Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Cleaning the Sanctuary

It has been many months of preparation and, mostly, waiting. The sale of our home is going through and we have found a lovely town-home to rent. Lord willing, we will be settled in our new home by mid to late January. In short, this past week has been nothing short of busy and full. I was finally motivated to go through a bunch of my stuff and pack, as well as get rid of things. Because my sister and I shall have to share a room in our new home, my aim was to lessen my measure of stuff. Sometimes, you don't care what it is, you just want to get rid of it. One accumulates so much when you have your own space.
As I was looking through my mass of folders and papers (no matter how many times a year I clean through my room, my storage boxes and desk breed paper!!), I couldn't help but relate the cleaning of my room to the need that the Spirit has pressed upon me to purify certain selfish tendencies, habits, and motives from my life. It brought to my mind some very simple, but significant and foundational teaching from Leslie Ludy's book, Authentic Beauty.

More than likely, most of our “trash” has been residing within us for so long we don’t even realize it’s there. And yet its presence will hinder true intimacy with our Lord for as long as it is allowed to remain in our hearts. A lifestyle of lily whiteness can flow only out of an inner being that has been made lily white by Jesus Christ.
...Regular trash removal became a vital, ongoing process in my life from that point forward. And each time I allowed myself to receive Christ’s cleansing touch, as painful as it might be, it chased me even deeper into the loving, healing embrace of my heroic Lord.
Invited your Prince to thoroughly examine every nook and cranny of your heart….ask Him to show you any hidden sins lingering within you, any subtle compromises or wrong habits you have allowed to creep into your life, and any situation or relationship in your life that needs to be made right.

We often need the fresh reminder to clean out the sanctuary. The significance of being a temple of the Holy Spirit, a bearer of the name of Christ, and a vessel for the Lord's chosen work demands us to deal with the areas of compromise in our life. Often times, I have found that they are habits that we've lived so long with that we hardly recognize them as something sinful in us that needs to be dealt with. It could be as small as the way in which you choose to converse with a friend; the focus of a conversation or subject matter is, perhaps, less than edifying. It's in "small" areas such as that, that I have recognized so many selfish and immature tendencies. Are we allowing the Spirit to gaurd the door of our mouth and heart? Or, are we willfully turning to fleshly habits?

Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight,O LORD, my rock and my redeemer. ~ Psalm 19:14

I'm always reminded of the zeal that Josiah, Ezra, Nehemiah, and countless other men from Scripture who sought to keep the Temple sacred, pure, and truly set apart for the worship and service of God. In chapter 13 of the book of Nehemiah, we find Nehemiah, once again, needing to restore the Temple. After spending much devoted time to its rebuilding, establishing reforms, and confirming the convenant between Israel and the Lord, he returns to his post as cupbearer of King Artaxerxes. However, after some time, he asks leave of the king to return to Jerusalem, where he soon finds the Temple defiled.

...and I then discovered the evil that Eliashib had done for Tobiah, preparing for him a chamber in the courts of the house of God. And I was very angry, and I threw all the household furniture of Tobiah out of the chamber. Then I gave orders, and they cleansed the chambers, and I brought back there the vessels of the house of God, with the grain offering and the frankincense. (v. 7-9)

I also found out that the portions of the Levites had not been given to them, so that the Levites and the singers, who did the work, had fled each to his field. So I confronted the officials and said, "Why is the house of God forsaken?" (v. 10-11)

In those days I saw in Judah people treading winepresses on the Sabbath, and bringing in heaps of grain and loading them on donkeys, and also wine, grapes, figs, and all kinds of loads, which they brought into Jerusalem on the Sabbath day. And I warned them on the day when they sold food. Tyrians also, who lived in the city, brought in fish and all kinds of goods and sold them on the Sabbath to the people of Judah, in Jerusalem itself! Then I confronted the nobles of Judah and said to them, "What is this evil thing that you are doing, profaning the Sabbath day? Did not your fathers act in this way, and did not our God bring all this disaster on us and on this city? Now you are bringing more wrath on Israel by profaning the Sabbath." (v. 15-17)

As soon as it began to grow dark at the gates of Jerusalem before the Sabbath, I commanded that the doors should be shut and gave orders that they should not be opened until after the Sabbath. And I stationed some of my servants at the gates, that no load might be brought in on the Sabbath day. Then the merchants and sellers of all kinds of wares lodged outside Jerusalem once or twice. But I warned them and said to them, "Why do you lodge outside the wall? If you do so again, I will lay hands on you." From that time on they did not come on the Sabbath. Then I commanded the Levites that they should purify themselves and come and guard the gates, to keep the Sabbath day holy. (v. 19-22)

