Sex in the Name of Love

I have been abstinent for more than four years. When I recommitted myself to the Lord and to living a holy lifestyle, someone told me that I wasn’t really living a difficult life of abstinence because I was single. He went on to say that couples who are practicing abstinence together are the real MVPs the only legitimate members of the celibacy team. In retrospect, I imagine he was insinuating that I was abstinent by default and not by choice. I don’t think it ever crossed his mind that a young woman in her 20s would choose a sexless life. Who could blame him? The movies we watch, the songs that we jam to, and the television programs we DVR encourage and entice us to indulge in sex. The more we indulge, the more our carnal desires are titillated and seduced into exploring that which God designed to be sacred.

Sex is a natural, biological act that almost everyone will experience at some point in life. It is the ultimate experience of ecstasy that we will find on this side of Heaven, and once we have tasted that ecstasy it seems almost impossible to go without. When I met my fiancé, I was nervous for this very reason. I knew that sex before marriage was not an option and I didn’t care how fine he was, I would not compromise. Ironically, the fact that he believed in Jesus was not enough to convince me that we held the same convictions about sex. (Yes, there are singles in the church who struggle with sex) On our first date, you could imagine my surprise when he asked me about the purity ring that my father had delicately placed on my right ring finger on my sixteenth birthday. I never anticipated that we would discuss these things so soon, but I’m glad we did. It was then that he told me that he, too, was saving himself for his wife. When he told me of his recommitment to purity, I knew that he was serious potential.

In a world where sex in relationships is the encouraged norm, my fiancé and I have chosen to remain abstinent until we get married next spring. Abstinence is probably one of the most challenging tests we have faced, but there are a few reasons why we know this is the best decision for us.

  • God loves sex.

You read right. God didn’t just create sex for reproduction; He created it for pleasurable connection, romance, and intimacy. Yes, God loves sex! In fact, God intended for sex to be so wonderful, so life-altering, so magical, and so sensational…that only marriage is strong enough to handles its effects (Click to Tweet!). He knew that a connection this powerful outside of the intended confines of marriage could be destructive. Voddie Baucham said it best: [paraphrase] Sex is like a fire. Inside of a fireplace, it’s contained and it’s heat comforts, soothes, warms, consoles. Outside of the fireplace, fire is vicious, wild, dangerous, and catastrophic. The number one reason why we aren’t having sex is because we want to honor God. I believe that one of the reasons why God commands us to wait is because in a marriage, he is the glue that holds it together. Consummation without covenant is displeasing to God and leaves Him out of the equation. He longs for us to protect and preserve the marriage bed because anything else is simply settling for second best.

  • Premarital sex is selfish

It is impossible for lust to be satisfied, yet it constantly begs for more and more. Operating as the opposite of lust, love gives wholly and fully of itself. Tim Keller says that [married] sex is a radical self-donation. Covenantal intimacy seeks to protect and pleasure your spouse. Lustful passion wants to be pleased and pacified without much significant thought of the other person. We get the phrase “true love waits” when we take into account that real love isn’t hasty or irrational. It waits until it’s time to blossom and mature into all that God ordained it to be. No matter how much I love my fiancé, if we dabble into sexual sin it has tainted what God originated to be a selfless donation of love into unbridled selfishness. I am not protecting the heart and soul of my mate when I lie with him without promising to love him until death separates us. I am putting my feelings, my desires, my lusts before him and everything else. Love sees no need to hurry ahead of God; it waits for His perfect timing. Even Jesus waited to give His life—the ultimate self-donation of love—until the Father granted Him permission and announced that it was time. Sex before marriage says, “I’m not thinking of you. I’m not caring for you. I’m exposing you because I’m thinking of myself and what I want.” (Click to Tweet!)

