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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A Review for the Pure in Heart

March 1, 2010 at 1:47 am (Purity, The Book Shelf) (, , , , , , , , , , )

the-book-shelfEmotional Purity:  An Affair of the Heart by Heather Arnel Paulsen

Book Type: Practical/godly living

Rating: 9 out of 10

Recommended? For every woman, especially for young Christian single women


Overview: “Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life” says the wise king in Proverbs 4:23.  As I taught abstinence in the public schools, I found myself preaching and pleading for so much more than physical purity.  The intimacy progression chart we shared began with “hanging out”.  So few seem to connect the progression of intimacy so clearly–can broken hearts happen after hanging out?  I’ve known girls who are devastated by discovering that a “friend” doesn’t return their affection.  And then what?  It’s not even a break-up.  In her book, Heather talks about keeping your heart focused on Jesus, who is able to protect it from emotional damage.  I stand witness to the fact that abiding by rules like “no holding hands” or “no dating” or “I won’t kiss until my wedding day” still leaves many Christian girls with broken hearts and confused minds, asking “how did this happen?  How did I misunderstand?”  The secret lies in the blurred boundaries our society encourages between friendship and relationship.

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly:

The ugly is that broken hearts happen.  The bad is that they happen to the best of us.  The good is that Heather has some excellent (and scripturally solid!) advice for protecting our minds and hearts from the emotional games and confusing friendships(?) that are so easy to walk right into.  She encourages keeping friendships family and group based, and for those who have been broken, there is hope in the Healer of souls.

Praises:

Reading “Emotional Purity” is like reading a letter from a good friend.  Heather’s style is simple, honest and humble–genuine with her sympathy and love.  She’s been there and, better yet, proven that you can have an emotionally pure relationship that leads to marriage!  Heather doesn’t just stop at “how to avoid a broken heart”, she also deals with heart issues like envy and discontent that encourage us to seek solace in a relationship when we should be seeking the Lord.  She encourages us to understand our feelings so that we may offer them to the Lord in worship.


Concerns:

Heather gives a couple of examples that were pure for her that I would have a hard time encouraging since they still could have been emotionally dangerous.  Her perspective is to help women guard their hearts and she doesn’t deal as much with seeking not to lead on a guy emotionally.  Of course, the standards and goals of not emotionally defrauding can and will be different for different girls–and in different relationships.  So read with an open heart to understand and seek emotional purity for the glory of God.


Tips for getting the most out of this book:

At the end of each chapter, Heather asks a few questions for you to meditate on.  I encourage you to get 41kuzlj1oil_bo2204203200_pisitb-sticker-arrow-clicktopright35-76_aa240_sh20_ou01_out your journal and answer them honestly–evaluating your own life and habits in light of what she shares.  It’s difficult to change habits.  Sometimes it’s difficult to pinpoint particular areas of stumbling.  But it’s worth it!  If purity is important to you, then pour some time and effort into cultivating emotional purity–guarding the well-spring of your heart!

Buy Emotional Purity from Amazon

Read Heather’s Blog

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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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