In those days also I saw the Jews who had married women of Ashdod, Ammon, and Moab. And half of their children spoke the language of Ashdod, and they could not speak the language of Judah, but only the language of each people. And I confronted them and cursed them and beat some of them and pulled out their hair. And I made them take oath in the name of God, saying, "You shall not give your daughters to their sons, or take their daughters for your sons or for yourselves. (v. 23 - 25)

Thus I cleansed them from everything foreign, and I established the duties of the priests and Levites, each in his work; and I provided for the wood offering at appointed times, and for the firstfruits. (v. 30-31)

Not only did he cleanse everything that was foreign from the Temple, but he also set up the things that were holy and sacred. He intentionally set out to restore the duties and services. How many times do we deal with the sin and impurities in our lives, but never make the changes needed to maintain a pure and devoted life to Christ? His grace is sufficient and He supplies us with everything needed to live a life wholly consecrated to Him; will we not walk in the power of His calling? Let us not become negligent of these earthly temples, but let us press onward to know the fullness of the life that we are called to in Christ.

What is the secret to great living? Entire separation to Christ and devotion to Him. Thus speaks every man and woman whose life has made more than a passing flicker in the spiritual realm. It is the life that has no time for trifling that counts. ~ Amy Carmichael

1. For the desire of my heart to be toward God and his Word.
Incline my heart to Your testimonies and not to gain. (Psalm 119:36)

2. For the eyes of my heart to be opened.
Open my eyes, that I may behold wonderful things from Your law. (Psalm 119:18)

3. For my heart to be enlightened with these “wonders.”
[I pray] that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened. (Ephesians 1:18)

4. For my heart to be united, not divided, for God.
O Lord, I will walk in Your truth; unite my heart to fear Your name. (Psalm 86:11)

5. For my heart to be satisfied with God and not with the world.
O satisfy us in the morning with Your steadfast love, that we may rejoice and be glad all our days. (Psalm 90:14)

6. For strength in this joy, and endurance during the dark seasons.
[I pray that God] would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man. (Ephesians 3:16)

7. For visible good deeds and works of love to others.
[I pray that you] will walk in a manner worthy of the Lord...bearing fruit in every good work. (Colossians 1:10)

8. For God to be glorified.
Hallowed be thy name. (Matthew 6:9)

9. In Jesus’ name.
He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, will he not also give us all things with him? (Romans 8:32)

Friday, December 17, 2010

Friday Reflections - The Lost Ones

These colorful beads are handmade by the women of the Karamajong tribe in Africa. This is how they make an income to provide for their family. It's simply amazing to wonder about the soul whose hands made this necklace. Who is she? Who are her children? And does she know Jesus?
I've recently been purchasing several of these for friends and family through 147 Million Orphans, which gives to ministries like Amazima and Project Hopeful. Even in the midst of an incredibly busy college semester, the Lord keeps directing my heart to the lost ones, the ones without names. In the past months, the ache has been ever present and, yet, it's easy to get so caught up in one's own life and trials among a circle of family/friends. How is it possible to have a burden for the souls you know near at home as well as for souls abroad of whom you've not even met? How is it possible to not be driven to despair at the brokenness in front of you as well as for those nameless souls across the miles and across the seas? Because there is a Sovereign hand that upholds all. Nothing I give, say, or do for any one, home or abroad, is effective unless I am first wholly devoted to my Yeshua, no longer caught up with the cares of this world or my own life. I am reminded of a precious quotation from Amy Carmichael that humbles my heart when I begin to despair a little:
"...there are some among us who heart-break is that they have no sure and certain hope about their dearest, who have passed beyond reach of human love and influence. May I offer this which comes to me in the form of a question: Does to be out of reach of our love and influence mean to be out of reach of His who said, "I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto Me?" ?"
- Amy Carmichael

As I wait upon the Lord's direction of my life, He continually gives me glimpses into His heart for the orphan, the widow, the afflicted, oppressed, or slaves...each of them living in the shadow of hunger, shame, death, abuse. Hearts crying out for salvation. Hands eager to receive. Souls ready to be loved.
Sometimes, it makes you feel so utterly desperate. O Lord, I am willing for you to use me in any way You so desire and will. If You are only asking me to pray for these little souls tonight, then, Holy Spirit of God, pray in and through me. Don't allow me to become indifferent as I have so many times before!

From a blog called Conspiracy of Hope (Orphans):

Every 15 SECONDS, another child becomes an AIDS orphan in Africa

Every DAY 5,760 more children become orphans

Every YEAR 2,102,400 more children become orphans (in Africa alone)

143,000,000 Orphans in the world today.

Approximately 250,000 children are adopted annually, but…

Every YEAR 14,050,000 children still grow up as orphans and AGE OUT of the system

Every DAY 38,493 children AGE OUT

Every 2.2 SECONDS, another orphan child AGES OUT with no family to belong to and no place to call home

In Ukraine and Russia 10% -15% of children who age out of an orphanage commit suicide before age 18

60% of those girls are lured into prostitution

70% of those boys become hardened criminals

Many of these children accept job offers that ultimately result in their being sold as slaves. Millions of girls are sex slaves today, simply because they were unfortunate enough to grow up as orphans.

