Posts tagged Purity

“Tish of Truth” #5 – Do not Awaken Love

Recently I was thinking about the importance of sexual purity…not just being a “technical virgin” and saving the act of sex for marriage.  But sexual purity in the sense of saving it all – kisses, emotional attachments, etc – truly guarding one’s heart until it is time to give it fully to the man who is to become one’s husband, or the woman who is to become one’s wife.  I wondered if this stance was something necessary or too extreme to encourage today’s generation of younger girls to apply to their lives.  God graciously answered my questioning thoughts with a passage from the Song of Solomon: “Promise me, O women of Jerusalem, not to awaken love until the time is right” (Song of Solomon 8:4).  That passage immediately stifled any doubts as to whether the “save it all – not just your ‘technical virginity’ ” mindset is a message worth sharing.

Think about it.  Solomon had the opportunity to ask God for anything in the world, and the one thing he asked for was wisdom.  God granted his request, along with immeasurable wealth and influence.  Solomon is considered to be the wisest man who ever walked the face of the earth.  He wrote many of the Proverbs, as well as the Book of Ecclesiastes.  So…it would seem that we too would be wise to apply Solomon’s advice, especially since he tells us three separate times that we are “not [to] awaken love until the time is right” (see Song of Solomon 2:7, 3:5, & 8:4)!!  Apparently he was quite concerned with trying to get his point across.  But are we listening?

In today’s sex-saturated society – from television shows and movies, to pop icons, billboards, and magazine ads – teens and pre-teens are overwhelmed with images and examples that could result in love being awakened far too early.  Regarding their personal convictions and decision as to how far they will go physically with a member of the opposite sex, I believe Solomon’s advice is more important than ever today: “Do not awaken love until the time is right.” So when exactly is the time right?  Well, marriage – between one man and one woman – would be the context of the entire Song of Solomon.  Thus we can safely assume that Solomon is warning the women of his time – as well as women of all ages in our day – not to allow their love to be awakened until marriage, when it can be fully expressed without hindrance, and with God’s complete blessing.

The question then remains, what causes love to be awakened?  Answers to this may be different for each individual.  Yet it would seem safe to say that physical contact with a member of the opposite sex – including kissing – is not possible without love being awakened.  The reality is that those intense feelings are often not really love; rather they are lust.  Yet raging hormones, instant gratification, and momentary acceptance can be interpreted as “love” in the heat of the moment.

I believe there needs to be a switch from the mindset of just “saving sex” for marriage, to saving everything for marriage.  With a culture that screams the opposite – where nothing is saved, guarded, or kept a secret – we must encourage this next generation to not allow their love to be awakened prematurely.  They need to understand the potential connections from any sort of physical contact like kissing and even holding hands with a member of the opposite sex.  If it can’t be done without awakening love, according to Solomon, it probably shouldn’t be done until marriage.  I don’t believe we can err on the side of being too safe.  The benefits are endless and life-long, including less heartache…less emotional, physical, spiritual, and mental baggage to work through…and increased blessings and satisfaction from being in God’s perfect will!!

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Christmas Snow: A Reminder of Christ’s Purity

I woke up this morning to a beautiful blanket of snow several inches deep covering the grass and trees.  It’s been many years since we’ve had snow on Christmas morning, so this “White Christmas” is a pretty big deal!  I’ve spent much of the morning going back and forth from window to window in my apartment, watching the snow continue to fall.  What a beautiful gift from above.

I’ll admit that I have struggled this morning with anger and sadness – not exactly ideal emotions on Christmas…especially because they are so self-centered on a day that’s not about me.  But even in my sometimes unsuccessful effort to walk in the spirit as opposed to reacting in my flesh, God is so good to speak and teach me much.  These conflicting emotions stem from wondering why my presence seems to continue to elicit reactions of jealousy, rejection, and offense from others.  I don’t at all expect that people will have these reactions; yet I see it happening more often than my heart would like.  Although I am well aware of my imperfections, my spirit realizes it is not really me that is offensive; rather, it is the One Who is my constant companion…it is His love that I carry and attempt to live out, and His message of Truth that I stand for at all times.  His presence in me is attractive to some, but unfortunately generates seeds of division and offense from others.

