Monday

Purity Isn't About Saying No


Purity isn’t about saying No

I can give you ten reasons why sex outside of marriage isn’t a good idea. You probably can, too. But purity isn’t about saying No, because No has it all wrong. 

The more books, articles, and blogs I read, the more sermons, pod casts, and You Tube videos I listen to, the more of God’s Word I study, the more I realize that purity is all about saying yes, not about saying no.

The following story illustrates my point. 

When I was 7 years old, my sister and I were playing hide and seek in the basement of our family’s Rhode Island apartment. It was a frigid December day—too cold for two little girls to play outside. Noisy, active, and suffering from a bad case of cabin fever, we were too rambunctious for my mother’s liking. She banished us to the basement until dinnertime. 

That’s when we decided to play hide and seek. And when we discovered the hidden stash.

Ducking behind a shelving unit, my shoulder brushed against a pile of boxes wrapped in an old, blue tarp. Curious, I proceeded to investigate. When I peeled back the tarp, I found the Mother Lode—a huge pile of Christmas presents. 

My sister and I gazed in delight at our wish list come alive—a Barbie Beach van, complete with detachable surfboards, an auburn-haired Kelly doll in a green polka-dotted midi dress, and matching purple body suits with crushed velvet pants. We dug into the pile, grinning and squealing with delight. 

Hearing Mom’s footsteps in the kitchen above reminded us that we were pirates in danger of being caught with our hands in the treasure chest. 

We guiltily re-wrapped the gifts in the tarp and resumed play until Mom called us for dinner. In the days that followed, we’d often sneak down to the basement to check on our presents. We’d unwrap the tarp from the pile and cover it back up again. We imagined how fun it would be to fully enjoy our presents on Christmas day. 

In the week before Christmas, the gifts appeared one by one under the tree, wrapped in shiny paper instead of the old blue tarp. 

I wonder if my mom noticed that we weren’t more excited. In truth, we paid the gifts little attention, because we’d handled the toys so often, we recognized the shape of every box and package. There was no mystery. 

Ordinarily it was impossible for us to fall asleep on Christmas Eve, but when bedtime came, we settled down quietly. The anticipation of Christmas Day washed over us like lukewarm ginger ale left sitting on the counter—it was stale and flat. 

Christmas morning was, too. Oh, we delivered the oft-practiced fake exclamations of surprise and spouted the expected, “I can’t believe it! It’s just what I wanted,” but the sparkle was absent. 

After all, we’d already unwrapped the gifts. 

Saving sex for marriage isn’t saying no to the gifts of passion, excitement, and desire. Instead, it’s saying yes to the greater, more exciting, and more desirable gifts of passion, excitement, and desire with God’s blessing. 

God isn’t, as some have proposed, a sexual killjoy. After all, sex was his idea—a beautiful creation designed to knit the souls of two people together for life. He designed it to enhance our joy, cement our love, and bring pleasure and release. He designed it as the most intimate way two people can give themselves to one another in total commitment. 

When we say yes to purity, we embrace the best God has to offer us—joy and fun in its perfect context—a marriage between two people committed to each other for life. 

When we say yes to purity, we say yes to a guilt-free relationship with the one we love and the Savior of our souls. 

When we say yes to purity, we say yes to God’s favor, knowing that God’s hand of blessing will not rest upon those who know his will and choose to do otherwise. 

When we say yes to purity, we say yes to an unhindered prayer life, because if we harbor sin in our hearts, God will not hear us (Ps. 66:18).

When we say yes to purity, we say yes to the knowledge that practicing self-control now, when it’s oh, so tempting, will make it easier to fight temptation in the future. 

When we say yes to purity, we say yes to God’s bigger plan for our relationships—to stand out as a powerful witness in this sin-sick culture. 

When we say yes to purity, we say yes to joy—eager, anticipatory, guilt- and risk-free joy. 

If I could go back 40 years and do Christmas 1971 over again, I’d make a different choice. I think you might, too. 

I wouldn’t unwrap the gifts until it was time. 





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Wednesday

Why Praying on the Run Isn't Enough

I was driving down the interstate early one morning on the way to to take my daughters to swim team practice. The sun had just risen, and the roads weren’t crowded yet. My girls sat beside me, not fully awake. We made this commute daily, and we had no reason to believe today’s trip would be anything but routine. 

