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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Lust: It’s Not Just a Guy Thing

February 20, 2010 at 1:21 am (Articles, Attitudes, Modesty, Purity) (, , , , , , , , , , , , )

Posted by Lauren

Most of the time when we think of lust, we envision someone of the male species taking more than a glance at someone of the female species. But lust is hardly limited to this scenario.

Lust is a strong desire. In our understanding of it, it is a strong desire for something withheld or forbidden. For us ladies, this can rear its ugly head in two very different forms.

The first could be synonymous with “boy craziness”, though it is not as innocent as it sounds. Before I went to high school I had heard that guys talked nasty in their locker rooms. But what came as a shock was that girls did, too, as I discovered while being a part of my high school’s softball team. But should it have been a surprise? Looking back, not really. This kind of thing began in elementary school, when girls would talk about how they wanted to kiss so-and-so, or in middle school when they thought Jonathan Taylor Thomas was so “cute” or “fine”. At some point that seemingly innocent interest in the opposite sex graduates from preschool and jumps straight into “higher education”. Really, it’s sin at every level—it’s lust at every level. It just gives way to more lust, more sin.

The girls who talked about guys in the locker room are not the only ones with a “problem”. Those of us who have enough sense to keep our mouths shut can have just as much filth on the inside. We need to watch over our hearts with all diligence, for from them flow the springs of life (Proverbs 4:23). If we’re not careful to guard our hearts, they’ll end up polluted and will produce filth rather than beauty. This goes for lusting after marriage as much as it does for a random guy who just walked down the hall. A lust for marriage turns into a lust for the blessings of marriage—emotional and physical. What’s worse is we often pick a guy who we are currently interested in and toy with the idea of marrying him, imagining all that goes along with that. So where does a healthy desire for marriage turn into sinful lust? That’s a tough question. A better one would be: Has my healthy desire for marriage turned into an idol that robs God of the affection He deserves? Have I paid more attention to a certain person I like than to the Lord and those whom He has given me to love already (parents, other family members, my sisters in Christ)? If there is an idol—even if your thoughts are not about sex at all—there’s a problem. And deeper sin is just waiting around the corner. Stop now and turn around. Seek your parents’ counsel and accountability either from them or a wise, trusted friend (keep in mind that friends your age might be wise for their age, but they may not be very helpful to you if they struggle in the same area). Determine what steps need to be taken to remove stumbling blocks. Are you reading romance novels or courtship stories that fuel the fire? Stop reading them. Are you watching movies or TV shows that make you long for your own happily-ever-after? Stop watching them, and keep in mind that TV and movies are very unrealistic. Are some of your friends trying to get “juicy details” out of you rather than encouraging you to guard your heart? Explain your struggle and ask them to stop, and if they don’t you may need to stand up to their taunts or simply distance yourself.

This is tough stuff, isn’t it? Feels like tearing away pieces of yourself, doesn’t it? But that’s what Jesus calls us to do in our fight against sin—and lust in particular.

Matthew 5:27-30 27 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery’; 28 but I say to you, that everyone who looks on a woman to lust for her has committed adultery with her already in his heart. 29 “And if your right eye makes you stumble, tear it out, and throw it from you; for it is better for you that one of the parts of your body perish, than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. 30 “And if your right hand makes you stumble, cut it off, and throw it from you; for it is better for you that one of the parts of your body perish, than for your whole body to go into hell.

So is it wrong to think someone is attractive or to desire to be married one day? No. But if those thoughts or desires are left unchecked our sinful hearts can take them where we know we shouldn’t go.

As if that weren’t enough already, there is another kind of lust that plagues women—single or married: the lust to have another woman’s body. We face it every time we check out at the grocery store—magazines and tabloids sporting fabulous photos of famous people who have flat stomachs, perfect figures, and pretty faces. I find it much harder to ignore a beautiful woman than whatever guy is the latest definition of “hot”. In fact, marketers know this and use it to their advantage—both men and women are attracted to a beautiful woman. The men want her and women want to be her.

This, again, is a problem of the heart. And we deal with it in much the same way as we dealt with guy-directed lust. What is causing you to stumble? Magazines? TV shows? Movies? Friends who obsess over their appearance (and yours)? Going to the beach? Is your definition of beauty one that is informed by Scripture, or are you chasing after the super-skinny super-models (be they scantily dressed cover-girls or squeezed-into-a-corset Jane Austin heroines)? Renew your mind in God’s word and focus on His beauty. And don’t try to dress “sexy”. This will certainly be a blessing to your brothers in Christ, and it will likely help you to be less focused on looking like a model.

And for better advice and clarity than I can give, check out this article: Thou Shalt Not Covet Thy Neighbor’s Curves. For a more thorough study of lust, Joshua Harris’ book Sex Is Not the Problem (Lust Is) does a wonderful job of handling this subject biblically and tastefully.

Fighting lust is a tough battle for both of the sexes. So if you’re a girl that struggles with lust, be encouraged that you’re not alone. And be even more encouraged that God gives us grace to overcome our sins as we depend on Him and renew our hearts and minds in His word.

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