  • Premarital sex breeds distrust and insecurity

Growing up, my mother always said that it is impossible to cultivate a trusting foundation when premarital sex is present. She pointed out that when you see couples who struggle with trusting one another you are seeing the fruit and repercussions of premarital sex.   In a marriage, sex has the power to reinforce the unshakeable covenant that was established; however sex beyond the confines of marriage exposes and deconstructs the trust that may have once stood unwavering. How can this be? Well, it’s simple really. If I give my body to a man who has not committed to me in marriage, then I have given a piece of myself that he did not earn. In the heart of every woman lies a yearning to be deeply desired yet fiercely protected by her man. A woman cannot help but swoon over a man who finds her sexually attractive, yet cares enough about her heart to practice discipline over his own body. When a man denies sexual indulgences because of his fear of the Lord and his love for his woman, she can trust that his accountability to the Lord governs him more than his sexual urges.

My fiancé is very committed to our decision to remain abstinent until marriage. Honestly, that choice is one of the things that has proven his commitment to me. I have no doubts that he is faithful to me because I know who governs him. He is not his own man; he answers to the Lord. My mother and I have had countless conversations about relationships and one of her nuggets of wisdom that I will keep with me is this: Jesus is the only one who keeps a man faithful to the woman in his life. There is no amount of will power that is strong enough to keep a man from physically or emotionally stepping out on his woman. Only the power and conviction of the Holy Spirit will cause a man to withstand temptations (because they will come) and remain faithful to the Lord and to his wife. However, if that man is not submitted to the Lord, then who holds him accountable to his actions and conversations with other women? Something bigger than himself must have a hold of the man, and if he cannot control his urges with you… what controls them when you’re away? These were the types of thoughts that marred my mind when I foolishly engaged in sex before marriage in a previous relationship.

Sex before marriage destroyed my self-esteem. I knew I was sinning against God but I was more compelled by my obsession for affection that I handed over my most precious gift as if I’d forgotten that all sales were final. During that season, my heart begged for more. I had affection but I lacked security. Someplace deep down I was forced to face the reality that I was worth more than empty sex in a relationship that promised no future. I knew that my heart was worth my weight in gold, and more than I wanted to be touched, I needed so desperately to be known. Once sex became a factor, it was much easier for me to believe the lies and excuses that constantly barraged me. Lust caused me to turn a blind eye to the dysfunctional aspects of my relationship and I somehow convinced myself that sex would make me forget about our deficiencies. It only heightened them. I never trusted him because when my heart wanted to be known and understood most were the moments when sex was initiated almost as if to stifle my cry for love. Each encounter became more taxing on my soul.

And then I met the love of my life. He was a man who hung onto my every word when I spoke. He was the man who thanked me just for taking time out of my day to spend it with him. He was the man who chose to hug me after our first date rather than kissing me. He was the man who spent hours with his mentor learning how to best protect me. He was the man who took the time to learn the things that made me cry, laugh, and think. He’s the man who I still catch staring at me as if I’m the only person in the room. He’s the man who, on my birthday in front of my friends and family, got down on one knee and asked me if I would allow him the opportunity to love me for the rest of our lives. He is the one for whom I have been preserving myself, and he has decided to join his life with mine without me ever having to give anything of myself. What sexual sin threatened to steal forever, hope in Christ has restored! He never tried to take anything from me. All he set out to do from the beginning was to give and build and grow. I am better because of him, and on our wedding day he will be worthy of all of me.

One of the most amazing things about God is that we can all come to him and lay our weariness at His feet—yes, even our sexual frustrations. Living a sexless life is not easy, but God always rewards our obedience. If you are struggling with sex, I will pose the question a dear friend of mine asked me: “Ask yourself what is connecting you to the person you are dating. Are you truly compatible from each other outside of the bedroom?” This is important to think about, especially if you are considering marriage.

Remember, there is now NO condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus. It’s never too late to make a new decision about sex in your singleness. All it takes is a “Yes” and Jesus will grace you for the days to come. Don’t focus on what you think you’re missing, but all that God is storing up for your good and for His glory.

