feel friendly.  Friend or foe, God’s call is for you to love them.  (Luke 6:27)  The fact is, most people who seem intimately interested in your romantic status probably are interested because they appreciate you.  They want to see you happy (which they’ve decided means married—or at least hopelessly in love).  And sometimes, they honestly just don’t know what else to talk about.  A gracious woman attains honor.  (Proverbs 11:16)  Learn to think and answer graciously because, I promise, the situations never end.

Accept what is said as intended in love.

1 Corinthians 13 says that love believes all things.  Commentaries suggest this means “believes the best.”  Giving folks the benefit of the doubt will hardly harm them, and will actually protect your heart from frustration and bitterness.

They say:  “I don’t know what all the guys are thinking.  If I had a son, I’d be sending him to talk to your dad.”

I think:  “Since you don’t, how pointless is that to suggest?  Besides, I’m glad you don’t have a son.  I wouldn’t marry any son of yours anyway.”

A proper response:  Recognize that this person just expressed confidence in me as a person of character as well as someone they would appreciate joining their family.  That is the Lord’s grace on my life and I should be encouraged that His hand is evident in me.  Probably no verbal response is necessary and no mental reflection should be enacted.

Turn sympathy into a chance to praise the Lord.

Paul told the Thessalonians “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all things.  This is God’s will for you.”  (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)  As women who want to do God’s will and bring Him glory, we should take every opportunity to proclaim the Lord’s goodness.

They say:  “You’re not married yet?  Well, you’re so (insert flattering comment) I’m sure there’s an amazing man just around the corner for you.”

I think:  “People have been telling me that for years.  How do you know what’s just around the corner for me?  It could be ten more years of singleness.  Besides, what does (insert flattering comment) have to do with deserving an amazing man?”

A proper response:  Accept that this person is meaning to be kind, then declare the Lord’s goodness.  “The Lord has been really blessing me with opportunities to serve Him as a single woman.  I know He’ll do what is right and good.  He has always been good to me.”

Refocus the conversation on the Lord.

Paul wrote to the believers to be filled with the Holy Spirit, making the most of the time, teaching and admonishing one another with Psalms, hymns and spiritual songs.  (Ephesians 5:15-21)  Sometimes a conversation simply needs to be nudged back in the right direction.

They say:  “So, is there a special man in your life?”

I think:  “Define special.  When there’s someone special enough to be considered special, I’ll let you know.  You’re not special enough to be privy to special information.”

A proper response:  Accept that this person is interested in my life and doesn’t want to miss anything exciting that’s happening.  *without the eye roll, Abigail*  “You know, I’ve really been learning a lot lately about what the Lord wants from me as a godly woman…”

As you trail on about the encouraging things you’ve been learning and how you’ve been learning to love the Lord and keep your eyes on Him, your interrogator may do one of two things:  be encouraged and uplifted or sink down in a chair with their chin sagging on the floor—never to ask you questions like that again (we hope).

Answer a fool according to his folly.

Proverbs says to “answer a fool according to his folly.”  (Proverbs 26:5)  Some questions aren’t anyone’s business.  Some don’t deserve the dignity of an answer.  Some don’t have an answer.  Just because it was asked, doesn’t mean it requires your reply.  Indiscretion on another’s part doesn’t require indiscretion on your part.  Impertinence needn’t be satisfied.  I recommend the shrug as a very effective tool for expressing “that’s none of your business, but you don’t know any better, I suppose.”

They say:  “You know what?  Something’s missing from your house today.  Where are all your suitors?”

A proper response:  *shrug*

Some suggestions don’t even deserve a serious response.  You can pass them off and move on to other topics.

They say:  “You don’t have a boyfriend?  I have a very handsome grandson you should meet.”

A proper response:  “I’m sure you’re proud of your grandson.  How long have you lived in AR?”

Some can simply be made light of to relieve embarrassment.

They say:  “So, Abigail, when are you getting married?”

A proper response:  “Oh, I’m thinking next May.  Of course there are some minor details to work out before then.”

Sometimes you should pass the buck.

They say:  “So, how many of these young men are head-over-heals in love with you?”

A proper response:  “Maybe you should survey them and find out.”

Like water off a duck’s back

After you’ve answered, you should refocus on the Lord and forget about it.  My biggest weakness is a festering frustration due to the “helpful” people in my life.  I over-evaluate everything, assuming their nosiness is caused by something I’m doing wrong.  Do I look like I’m pining away for a husband?  Am I acting like I’m “in love” with so-and-so?  Do they really just think I’m like that—from one guy to the next?  It doesn’t matter.  Be pure before the Lord.  That’s well-pleasing to Him.

Are you the enemy?

From the other side, if you’re the nosey matchmaker, I’d like to challenge you with a few thoughts.  You may think you are expressing love, encouragement or care for a person.  Beware lest you are actually adding to a load of frustration.  You may be aiding and abetting the enemy.  Anything that you do which encourages another person to become distracted from whole-hearted devotion to the Lord and from selfless and unselfconscious love for their neighbor is actually fighting against their best interests and the Lord’s glory.

What is she supposed to do about it?

What are your motives in the questions you’re asking or the suggestions you’re making?  Remember that if you’re speaking to a young lady, there’s not a lot she can do when it comes to taking initiative.  Nor should she be particularly encouraging attention from a young man who has not been approved by her parents.  You may be usurping her parents when you appear to offer your blessing to something they have not blessed.