I am reminded again of Jesus…the One Whose birthday we celebrate and honor today.  Jesus’ entire life – from conception to death to resurrection to ascension, elicited offense, jealousy, anger, accusations and a host of other reactions from people who chose not to understand His purpose for being on this earth.  Jesus’ scandalous conception generated offense and shunning for his teenage mother.  Before Jesus had even taken His first breath, the mere thought of His birth caused Joseph and Mary to have to flee – for their lives and His.  King Herod was so threatened by this Infant King, that he had all the male children two years and younger murdered, in an attempt to end Jesus’ life as quickly as it had begun.

As Jesus grew older, His actions were at times even offensive to His parents.  He disappeared from them for days while preaching in the temple.  His response when they found Him: “Didn’t you know I’d be about My Father’s business?” (Luke 2:49, KJ21).  Even as a pre-teenage boy, Jesus’ focus was singular – intent on daily, moment-by-moment, fulfilling the will and plan of His heavenly Father.  Years later, Jesus’ words would again offend family members: “ ‘Who is My mother and who are My brothers?  …For whoever does the will of My Father in heaven is My brother and sister and mother!’ “ (Mathew 12:48, 50).

The Pharisees and Sadducees, religious leaders of Jesus’ day, were highly offended at His message and jealous of the authority and power Jesus operated in.  They were forever trying to trap Him with questions.  Perhaps Jesus’ greatest offense towards the religious leaders was that He was the fulfillment of the law they prided themselves in knowing and following.  Jesus was the very One their souls hungered for, yet offense, jealousy, and pride caused them to miss out on what He came to offer them.

The examples are endless.  Ultimately, this Man Who was guilty of nothing but loving people and speaking Truth was so offensive to the masses – the same ones who had welcomed Him into the city with praise just days prior, that they had Him nailed to a cross while choosing to let Barabbas, a vicious criminal, go free.  To this day, the name “Jesus” is offensive to many…from those who believe in other gods, to those who would seek to be “politically correct.”  Jesus, though no longer here in body, continues to cause quite a stir.

So the question remains…if I am a follower of Jesus, and my desire is to become more and more conformed to His image, then why am I surprised when my pursuit of Christ-likeness is a stumbling-block to others?  Why am I shocked, and why do I allow sadness and anger to rule when those who have had opportunities to know my heart and motives still choose to believe falsely about me?  Should I not consider it an honor to suffer (in a very small way) as Jesus did?

God speaks to me so much through nature, and this morning has been no exception.  As I watched the freshly fallen snow, I could not help but think of purity.  That beautiful white blanket, spotless and yet untouched by dirt, car pollution, or footprints.  One of my many thoughts as I watched the snow fall came in the form of a couple questions: “Jesus, how did You manage to stay spotless – like that fresh snow – without sin or blemish, when people were so ugly to you?  How did you keep from having one sinful, fleshly thought, when those You literally poured Your life out for – those You loved to the point of death, treated You so cruelly…choosing to falsely judge Your character, lying about You, and eventually…crucifying You?” Apart from my choice to believe by faith, it truly is incomprehensible to me that a man could endure all Jesus did, yet remain sinless.  Not one angry thought towards those who wronged Him.  Wow.

Even though Jesus was Immanuel – God in the flesh, He was still fully man.  It’s not like He had one up on us.  There was no unfair Divine advantage in His ability to respond to judgments, criticisms, and rejection.  Rather, this morning I have realized again the stark difference between Jesus and me: He was fully submitted to walking in the spirit at all times. That means He was also submitted to responding in the spirit.  So regardless of what people said or thought about Jesus, He had purposed beforehand to choose to forgive immediately and to love unconditionally.  That didn’t mean people weren’t still highly offended by Jesus’ message and jealous of His power and authority.  Nor did it mean Jesus didn’t have some solid boundaries in place.  Scripture makes it clear that Jesus did not come to bring peace; rather, He came to bring a sword (Matthew 10:34).  But what I recognize about Jesus is that He was a Man Who was so focused on His mission in life, no response by men or women around Him had the power to distract Him from His purpose. Not their praise, not their rejection, offense, or jealousy.  Because He was fully man, Jesus no doubt experienced deep emotions just as we do.  But His spirit-led emotions sent Him right back to His Father, asking for grace and strength to accomplish His will.

