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.

Advertisements

Permalink 3 Comments

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!

Permalink 6 Comments

Seven Steps

February 22, 2010 at 1:25 am (Attitudes, Food for Thought, Purity) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

food-for-thought

Chew on this…

Seven Awful Steps Downward

Step one: Adopting a careless attitude toward sin.

Step two: Giving in to sin.

Step three: Habitually giving in to sin.

Step four: Surrendering to sin.

Step five: Abandoning God for a life of sin.

Step six: Becoming a tool of Satan to temp others to sin.

Step seven: Hell.  And you do not have to die in order to get there.  Hell is character as well as location.  The person who hates everything that God loves is in hell now, and hell is in him or her.

Seven Glorious Steps Upward

Step one: Developing a resistant attitude toward sin—determining that sin will not gain control over you.

Step two: Overcoming sin by faith in Christ.  Successfully fleeing from temptation—saying no to the desire or opportunity to sin.

Step three: A lifestyle of victory over sin.  Habitually saying no to the desire or opportunity to sin.  The strength that comes from one victory helps in overcoming the next temptation.

Step four: Discovering the “abiding life,” the “victorious life,” the “exchanged life.”  It has been termed many things by many different Christians through the ages, but in short, it is a life of intimate acquaintance with the grace of Christ and the empowerment that comes when His Spirit gains full access to your life.

Step five: Entrance into even deeper fellowship with Christ.  It started with your trusting God—now God entrusts His kingdom treasures to you.  You are set apart for His enjoyment and for His service.

Step six: Becoming one whom God calls on to do great and mighty things for His kingdom.  A set-apart existence that values Christ over life itself and is willing even to suffer and die to carry out the King’s bidding.

Step seven: Heaven.  And you do not have to die in order to get there.  Heaven is character as well as location.  The person who devotedly loves everything that God loves is in heaven now, and heaven is in him or her.

Paraphrased from John Stam, missionary/martyr to China, 1907-1934

…and tell us what you think.

thess-5

Share this Post

Permalink 1 Comment

Why Don’t You Open That Door?

February 25, 2009 at 12:20 pm (Articles, Attitudes, Godly Living) (, , , , , , , , , , , )

Posted by Abigail

open-that-doorHaving my own bathroom sounded glamorous. As soon as we moved in, I set to work stripping off disgusting grey wallpaper, sanding down the uneven walls and painting it a delicious color of green. (Well, Lauren doesn’t like it, but it’s not her bathroom, now is it?) I hung new towels and put out the perfect canisters and soap dispenser, but I soon discovered that my “beautiful” bathroom has a nasty problem: mildew. Tucked into a back corner of the house, the humidity is high and the slimy black stuff appears from nowhere, crawling across the ceiling or down the shower wall and clinging to the tile grout.

I’ve rolled up my sleeves and scrubbed with bleach water (thought I’d ruined my hair when I accidentally spilled some on my head!) more times than I care to recall. For a couple of days the tile shines and the ceiling glows white again, then one morning I wake up to realize the mildew has crept back into life. Where does it come from? How does it get here? Why does it keep coming back?

One day my ever-wise mother responded to my frustrations: “Why don’t you open that door?” I blinked. I didn’t even realize that I do keep it closed, until she mentioned it. Of course, I have a cartload of excuses. For one, I don’t want everyone who comes into my room being tempted to use my bathroom–or even being able to see into it. You know, sometimes I have sweaty work-out clothes hanging up in there. Or dirty work jeans. Or the dirty clothes become restless and tumble out of the closet–it’s my bathroom, none of their business. In these cold winter months, it stays warmer than my 45-degree bedroom, which is nice for showering and getting dressed in the mornings. “So,” she said, “Close the door when you’re showering and dressing and leave it open the rest of the time so it can air out.”

Are you wondering why I’m going on and on about the mildew infiltration in my bathroom?

The mildew offered to me a prime picture of my heart. When I trusted Jesus it got cleaned up, adorned with good things and I thought it looked pretty good–for a while. Slowly, so many nasty things began to creep in. Where did they come from? How did they get there? Where there’s a bathroom, there will be mildew to fight. Every heart is deceitful and full of wickedness. When I notice the mildew in my heart, I go for the bleach and scrub brush and get to work cleaning, scrubbing, purging, repenting, weeping, praying. For a couple of days I seem like a shining, new individual on the inside, and then the mildew comes creeping back. Always, it comes creeping back. Always it will come creeping back, but “Why don’t you leave the door open?” Mom said.

Leave the door open? What in the–?

Accountability. Instead of closing myself up inside, hiding behind a white-washed door, I ought to be seeking accountability, opening myself up to scrutiny. Not to everyone (I don’t invite everyone into my room), but to my parents, to my siblings, to my closest friends and sisters in Christ. Not necessarily about everything. Some things are private-like showering–but do I really need the door closed when doing my hair? Putting on make-up? Or even cleaning? In fact, I might need accountability for those very things! What are the sins and struggles that keep creeping back into my heart and life, those nasty things I try to hide from everyone else? Thinking my agenda is so important, my bad habit of reading everything I see, or beginning to focus on outward appearance and worldly success. Or the fact that I don’t pay attention when Mom is giving me instructions because I think I know what is and isn’t important. Or not being disciplined about personal study or prayer time.

Just like getting some air into a mildew infested room can slow down the mildew’s growth, being transparent about my failures can often spur me to overcoming them and can dampen the temptation. Having someone know that I am tempted in a certain way can strengthen me to resist. After all, they might ask, or they might notice that mildew growing now the they know what’s behind that closed door. They can guess what I might be hiding when I say, “I’m doing fine.”

Seeking accountability involves more than just sharing struggles. There’s little need for a mutual pity party. Accountability involves action on both parts: prayer for each other, suggestions, Biblical guidance. When I seek accountability, I should be praying and seeking prayer. I should be seeking suggestions, tools and ideas for overcoming and resisting, for cleansing and purifying. And I should be looking for root issues. When I seek accountability, I should be implementing suggestions and expecting follow-up inspection. The goal is a mildew-free environment, not just an open-door policy. It’s not that I want people to have to look at my disgusting bathroom. The goal is to become presentable: a bathroom fit for the King.

“Why don’t you open that door?” Mom said. It’s habit now to close it-at least most of the way, but when I see itjames-5-161 standing closed, a white wall barring the view into my “inner” room, I open it to let it air out. Sometimes it means I actually have to put those sweaty work-out clothes away, or wash that hand-towel, or get more toilet paper, or even go to work on that mildew when I’d rather be doing something else. I’m trying to learn to open up my heart to accountability, as well: let it air out to help slow down the mildew’s growth, implement other’s suggestions for cleaning, seek root problems and deceitful heart issues. Hopefully, at least, I’ll notice more quickly when the black slime begins to spread.

And perhaps it will encourage others to see that there’s hope. We all have mildew in our bathrooms and our hearts, but a little accountability and a lot of bleach can go a long way in the cleaning process.

Permalink 5 Comments