Thursday, May 22, 2014

Dearest Sister: Beware of Prideful Purity

As I stood there at the altar with my (very handsome) Groom, my hand in his, Daddy gently lifted my veil, kissed my cheek, and "gave me away" to him as he presented him with the tiny silver ring that had gracefully adorned my left ring finger since that special Valentine's night when I was sixteen.

That small silver ring symbolized my purity. Daddy and Mom had presented it to me to be an ever-present reminder  (a much better alternative to the blue tassel!) of my promise to God that night to remain pure for Him and through Him until my wedding day. 

And, by God's grace and only by His grace, Matt and I shared our first kiss at the altar and did not engage in physical intimacy until we were joined as husband and wife. 

But, leading up to our wedding day, God had convicted me of something that I think there is great danger of today: Prideful purity. Remaining pure, never having been kissed, only holding hands when engaged... all of this can easily feed our sinful flesh and entrap us in an "I'm saving myself" mentality. 

Purity is a beautiful thing, and God has called us to remain pure. But, it is so vital to remember that we don't purify ourselves or keep ourselves pure by adhering to a set of rules about what we will or won't do before marriage. Christ is the one Who has cleansed us from ALL impurity, transforming the deep crimson stains of our sin to the glorious shining whiteness of snow! (Is. 1:18, 1 Cor. 6:11) And He is the One Who promises to keep us and to work in us to follow Him and to will and to do according to His good pleasure (Phil. 2:13) The only way that we can be pure is through Christ. He cleanses us from impurity, and He equips us to live pure lives. 

That being said, in seeking to live pure lives, be careful of...

- Idolizing purity. I recently read this article, which really caused me to think about the way that we speak about purity. The focus should not be on purity itself, or on virginity, or on not kissing (this only leads to pride), but on Christ and living in a way that brings glory to Him. Some friends or girls you may be ministering to may have had their virginity taken from them or they may have engaged in sex outside of marriage before they became believers. This might be true even of your future husband. But this does not mean they cannot be pure. And marrying someone who is a virgin or who has never kissed before or who has only held the hand of one other girl is not the point. Purity of heart is what Jesus desires in His children. 
- Self-righteous purity. As hinted at above, be careful of slipping into an "I'm saving myself" mindset. Thinking that you can keep yourself pure can only cause you to become prideful and boastful of yourself. Always be mindful that Jesus is the One Who cleansed your heart from ALL sin. And He is the One Who has given you even the desire, but also the ability to live a pure life. 
- White-washed purity. Being "pure" is not merely about physical purity. God knows our hearts. And He desires purity of heart. Lust, self-righteousness, pride, covetousness, jealousy- all these can be lurking in the heart of a person who is technically physically "pure." Our hearts are deceitful and wicked and we cannot change them ourselves. But Jesus can! Look to Him to "search your heart and see if there be any wicked way in you and to lead you in the way everlasting" (Ps. 139:23-24)

But how do we live pure lives in His strength and not our own? What does that look like? 

- by renewing our minds according to His Word.  (Psalm 119:9-16)
How can a young person stay on the path of purity?
    By living according to your word.
10 I seek you with all my heart;
    do not let me stray from your commands.
11 I have hidden your word in my heart
    that I might not sin against you.
12 Praise be to you, Lord;
    teach me your decrees.
13 With my lips I recount
    all the laws that come from your mouth.
14 I rejoice in following your statutes
    as one rejoices in great riches.
15 I meditate on your precepts
    and consider your ways.
16 I delight in your decrees;
    I will not neglect your word.