On the flip-side, if you think she may be too forward or is encouraging attention, you may have reason for questioning.  Encouraging attention without intent or without parental blessing is false advertising.  If your questions are intended as a gentle rebuke, you should be clear in explaining your perceptions and concerns—please don’t leave her to her own deductions.  If you aren’t clearly encouraging her to keep her heart pure you may appear to condone a “defrauding” situation.

What are you encouraging?

Scripture tells us to encourage one another and build each other up and to consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds.  (Hebrews 10:24)  If you’re encouraging distraction from the Lord, you’re actually tearing down the very things you should be building up.  If you’re encouraging young ladies to be discontented, you are like Aaron, who knew better even as he built a golden calf from the Israelites’ most prized possessions.  (Exodus 32)  Love is encouraging each other to worship the Lord.

Are you usurping?

If you know something she doesn’t, you may be usurping another’s place to tell her.  Perhaps her parents want to talk to her about a situation and know her heart.  Perhaps a young man is pursuing, but she doesn’t know—to protect her in undistracted devotion to the Lord.  If your desire is to “be the first one to know,” check your attitude for selfish motives.  Be very careful that you do not reveal secrets.  The would-be bride in Song of Solomon warns the town maidens not to question her about her admirer.  “Do not arouse or awaken love before its time!”  (Song 2:7)

Are you gossiping?

Scripture warns against being busybodies and gossips.  When you’re playing the “matchmaking” game, are you being a gossip?  Why is the information you’re asking important to you?  What do you hope to accomplish by it?  Are you going to tell others?  Why would you tell others?  How will it build you up and encourage you to focus on the Lord?  How will it encourage a young lady to focus?  Does it build up the body of Christ?

Love extends through every relationship at every time.  Whoever you are, whatever your situation in life, you should be practicing love—sacrificial love.  Your words and actions should be guarded by love—love for the Lord and love for your neighbor.  Jesus says if you cause one of His little ones to stumble, it’s a grave offense!  Purity isn’t a check-list of dos and don’ts—it even includes what we encourage in others!  We’re to be examples in purity and love.  We’re to think on things that are pure.  We’re to love from pure hearts.  Keep the Lord first.  Love your neighbor.  That guards purity.  That is worship.

Part One:  Love and Purity

Part Two:  Love and My Heart

Part Three:  Love and My Brother

Part Four:  Love and Marriage

Part Five:  Love and Matchmaking

Part Six:  Love and Today

*  The examples I shared are all  things that have been frequently said to me.  I’m not advocating the thoughts I expressed as being either pure or loving, I’m just being honest.  I still need to work on accepting what is meant in kindness.  If these don’t represent your responses, you may appreciate hearing how someone else thinks—especially if these are the kinds of things you have said to others.  If these examples are expressive of things you’ve said or done, I’m not trying to pick on you—just trying to give you another perspective on what you may be (unintentionally) accomplishing and challenge you to consider your motives—are they pure?  Are they bringing the focus and glory to God?

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Part Four: Love and Marriage

March 6, 2010 at 1:33 am (Articles, Attitudes, Godly Living, Love, Marriage, Purity, Singleness, Worship) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

Posted by Abigail

Once upon a time I found myself in the middle of a conversation with a young woman.  The topic?  Romantic relationships.  She was aghast when she discovered that I “don’t date.”  “But—but—but,” she spluttered.  “How will you ever get married if you don’t date?”  “Hmmm,” I stroked my chin, enjoying her perplexity.  “I’ll have to think about that one.  How many guys have you dated?”  She thought for a few minutes before answering something close to a dozen.  “And you’re still not married?” I opened my eyes wide, pretending shock and horror before smiling.  “Well, if a dozen attempts haven’t found you hitched, it doesn’t really seem to me that dating is making marriage happen for you.”

Created to be his help-meet?

When Paul wrote to the Thessalonians he commanded them to go about “romance” in a set-apart way—not in lustful passion like those who don’t know God, and to be careful of defrauding.  In so-called “conservative” circles, we recognized the devaluation and pollution of marriage and the entirely impure routes many take to get there.  Often we denounce dating as “lustful passion” and “defrauding.”  We also see the rejection of God’s wisdom in creating men and women with unique roles.  And soon we are creating models and stereotypes of how a romance must progress and preaching slogans like “I’m saving my heart for my husband” and “Biblical courtship” and talking about being maidens in waiting. *  We proclaim the importance of marriage and the beauty of being wives and mothers, but sometimes I think we get caught up in the means and forget the end.  I think we’re confusing ourselves when we insist that we were created for marriage and child-bearing.  Before you stone me and throw me out of the synagogue, hear me out.  I counsel crisis clients at a pregnancy center, and every time I go over the information about conception, baby development and birth, I’m overwhelmed by God’s genius in creating women with the unique ability to sustain another human life.  You’ll never catch me devaluing that as a woman’s “saving” service. **  And yet, there’s a bigger picture.  You weren’t born married.  You could have been, but you weren’t.

Let me explain.  In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.  And He created a man to care for the earth.  But the man needed a helper.  So God created a woman and brought her to the man.  Eve might as well have been born married.  Adam had to have a wife to help him fulfill God’s command to multiply and fill the earth.  Eve was created to be his helper.  No questions asked.  That was the role God gave her when he brought her to the man.