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The Prayer I Almost Regretted

It was at a point of brokenness, heartbreak, and frustration with myself and painful situations that I prayed the scariest prayer to ever leave my lips.

Lord, if he isn’t the man I will marry, then don’t bring him into my life.

Sounds harmless, right? Wrong. I wasn’t mindful that I serve a jealous God who loves me more than my mind can comprehend. I wasn’t thinking about God as my Father who would do absolutely anything to protect my heart from intruders and invaders. I believe He was eager to answer this prayer because in about two years not a single man has tried to win my heart.

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Photo Credit: Glenda Ortero (glendali), royalty-free

I didn’t know that the answer to the prayer would mean:

– lonely weekends void of dates (Scandal re-runs and Words with Friends, anyone?)

– battling insecurities and self-doubting thoughts of inadequacy (Am I good enough?)

– nearly no male companionship (Hey, boys, remember me?)

– struggling with jealousy (I want to be happy for her, but when will I get my chance?)

I don’t think I realized what I was asking for when I made such a serious request. As time had gone by (and still no one on my doorstep with flowers), I had progressively retracted my trust in God and foolishly whined and complained to Him. How silly am I! Who would point their finger at God and complain about the very thing they prayed for?

How dare you answer my prayer, God? You knew I didn’t mean it.

The amazing faithfulness of God blows my mind because He answered a prayer that hurt my pride and heightened my weaknesses, but He’s doing it for my good. Had I not had these moments of solitude, I would never be in the place of learning and valuing dependence on Him. I am remembering and embracing the fact that I need to be single.  It’s in my total singleness that God is perfecting me, shaping me, refining me, and making me whole. Is it for a husband? No. It’s for Him! And if a lifelong partner happens for me in the future, then he will get the benefit of all God is working in me right this moment.

So, the bitterness, jealousy and insecurities are vanishing into thin air by the grace of God. My grievances have been turned into thanksgiving. I am thankful that God was eager to answer my heart’s prayer (this process is torture to my flesh, but my heart is ever grateful) because He knows what it cannot handle. I am thankful that even when my heart ached from loneliness, I was protected from heart aches from unhealthy relationships. I am thankful that when no one is calling my phone or asking me out, I have a God who longs to spend every waking moment with me. He is diligent and steadfast in His love. All the love I need to be whole flows from Him.

It was the scariest request I have ever prayed, but  now I am bursting with joy and hope. I am loved. I am never forgotten. I am protected. I am kept.  I have a God who goes to war for my heart with more strength and intentionality than a girl could hope for in ten thousand warriors. And He is holding my life and my future in His hands.

Leave a comment & join the discussion! What is the scariest thing you have asked God? Was the answer what you expected?

Good Thing Training: Lessons from Ruth Part II

The last time we gathered together our protagonist had just begun her journey with Naomi, her dead husband’s mother, to live with her. We pinpointed some important lessons of singleness, following God with reckless abandonment, courage, and obedience. You can read that post here.  I must encourage you all to delve into the wonderful story of Ruth on your own. There are so many lessons to learn, but I didn’t include every one in this blog post. Seek them out and share what the Lord reveals to you! Many weeks have gone by since our last session and we shan’t waste another second.Our story continues in chapter two, and the setting is Bethlehem.

Class is in Session!

Jessica on Why She Admires Ruth

“Ruth was a courageous woman! She was bold enough to follow God in the midst of not knowing… She was selfless, faithful and consistent. I believe that Ruth’s story is so admirable because it is a prime example of the reckless abandonment we should exhibit when we intentionally follow Christ.”
  • Ruth was mission-conscious 

And Ruth the Moabitess said to Naomi, “Please let me go to the field and glean among the ears of grain after one in whose sight I may find favor.” And she said to her, “Go, my daughter.” Ruth 2:2, NASB

During the Revolutionary War there lived a woman named Mary Hays (or Molly Pitcher as she was fondly nicknamed). Mary was responsible for fetching water for the parched soldiers who were fearlessly fighting in approximately 100-degree weather.One day during combat Mary’s husband collapsed beside the cannon he had been firing. (It’s debated whether Mr. Hays had been wounded or had suffered from heat exhaustion.) His wife, Mary, did something remarkable after that. She stepped over his body and took his place behind the cannon, and began to take fire.