Until I noticed something wrong with the truck in front of me. 

Its bed was filled with 5-gallon paint cans and tarps. A single ladder leaned against the hood of the cab. What caught my eye wasn’t the truck’s dirty exterior or the billowing blue tarps, it was the ladder. As the truck accelerated, it began to move. 

Like a slow motion movie scene, I saw it rise from where it leaned against the cab, stand perpendicular to the truck bed, and then began to fall toward the back of the truck. The ladder hit the tailgate with a clatter and bounced out onto the interstate in front of me. I watched the action unfold, but I didn’t react until the ladder landed with a crash in my lane. 

“Father, help us!” I cried, swerving blindly into the right lane and hoping no car was beside me. Mercifully, the lane was clear. “Thank you, Lord. Thank you, Lord. Thank you,” I breathed as I drove on, hands shaking and heart pounding. The danger was past, and God had answered my prayer. 

Arrow prayers—they’re impromptu, unscripted, and spontaneous expressions of need to our ever-present Father. Nehemiah prayed a prayer like this as he prepared to make a request of King Artaxerxes in Nehemiah 2. 

I’ve prayed many arrow prayers over the course of my lifetime—on the road, at work, even in the grocery store. Arrow prayers are a legitimate and appropriate way to “pray without ceasing.” 

But arrow prayers shouldn’t be our only prayers. Jesus instructed his disciples to pray this way: “But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you” (Mt. 6:6). 

“Go into your room , close the door. . .” 

Jesus knew arrow prayers aren’t enough. That we need deliberate, regular, focused times of prayer. That we need a place removed from the distractions that clamor for our attention. That to pray well, we must step aside from the everyday hustle and bustle of life and sit alone at his feet. 

Susanna Wesley was the mother of Charles and John, the great revivalist preachers, and 17 other children. I suspect she didn’t dare sequester herself from her children in another room. Instead, she made a “prayer closet” by throwing her apron over her head while she sat in her rocking chair. The children knew when mama’s apron was over her head, they’d better not disturb her, because mama was praying. 

I met Lupita on a mission trip to Mexico. Lupita lives with her daughter and five grandchildren in a two-room house made of cinder block and tar paper. When we visited her home, she led us out back to show us her prayer closet. It was a tiny room made of mismatched boards and a curtain for the door. Her grandchildren’s Sunday school papers decorated the walls. “This is where I get away from the children, and I pray,” she said. 

Susanna and Lupita are wise women. They understood the value of prayer and made it a priority in their lives. We should be, too. Theologian Oswald Chambers, in his devotional book My Utmost for His Highest, affirms, “We must have a selected place for prayer.” 

Having a designated place to pray helps us consistently and intentionally meet with God. Your “prayer closet” doesn’t have to be a room with a door, although doors help minimize distractions. It can be as simple as a favorite chair in a quiet corner of the living room early in the morning, a corner of the sofa with your favorite prayer resources nearby, or a lawn chair in the shade of an oak tree. If you consistently go to this place for the purpose of praying, your body, mind, and spirit will equate that spot with prayer, and you’ll find it much easier to concentrate. 

When every room of our home was filled with children, I entered my prayer closet early every morning by turning on the light, propping myself up in bed, and reaching for my three prayer weapons: my Bible, my journal, and a copy of whatever devotional I happened to be reading. It wasn’t fancy, but it helped me honor my commitment to spend time every day with God. 

What about you? Are you struggling to have a consistent prayer time? Are the only prayers you pray arrow prayers—haphazard and inconsistent? I encourage you today to find a spot for your prayer closet. Then set aside a time every day in which to meet with the Lord. You’ll be amazed to find that God will meet you there. 



In the words of Oswald Chambers, “Prayer doesn’t fit us for the greater works, prayer is the greater work.” 











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Monday

See-through Shower Curtains

“She needs a transparent shower curtain,” my husband said.
 
“I agree.”

We were visiting friends out of state. The temperature hovered around 90, and the upstairs guest rooms were too hot to sleep in comfortably. “If you don’t mind sleeping in the basement,” our hostess said, “it’s nice and cool down there. The pullout couch is comfortable, and there’s a bathroom with a shower.”