"While women weep, as they do now, I'll fight; while children go hungry, as they do now I'll fight; while men go to prison, in and out, in and out, as they do now, I'll fight; while there is a drunkard left, while there is a poor lost girl upon the streets, while there remains one dark soul without the light of God, I'll fight, I'll fight to the very end!" ~ William Booth, founder of Salvation Army.

Lord, teach me first to fight on my knees interceding for these souls. Here I wait for Your call to Go.

Father of the fatherless and protector of widows is God in his holy habitation. ~ Psalm 68:5

Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob,

whose hope is in the LORD his God,

who made heaven and earth,

the sea, and all that is in them,

who keeps faith forever;

who executes justice for the oppressed,

who gives food to the hungry

The LORD sets the prisoners free;

the LORD opens the eyes of the blind.

The LORD lifts up those who are bowed down;

the LORD loves the righteous.

The LORD watches over the sojourners;

he upholds the widow and the fatherless...

~ Psalm 146:5-9

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Our inheritance...

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he freely bestowed on us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.

In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.

~ Ephesians 1:3-14

Bestowed, Favoured ~ charitoĊ

1) to make graceful

a) charming, lovely, agreeable

2) to peruse with grace, compass with favour

3) to honour with blessings

Lavished, Abound ~

1) to exceed a fixed number of measure, to be left over and above a certain number or measure

a) to be over, to remain

b) to exist or be at hand in abundance

1) to be great (abundant)

2) a thing which comes in abundance, or overflows unto one, something falls to the lot of one in large measure

3) to redound unto, turn out abundantly for, a thing

c) to abound, overflow

1) to be abundantly furnished with, to have in abundance, abound in (a thing), to be in affluence

2) to be pre-eminent, to excel

3) to excel more than, exceed

2) to make to abound

a) to furnish one richly so that he has abundance

b) to make abundant or excellent

Of tea and book giveaways!

Now for something a little more light-hearted.
Ah, tea....
Autumn and winter are my favorite months precisely for this very reason. As another college semester is drawing near to an end, I find myself looking forward to many days of reflection, Bible study, relaxation, prayer, and meditation this winter break....with my cup of tea! Whether it's a flavored black tea, herbal tea, or green tea - each cup is filled with wonders! Apparently, some past well-known authors shared similar thoughts...

There is a great deal of poetry and fine sentiment in a chest of tea.
~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

You can't get a cup of tea big enough or a book long enough to suit me.
~ C.S. Lewis

The mug from the washstand was used as Becky's tea cup, and the tea was so delicious that it was not necessary to pretend that it was anything but tea.
~ Frances Hodgson Burnett, A Little Princess

Each cup represents an imaginary voyage.
~ Catherine Douzel

Now, on a more important note, I must announce that Ladies Against Feminism is hosting a New Leaf Press Book giveaway on their blog! And well, I must promote it as it is a very worthy giveaway. :-) So, my dearest readers, go on over and join in!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Friday Reflections

It's Friday again! So, here's a small variety of my favorite posts that I gathered for the day. Feel free to leave feedback! I pray that these are edifying to my readers as they have been for me.

Singing And Logic ~ Of Austen and Conflict (a very clever, wonderful post by a very dear sister of mine!)

Oh, fear the LORD, you his saints,
for those who fear him have no lack!
The young lions suffer want and hunger;
but those who seek the LORD lack no good thing.
~ Psalm 34:9-10

Thursday, December 9, 2010


Soft hands
A clover of warmth
You unfold me
Drawing in my heart by a silkened touch.
Velvet melodies
Of luminous lullabies
You sing to me
Empty this calloused vessel to fill.
Soulful echoes
An intimate hush
You quiet me
By the lightest strain of a whisper.
~ By yours truly, Spring 2009.

This little poem was very much prophetic. It was only until the coming months after I penned it that it became truly a reality in which I shall never forget. It was the day I came to know Calvary Love. I look back on the goodness and faithfulness of the Lord in my life and I can only sigh with inexpressible thanksgiving! My Yeshua - He is my salvation and the rock of my heart forever!

"In open fields of wild flowers/she breathes the air and flies away/she thanks her Jesus for the daises and the roses/in no simple language/someday she'll understand the meaning of it all/He's more than the laughter or the stars in the heavens/as close a heartbeat or a song on her lips/someday she'll trust Him and learn how to see Him/someday He'll call her and she will come running/and fall in His arms and the tears/will fall down and she'll pray/I want to fall in love with You..."