So today, Christmas 2010, I thank God for the gift of snow, which brought with it the reminder of the pure and spotless heart and mind of Jesus.  While I am so grateful for the gift of Christ’s birth, I’m even more thankful for the example He lived out for you and me…showing us it is possible to respond in the spirit, no matter how people react to His message flowing out of us.  I desire to respond as Jesus did…a somewhat scary thing to admit, as in doing so means I’ll no doubt be given more “opportunities” to practice my responses!!   Yet I’m willing to practice as long as it takes in order for my fleshly reactions to become spirit-led responses that no longer distract from God’s ultimate purpose for my life.

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Father, Forgive Us… Confessions of an American Follower of Christ

Yesterday evening while driving and talking with God, I sensed Him asking me to take humble yet powerful action…similar to that of an Old Testament hero.  In Daniel 9, we see Daniel – a man of consistent and fervent prayer – humble himself before the Lord and offer up a prayer of confession and repentance on behalf of himself and his people…

“I, Daniel…turned to the Lord God and pleaded with him in prayer and fasting…I prayed to the Lord my God and confessed…”

In recent weeks and months, my soul has been deeply grieved at much of what I have witnessed going on in Western churches.  I’ve experienced the extremes of movements – from traditional legalism, to charismatic hype…and everything in between.  Please understand that I am not at all writing this from a viewpoint of believing I have a full and complete understanding of how God desires His church to function.  But I do write from a place of desiring the body of Christ to walk in Truth, first and foremost…never compromising the unchanging standards of the Word, or watering down clear parameters set in place by God Himself.  Truth mixed with deception = Deception.  We as Believers can no longer toe the line between worldliness/fleshliness and holiness.  There must be a definitive difference, characterized by our pursuit of righteousness and our devotion to the highest standards of integrity.

A study of the Gospels, as well as the Book of Acts, gives a pretty clear indicator of the model we should follow as we walk out the Christian life.  The Books of Matthew, Mark, Luke, & John all portray the life of Jesus…the simple yet powerful way in which He lived and loved.  Thousands of lives were eternally transformed after being touched by Jesus during His earthly ministry.

In Acts, we see a model of how the church should function – truly as one unified body, with none of its members lacking anything because those who had excess would share with those who were in need.  This model of sacrificial and generous living proved to be quite the witness to the watching world.  Many were saved, healed, and delivered because of the simple ways in which the early church lived out the command of Jesus to love one another.  I encourage you to go through the first five books of the New Testament.  See what you think…is the modern-day Church doing a good job following Christ’s example?  Is the watching world being positively impacted by us?

In similar fashion as Daniel, I humbly pray the following, offering this plea for forgiveness on behalf of myself and all who claim the name of Jesus.  If you are in agreement, feel free to pray along with me:

Father,

You are the Most High God.  There is no other name worthy of praise, no other being worthy of our devotion.  I speak with a heart of gratitude, as You have done so much for me.  Just like the leper in Luke 17, I was one who lived with much shame.  But when I encountered the life-giving and freeing love of Jesus, I experienced healing and wholeness on a level I’d previously not dreamed imaginable.  With each moment You give me on this earth, I choose to live, and move, and breathe as an expression of my thanks to You.

“O Lord, you are a great and awesome God! You always fulfill your covenant and keep your promises of unfailing love to those who love you and obey your commands” (Daniel 9:4)

I wonder what You must think as You watch us day in and day out.  Are You proud, or are You grieved at what You see taking place in Your name?  Do You feel respected by our actions, or do we dishonor Your name more often than we are aware of?  Do we include You in the moment-by-moment events of our lives, or are You keenly aware that we only approach You when we have need of Your help?