But there was a bigger purpose.  Turn to the end of the Book—the Revelation given to John—for the unveiling of why God created the world, why He created man and woman.  “You created all things,” the saints proclaim the worthiness of the Lamb “and for Your pleasure they existed and were created.”  (Revelation 4:11)

Role vs. Purpose

The revelation is that you and I were created for God’s pleasure.  For His glory.  To do His will.  And we weren’t created married, which means that His pleasure, His will and His glory are more far-reaching than simply being married.

See, when an actress performs in a play, her purpose can’t be simply to play her role.  Her role will fall flat and empty if she focuses only on her character.  Why?  Because she’s missing the bigger picture.  The purpose of a play is to tell a story.  In order to tell the story, a play incorporates individual characters.  So the actress must make her purpose to tell the story, to express the story by playing her role.  She must make her role serve the story.  She is a part of a whole.

My concern is that, all too often, we miss the bigger picture.  By holding up marriage and motherhood as our purpose, we are actually stealing from the story.  What I see seeping through the cracks in the marriage goal are a few subtle lies:  that marriage will fulfill my needs; that I serve God through marriage, so, in the meantime, I am being prevented from really serving God as I was created to do; that single years are wasted years; that if I am not married, I must not be godly/mature enough; that my reward (of marriage) is based upon my performance (contentedness/purity/domestic skills/etc); that unmarried people are incomplete—just waiting on a spouse so they can truly be useful; that I would be more useful to God if I were married (I know better than He does). As we swallow these lies like our daily vitamins, we come to be self-obsessed.  Instead of looking at the bigger picture, the story that God wants to tell of His power, His love and His glory, we’re focused on our role.  Instead of making our role serve the story, we just want God to hurry up and write our lines.  When will it be my turn to come on stage?  How does my costume look?  Is this the guy for me?  I’m content now…Lord, where is my husband?  Soon we are pursuing our role instead of our purpose.  We’re obsessed with being wives and mothers, when we should be obsessed with God’s glory.

Ladies, even a pagan can be a wife and mother.

Am I against marriage?

Absolutely not!  Godly marriages glorify God.  But discontentment does not.

Our purpose is to glorify God.  We do this by seeking to understand our role—learning to be obedient women.  Being submissive wives and loving mothers is not the end.  It’s the means to the end—glorifying God.  And it only brings God glory if it springs from submission to God and love for His people.

What does God want from women?

For several years now, I’ve been searching the scriptures to see what God commands me to do.  I found an interesting omission.  God never commands me to marry.  He doesn’t command me to save my heart for my husband.  He doesn’t command me to court.

He commands me to love Him with my entire heart.  He commands me to love my neighbor as myself.  He commands me to view my body as His temple and abstain from sexual immorality.  He lays out the blessings and responsibilities of marriage.  In fact, He holds forth marriage as a picture of Christ and the church—that’s a pretty glorious role to play—picturing here on earth a spiritual truth as large as God’s eternal plan of divine love and redemption.  He also lays out the blessings and responsibilities of singleness.  Those whose roles find them unmarried or who have chosen to audition for unmarried roles are to be single-minded.  And Paul insists that singleness presents more freedom for service to God.  Neither is to covet the role of another.  “If you have a wife, do not seek to be free.  If you are not married, do not seek a wife.”  (1 Corinthians 7:27)  He lays out guidelines for relationships—single and married and in-between.

We are not commanded to have a mindset of marriage.  We are commanded to have a mindset of love.

Godly women are to love

Love, Biblically speaking begins with Christ’s love for us which enables us to have agape (sacrificial) love for all men, which progresses to phileo (affection) toward Christian brothers and sisters and finally (if God so wills) to romantic love—the deepest human fellowship, reserved in the Lord for one person.  When we divorce romance from agape, we have what Paul calls “lustful passion.”  Which is impurity.  For each of us, it must be agape that inspires phileo and controls romance—within the pure bounds of marriage.

The commands to believers over and over and over again are to love.  We are to love Yahweh with all our heart.  We are to love our neighbor as our self.  Your neighbor always begins with the one closest to you.  Married women are to love their neighbors, as well—their husbands and their children.  (Titus 2:4)  We are to look out for the interests of others, being devoted to one another in brotherly love, giving preference to one another in honor.  Our mindset shouldn’t be marriage, but love.

Love Yahweh with all your heart.  Love your neighbor as yourself.

This is obedient womanhood.  This is worship.

It is also the foundation for a marriage that mirrors Christ and the Church.

One day it may be these two loves that lead you into a godly marriage.  What is marriage if not complete and sacrificial giving of oneself—love?  When you understand your purpose is God’s glory, then you can joyfully accept a role of singleness or marriage—for however long the Lord prolongs it.  You can understand that God must always claim first place in your affections and that you must always love others as you love yourself.  Married or single.  This is obedient womanhood.  This is worship.

Part One:  Love and Purity

Part Two:  Love and My Heart

Part Three:  Love and My Brother

Part Four:  Love and Marriage

Part Five:  Love and Matchmaking

Part Six:  Love and Today

*  I’m not trying to attack the goals or purposes of phrases like this, but none of these terms is actually found in scripture.  I’d encourage us to be careful to lift the actual scriptural principles higher than our extra-Biblical models and phrases and to be sure our models and phrases are supporting and fitting into the grid-work of scriptural principles.  I’ve seen each of these terms pasted on rather varying explanations.  Those who advocate these ideals certainly can be/often are upholding Biblical goals, but its not subscribing to a “courtship approach” or claiming to be a “maiden in waiting” or to “saving my heart for my husband” that makes us pure.