- by obeying His commands- putting off impurity and putting on love  (Col. 3) Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality,impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these, the wrath of Godis coming.[b] You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old selfwith its practices 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. 11 Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised,barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.
12 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13 Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. 14 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.
15 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. 16 Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. 17 And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
- by looking to Christ to search our hearts and lead us in His ways (Psalm 139: 23-24)

In conclusion, living pure lives is not something we can do through our own discipline or rules, but through filling our minds with God's Word, praying, and obeying His commands as He works in us, giving us the desire to obey, and equipping us with the strength to do so. We strive after purity not so that we look good, or so that our parents think highly of us, or so that we will have more "value" for our future husbands, but because He Who called us it pure. He saved us from a life of sin and impurity. How can we then return to it? He cleansed our sinful hearts and freed us from impurity to live purely as He is pure. And all of this is not for our glory, but for His. It's not about us; it's all about Him. 

I am praying that God will keep you walking purely in mind and body so that your life will bring glory to Him. 

I love you forever and always, 
Your oldest sis

Monday, May 19, 2014

Dearest Sister: Save Your First Kiss

Dearest sister,

Save your first kiss for your wedding day.

I know you've heard me say this before, but I want to share a little more about what I mean and what I don't mean by this.

I do not mean that this should become a rule you hold in equality with a Biblical command. Doing so would only lead you to become proud if you follow it, and judgmental of others who decide not to follow it. Be on your guard against man-made rules and regulations that can have the appearance of godliness and wisdom but lead to self-righteousness. I do not want to encourage you towards that as I encourage you in saving your first kiss. But I do want to encourage you towards a life of holiness and purity before God.

(1 Peter 1:15-16) , "but just as He Who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written, 'Be holy, for id am holy.'"
(Matthew 5:8) "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God."

I want to encourage you to remain pure for God and through His strength and grace. Not for others (not for me, mom and dad, or even your future husband), but for God. And not in your own strength through your own "rules," but through relying upon Him. Because we are weak, but He is strong.

All that to say... these are a few reasons I would say, "Save your first kiss for your wedding day."
- Saving your first kiss can help guard purity in your relationship. Kissing can become slippery slope. If you do decide to kiss, you will have to consider the boundaries you will set in your kissing. Will you only do short "pecks," closed-mouth kissing, only when others are around but not when you are alone, only for special occasions, etc. This can become difficult to define, and kissing opens up a whole new realm of feeling and desires that can be difficult to stop once awakened. This is not to say that couples who kiss before they are married are compromising their purity, but saving your first kiss can be helpful in striving for purity in thoughts and actions.
- Saving your first kiss can help guard your future husband and be one of the first ways you show love to him. Kissing may not be a temptation for you, but it might make having pure thoughts and actions more of a struggle for him. Remember that he is not only your future husband but also your brother in Christ. Seek ways to encourage him in grow in godliness and beware of any ways you might be tearing him down.
- Saving your first kiss makes your first kiss very special. Again, this doesn't mean that if you don't save your first kiss that it will not be special for you, but there's something so exciting and special about hearing the words, "You may kiss your bride," and celebrating your union as husband and wife, as "one flesh," with your first kiss together.

When I have share with others about our first kiss on our wedding day, I often get asked
"Was it awkward? Kissing in front of a crowd of people for the first time?" I will admit that I was a little bit worried about this, but let me assure you- it was not awkward one little bit! In that moment, I was so focused on my husband that I completely forgot about the friends and family who were witnessing that moment. When you hear the words, "You may now kiss your bride," you will be so focused on your groom, you will not notice anyone else in the world at that moment. And don't worry that you won't know what to do. Kissing comes very naturally, and you do not have to have a long kiss in front of everyone if you do not want to. You can just have a short, sweet, simple kiss, and know that you will have your whole lifetimes ahead of you to practice together :)

Know, dear sister, that you and your future husband will have to decide what you are going to do about kissing or not kissing before your wedding day. But remember that following man-made "rules," to please me or our parents or anyone else would be dangerous. God has not commanded us to save our first kiss, but He has called us to live pure lives, and you must think and pray about how you can strive for purity and encourage your future husband to live purely as you await the day you become husband and wife.