“But we have sinned and done wrong. We have rebelled against you and scorned your commands and regulations” (Daniel 9:5)

Jesus told us to “Go into all the world” – sharing the Good News with all we come in contact with.  Forgive us for replacing Jesus’ mandate with our own agendas – our building funds, programs, performances, and so many other man-made ideas that all-too-often take precedence over the simple yet eternally life-changing instructions to offer a cup of cold water in Your name…to love our neighbor…to give our lives away.  Forgive us for getting so comfortable in our cushioned seats that we forget the widow, the orphan, the homeless…or our co-worker, who just needs to know someone cares.

Forgive us for worshiping men who were made in Your image more than we worship You.  Forgive us for elevating and exalting those who have been gifted by You.  Forgive us for setting them up to fail, as we promote their gifts and charisma more than we value the character necessary to maintain the responsibility of the gifting they carry.

For those of us who have been placed in positions of leadership, forgive us for not carefully shepherding the hearts of those You have entrusted to our care.  Forgive us for allowing wolves to devour our sheep.  Forgive us for not using our discernment to detect false prophets and deceptive teachings.  Forgive us for trying to be so ‘user-friendly’ that we’ve turned worship services into venues for entertainment.  Forgive us for not boldly walking in the authority You have given us…as Your sons and daughters, and positionally, as You are the One Who sets up those who lead.

“You have kept your word and done to us and our rulers exactly as you warned. Never has there been such a disaster… We have refused to seek mercy from the Lord our God by turning from our sins and recognizing his truth.  Therefore, the Lord has brought upon us the disaster he prepared. The Lord our God was right to do all of these things, for we did not obey him” (Daniel 9:12-14)

Forgive us for not revering Your Spirit.  On the one hand, we dismiss Him completely…minimizing His role in our lives, and believing the gifts He equips us with have long since ceased to be in operation.  Thus we often silence His still small voice with our religious reasons as to why He can’t possibly be moving in power today.  On the other hand, we shift to the extreme of worshiping the Spirit’s manifestations – exalting His presence and power above the person of You.  Forgive us for desiring the Spirit’s gifts more than we desire His conviction, His counsel, and His discernment that will guide us into all Truth. Forgive us for trying to manipulate the Spirit, and for attributing such foolish and outright mocking manifestations to the Spirit Who is by name and character “Holy.”  We ask that You bring us back into proper balance, as our desire is to be those who worship You in Spirit and in Truth.

“Lord, you are in the right; but as you see, our faces are covered with shame. This is true of all of us…because of our disloyalty to you.  O Lord, we…are covered with shame because we have sinned against you.  But the Lord our God is merciful and forgiving, even though we have rebelled against him.  We have not obeyed the Lord our God…” (Daniel 9:7-10)

Forgive us for putting a price tag on the gifts Your Spirit has freely bestowed upon us.  Forgive us for not following the model of Jesus, Who sent His disciples out with the instructions to cast out demons, heal the sick, and raise the dead…and to give as freely as they had received (Matthew 10:7-8, NLT).  Forgive us for charging the spiritually hungry and needy, and requiring payment for gifts of healing, prophetic words, and counsel that would not otherwise be possible without the flow of Your Spirit.  Forgive us for using Your Spirit for our own financial gain.  Forgive us for not recognizing we are simply conduits for Your Spirit to flow through.  Apart from Him, we have no wisdom or power.

Forgive us for turning Your house into a place where we peddle our talents on center stage.  Forgive us for using Your house as a means for self-promotion and exaltation.  Forgive us for modeling greed to a world that desperately needs to see sacrificial living and loving.  Forgive us for lifting our hands and voices as we sing songs of devotion and commitment and dependence on You, when our lifestyles speak the opposite.

Forgive us for begrudging the times we face rejection on account of our association with You, or when we attempt to proclaim the Truth.  Forgive us for seeking to defend our own names when falsely accused.  May we be like Jesus, Who spoke not a word in response to His accusers, but was secure in knowing You saw His innocence.  May we embrace the reality that You consider us worthy to take part in the fellowship of Christ’s sufferings.

Father, have mercy on Your children.  We recognize that the One Who is in us is greater than the one who is in the world.  We desperately need You to help us navigate the challenges we face as we attempt to walk out this journey as Your children…Your ambassadors to a lost and dying world.

