Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Stay in the Castle—a lesson on a woman's true value and her beautiful dwelling place

One of the greatest desires of a woman is to be wanted, needed, loved…

And because of this God-given desire…

One of the biggest fears of a woman is to be rejected.

And because of this fear…it is often a girl’s thinking to conclude: since there isn’t a guy who seems to be interested in me at this time, or since the guy I like chooses to go out with someone else, or since my boyfriend broke up with me and is now dating a prettier girl, or since I am single...then, I am not loved—which sadly translates into a girl’s mind that “I have no value!” 

This is a wrong and dangerous conclusion—one very easily drawn, I’m a girl, I know, but dangerous all the same.

When we base our value on what the opposite sex thinks of us, we open ourselves up to a world of hurt. We behave according to what we feel we are worth. And we sadly allow others to dictate just exactly how much that is. But God bases your value on something far different then what movies, books, magazines, or advertisements tell us. The world wants you to buy their products…that is all they care about.

The world is not concerned about your self-esteem, your weight loss, your hair style, or your beautiful face…the world doesn’t care about how your clothes fit or who sees you in them! The world only wants your money. And the world knows that if they can make you feel bad enough about how you feel, you will take their advice and buy what they are selling. 

Your value is not based on what your friends think. And your value is definitely not based even on what you think of yourself! This is where you can really get in trouble. You are fickle, admit it! I am fickle! And our feelings about our appearance change quite frequently! We feel pretty good about how we look until we spot a more elegant and sophisticated lady, a picture on pinterest or actress in a movie, a hairstyle that puts our locks to shame, or a glimpse of ourselves in a dressing room mirror...and down we go. We are not pretty enough It affects our attitude for the day. It affects the way we treat others. We behave as if we have nothing of consequence to talk about,nothing of worth to bring to any relationship—a brooding that can wreak havoc on the mind manifesting itself as either an outward display of melancholy,cynical statements, or varying degrees in the lack of our moral compass or an inward depression resulting in hyper-sensitivity, doubt, hopelessness, self-pity, or too much thought regarding our outward appearance altogether. It makes us spend more money. It often will dictate wrong decisions. 

That is what wrong conclusions do! Well, praise the Lord, our value is based solely upon Someone else’s opinion of us—and this Someone is not fickle! He says that He will never change!

So…what am I worth? 

He intimately cares for you and He tells you in scripture just how large your price tag really is. In fact, He declares that your worth cannot even be put down in digits…it is far more than any number sign could brag! What exactly does God say? “Who can find a virtuous woman? For her price is far above rubies” (Proverbs 31:10­). 

Does that make you feel special? It should…and here’s why! Rubies are measured in carats. The average commercial grade ruby will cost $300 per carat. This, however, can go up dramatically depending on the stones color, clarity, and overall cut. If the stones have been heat treated or enhanced by an artist they become very pricey and jump to the thousands of dollars per carat category. 

In a random Google search I found a ruby gem selling at $3,895 per carat. That is a lot of money. But God tells you that you are worth more than that. The word more does not have a limit—it just means greater…and greater…and greater. 

Isn’t that amazing? God is telling you that He values you limitlessly! According to Proverbs 31, if you are choosing to live a clean life, with an excellent spirit, your value increases without one penalty. You only become more valuable! 

Let’s take a look at a couple verses that prove how much God treasures this kind of woman. “How precious also are Thy thoughts unto me, O God! How great is the sum of them! If I should count them, they are more in number than the sand; when I awake, I am still with Thee” (Psalm 139:17-18). 

God thinks about us all the time and when He discovers that we are also thinking about Him (and talking about Him) He writes it down in a journal He keeps about us. Did you know God kept a diary on you? Well, He does. “Then they that feared the Lord spake often one to another: and the Lord hearkened, and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before Him for them that feared the Lord, and that thought upon His name” (Malachi 3:16). 

He is very aware of your thoughts and words toward and about Him. He holds you that dear. (Think about the things you record in your diary—the special events, the way someone made you feel, the exciting parts of life!) With this knowledge, we should take precautions and consider how we take care of ourselves: we are to never cheapen our value, or allow others to cheapen it by handling us in a way that does not protect or treasure our true worth. 