**  I use the term “saving” role in reference to 1 Timothy 2:15, which speaks of the woman being “saved” or “preserved” through bearing children.  It is not her eternal salvation in view here—as though salvation were by works, especially a work over which she actually has little control—but the salvation of her importance in human society.  Modern women think they must compete with men to establish their importance, but men cannot compete with women in the thing God considers their most important task.  What will become of the human race if women cease to raise children?

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Part Three: Love and My Brother

March 5, 2010 at 1:18 am (Articles, Attitudes, Godly Living, Love, Marriage, Purity, Singleness, Worship) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

Posted by Abigail

I grew up guarded.  By my late teens, I’d apparently developed a reputation for distance.  One spring, I arrived at Lauren’s dorm room for a week-long visit, to be greeted by an enormous mirror scrawled with survival tips—from a couple of my brother’s friends.  “Be more friendly to guys,” came one sage command.  But my careful aloofness was shattered shortly after moving to Arkansas.  Our home was suddenly full of young men, eager to be part of a family, unwilling to permit me to live a hermit’s existence.  And what was I to do?  When a boy lives in your house overnight…or for a week…or a month…all pretense of distance and limits on interaction die a slow and painful death.  He becomes your brother.  Except that he’s not.

I found myself up late at night, with my brother and a few “extras,” working through life issues, studying the scriptures, playing games, singing praises, praying and offering advice.  Then suddenly one day I made a horrible discovery.

All these guys that were hanging around?  I loved them.  Not just an “oh I would serve them because Jesus says to” love, but a genuine, sisterly affection.  I wanted their good.  I missed them when they were out of town.  I hurt when they hurt.  I cared what was happening in their lives.  I appreciated hearing their thoughts.  I wanted to encourage them and see them cheerfully serving the Lord.

Oh no.

As I wrestled with guilt, feeling that I’d somehow lost my “kept” heart, I began to search the scriptures to see what the Lord had to say to me.  And I found three basic principles to guide and guard my actions.

Love your neighbor

“What is the greatest commandment?” a lawyer asked Jesus, and the Lord’s response was two-fold.  “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul and mind.”  He dealt with the heart of worship.  Love God.  But then He added, “And the second is like it, love your neighbor as yourself.”  He explained that on these two commands hang the entire Law and Prophets.  (Matthew 22:35-40)  “By this will all men know that you are mine,” Jesus taught His disciples, “If you have love for one another.  A new commandment I give you—love one another as I have loved you.”  (John 13:34-35)

God is calling us to love our fellow believers.  *  In fact, it’s the natural result of fellowship—brotherly affection.  We begin with sacrificial love—as Christ has loved us, we lay down our lives for the brethren, and the return is an emotional response.  (1 John 3:16)  Paul writes in many of his letters that he has a fond affection for the believers.  Never does he discriminate between the men and the women.  In Christ, they are unified in spirit.  In Christ, they are his beloved brothers and sisters.

Don’t be a cheater

To the specific topic of purity, Paul speaks a severe warning.  “Do not go farther and defraud your brother in the matter, for God is the avenger.”  Simply stated, Paul warns us not to take what doesn’t belong to us in a relationship.  This, too is guided by love.  First, love for the Lord, then love for your brother.  What rightly belongs to another person?  To God belongs your heart.  To your Christian brothers and sisters belongs sacrificial love (as worship to God) and brotherly affection.  Only to a spouse belongs ahab— romantic love.  This is what must be carefully guarded—by sacrificial love—as worship to God.

Be a sister

“Treat the younger women as sisters, in all purity,” Paul told his disciple, Timothy.  (1 Timothy 5:2)  Sisters, in all purity.  “What does this look like?” I’ve had girls ask me.  “I’m really close with my brothers—it just doesn’t seem like it would be pure for me to treat other guys the way I treat them.”  Growing up with two close brothers myself, I wrestled this question until I was exhausted.  And then, one day, I understood.

Purity is a heart attitude.  What is your heart attitude toward your brothers?  Are you trying to impress them by your beauty, your talents or even your godliness?  Are you constantly placing them in the balance with your husband checklist?  Do you watch them constantly for some little sign of interest?  Hardly.  You love your brothers and you want what’s best for them.  What is best for them?  To serve the Lord whole-heartedly.  To seek Him first.  To grow and mature.

“Let love of the brethren continue,” the writer of Hebrews encourages.  Brotherly love is pure.  It flows from a heart that is “kept” by God and it encourages our brothers to worship with us.  Here’s a snapshot of what brotherly love looks like.

Brotherly love is pure because it is honest

“Love without hypocrisy,” Paul wrote in Romans chapter twelve and then he spelled out a particular description of “true love.”  Abhor evil, cling to good, be devoted to one another in brotherly love, give preference to one another in honor, diligent, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord, rejoicing in hope, persevering, devoted to prayer, contributing to the saints needs, practicing hospitality, don’t be haughty but associate with the lowly.  We’re not talking about blurting out “I love you.”  We’re talking about sacrifice without any pretending.  “Little children, let’s not just love in word,” John wrote in his affectionate letter.  “But in action and in truth.”  (1 John 3:18)  There is no pretense in brotherly love.  Honest love meets purity when your goal is not to capture a heart, but simply to serve the Lord and His saints.