“O our God, hear your servant’s prayer! Listen as I plead. For your own sake, Lord, smile again on your desolate sanctuary.  O my God, lean down and listen to me. Open your eyes and see our despair… We make this plea, not because we deserve help, but because of your mercy.  O Lord, hear. O Lord, forgive. O Lord, listen and act! For your own sake, do not delay, O my God, for your people. I went on praying and confessing my sin and the sin of my people, pleading with the Lord…” (Daniel 9:17-20)

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Britt Nicole’s “Acoustic” in Stores Now!!!

Hey Friends!!  Britt Nicole’s anticipated new release, entitled “Acoustic,” is available at Christian retailers and online as of today, August 24th!!!  I highly recommend that you buy a copy for every young woman in your life (daughter, sis, niece, friend, etc).  Britt certainly has a unique way of sharing her message – in particular, the truth that lasting love, security, and acceptance are ultimately found through a relationship with Jesus. This is a message young women in our culture desperately need to hear.

I have been so impressed with the depth of Britt Nicole’s lyrics on her previous CDs, and “Acoustic” definitely does not disappoint. If you are already a fan of Britt, you may recognize the top five songs of Britt’s career thus far, included on this new album in acoustic style. You’ll also get to hear more of Britt’s pure, passionate, and powerful voice than ever before!  “Acoustic” includes a never-before released track entitled “Found By You” – which Britt co-wrote with Dove award-winning singer/songwriter Brandon Heath.

So head on out to your local Christian retailer, or visit www.amazon.com“Acoustic” is a CD you don’t want to miss out on!!

www.brittnicole.com

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“Tish of Truth” #4 – “Run Towards Purity!”

“Run from anything that stimulates youthful lusts.  Instead, pursue righteous living…” (II Timothy 2:22a)

Have you ever been watching a show on tv, or looking at pictures in a magazine, and suddenly realized your mind had gone deep into the world of fantasy?  Have you found yourself drooling over that “hot” guy in the magazine, or putting yourself in the place of the girl in the movie…and carrying the romance scene farther and farther in your mind? 

In II Timothy, Paul makes it clear that in order to pursue a life of purity and “righteous (good, blameless) living,” we can’t just casually try to avoid those things that may cause us to trip along the way.  Rather, Paul says we must make the deliberate choice to “flee” or “run from” anything that could be a stumblingblock in our race.   This may include  certain types of pictures that we look at, movies and/or tv shows we watch, or music we listen to.  

You and I would be wise to heed Paul’s warning to RUN from anything that could lead us to impure thoughts and/or actions.  Actively pursuing a lifestyle of purity means making moment-by-moment decisions to think on, look at, and talk about things that are honoring and good.  Always ask yourself, “Does this activity draw me closer to or further away from the goal of pure thoughts and actions?”   Then be willing to “run from” anything that doesn’t meet that criteria. 

The result?  You’ll be free to run your race without the hindrances of mental images and thoughts that could trip you up along the way!  Freedom is a wonderful thing!!!

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“Tish of Truth” #3 – “What Kind of Instrument are You?”

“In a wealthy home some utensils are made of gold and silver, and some are made of wood and clay. The expensive utensils are used for special occasions, and the cheap ones are for everyday use.  If you keep yourself pure, you will be a special utensil for honorable useYour life will be clean and you will be ready for the Master to use you for every good work (II Timothy 2:20-21, NLT)

Have you ever been to a special dinner or holiday meal where the most expensive silverware was used?  If so, you were probably aware that this type of silverware is supposed to be handled with the utmost care.  When not being used, it is kept safe in its own unique place.  Even the cleaning for this expensive silverware is done in a specific way that will not tarnish its appearance.  Periodically, the owner will pull the silverware out of its safe place in order to polish it, and keep it looking extra shiny.  During those polishing times, the owner likely looks at the silverware and imagines all the special plans she has for it…for which ordinary silverware just can’t be used.  It is up to the owner to keep the silverware “pure,” as the silverware has no will of its own, and no ability to keep itself clean. 