~ Jars of Clay, Love Song for a Savior

Friday, December 3, 2010

Friday Reflections

I follow way too many blogs, in case one hasn't noticed by now. :-D I thought to share particular posts by some of my favorite blogs every week.
They are simple, thought-provoking, edifying, and Christ-consumed. May they be words of grace to you this week as they were for me.

The Mighty One, God the LORD,
speaks and summons the earth
from the rising of the sun to its setting.
Out of Zion, the perfection of beauty,
God shines forth.
~ Psalm 50:1-2

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Though it be a cross that raiseth me...

I picked up a book last night for the first time in a month. I haven't had much time for recreational reading outside of school, but I felt like I should start something. I found one from my family's library entitled Great Christian Hymn Writers, which I had set aside a couple months ago for future reading. The first biography given in this book is of an English girl during the 19th Century named Sarah Flower Adams. She penned the beloved hymn, Nearer, my God, to Thee, nearer to Thee. Here is an excerpt from the book about this particular hymn:
"The hymn is based on Genesis 28:11-17. When Jacob flees from Esau, he dreams of a ladder reaching up to heaven. Sarah Flower Adams expressed in her hymn the truth that even in darkness and trouble, we may be lifted nearer to God. Many Christians will add, particularly in troubled and dark moments the comforting presence of Christ is real (pg. 14)."

There was a young woman from Maine during the same century that was later influenced by this very hymn to write her own called, More Love to Thee, O Christ. The story of what brought this women, named Elizabeth Prentiss, to write it comes from a place of deep pain. Elizabeth suffered severe headaches and chronic insomnia through most of her life. She was always very weak in body. In addition, although she had a beautiful marriage, her motherhood was one of grief.
"Shortly after the family moved to New York City, the Prentisses lost their oldest child. Then tragedy suck another hammer blow - their other child died. One evening when the sad parents return home after putting flowers on the graces of their children, Elizabeth cried in anguish, "Our home is broken up, our lives wrecked, our hopes shattered, our dreams dissolved. Sometimes I don't think I can stand living for another moment, much less a lifetime."
Her husband held her in his arms and let her cry. Then in a quiet voice, he said just the thing to help her turn back to the only source of comfort in this sad world: "In times like these, God loves us all the more, just as we loved our children in their distress."
Shortly after this conversation....Elizabeth picked up her Bible and hymnal and went to her room. She read a number of passages from Scripture, and then turned to the hymnbook to find words of comfort and consolation. She stopped at Sarah Adam's "Nearer My God to Thee" and read it several times. She began to think about that moment in history when God met Jacob in a time of human sorrow and need, and bowed her head praying that she might have a similar experience (pg 136, 137)."

It was during that very prayer that the words for More Love to Thee O Christ came to her. It is in the same metrical pattern as Nearer My God to Thee. Elizabeth once said, “To love Christ more, is the deepest need, the constant cry of my soul…Out in the woods and on my bed and out driving, when I am happy and busy, and when I am sad and idle, the whisper keeps going up for more love, more love, more love!”

It is this very reason that joy and strength remain even as the heart becomes rent through much weeping.

Nearer, my God, to Thee, nearer to Thee!
E'en though it be a cross that raiseth me;
Still all my song would be nearer, my God, to Thee,
Nearer, my God, to Thee, nearer to Thee!

Though like the wanderer, the sun gone down,
Darkness be over me, my rest a stone;
Yet in my dreams I'd be nearer, my God, to Thee,
Nearer, my God, to Thee, nearer to Thee!

There let the way appear steps unto heav'n;
All that Thou sendest me in mercy giv'n;
Angels to beckon me nearer, my God, to Thee,
Nearer, my God, to Thee, nearer to Thee!

The with my waking thoughts bright with Thy praise,
Out of my stony griefs Bethel I'll raise;
So by my woes to be nearer, my God, to Thee,
Nearer, my God, to Thee, nearer to Thee!

Or if on joyful wing, cleaving the sky,
Sun, moon, and stars forgot, upwards I fly,
Still all my song shall be, nearer, my God, to Thee,
Nearer, my God, to Thee, nearer to Thee!
~ Sarah Flower Adams

More love to Thee, O Christ, more love to Thee!
Hear Thou the prayer I make on bended knee.
This is my earnest plea: More love, O Christ, to Thee;
More love to Thee, more love to Thee!

Once earthly joy I craved, sought peace and rest;
Now Thee alone I seek, give what is best.
This all my prayer shall be: More love, O Christ to Thee;
More love to Thee, more love to Thee

Let sorrow do its work, come grief or pain;
Sweet are Thy messengers, sweet their refrain,
When they can sing with me: More love, O Christ, to Thee;
More love to Thee, more love to Thee!

Then shall my latest breath whisper Thy praise;
This be the parting cry my heart shall raise;
This still its prayer shall be: More love, O Christ to Thee;
More love to Thee, more love to Thee!