I love you forever and always,
Your oldest sis.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Dearest Sister: An Introduction

Dearest sister,

Though distance may lie between us, pretend we are sitting across from each other in a cozy little coffee shop or snuggling together in a blanket on our couch, drinking rooibos tea (or coffee for the one of you that is absolutely addicted) and talking.

These "Dearest sister" posts about friendships, college life, dating, engagement, weddings, marriage, babies, etc. are dedicated to you. I hope you enjoy them and are encouraged by them.

I'll love you forever and always,

Your oldest sis

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Reminders from the Stomach Flu

This week we were hit with the dreaded stomach virus. Matt got it first- Sunday and Monday. Then, almost suddenly Tuesday afternoon, I had it. As I lay in bed wishing the sickness were over, I started thinking about what God was showing me through being sick. He gave me fresh reminders of three precious things.

1. I am blessed with my sweet husband. 
Matt served me joyfully and selflessly while I was sick. He gave up times of study to help with our little Annie. He was constantly looking for ways to help me- whether it was by refilling my water bottle with fresh, cold water or making a Kroger run for Gatorade and popsicles. He sat on the bathroom floor with me and held my hand during the horrible moments when I was throwing up. And he cleaned up after for me. I am so blessed to have a husband who serves me and loves me as he does.

(Eph. 5) 25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her26 to make her holy, cleansing[b] her by the washing with water through the word, 27 and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. 28 In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church— 30 for we are members of his body. 31 “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.”[c] 32 This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church. 

2. I am very weak. 
I feel like this last week before the sickness, I had been feeling especially self-sufficient. We've been trying to eat healthier while sticking to our food budget. So I've been making homemade whole wheat bread, culturing our own yogurt, pouring over recipe books and trying new meals, writing monthly meal plans, etc. I've also been able to get Annie on more of a schedule which has freed me up to have a little more time to do some deep spring cleaning, get some overdo laundry done, finally wash all of our sheets and pillowcases, and work on a few other projects, which have felt so good to get done! And having a bit more of a routine to our day, with Annie's naps and feedings and dinner times with Matt, has made me feel like I can better know what our days hold in store for us. Things seemed under-control and predictable- and then, in a moment, I realized how weak I really am. In the morning, I was preparing a home-cooked meal and working on Mother's Day gifts, and in the late afternoon, I was kneeling on the floor in front of a bowl, crying and completely overtaken by sickness. I was reminded that I am very, very weak. My life on this earth is like dust, like the rapidly fleeting blades of grass. But God is everlasting to everlasting. And He has compassion on His children.

(Psalm 103)

13As a father has compassion on his children,
so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him;
14for he knows how we are formed,
he remembers that we are dust.
15The life of mortals is like grass,
they flourish like a flower of the field;
16the wind blows over it and it is gone,
and its place remembers it no more.
17But from everlasting to everlasting
the Lord’s love is with those who fear him,
and his righteousness with their children’s children—
18with those who keep his covenant
and remember to obey his precepts.

3. There will be no more sickness in Heaven. 
Yes! I cannot wait for this truth to be reality. I think this is the first time I have really thought about eternity during a time of sickness, but the last few days, it has been so joyful to think about. There will be no more sickness, no more tears, no more tummy pains, no more headaches, no more fevers, no more little babies getting sick, no more worrying about the next time we will get sick- no more sickness at all! We will be fully joyful, enjoying Jesus forever. This truth has been even more precious to think about as we have been following the blog of a family in our church struggling with cancer. Their hope in God and in His sovereignty and in eternity have been powerfully challenging and encouraging. Sickness on this earth is a reminder of sin and death, but, as believers, we have the promise of a new bodies and the hope of Heaven to be reminded of.

(Romans 8) 18 I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. 19 For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. 20 For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope 21 that[h] the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God.
22 We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. 23 Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit,groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? 25 But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.

It might have been nice to not have to go through the tummy pains and fevers, but I am thankful for how God used them to remind me of these things. He is kind even in sickness. Or I might say especially in sickness.