Brotherly love is pure because it is not self-seeking

What is your goal?  1 Corinthians 13 proclaims that love does not seek its own.  It’s not looking to promote itself or its own agenda.  That certainly tosses actions like flirtation and innuendo right into the “hypocrisy” basket.  “Do not merely look out for your own interests, but also for the interests of others.”  (Philippians 2:4)  What would edify my brother?  What would encourage my brother?  What would bring my brother’s focus to the Lord?  Sacrificial love meets purity when your goals are to promote the interests of the Lord and His saints.

Brotherly love is pure because it does not show favoritism

James delivered a stout rebuke to those who picked favorites.  “Do not treat your faith in our Lord with an attitude of personal favoritism.”  (James 2:1) We’re commanded to love the brethren—that’s all of them.  Honest love leads us to associate with the lowly.  (Romans 12:16)  When you serve, you must serve all indiscriminately—the young man you might marry some day and the old woman that you wish would wear matching socks.  You are not to give or withhold love or service on the basis of age, ethnicity, background, beauty or gender.  Christ certainly did not.  All must be treated as Christ, that all may know you are His.  Indiscriminate love meets purity when you treat every person in Christ’s body as Christ Himself.

Brotherly love is pure because it expects no return

“When you give a feast,” came Jesus’ directions on hospitality, “Invite the poor…who can’t pay you back.”  (Luke 14:7-15)  Remember that “freely you received, so freely you must give.”  (Matthew 10:8)  God poured out His love and grace on you, showering you with a mercy you can never possibly return.  He commands you to “give preference to one another in honor.”  (Romans 12:10)  “He who gives to the poor is lending to the Lord…and the Lord will repay Him.”  (Proverbs 19:17)  God has blessed you richly.  To freely pour out the same love you have freely received is worship.  Prodigal love meets purity when you are loving without thought of the love being returned.

Brotherly love is pure because it is eternal

Faith, hope and love are the cornerstones of the Christian faith.  “But the greatest of these,” Paul writes, “is love.”  (1 Corinthians 13:13)  Faith will one day become sight.  Hope will one day be realized.  Love will continue.  Romance, as we know it, will last only this lifetime.  Jesus said there will be no marrying or giving in marriage in heaven.  (Matthew 22:30)  But brotherly love will still unite us at the throne of Christ.  Eternal love meets purity when it recognizes that everything must have an eternal perspective—what does not bear fruit in eternity is of little value.

Brotherly love is pure because it points toward Christ

Because we must love the Lord with all our heart, soul and mind, we recognize that this is the highest call on the heart, soul and mind of every person.  To love the Lord first and then to love our neighbor as our self, we must consciously strive to point every person to the cross, the grave, the sky.  The love that worships beside another person is pure.  We must be controlled by love, walking in love, pure in Christ.  “The love of Christ controls us having concluded this, that one died for all, therefore all died.  And He died for all so that those who live may no longer live for themselves but for Him who died.”  (2 Corinthians 5:14)  Christ-centered love meets purity when you keep Jesus the center of every relationship.

The world doesn’t understand brotherly love—it’s something unique to Christ’s disciples.  “This is how they’ll know that you’re mine,” the Lord said.  It doesn’t fit the grid for the world’s definitions:  on the one hand, take whatever you can get.  On the other:  protect yourself.

We recently shared with you the results of a survey on purity.  The purpose of this survey was to instruct us so that we can love in wisdom—understanding more clearly what our actions suggest.  But no set of rules or boundaries can entirely protect—ourselves or our brothers.  Keep in mind that love for the Lord and love for your neighbor should always be the guiding influence.  Had the Good Samaritan been a woman, I think they Lord would have still desired her to show love by helping her “neighbor.”

The kind of love God requires isn’t self-protection.  It’s risky.  It’s dangerous.  It can be painful.  But it is second only to loving God.  Love your neighbor as you love yourself.  The pure heart loves the Lord and seeks to encourage others to do the same.

Part One:  Love and Purity

Part Two:  Love and My Heart

Part Three:  Love and My Brother

Part Four:  Love and Marriage

Part Five:  Love and Matchmaking

Part Six:  Love and Today

*  A few commands to love our brothers:

(agape—sacrificial):  John 13:34; John 15: 12; Romans 13:8; Gal. 5:13; Eph. 4:12; 1 Thess. 3:12; Heb. 10:24; 1 Pet. 1:22; 1 John 3:14; 1 John 3:16; 2 John 1:5;

(phileo—brotherly affection):  Romans 12:10; 1 Thess. 4:9; Heb. 13: 1; 1 Pet. 3:8;

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Part Two: Love and My Heart

March 4, 2010 at 1:46 am (Articles, Attitudes, Godly Living, Love, Marriage, Purity, Singleness, Worship) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

Posted by Abigail

The Valentine’s Day just past left me with plenty of fodder for the mental camel I’ve been feeding. Over and over again were the expressions of devotion “You have my heart!” or the pleas “Be mine.” Giving and exchanging of heart-shaped candy and heart-covered cards left impressions of hearts popping out of the heads of every couple I passed. Modern music speaks much of the heart, but the father in Proverbs had some thoughts on the issue, as well. He warned his son of the dangers of impurity, encouraged him to be faithful to the wife of his youth and exhorted “Keep your heart with all diligence, for from it flow the springs of life.” (Proverbs 4:23)

Proverbs describes temptations not unlike our own and speaks of the wisdom of “keeping” what the world would tempt us to give.