A precious gem is to be cherished. You are cherished by the Lord and until a man comes along who will cherish you in that same way, a short term relationship (no matter how wonderful it seems) is not worth it! 

Take the time during your single years to experience what it is like to be treasured by the Lord—in doing so you will begin to understand just exactly what you are looking for in a romantic relationship and you will become the woman that the incredible, godly, manly man of valor you are waiting for desires to marry. Don’t forget about him!!! He does exist, right now, even if you have yet to meet him! 

I was raised in a Christian home, and although I understood and believed the gospel at a very young age, I was not convinced that I had much value. I was afraid to be real…I somehow came to believe that if my parents or my friends or the Lord really knew me, they would reject me. I knew how awkward I felt. I knew I was not as pretty as other girls. I knew that I was hiding secret sins. I knew my weaknesses all too well. I knew me. I did not like me. And because of this thinking I found myself compromising what I knew was right (even in the smallest ways) in order to be accepted, to become connected to the “in crowd,” to be looked at by boys, to feel pretty…to feel loved. 

Although I was saved, I had no sweet communion with the Lord during these few years—I was not reading the Bible and I had no desire to please Him—my negative thinking of myself was really onlyself-absorption (which is true for those who think too highly of themselves as well). During these years I was only building trouble into my relationship with my parents and bad habits that eventually were hard to break. 

And then one day, it happened. I felt what it was to be rejected. For a teenager who did not know her worth personally, I was devastated. I was undone. And it was exactly what I needed. I needed to know that kind of rejection in order to come face to face with my ungodly fear and realize my error. It was during that hurtful time that my ears became more sensitive to the Spirit’s voice and I could hear Him, for the very first time, speaking truth into my ears. He began to tell me over and over that I was accepted in Jesus and nothing could ever replace that reality. 

I have learned that when I am not distracted by others (or myself) I am more primed to grow spiritually. At 17, I found myself friendless, lonely, and feeling very unloved…in reality: I was finally ready to throw myself on Christ and find my worth in Him alone. For the first time the gospel became very real. I was nothing, Christ was everything. I could do nothing to save myself from sin and hell, exactly what I deserved, but Christ had given His very life so that I might be forgiven. 

I was accepted in the Beloved! During this time the Lord began to ask me to turn certain areas of my life over to Him—areas that I thought I had the right to control. When I discovered that He made me and gave His life to save me my desire to please and honor Him grew. And because God never allows anything to come our way unless it is for our good, I found that I could trust Him explicitly. What freedom that brought and continues to bring. It takes freedom in Christ to turn it all over to Him and trust that He knows what is best.

So…what does that mean?  

One of the first things that God challenged my “right to control” was romance. He wanted me to look at the subject differently than I ever had before. He basically wanted me to take my hands off and let Him decide when and where and who. My first surrender seemed quite costly at the time—I was taking a huge risk. He asked me to step back and quit looking—quit trying—He asked me to give the entire business to Him. And I did. I told the Lord that I would wait on Him to bring me a husband. I told Him that I would let Him choose who that man would be. I asked Him to correct my worldly thinking (about dating around and needing a boyfriend in order to feel validated) and replace it with His thoughts (He had it all under control and had a job for me to do in the meantime). I asked Him to help me stay true to my commitment. I begged Him to help me stay true. I felt the weight and the seriousness of the sacrifice. And I will be honest with you—applying the decision came with much more need for determination and discipline. It was tested and tried for many, many years. 


We are told that a ruby that is exposed to intense heat becomes more valuable. Don’t ever forget that beautiful truth. When you give the area of your love life over to the Lord, your value can onlyincrease. The more intense the sacrifice, the long time of waiting for it to ever be resolved, the mockery you may receive because of it, the friends you may lose over it, the boyfriend-less years that will definitely be the result of it…this is the “enhancement” used to make you shimmer and shine and attract in the most beautiful and godly manner. This is the process that increases your worth! You will be becoming the kind of woman that a dashing, handsome, godly man of valor (a man who is seeking to protect and love a woman) is readying himself in order to marry. 