We slept well on her comfy pullout couch. It was the shower we had trouble with.


Added on after the house was built, the shower was tucked into an alcove in the bathroom. When I stepped in and pulled the opaque shower curtain closed behind me, very little light shone through. And while my shower routine is pretty predictable, it would have been easier to see what was dirty if I’d had more light.

My spiritual life is a lot like my physical life in this way. If I look at myself through the lens of this world, which is dim and cloudy, I look pretty good. If I compare myself with the light of God’s Word, however, I realize there is much about my character that still needs improvement.

The Psalmist acknowledged, “The heart is deceitful and desperately wicked, who can know it?”

Sometimes, without the light of God’s counsel, I deceive myself. I think I’m thoughtful and unselfish, until my husband points out how I’ve been neglecting him. I think I’m patient and kind, until I stand in a long line at the grocery store and mutter with the other disgruntled customers. I think I’m a servant, until someone leaves a mess behind and I grumble as I clean it up.

My pastor says regular examination and confession, both general (“I am a sinner,”) and specific (I have sinned by _______,”) is necessary to guard our hearts against sin, and it is true.

“If we confess our sins, he (God) is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness,” promises 1 John 1:9.

Instead of being discouraged, however, I should be encouraged by the lifelong process of sanctification—of becoming more like Christ, because God partners with me in the process.


 


Theologian E.M. Bounds writes: “God will not meet you where you pretend to be.”


If I examine my life through the lens of God’s Word and obey what he tells me to do, God conforms me to his likeness.

But he seldom elbows into my life; I have to invite him. If I hide in the shadows of my own self-assessment and self-righteousness, God will not meet me there. If I pull the curtain wide and allow the light of his Word to show me what’s dirty, I’ve made the first step toward him and the person he wants me to be. My friend’s shower curtain wasn’t transparent, but we certainly should be.

“Confession allows God room to work,” my pastor says.

Is there something you need to confess and surrender to God today? Will you join me in submitting it to God and watching him work? 


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Sunday

Bellybutton Stealers and Faith

In Japan, children are encouraged to cover their belly buttons when they hear thunder. 

“If you don’t,” their parents warn, “Raijin, (the god of thunder) will steal them.” I’m not sure how the custom of Raijin the Belly Button Stealer began. One blogger observed that temperatures usually drop after a thunderstorm, and the “cover your belly button” custom may have been an effort to encourage children to cover up to avoid getting chilled.  

Whatever their purpose, customs shape our behavior and give us a default setting for how to respond in certain situations.

Daniel had a custom that almost cost him his life. It also saved it.

Darius the Mede had taken over the Babylonian kingdom and appointed 120 satraps (governors) to rule. Daniel, a Jewish exile, was one of them. At least 80 years old by this time, Daniel had served several kings and distinguished himself by his wisdom, work ethic, and personal integrity.

His evil and jealous colleagues plotted a way to oust Daniel from his position of influence, but found no basis for a complaint—Daniel was squeaky clean. He was a righteous man who loved God. He prayed three times a day facing Jerusalem.

His custom of praying became the basis for the satraps to depose Daniel and exalt themselves. They conned egotistic King Darius into signing a decree requiring everyone to bow down only to him for 30 days. Once Darius signed the edict, they laid in wait to catch Daniel violating the law. 

Daniel had a choice to make--stand for what is right or compromise.

As my Sunday school teacher said, “The law was only in effect for 30 days; I might have been tempted to just lay low, pray silently and privately, and reappear after the edict was over.”

Not Daniel.

Now when Daniel knew that the edict was signed, he went home. And in his upper room, with his windows open toward Jerusalem, he knelt down on his knees three times that day, and prayed and gave thanks before his God, as was his custom since early days. (Dan. 6:10)

We know the rest of the story. King Darius punished Daniel by throwing him into a den of hungry lions. He emerged with nary a nibble on his kneeling knees. 

How did Daniel have the courage not to compromise, take a stand for God, and be willing to pay the ultimate price for his faith? The clue is in the final phrase of verse ten: “he knelt down on his knees . . . as was his custom since the early days.” Instead of covering his belly button against the god of thunder, Daniel bowed before the God who holds the power of life, death, and thunder in his hands.