In II Timothy, Paul likens you and me to “utensils” or instruments that God wants to use.  Unlike the expensive silverware kept clean by its owner, each of us has a choice in whether or not we will keep ourselves pure.  No one else can keep us shiny and clean.  We have the Holy Spirit as the one Who brings affirmation or conviction.  But ultimately God has given each of us the freedom to decide if we want to be the “expensive utensilsused for special occasions,” or “the cheap ones” that “are for everyday use.”

What is the determining factor for those who get to be “special utensils”?  Our pursuit of purity, which results in a “clean” lifestyle, is the key as to what type of vessel we will be.  We can keep ourselves pure by guarding our eyes, our hearts, our minds, and our bodies from those things that may tarnish us in some way.  Think about the movies and television shows you watch, the magazines you read, or the things you do with your boyfriend.  Are those actions helping you remain pure?  When we willfully choose to keep ourselves clean, we can then have the assurance that God will set us apart – as tools and instruments to be used for His most admirable purposes!!

Check out the way The Message translates these verses.  This is a bit more descriptive:

“In a well-furnished kitchen there are not only crystal goblets and silver platters, but waste cans and compost buckets—some containers used to serve fine meals, others to take out the garbage. Become the kind of container God can use to present any and every kind of gift to his guests for their blessing (II Timothy 2:20-21)

The choice is yours. What kind of utensil are you?  Wouldn’t you prefer to be like the “expensive” silverware, carefully prepared and set apart by God for use in His most special assignments?

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“Tish of Truth” #2 – “Not Even a Hint”

“But among you there must not even be a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity” (Ephesians 5:3, NIV)

In Christian circles especially, the importance of “saving your virginity” for marriage is highly promoted. And while that is definitely a good thing, simply being a “technical virgin” still leaves far too much opportunity for sexual immorality and impurity. God doesn’t just say “be a virgin when you get married,” and leave it at that. He takes it further, laying out some specific boundaries for us.

“Not even a hint of sexual immorality”…that sounds like God takes the pursuit of purity quite seriously. The “how-far-can-I-go-and-still-be-a-virgin” way of thinking, or trying to toe the line and do this-or-that without “going all the way” certainly doesn’t line up with the clear standard God has set.

So…what exactly is “a hint”? A hint could also be defined as “a trace” or “a speck”…in other words, it’s something small – perhaps seemingly insignificant. A hint could include those things you don’t think twice about looking at, watching, reading, talking about, or doing. The best test would be to ask yourself, “Does this particular activity encourage me – and others around me – to have pure thoughts and actions?” For example…looking at sexually explicit pictures or reading the “sex advice” in the latest issues of Cosmo and Teen magazine. And how about watching movies that promote casual sex – before marriage, outside of marriage, and/or with the same-gender? Or that questionable internet site that keeps luring you back…do those things count as “hints” of sexual immorality? Yes, they do.

In this day of sexual-bombardment from every possible media source, it seems nearly impossible to stay away from “any kind of impurity.” We are surrounded by ads, billboards, and commercials that promote sex – anytime, anywhere, and with anyone. However, God provides us with a way out. He reminds us that even though we do live in this world, we must “not copy the behaviors and customs of the world” (Romans 12:1-2). Clearly we have the choice to blend in with our sex-driven culture, or to pursue purity. If we claim to be followers of Jesus, there should be a noticeable difference in our actions – the things we are drawn to and involved in.

Since God encourages and expects us to follow this standard, then clearly there are reasons why. Perhaps He is trying to protect us – our minds, our hearts, and our bodies. Because God created us, He knows that our brains have the ability to store pictures, images, thoughts, and experiences. So everything we allow to enter our eye-gate will inevitably re-surface sooner or later. When you do meet the man who will be your future husband, do you want pictures of that “hot guy” from Teen magazine popping back into your head?? I don’t think so!!

Remember…all of your choices have either positive or negative consequences. Each seed you sow now…whether that “seed” is a thought or an action…will inevitably be reaped on a larger scale later on in your life. So every time you choose to keep away from even “a hint” of sexual immorality, it is like you are saying “I love you!” to your future husband. You love him enough to protect and save all of yourself – heart, soul, and body, for him and him alone! What an incredible gift to give him one day!

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