>Keep:

The Hebrew word translated “keep” has a lot more depth to it than four letters might imply. It means a conglomeration of watching, maintaining, guarding, protecting, preserving, even concealing or surviving a siege (mostly negative connotation). The word is nearly identical in purpose to the command given in the Garden of Eden, when Adam was placed in the garden to cultivate and “keep” it. (Genesis 2:15) *

Just what was Adam’s task? To keep the soil soft, healthy, bearing good fruit. To protect it from weeds. To cultivate healthy, fruit-bearing plants. Why? To bring God glory.

The Creation story tells us that man and woman were created in God’s image and when we skip to the end we see God’s purpose. “Thou hast created all things and for Thy pleasure they existed and were created.” (Revelation 4:11) God created you a unique woman, in His image, to bring Him glory. You belong to Him, heart, soul, mind and body.

The heart of the matter

To keep, to guard, to maintain, to protect our heart, we’ve got to understand to Whom it belongs. The answer is not “to ourselves.” The answer is not “to our husband (wherever he is and whenever God wills to reveal him to us, etc, etc).” When asked what the greatest commandment was, Jesus responded, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul and mind…” (Matthew 22:37; Mark 12:30; Luke 10:27) Over and over, Yahweh complained of Israel’s unfaithfulness. “This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me.” (Isaiah 29:13) He described the worship issue in graphic language as adultery. In the New Testament, Paul describes our bodies as God’s temples and explains that purity is a worship issue. (1 Corinthians 6:19) “Lust, covetousness, impurity, greed…which amounts to idolatry.” (Colossians 3:5)

God commanded us to love Him. We failed. We chose other gods, other lovers, other things. That’s the story of scripture. Adam and Eve failed to love the Lord with their hearts, minds and souls—instead they sought to know good and evil experientially, they sought knowledge elsewhere and the fellowship between man and God was destroyed. This was the relationship that you and I inherited at birth: enmity with God. But God was never surprised and He was willing to offer His redeeming love to buy us back from slavery to the other things we had pursued. Hosea pictures for us the power of redemption as he buys back his adulterous wife. God demonstrated His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners—enemies of God—He gave His own precious Son to buy us back.

Why am I recounting the gospel story for you? Because when God bought you back, He made you a new creature, able to have intimate fellowship with Him. By the Holy Spirit’s power you are able to love God. “We love Him because He first loved us.” (1 John 4:19) God created you once, and you belong to Him. Then He bought you back by redeeming love. Is there any question that you belong to Him?

You shall love Yahweh your God with all your heart. The world will never have an accurate view of love because the world does not know God.

The Idols We Serve

Why did Hosea’s wife keep fleeing him and returning to her life of sin and degradation? Didn’t she have exactly what so many Christian girls long for today? A godly, compassionate husband and several beautiful children? Still her heart wandered to fields that did not belong to her, and where her heart wandered, her feet followed. Discontentment, we call it.

Lust. Greed. Covetousness.

God calls it “idolatry.”

The idols of Israel’s unfaithfulness were made of wood, gold and stone—materials that God had created, that were good, that served a purpose–in fact, materials that were used to build His own temple. It wasn’t the materials that caused the idolatry. It was the hearts of the people that sought for something they could touch and feel to complete them. In a similar way, romance, marriage and motherhood are not evil. They have been created by God and are holy—when surrendered to Him. But whenever we pursue, worship or serve our desires—even godly desires—we allow them to usurp the place that only Yahweh can fill.

Discontentment, we call it.

God calls it “idolatry.”

Pursue the dream-giver

You’ve seen the young woman everyone says is “glowing.” She’s the one “in love,” the one everyone watches with whispers and chuckles. Her every thought is to please her lover. She talks about him constantly. She talks to him every chance she gets. She can’t wait to be with him and when she is, her eyes are fixed on his face. She’s like a garden soaking up the spring rain and flourishing. Hosea, the faithful husband, proclaims the Lord’s faithfulness and the refreshment found in His presence. “Let us know, let us press on to know the Lord. His going forth is as certain as the dawn and He will come to us like the spring rain watering the earth.” (Hosea 6:3)

Your heart is like a parched garden—it longs for fulfillment. Your Divine Lover created you to respond to His offer of divine love. Scripture says He jealously desires the spirit that He has made to dwell within us. (James 4:5) The Father in Proverbs says the heart must be diligently kept for from it flows the springs of life. The Father seeks worshipers, Jesus told the Samaritan woman, and He promised her springs of living water—welling up inside of her to eternal life. (John 4:14) Press on to know the Lord and He will come to you—bringing refreshment, bringing life.

In God’s economy, giving is keeping. If you lose your life for Christ, you will gain it for eternity. If you give to the poor, the Lord will repay you. If you want to keep your heart, you must pour it before the Lord. Paul wrote to the Philippians not to be anxious, but to pour everything with prayer and petition and thanksgiving at the feet of Christ. “And,” he promised, “the peace of God that surpasses all comprehension will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7) If you pour your heart, your grief, your struggles, your pain, yourself out in extravagant worship, you will find it guarded, protected and healed. You will find it softened, growing with good things. You will keep your heart. For God’s glory.