Photo Credit: "The Heroine on Monmouth, Molly Pitcher," Public Domain

Photo Credit: “The Heroine on Monmouth, Molly Pitcher,” Public Domain

What would cause a woman to do such a thing? It was the same spirit operating in Ruth: mission-consciousness. Mary was aware that everyone was on that field for a specific purpose, and even when devastating realities faced her, she took action and continued to work toward the goal of freedom from oppression.

Ruth’s circumstances were less than favorable. Her husband was dead; she was childless; she left her home and family in Moab; she had just arrived in a strange land where Naomi was the only soul she knew. These situations are strenuous and intimidating enough to cause any of us to buckle underneath their weight. Ruth didn’t lose heart, even while facing the greatest challenges in life. We can gather from Ruth 2:2 that one of the principle tasks Ruth sought to complete was to provide for Naomi and herself. She makes herself useful because she is aware that she is responsible for Naomi’s life, caring for her the way a daughter might care for her elderly mother. Ruth’s mission as a single woman was to care for her mother (or spiritual mother), and she held that responsibility above any other desire or factor. Ruth understood that the ministry of the single person is established through submission to the authority of parental figures. (Stay tuned for a forthcoming blog post on The Ministry of Singleness) After sojourning from Moab to Bethlehem, I find it uncanny that the first thing Ruth sets out to do is get to work! Rather than dwelling on her circumstances or remaining in the doldrums, she remembers her mission, purposefully steps behind her “cannon” and sets out to bring her new life to fruition by faith in action. If Ruth had not allowed her circumstances to discourage her from following Naomi and God to Bethlehem, consider how foolish it would have been had she pitched a tent of self-defeat and sunken into depression after she’d arrived. Once we’ve made the decision to follow God into the unknown, we must use the power of yesterday’s “yes” to Him to fuel faith into today’s obstacles. Remember, even when God moves you to the place of destiny, sitting idly is detrimental to your growth. Had Ruth dared to succumb to the temptation to wallow in despair, she would have never ventured into the field where she encountered the man who would change her life. Purposeful singleness paves the way to purposeful destiny.

Jessica on Ruth’s Character

“I believe that this particular Ruth-like obedience produces a selflessness that separates us from our fleshly desires and prevents us from being distracted. Ruth’s mind was on working, not being qualified for marriage. She was faithful in gathering from the harvest. God recognizes the things we do to serve and please Him, our reckless abandonment and the way we treat His people.”
  • Ruth was in the right place in God’s timing

So she departed and went and gleaned in the field after the reapers; and she happened to come to the portion of the field belonging to Boaz, who was of the family of Elimelech. Ruth 2:3, NASB

Isn’t it amazing how God’s timing works? Her first day out to work is the day that she stumbled across Boaz’s property. In another translation, it says that Ruth “happened by chance” upon Boaz’s field. Know that we serve a God who is Sovereign; nothing happens by chance! God is an active component in your love story. God is the one who will strategically place you and your future spouse in the right place in His timing. God is involved in the romantic aspects of our lives just as much as any other facet. Surely the God who strategically planned the rescue mission of salvation before the foundation of the world, and who fearfully and wonderfully handcrafted you and I, would have an active role in our love lives. We must trust God and follow Him because He knows our future spouse. He knows exactly what they are doing at this very moment, what they’re thinking, and what they’re praying. We must trust God to set us in the place to be found by this man, and God will lead him to that exact spot. It’s important to note that Ruth wasn’t looking for a mate; it was probably the furthest thing from her mind (mission-consciousness at work). Yet, God knew who He had for her and so He bypassed what she may have wanted for herself at the time, and gave her exactly what she needed. God will soon give you what you didn’t know you wanted.