If romance seems to be taking its own sweet time, remember, your value is increasing not decreasing as you wait for your story to unfold. Giving God your love life really is a risk worth taking! 

In the book of Habakkuk, God told His people “though it tarry, wait for it…” (Habakkuk 2:3). This is a declaration of hope. Whenever God asks you to wait on Him, you have the promised assurance that He will pull through. When you choose to wait on God, you do risk it all…but you have a promise from the Lord that He will give you the desire of your heart—“delight thyself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart”…“though it tarry, wait for it…”! 

Who would not want to risk it all for such a promise? We are asked to wait! That means we have to stop manipulating, stop pondering and planning how to get what we need! But we must never give up what we desire…only wait for it expectantly! 

We really have to be honest with ourselves and admit that we have an incredible talent at manipulation. We attract! A God-given thing. It is a natural given…one designed by our Creator. We attract…men pursue. The problem lies in the misconception that if we don’t think we attract (or don’t think we attract a certain person or at the time that we desire to do so), then we do what we can to get the attention we think we need. We pursue. 

This kind of behavior is not characteristic of one choosing to wait on God. It can be characterized by flirting, dressing sensually, being too silly with the opposite sex, compromising our standards, etc…all for a look, a touch, a date, a feeling! 

There is nothing wrong with making yourself beautifully attractive (indeed you should!), but not if your motivation is one of manipulation alone. And not if it involves the wrong kind of pursuit on your part—a lowering of a standard

We must allow the Holy Spirit to have full inspection of our motives. He's not out to make our life boring—only to protect us! 

Waiting requires a total trust in God, in His promises, and in His love. It means taking your hands completely off of the situation! It is setting your mind (and all that fills it—every thought that just won’t stop) down at the feet of Jesus! It is purposing to keep yourself at His feet! Have you ever considered trusting the Lord totally in the area of who you will marry and when? 

Scripture is full to the brim with verses that command, exhort, and encourage us to incorporate the action verb rest into our daily routine. What? Rest doesn’t seem much of an action does it? Neither does sitting still! “Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for Him” (Psalm 37:7). But it is! It is the only action that propels our heart, mind, attitude, outlook, and purpose to contentment…to that wonderful place called peace! 

To wait upon the Lord requires a quiet mouth and a quiet mind—that would be no fretting, no complaining, and no worrying… Waiting on God makes you feel very vulnerable, but you are never fragile—for your security is founded upon a Rock that will never be moved. “Wait on the Lord: be of good courage, and He shall strengthen thine heart” (Psalm 27:14) “I will wait quietly before God…He alone is my Rock…my fortress where I will not be shaken” (Psalm 62:2). There is nothing fragile about a rock! And no matter how we feel while we wait, our hold is firmly established on something much greater than our feelings—if we choose to trust the Father with the entire affair! 

Are you willing to trust God with the entire affair? 

Waiting on God is risking everything. You risk getting the desire of your heart—a love life now and eventually in a marriage, a family. I’m here to ask you to risk it all—to risk the fleeting romance for an amazingly fulfilling romance that can only come through marriage to the man God has just for you!!!! The world calls that foolish. The world (even your friends) may reject you, laugh at you, mock you—but God will bless you. He knows His plan is far better than you could ever imagine. And He desires to make you more valuable, more beautiful, more, more, more!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! –while you wait on Him to bring it to pass. I’m asking you to risk it because it really is worth it!!!!!!!!!!

So…what if I’ve already failed? 

You are a jewel and Jesus is the Artist that holds you tenderly in His hands. And He has an incredible purpose for every jewel that He holds. When we have given ourselves over to worldly thinking or ungodly actions—even if we have given ourselves sexually to someone before marriage—Jesus buys us back using His own blood to pay for our mistakes. Jesus uses His own blood to wash off the impurities and make us shine. The issue is not where you came from, how you got there, or what you have done…the issue is being placed in His hands—His nail scarred hands. The issue is knowing you are there. 


Are you there? Do you know for sure that you are His alone? Have you made wrong decisions and violated His standards? You can place yourself back in His hands right now and know the forgiveness and relief that it will bring. 

His one goal is your beauty and, if you let Him, He will do far more than you can ever hope or dream. 