~ Elizabeth Prentiss

A beautiful instrumental version of Nearer My God to Thee.
(You will have to turn off my playlist at the bottom of my page so that you can hear these)

More Love to Thee O Christ - piano and vocals.

As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. ~ John 15:9

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. ~ Romans 8:28

Thursday, November 25, 2010

To Him whom my soul loves...

There are many people, things, places, and blessings that I'm eternally thankful for. However, when I think upon this past year, the emphasis of my gratitude is placed on my King, my Beloved.

My heart cries thanks....
...that the Lord reproves those whom he loves, as a father the son in whom he delights (Prov 3:12, Heb 12:6) and learning to embrace the rod of His discipline with a tearful smile.

...that He has led me to embrace and know Him as my Husband, my Maker, my Redeemer (Isaiah 54:5).

...that He has enabled me to truly hate my life in this world and seek to become the seed that dies to bear fruit (John 12:24-25).

...that it is His spirit who gives life and that the flesh availeth nothing (John 6:63).

...that I belong to Christ and my flesh is crucified (Gal. 5:24) and I now walk in the freedom of the Holy Spirit (2 Cor. 3:17).

...for the pressure and weight of the Holy Spirit upon and within my soul; stripping, surrendering, releasing.

...that He has been building within me a 'tensile strength' of soul.

...that He has shared His burdens with me for the lost, the oppressed, the afflicted.

...that He has been teaching me to pray, quite literally, until break of day as well as learning to stand upon His promises and live/feed upon His Living Word.

...that He has led me into tasting the riches of the glory of the great mystery hidden for ages and generations (Col 1:27).

...that He made me willing to become the like man who, in joy, sells all he has to purchase the field with the hidden treasure (Matt 13:44).

...that in stripping everything from me, He's given me an insatiable thirst every day for more of Him.

...that I am decreasing and He is increasing (John 3:30)

...that although the season of trials is long and wearisome, the joy that He's given me in Him only continues to abound (Psalm 16:11). The joy of the Lord as my strength has truly become a reality in my life!

...that the past two hardest years of my life have become the sweetest, most fulfilling years I've known thus far - all working for my good and His glory (Rom 8:28)!

...that by His grace, He has entered me into the "endless frontier" of the true victorious Christian-life, which is Christ in me, the hope of glory (Col 1:27).

...that He is forever, eternally, and always mine and I am His: my treasure, my portion, my Beloved.

I will leave it to an old father in the faith to place into words the kind of life that the Lord brought me into this year:

"I was converted in November of 1825, but I only came into the full surrender of the heart four years later, in July 1829. The love of money was gone, the love of place was gone, the love of position was gone, and the love of worldly pleasures and engagements was gone. God, God alone became my portion. I found my all in Him; I wanted nothing else. And by the grace of God this has remained, and has made me a happy man, an exceedingly happy man, and it led me to care only about the things of God. I ask affectionately, my beloved brethren, have you fully surrendered the heart to God, or is there this thing or that thing with which you have taken up irrespective of God? I read a little of the scriptures before, but preferred other books; but since that time the revelation He has made of Himself has become unspeakably blessed to me, and I can say from my heart, God is an infinitely lovely Being. Oh, be not satisfied until in your own inmost soul you can say, God is an infinitely lovely Being!" ~ George Mueller

(Photo credit goes to photographer Brooke B. - Ellerslie sister :-)

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Because She Sought Refuge Under God's Wings

It's mid-week and I'm tired (as I usually am during the last stretch of a college semester). There is much on my mind and heart, but I'm blogging to share something beautiful that the Lord revealed to me today. It's such a simple truth, but O how often I need Him to feed my soul with it!

Every week, I prepare a devotional/teaching of some sort, relating to set-apart womanhood, for an 11 year old girl. The Lord has blessed me with a wonderful opportunity to disciple and pour into a young girl's life with His precious Word. I've only been doing this for a mere two months and, oftentimes, I find myself very inadequate for such a task of caring for a young soul. But no matter how many times I fail in communicating Biblical concepts to her (or over-communicating - I have a tendency to ramble terribly), the Lord is teaching me an abundance of things through these times of prayer, study, and preparation. It's amazing how often the lessons that I prepare for her are the exact words I need to hear. As I've been studying through Ruth with her, I came across this commentary by John Piper (some of the excerpts below are from his sermon on Ruth - Chapter 2) that really struck me. It is the essence of true womanhood. It is the essence of our daughter-hood before our divine Father.