Early in his lifetime he established the custom (or perhaps a better word is habit) of prayer The strength, wisdom, and courage he gained during his regular conversations with God carried him through. 

He developed the discipline of prayer long before pagans devastated his homeland and carried him off to Babylon. He prayed regularly long before he rebuked Nebuchadnezzar for his pride. He consistently bowed before the Lord of the universe long before King Belshazzar summoned him to read the writing on the wall during his drunken feast. And he prayed three times a day long before he encountered the ultimate test of his faith in the lion’s den.

When times of trial and testing came, Daniel’s faith stood firm. Not only did he survive his plunge into the pit, his example caused King Darius to declare of God,

He is the living God, and steadfast forever; his kingdom is the one which shall not be destroyed, and His dominion shall endure to the end. He rescues and he saves; he performs signs and wonders in the heavens and on the earth. (Dan. 6:26-27)

When you encounter the next big trial, will you have the custom of daily prayer already built into your life so you can make it through? 

Don’t wait until the challenges come to seek God. Begin to grow your spiritual muscles now by spending time every day in God’s Word and prayer. If you do, you’ll have the strength to weather the challenge and the privilege of sharing your faith along the way. 

Tweetables:
Customs shape our behavior and give us a default setting for how to respond in certain situations. (Click to Tweet)

Don't wait until the challenges come to seek God. Begin developing your spiritual muscles now. (Click to Tweet)

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Thursday

Are You Believing the Lie?

The book of Job is seldom one I choose to read. 

Frankly, it distresses me to think about the horror and hard ship this good man endured. Logic and a sense of justice tell me evil men should suffer and good men should enjoy a long life filled with happiness, health, and prosperity. Such thinking, I discovered this morning in my quest to read through the Bible in a year, is not only wrong, but satanic. 

 Yup, satanic. 

“Have you considered my servant Job?” God asked Satan as Satan presented himself before him, “he’s blameless and upright, honors God, and runs from evil.” (my paraphrase)

 “Well of course he serves you,” Satan responded, “you bless everything he touches. You’ve put a hedge around his family, blessed the work of his hands, and made him rich. Why shouldn’t he serve you?” 

This is what Satan said, and we say it, too, only in reverse. We ask an equally satanic question, “Why do bad things happen to good people?” as if, by virtue of their goodness, good people deserve a pain-free life. 

And the reverse – if sorrow, tragedy, sickness, and loss enter their lives, it must be because they’ve sinned. 

Enter Job—a righteous man who suffered horribly and whose story debunks all our false assumptions. 

Job’s life demonstrates that good men suffer. That while hardship can be the result of sin or the natural consequences of poor choices, not all trials are punishment for sin. His life shows that God allows our faith to be tested and gives us the opportunity to glorify him in the midst of our suffering.

Job’s story proves that we may never know, this side of heaven, why trials enter our lives. We can know, however, that no difficulty is wasted if we submit our will to God and trust him to work in and through it. Job’s life shows us that we live in a sin-sick, dying world, and we suffer when others’ sin drag their poisonous tentacles across our lives. 

Job’s faith is a beacon of light to a dark and hopeless world. His steadfast love and commitment to God flies in the face of Satan’s whispers. When the blessings are stripped away and all Job has left is his relationship with God, he finds that it is enough.




“For I know my Redeemer lives,” he shouts triumphantly, or perhaps he whimpers, “and he shall stand at last on the earth; and after my skin is destroyed, this I know, that 

 in my flesh I shall see God.” 

Paul knew what Job knew, that “our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all” (2 Cor. 4:17) 

And he embraced Job’s wisdom and declared, 

“. . . we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal” (v 18). 

 And he gained comfort and hope. 

“I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us” (Romans 8:18). 

Is Satan accusing you today? Is he causing you to doubt God’s love and care for you? Is he whispering Job’s wife’s words, “Curse God and die?” 


I challenge you, on the basis of God’s character and the love he demonstrated on the cross, trust God. 

Stand firm. 

Don’t let Satan have the victory. 

Stand with Job, and Paul, and the great cloud of witnesses that surrounds you, and run the race all the way to the finish line. 

Never give up. Never give up. NEVER GIVE UP! 

There’s glory that awaits you. 




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