There are 4 woman named in the genealogy of our Saviour who were tainted with pagan or immoral lifestyles—these are women who decided to turn from what they knew as normal ways of life to a God who turned their lives upside down with incredible blessings. They are real women and their names and stories are recorded in the Bible—Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, and Bathsheba. If God was after sinless, pure family blood these women would never have made the list. If God was only seeking perfection these women would never have been included in the blood line of Jesus.

Tamar— a woman who played the part of a harlot in order to rightfully bare a child with Judah


Rahab— a prostitute from Jericho, the city God promised to bring to total destruction


Ruth— a Moabitess whose family served false gods


Bathsheba— a woman who committed adultery with King David


God allowed women who made big mistakes to be a part of the royal blood line. God allowed woman who were from ungodly cultures and pagan families to play a major role in the lineage of the Messiah—the Saviour of the world. Why? What is God’s point? What is God looking for in women?


I will answer that question by looking quickly at just two: Rahab and Ruth.


These women are incredible examples to us. Their stories teach us a great deal and show us God’s amazing mercy and joy in using those who are trusting in His commandments.


Rahab: she is in the line of Christ solely for turning from her sin and choosing to obey (keep the standard) by hanging the red chord out her window—proving her faith in the One true God! After the marching brought the walls down (she lived in the wall) and death to the entire city, she was saved. Rahab eventually married a Godly Israelite named Salmon and gave birth to Boaz!


Ruth: she is in the line of Christ solely for choosing to follow the God of the Israelites even when she was not commanded to. She chose to be a sweet servant to her grieving mother-in-law. And because of her decision to leave her pagan family, she traveled to Bethlehem and met Boaz. Boaz married Ruth! Ruth had Obed, Obed had Jesse, and Jesse had David. King David.


No matter what you have done, choose to follow Christ and His Word today.


So…what is the Standard?


Choose to marry God’s best for you. Save yourself from this point on for your husband alone…in word and in deed and in your thought life. And determine to use your single years serving the Lord faithfully.


1. Save yourself: No sex before marriage! Sex was created to be enjoyed within the context of a marital union between a man and a woman. The Bible is very clear on this point. There are many issues not addressed in scripture, but this one is clearly presented—it is a standard you must stake down as immovable and rest comfortably and safely on its high ground! You will be tempted and may even fail if your standard consists only of statements like: “I don’t really want to have sex until Iget married…” or “I’m not planning on going all the way” or “I don’t think it is a great idea…”—instead, it is a statement you are not ashamed to say to anyone: “GOD DOES NOT ALLOW FOR IT!” Period! 


Staking a standard is creating boundaries in every relationship you have with the opposite sex, and that boundary never moves, even if you end up being engaged to be married to a man who deeply loves you!

2. Marry a believer: And then the standard goes a step farther. We are told to not be unequally yoked with a non-believer. It is against God’s standard for you to marry a man who is not a Christian—even if you desperately love him. Girls, you should never be that close to a guy who doesn’t know Christ. You should not even be hanging out with boys who aren't christians or date guys who do not know Jesus. Again, this kind of commitment is not just saying, “I will not marry a non-Christian” it is a decision to not even become the tiniest bit emotionally attached to one. It is choosing certain standards that will keep you from such an attachment. If you are choosing to trust the Lord to write your love story then this won’t even be an issue. Failing to hold this standard high will result in many troubling years.


These are mandates set forth by the One who created romantic relationships. It was all His idea. Don’t forget that, especially if you are tempted to get an attitude over the fact that God wants to tell you how to go about it.


To every standard there is a safeguard. If we want to honor God in keeping His mandates, let’s choose to walk in a way that will help us reach this goal.


One thing about staking a standard—it sets you apart. This is NOT a bad thing!


1. Separate yourself quickly from anyone who does not hold this standard—you will never keep a standard if you are spending quality time with people who do not know its value. Don’t place yourself in situations that lower your ability to say no to temptation. Don’t draw a line…make it a chasm.


2. Acquire some accountability—a good Christian friend you can be honest with, parent, sibling, pastor’s wife, youth worker, etc. Allow someone the privilege of speaking into your life and asking you questions to keep you above reproach.