nAnd she said, "See, your sister-in-law has gone back to her people and to her gods; return after your sister-in-law." But Ruth said, "Do not urge me to leave you or to return from following you. For where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there will I be buried. May the LORD do so to me and more also if anything but death parts me from you." ~ Ruth 1:15-17

nThe more you ponder these words the more amazing they become. Ruth's commitment to her destitute mother-in-law is simply astonishing. First, it means leaving her own family and land. Second, it means, as far as she knows, a life of widowhood and childlessness, because Naomi has no man to give, and if she married a non-relative, her commitment to Naomi's family would be lost. Third, it means going to an unknown land with a new people and new customs and new language. Fourth, it was a commitment even more radical than marriage: "Where you die I will die and there be buried" (v. 17). In other words, she will never return home, not even if Naomi dies. But the most amazing commitment of all is this: "Your God will be my God" (v. 16). Naomi has just said in verse 13, "The hand of the Lord has gone forth against me." Naomi's experience of God was bitterness. But in spite of this, Ruth forsakes her religious heritage and makes the God of Israel her God. Perhaps she had made that commitment years before, when her husband told her of the great love of God for Israel and his power at the Red Sea and his glorious purpose of peace and righteousness. Somehow or other Ruth had come to trust in Naomi's God in spite of Naomi's bitter experiences.
nHere we have a picture of God's ideal woman. Faith in God that sees beyond present bitter setbacks. Freedom from the securities and comforts of the world. Courage to venture into the unknown and the strange. Radical commitment in the relationships appointed by God.

nGod’s Mercy in Ruth 2:3:
"So she set forth and went and gleaned in the field after the reapers; and she happened to come to a part of the field belonging to Boaz, who was of the family of Elimelech." She "happened to come"? The answer is God—the merciful providence of God guiding Ruth as she gleans. Ruth happened to come to Boaz's field because God is gracious and sovereign even when he is silent. As the Proverb (16:9) says, "A man's mind plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps."

nWhy Has Ruth Found Favor?
nNow in verses 8 and 9 Boaz approaches Ruth and shows her great kindness, even though she is a foreigner. He provides food by telling her to work in his field and stay close behind his maidens. He provides protection by telling the young men not to mistreat her. And he provides for her thirst by telling her to drink from what the men have drawn. So all of Boaz's wealth and godliness begin to turn for Ruth's good and safety.
nNow we come to the most important interchange in the chapter—verses 10–13. Ruth raises a question which turns out to be very profound. It's one that we all need to ask God. Hardly anything in our life is more important than the answer we get.
nThen she fell on her face, bowing to the ground, and said to him, "Why have I found favor in your eyes, that you should take notice of me, when I am a foreigner?"
nRuth knows that she is a Moabitess. From a natural viewpoint she has two strikes against her. She does not resent this, but accepts it. As a non-Israelite she does not expect any special treatment. Her response to Boaz's kindness is astonishment.
nShe is very different from most people today. We expect kindness and are astonished and resentful if we don't get our rights. But Ruth expresses her sense of unworthiness by falling on her face and bowing to the ground. Proud people don't say thanks. Humble people are made even more humble by being treated graciously. Grace is not intended to lift us out of lowliness. It's intended to make us happy in God.

nBoaz says in verse 12 that God is really the one who is rewarding Ruth for her love to Naomi. Boaz is only the instrument of God (as we will learn from Naomi in just a moment). But now notice the words, "The Lord recompense you for what you have done, and a full reward be given you by the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge." This verse does not encourage us to picture Ruth as an employee of God providing needed labor which he then as employer rewards with a good wage. The picture is of God as a great winged Eagle and Ruth as a threatened little eaglet coming to find safety under the Eagle's wings. The implication of verse 12 is that God will reward Ruth because she has sought refuge under his wings.
nThis is a common teaching in the Old Testament. For example, Psalm 57:1 says,
"Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful to me, for in thee my soul takes refuge; in the shadow of thy wings I will take refuge."
Notice the word "for." Be merciful to me, for in thee my soul takes refuge. Why should God show mercy to Ruth? Because she has sought refuge under his wings. She has counted his protection better than all others. She has set her heart on God for hope and joy. And when a person does that, God's honor is at stake and he will be merciful. If you plead God's value as the source of your hope instead of pleading your value as the source of God's hope, then his unwavering commitment to his own value engages all his heart for your protection and joy.