Purity and worship

Whenever anxiety enters, when other things vie for your attention, when your biological clock is ticking so loudly it is waking the neighbors or when that godly young man gives a good answer at Bible study, you must keep your heart. You must know it, you must guard it, you must conceal it, you must cultivate it. It’s not that desires are ungodly, but even godly desires must find a place in the kingdom of God. Jesus encouraged His followers to “seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things will be added to you.” (Matthew 6:25-34) The Father knows what you need before you ask. Above all else, He knows you need Him.

Seize every distraction as a redirection to focus on the Lord. Take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ. Seek the Lord.

Jesus blessed the pure in heart. “They shall see God,” He said. (Matthew 5:18) He accepted into His service women at whom others looked askance. Others saw only the scars of the past. Jesus probed into hearts and found them washed clean, restored and redeemed through the prodigal grace of God. ** When a woman of shady reputation poured a vial of expensive perfume over the feet of the Lord, she was pouring out her heart, despite the cold condemnation of those witnessing the act. But Jesus accepted this extravagant worship with the words, “he who is forgiven much, loves much.” (Luke 7:36-50) As forgiven women, let us never forget to love much. Purity is a heart attitude that springs from devotion to Christ.

A “kept” heart is a heart that has chosen the best part—the place at Jesus’ feet.

Part One:  Love and Purity

Part Two:  Love and My Heart

Part Three:  Love and My Brother

Part Four:  Love and Marriage

Part Five:  Love and Matchmaking

Part Six:  Love and Today

* A few interesting uses of the Hebrew words translated “keep/guard”: Gen. 3:24; Gen. 17:10; Gen. 28:15; Gen. 30:31; Ex. 12:25; Ex. 15:26; Ex. 20:6; Ex. 23:20; Lev. 18:26; Num. 6:24; Deu. 5:1; Ps. 12:7; Ps. 25:10; Ps. 34:13; Ps. 78:7; Ps. 89:28; Ps. 91:11; Ps. 105:41 (contains both words); Ps. 119 (uses both interchangeably, repeatedly); Ps. 127:1 (same word used for “keep” and “watchman”); Proverbs; Ecc. 3:6; Is. 26:3; Is. 27:3; Jer. 3:5; Ez. 20:19; Dan. 9:4; Hos. 12:6; Mic. 7:5; Nah. 2:11; Mal. 2:7

** Prodigal (adjective): 1. wastefully or recklessly extravagant. 2. giving or yielding profusely; lavishly abundant. The “prodigal son” was wastefully and recklessly extravagant with his inheritance—an evil thing. Mary of Bethany was lavishly abundant with her worship—a pure thing. God is prodigal with the grace He bestows on us—extravagant, profuse and lavishly abundant. Praise Him!

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Part One: Love and Purity

March 3, 2010 at 1:43 am (Articles, Attitudes, Godly Living, Love, Marriage, Purity, Singleness, Worship) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

Posted by Abigail

Several years ago, I received a Facebook invitation to take a “purity quiz” and see how I rated.  Curious, I clicked over.  Not surprisingly, I ranked something like “angelic”—entirely due to activities I had or hadn’t participated in–including marriage.  I shook my head and blinked—had Lauren been taking this quiz, she’d have lost “purity points” simply by virtue of being married.  In fact, her reputation would have been severely tarnished by the fact that she kissed her husband—never mind that it wasn’t until their wedding day.  Girls I know who are now shining examples of purity would have been ranked something like akin to purity’s pond-scum due to pre-Christ actions—forgiven actions.  Oh, friends, a girl could obsess about boys, flirt with boys, read romance novels, fantasize—even look at pornography and still come out “angelic.”  But she couldn’t be married.  She couldn’t have kissed her husband on her wedding day.

It wasn’t that long ago that Britney Spears was held up as an icon—a “good girl”–a “virgin.”  Now her name conjures up shudders of horror.  Something happened.  What went wrong?

As I clicked the browser closed I thought, “Something is terribly skewed with our perception of purity.”

For what is “True Love” waiting?

Swimming against the current is never easy, and when it comes to the issue of purity, sometimes it feels like we’ll be swept away in the filth of modern “love.”

We easily recognize the destruction of “love” by a society so devoid of anything holy.  In the name of love, God’s commands are broken, vows are broken, marriages are broken, hearts are broken.  The world surrounding us has a broken image of love glorified in the public unveiling of sex and the rampant cheapening of romance.  Both have become a commodity sold on billboards on every highway, advertised by every form of media and sported on a million living models.  To the world “love” is a multi-million dollar industry—a never ceasing effort to capture in a tangible way the elusive spark of intimacy.

In the midst of the madness, some say purity is coming back into style.  In an effort to swim against the “Love is Sex” current, the “True Love Waits” campaign has spawned a fad of rings and t-shirts and banquets and merchandise to encourage “purity pledges.”  But the statistics surrounding the “True Love Waits” movement are hardly encouraging.*

As godly young women see the “True Love Waits” advocates being swept into an ocean of temptation and technicality, they wring their hands and cry for answers.  In the effort to protect “true love” the boundaries are often pushed back, one step at a time.  “True Love Waits” preaches purity as “saving sex for marriage.”  A boundary of “saving sex for marriage” is like starting down a water slide thinking you won’t get to the bottom.  So, where do we draw the line?  Well, kissing leads to sex, I won’t kiss.  Holding hands leads to kissing, I won’t hold hands.  Dating leads to holding hands, I won’t date.  Emotional attachment leads to dating, I won’t get emotionally attached.  Friendship leads to emotional attachment, I won’t be friends with boys.  Talking leads to friendship, I won’t talk to boys.  Eye contact leads to talking, I won’t make eye contact with boys.  Being in the same room with boys leads to eye contact, I won’t be in the same room with boys.  HELP!  There are boys everywhere tempting me to break my purity pledge!  They keep walking into the room!