3. Do things that will encourage your determined decision—get involved in Bible Studies, choose personal disciplines and share them with others, involve yourself in Christian ministry (very important), be a mentor to someone younger than you are.
When you choose to allow the Lord to write your love story you are opening yourself up to the greatest relationship of all time…your relationship with Christ! It now can grow and become ever so precious. Waiting on God gives you time to do just that. When He’s the One who’s going to make it all happen—you want to know Him better. You want to know His voice.


He lets you pour out your desires, ask your questions, and tell Him your fears. And He loves to comfort and teach and give you all the hope you need.


When we understand this concept we have a greater desire to sit still, to rest, to wait. How else would He get our complete attention?


When you desire what you don’t have, and you get anxious about it or tempted to change it, treat it as an invitation from Jesus to “come in and sit with Me awhile”—for that is exactly what it is. He wants you at His feet like Mary. Remember what He said to Martha—try placing your own name in the rebuke! “My dear ________, you are so upset over all these details! There is really only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it—and I won’t take it away from her” (paraphrased, Luke 10:42-43).


Spend your single life becoming the kind of woman a godly man of valor desires to marry. Don’t sell yourself short. You are worth so very much! Be where you should be if he is ever going to find you—in that beautiful place called “waiting on God”…it is a castle.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

An Unlikely Blossom

‎"The JOY OF THE LORD is [my] strength" (Nehemiah 8:10).

I carried a beautiful bouquet of evergreens, seeded eucalyptus, and winter berries showcasing one exquisite amaryllis down the aisle the day I wed my sweetheart. It was bound in wood and grapevine twig. I had spent hours searching for and cutting out pictures I loved, choosing the exact greenery I desired, and falling in love with the perfect winter flower—a large white amaryllis. Several months before our marriage, I met with my florist and handed her my folder of ideas—relying upon her expertise and creative hand to make my dream a reality. She seemed to like what I had put together and was very confident about pulling it off. She did. It was everything I wanted it to be. I was so very happy to be Kevan’s bride!

The amaryllis flower grows from a bulb and is usually seen standing very tall in the middle of January…in direct sunlight…on someone’s warm kitchen windowsill (or any warm windowsill for that matter). It requires warmth and light for it to bloom in the bleak mid-winter. And is very stunning and delightful to behold during months with snow on the ground…something green on the inside when all of outside nature has gone dormant.

When my husband and I got back from our honeymoon we were met with a sweet surprise. My father came to our little home bearing the bulb of our wedding amaryllis. Our florist had ordered the plant in advance of our big day so that it would grow and bloom just in time for the ceremony. I hadn’t really thought about how they would procure the blossom I wanted so badly—that took planning on their part—and prayer, the florist admitted—they needed that bloom on a certain date, or they wouldn’t have an amaryllis for my bouquet.

“But then,” my father relayed to me, “what to do with the brown bulb that was shooting out another green stalk?” They had a great idea. They decided to give it to us. That seemed kinder than throwing it away.

We were delighted to see this brown bulb sitting on top of the dirt sending life up for the second time in the season. It was rather a novelty to have the actual plant used for our ceremony. This was our amaryllis. And we were quite proud to show it off. We liked to talk about it. But we had no direct sunlight to place it in…no warm windowsill to sit it on…and I did not know how in the world we would see another bloom—let alone four. But that is exactly what we had the joy of using for a centerpiece on our kitchen table for my birthday, January 17. A vase holding four blooms. We were amazed. In about three weeks’ time, the stalk grew to be almost a yard tall and the white flowers at the top were magnificent.

I watered it twice, I think. I took lots of pictures of its progress. I rested it on something solid when the weight would pull it down. Um, ya…that’s about the extent of any attention it received from me. And yet, we were rewarded for even those measly attempts at keeping it healthy.

I cut the flowers and made several pretty vases happy. I chopped the green stalk all the way down to the bulb. I quit watering it. I left town for 3 weeks. I commented several times on the dry nothing that was left when we returned…and wondered how long I should leave the basket of dirt in our living room before throwing it away or at least putting it somewhere dark and cool to go dormant. I wondered that for over a month and a half. No direct sunlight. No warm windowsill. No expectation to see it bloom again.