nBut we must ask how Ruth's love for Naomi and her leaving her own family relate to her seeking refuge under the wings of God. The most likely suggestion is that Ruth was able to leave the refuge of her father and mother in Moab because she had found a refuge under the wings of God which was far superior. And evidently she saw a need in Naomi's life and sensed God calling her to meet that need.
nSo the relation between taking refuge under God's wings on the one hand and leaving home to care for Naomi on the other hand is that being under God's wings enabled Ruth to forsake human refuge and give herself in love to Naomi. Or another way to say it is that leaving home and loving Naomi are the result and evidence of taking refuge in God.
nSo now back to Ruth's question in verse 10, "Why have I found favor?" The answer is that she has taken refuge under the wings of God and that this has given her the freedom and desire to leave home and love Naomi. She has not earned mercy from God or Boaz. She is not their employee. They are not paying her wages for her work. On the contrary, she has honored them by admitting her need for their work and simply taking refuge in their generosity.
nThis is the message of the gospel in the Old Testament and the New Testament. God will have mercy on anyone (Palestinian or Israelite or American) who humbles himself like Ruth and takes refuge under the wings of God. Jesus said, O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, killing the prophets and stoning those who are sent to you! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not! Behold, your house is forsaken and desolate.”
nAll the Pharisees had to do was to take refuge under the wings of Jesus. Stop justifying themselves. Stop relying on themselves. Stop glorifying themselves. But they would not. Ruth was not their model. No falling on their face before Jesus. No bowing down. No astonishment at grace.
Don't be like the Pharisees. Be like Ruth.
~ John Piper

Are we taking refuge in the Lord and, as a result, allowing Him to use us as vessels of grace in the souls around us?
Do we count the Lord's protection better than all others?
Have we set our hope on the Lord alone for hope and joy?

Lastly, I came across these two videos by the wonderful Voddie Baucham. He's so straight and to the point, but he communicates basic truths that are often so simple that we overlook them.

True Womanhood Looks Like Christ & The Incalculable Impact of a Woman

O Christ, live through me! May my whole heart genuinely and continually say:
"...for me it is good to be near God;I have made the Lord GOD my refuge,that I may tell of all your works." ~ Psalm 73:28

Friday, November 12, 2010

Spring worship unto Thee

O Lord, when my heart is cold and hard, teach me to sing. Root Thy praises deep within 'til all is at rest and Your love abounds!

Oh refuge of my hardened heart
Oh fast pursuing lover come
As angels dance 'round Your throne
My life by captured fare You own

Not silhouette of trodden faith
Nor death shall not my steps be guide
I'll pirouette upon mine grave
For in Your path I'll run and hide

Oh gaze of love so melt my pride
That I may in Your house but kneel
And in my brokenness to cry
Spring worship unto Thee

When beauty breaks the spell of pain
The bludgeoned heart shall burst in vain
But not when love be pointed king
And truth shall Thee forever reign

Sweet Jesus carry me away
From cold of night, and dust of day
In ragged hour or salt worn eye
Be my desire, my well sprung lye

Spring worship unto Thee
Spring worship unto Thee

~ Jars of Clay, Hymn

Friday, November 5, 2010

Unfulfilled expectations that are still blessings...

I may not have time to write much on my blog, but I still have time to share things. I was greatly moved by this beautifully written post by Anna Sofia Botkin, who is an author and speaker (with her family) on cultural reformation, family reformation, Biblical womanhood, and the Biblical pattern for families and home-life. As a stay-at-home daughter, her words resonated immediately with my heart. She speaks of hard realities that many single young woman are facing today. However, instead of turning inward and becoming self-consumed, she is Christ-consumed. The Lord convicted me and yet strengthened me through her words. O how I long to be so grounded in my Yeshua that I'm perfectly joyful and content in wherever and whatever He has for me!
No matter where our lives lead, we are always, first and foremost, daughters of the Lord, disciples of the Word, surrendered to the King of kings for His kingdom work and for His glory.

Greater Expectations
Posted October 24, 2010

By Anna Sofia Botkin

I just turned 25. Oddly, it seems a lot more than one year older than 24. The realization that I have lived a quarter of a century brings new awareness of the preciousness of time, the reality of aging and death, and the fact that life unfolds at a speed and in a way that I can’t control. I’m past feeling like my life is stretching out endlessly before me — I’m a good third of the way into it (Lord willing) and the ticking of the clock seems to grows louder.

I think these feelings are normal; observation has taught me that it’s at some point around a young woman’s twenty fifth revolution around the sun that she experiences a messy head-on collision with certain rock-hard facts of reality. Often it’s her point of disillusionment – the point when she finds out that the world is not what she thought. That life did not deliver what she expected. That things didn’t happen according to her plans. That she didn’t get her way and that her dreams didn’t come true. And to cap it off… she doesn’t get another shot. This is the big moral test in every girl’s life, and I am no exception.

It’s at this crisis point that a young woman’s true faith and motivations emerge, sometimes in ways that surprise everyone; over the years I‘ve seen many whom I counted as friends and allies change course dramatically and walk away from the principles that they fought alongside me to defend — namely, the tenets of biblical daughterhood.

The reasons are many and varied:

It got too hard. The level of self-sacrifice turned out to be more than they bargained for.
It did not produce the desired result (a husband).

The stigma of being an adult daughter who still lives at home with Mommy and Daddy became too much to bear.