From our fogged understanding another skewed perception of purity is formed.  Subconsciously we are accepting the word’s definitions and understandings—“falling in love” leads to sex and purity is saving sex for marriage, so if we are really going to accomplish purity, we’re going to have to protect ourselves from “falling in love.”  At least until we marry, at which time suddenly we will fall in love and ta-da!  Everything will be perfect and pure.  Essentially, we’re not supposed to love boys.  Which breaks down, in so many words, to a horrible lie:  that love is impure and purity is unloving.  If we want to be pure, we can’t risk loving.  So we create rules:  no dating, no best guy friends, no talking to guys, no looking at guys period!  And no matter how pure our intentions are, how well we keep our own rules, they simply don’t work.  I promise.  Suddenly one morning, we wake up and realize that we’re crushing on a guy we’ve never even looked at.  (He sure gives good answers at Bible study, though.)  In anguish and frustration, we tear out our hair crying “How did this happen?  I did everything right!”

Be an example—in love and purity!

Paul left his son in the faith—his protégé–Timothy, in Ephesus, strengthening the church, establishing order as Paul’s apostle and wrote him some guidelines for his conduct as a younger Christian.  “Let no one look down on your youthfulness, but rather in speech, conduct, love, faith and purity, show yourself an example of those who believe.”  (1 Timothy 4:12)  He charged Timothy to be an example—in love and purity!

An example in love and purity—to those who believe.  Love and purity not only do coexist, but must coexist!  Scripturally, love is not something a person can “fall into.”  Neither is impurity.  Both are choices that we make, often one tiny moment at a time.  To understand just what the Lord wants of us, let’s get back to the Bible for our definitions of love and purity.

>Purity

The Bible uses the word “purity” to refer to doctrine, wisdom, thoughts, religion, hearts, devotion—and in its most simple form it means: undefiled. **

>Love

Scripture commands two kinds of love:  phileo (Greek–brotherly affection) and agape (Greek–sacrificial love).  It also speaks of several forms of romantic love (various Hebrew variants of ahab).  All are created by God and intended to be pure.  And all must flow first and foremost from devotion to God.  ***

The world has a terribly skewed perception of purity for a simple reason:  purity is not a set of rules.  It’s not a have or have not check-list.  In many cases acts are, of themselves, not impure, but motives direct whether our actions are pure or impure.  Jesus said “out of the heart proceeds…impurity.”  And “he who looks at a woman to lust has committed adultery already in his heart.”

Purity is a heart issue.  And rather than denying love, it is actually empowered, guided and guarded by love.

If you want to be pure, you must love.

Because love is pure and purity is loving.

Part One:  Love and Purity

Part Two:  Love and My Heart

Part Three:  Love and My Brother

Part Four:  Love and Marriage

Part Five:  Love and Matchmaking

Part Six:  Love and Today

*READ WITH CARE:  A study done by the New York Times reveals that, of teens who take the “True Love Waits” pledge, the majority break them.   Many Christian girls perceive purity as a “technical virginity”

**A few appearances of purity:  Job 11:4; Psalm 12:6; Psalm 18:26; Psalm 24:4; Proverbs 15:26; Proverbs 20:11; Zeph. 3:9; Matt. 5:8; 1 Tim. 1:5; 1 Tim. 3:9; 2 Tim. 1:3; Tit. 1:15; Jas. 1:27; Jas. 3:17; 1 Pet. 1:22; 2 Pet. 3:1.

** *A few appearances of agape:  Matt. 5:43; Matt. 6:24; Matt. 19:19; Matt. 22:37; Matt. 22:39; Mark 12:33; Luke 6:27; Luke 7:42; Luke 10:27; Luke 16:13; John 5:42; John 8:42; John 10:17; John 13:34; John 14:15; John 15:9; John 15:12&13; Rom. 5:8; Rom. 8:28; Rom. 8:35; Rom. 12:9; Rom. 13:8; Rom. 13:10; 1 Cor. 13; 2 Cor. 5:14; 2 Cor. 12:15; Gal. 5:13; Eph. 4:2; Eph. 5:2; Eph. 5:25; Phil. 1:9; Col. 3:19; 1 Thess. 3:12; 2 Tim. 1:7; 1 John 3:11; 1 John 3:14; 1 John 4:19; 1 John 4:21; 2 John 1:6.

A few appearances of phileo:  John 21:15; Rom. 12:10; 1 Thess. 4:9; Tit. 3:15; Heb. 13:1; 1 Pet. 3:8; Rev. 3:19;

A few appearances of romantic love:  Gen. 29:20; Judg. 16:15; 2 Sam. 1:26; 2 Sam. 13:4; 1 Kin. 11:2; Pro. 4:6; Pro. 5:19; Ecc. 3:8; Song of Solomon; Ez. 16:8; Ez. 23:11; Hos. 3:1.

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