So what to my surprise?…but to go from a brown nothing to about an inch of bright green growth in one night!!! For yes, that is what I found happening in that pile of dirt just a couple mornings ago! And now that stalk is almost a foot tall. How in the world did that happen? I immediately watered it, of course, and felt bad for neglecting it all this time.

I am literally amazed at how much life can come out of seemingly nothing (to the naked eye). How strength can come shooting up out of no known nourishment—that little basket has had no direct sunlight now for three months…and no warm windowsill either. I know it "needs" both. And yet, now for the third time in three months, it’s doing it again…it’s becoming beautiful. That tells me that it was more than just a dry, brown bulb...it was still alive…relying on food and energy I could not see.

This has been a needed object lesson to observe, teaching sweet truths to my heart. I want to be a strong shoot for my Saviour. I want to blossom and give beauty. But I get so caught up, almost daily, with the reality of my very dry brown bulb planted in very dry brown soil—life’s circumstances, that don’t seem to give any nourishment or warmth my direction…at all! How can one thrive, grow…bloom in that? My natural man tells me over and over that it can’t. God is reminding me, yet again, through the simple display of nature that it can. And will.

I must dwell like the amaryllis bulb…in whatever “soily” circumstance He has seen fit to place me. Quiet. Content. Waiting to bloom, not whining because i'm not. That bulb was okay with being ugly, being disregarded, or thought to have no life left…! It was okay with that. It was even okay to be in the dark and not know the warmth of the sun. And, why? Because there really was life, it really was readying itself for another blooming cycle no matter what could be “proven” outwardly. That bulb showed life and strength solely from where it was drawing its health and energy. And you know what? I don’t notice the bulb anymore. I only gaze in wonder at the green stalk whenever I walk by…anticipating the joy of blooms…soon.

The miracle of life burst through the dry bulb when no one was looking—without any fanfare or formality. And it will continue grow even if I am not around to gaze at its beauty.

Nehemiah tells me that ‎"the JOY OF THE LORD is [my] strength" (Nehemiah 8:10). Not MY joy, but His. There is a big difference between me and the LORD and there will be a big difference in my ability to produce if I am drawing on His joy or my own. Hudson Taylor, missionary to China, put it this way—“it is the consciousness of the threefold joy of the Lord, His joy in ransoming us, His joy in dwelling within us as our Saviour and His joy in possessing us, as His Bride and His delight; it is the consciousness of this joy which is our real strength. Our joy in Him may be a fluctuating thing: His joy in us knows no change.

No matter where I am planted or how neglectful my soil seems I am alive in Christ I can grow and produce fruit. The strength I need to accomplish this comes from dwelling on the truth that the Lord has incredible joy IN me.

That is an amazing thought to ponder. But it is true—“the LORD thy God in the midst of thee is mighty; He will save, He will rejoice over thee with joy…he will joy over thee with singing” (Zephania 3:17). And it is this joy—the joy OF the Lord for His own—that is our strength.

I am promised the same type of growth I see with my neglected, dry amaryllis bulb. In Isaiah 35 God is bringing comfort to His people who have weak hands, feeble knees, and fearful hearts—he tells them with exuberant speech that their lonely desert place will blossom as a rose and rejoice…“it shall blossom abundantly, and rejoice even with joy and singing: they shall see the glory of the Lord, and the excellency of our God” (Isaiah 35:1-4).

The Lord delights to do the seemingly impossible in a believer who has learned to be content and quiet in dry soil—gives strength and the ability to produce. And those that look on in wonder will “see the glory of the Lord and the excellency of [their] God” (Isaiah 35:2).

I look forward to enjoying an amaryllis blossom once again, very soon—a reminder of the joyful day I was married—but greater still, a reminder of God’s joy over me every single day I live, here now on earth and throughout all eternity. I will take the lessons I’ve learned from a dry, brown bulb and strive to be quiet and content while I wait on Him alone—while I wait for the green shoot to appear and transform into a plant that will blossom for His glory and honor.

‎"The JOY OF THE LORD is [my] strength" (Nehemiah 8:10).