The barrage of probing questions about why they were so “different” became too wearisome.

There really was no vision for life at home. For them, home was never really home, just a port to be stranded in, waiting for the soonest ship.

The feeling that God did not hold up His half of the bargain – He didn’t deliver what they assumed was coming to them for their good deeds.

Rarely do the reasons spring from an honest reexamination of their convictions on biblical womanhood, but rather a disappointment with what those “convictions” yielded.

Sometimes before we start to question what we believe, we should question why we believe – is it because it’s easy, it’s convenient, it’s socially acceptable to the crowd we’re in, it’s eventually going to pay… or because we know it’s true? If we believe something because we know it’s true, then we will keep believing — even when it becomes hard, inconvenient, socially unacceptable, and appears to be costing, not paying. It’s good to stop and question why we believe – yes, even if those beliefs have been in a published form for five years, permanently set into the stones that make up the bedrock of a so-called “movement.”

This month is also the fifth anniversary of the release of my sister’s and my first book,So Much More. Many speculated that time and experience would dampen our idealistic notions, and change our convictions. Some have asked if I still agreed with the naive 17-year-old me who started that book eight years ago. After all, haven’t I changed?

Well, yes, I have: By God’s grace, my grasp of the Scriptures and the issues is firmer, my communication skills have been sharpened through combat with an onslaught of criticism, and an acquaintance with hundreds of young woman and their unique situations from around the world has broadened the scope of my vision and taught me to have more compassion. But one thing I hope never changes — that I never grow out of — is a child-like faith in the plain teachings of Scripture and youthful zeal in proclaiming them.

I have changed, but the Bible hasn’t, and I still believe it means what it says. Time and experience have further proved to me that God is a much better Author of a woman’s destiny than she is. Her plans will go awry. His can’t.

This week I have been reflecting back on the expectations I had for my life: my goals, my plans, my hopes and my dreams. I don’t know if it’s possible for my present reality to have deviated more from my past fantasies. As a teenager, I projected for myself an early marriage (at say, 18) and a quiet, private life, as my three biggest fears were writing, public speaking, and being on camera – in short, anything that would expose me to public scrutiny. So, how do I feel about the fact that seven years have elapsed since my speculated marriage date, that my little brother, four years my junior, just got married, to a good friend of mine five years my junior, and that my life has been characterized by the three things I used to dread above all?

First of all, my feelings have nothing to do with it. Gratitude or bitterness are not really feelings but decisions, decisions that have nothing to do with the circumstances themselves, but with how we choose to perceive to them.

For example, let’s do a retake:

How do I feel about the fact that God has given me seven more precious years to spend with my family and prepare for the future; that I have been able to play a part in my little brother’s transition into adult life which culminated in his marriage to a dear friend of mine (now a dear sister of mine); and that God has brought me many unsolicited opportunities to serve Him that have stretched me and helped me overcome my horror of vulnerability? I should be on my face before God, thanking Him for His overwhelming goodness to me.

God did not give me what I expected – He gave me far more. He has blessed me above and beyond what my little human mind could have imagined.

This year my heart is overflowing with gratitude that my plans didn’t work out, that I didn’t get my way, and that my little dreams never came true.

Maybe when we ruminate over life’s unfulfilled expectations we should stop and consider that God’s “withheld” blessings might not have been withheld at all – just presented in a way we did not expect. Let’s hope that we’re not so fixated on what we had on our wish-lists that we scorn the better gift.
My desires to one day be a wife and mother are still alive and well, but they must bow to God’s will. They may be fulfilled soon, or much later on… or they may not be fulfilled at all. If our desire to be placed in marriages really springs from the belief that we will be more useful to God thus, then we won’t feel let down if He decides to deploy us somewhere else. He knows where we will be the most useful to Him.

At 25, I’m reminded of the bigger picture: marriage is just one front in the context of a much larger war. Whether I get married or not, the war goes on. My life is defined by the fact that I am God’s soldier, not by the fact that I am 25 AND STILL NOT MARRIED.

I’m grateful for another year to stand by my post as a daughter at home, to:

Build strength into my family and make them as powerful as possible

Invest into the relationships that God has put into my life right now: my brothers, my sister, my parents, and others in the community.

Prepare my heart and attitude for the greater sacrifices that marriage and motherhood might bring

To learn new skills to add to my armory

To read more books

To explore more fields of learning

To have more of God’s word written on my heart, imprinted on my mind, and ready on my tongue

To be more joyful and optimistic

To be more like the unmarried woman in 1 Cor. 7:34, who is “…anxious about the things of the Lord, how to be holy in body and spirit.”

To be an even stronger witness as an adult daughter who still lives at home with Mommy and Daddy

Standing at the threshold of my 26th year, God has given me the grace to repeat the hardest statement ever made by any woman:

“Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word.” Luke 1:38