  • Ruth’s Reputation Yielded Favor

Then Boaz asked his foreman, “Who is that young woman over there? Who does she belong to?” And the foreman replied, “She is the young woman from Moab who came back with Naomi. She asked me this morning if she could gather grain behind the harvesters. She has been hard at work ever since, except for a few minutes’ rest in the shelter.” … Boaz replied [to Ruth], “But I also know about everything you have done for your mother-in-law since the death of your husband. I have heard how you left your father and mother and your own land to live here among stranger. May the Lord God, the God of Israel… reward you fully…” Ruth 2:5-6,11-12, NLT

Character is what sets us apart from any other person with similar talents, qualities, opportunities, or capabilities. Ruth’s character is what caused the news about her arrival to buzz around Bethlehem. It was unheard of for a foreign Moabite (Can you hear the whispers? “She’s a MOABITE? Dear, heavens!”) woman to travel from her distant land, live with her mother-in-law (to whom she has no lawful allegiance since the death of her husband), and work to ensure their survival. Why would she do such a thing? I think it’s imperative to note that before anyone knew her name, Ruth’s reputation had gone before her and opened doors of favor and opportunity. Never once did the foreman mention her beauty. Although we can imagine that Ruth was stunning; this isn’t what impressed him. The excellence in her work ethic is what made Ruth significant in the eyes of the foreman…and in the eyes of her suitor. Excellence is born through impeccable character, and it affects every facet of your life. If people inspect our lives, our attitudes, our work habits, would they see the testimony of good character and Jesus Christ? Do your work habits make you rise above the rest of the women in your class, church or workplace? What would be the report if someone asked about you?

Jessica on Her Report

If an eligible man asked his companions, “Who is Jessica McGinnis? Where did she come from?” I think the response would be: “Oh, Jess. She’s a nice Christian girl. She seems like she really loves Jesus. She talks a lot, though.” I hope the response would be, “Why, that’s Jessica McGinnis. She’s a sweet Christian girl and is so passionate about pursuing God. She’s faithful in serving Him. She’s an encourager and her words are seasoned with grace. She has a certain je ne sais quoi about her. She’d be a great, godly wife!”

In verse 14, we see Boaz has invited Ruth in to dine with him and his workers. Not only does she sit in the seat reserved for Boaz’s reapers, but he personally serves her. Boaz, being the distant relative of Elimelech, is considered the redeemer for Naomi and Ruth. He can redeem them from their current struggles, and give them the comfort Naomi longs for. Yet, their redeemer is serving Ruth hand-and-foot. Sound familiar? What a powerful picture of our own Redeemer, Jesus Christ, who has the power to transform our lives, yet the humility to serve before He saves. Small wonder Jesus is born from the lineage of Boaz.

  • Ruth’s need for mentorship

Then Boaz said to Ruth, “Listen carefully, my daughter. Do not go glean in another field; furthermore, do not go on from this one, but stay here with my maids. Let your eyes be on the field which they reap, and go after them… Ruth 2:8, NASB

Boaz gave Ruth specific instructions: Listen to me. Stay with my maids. Look at where and how they work, and do what they’re doing! I am a huge proponent for mentorship. Everyone needs a mentor. Boaz had skilled women in his field, and he wanted Ruth to learn from them all that she could. Mentors are set in place to tell you where they were, show you where God has brought them, and to help elevate you to the place in life where they are. More importantly, mentors should help propel their mentees to places they may never reach. How many of the other reapers had received the same treatment from Boaz that Ruth had? None of them were his wives. Yet, Boaz wanted Ruth to learn skills from them so that she would be in the place to receive the blessings to come.

Jessica On Ruth vs The Other Women

Boaz could have chosen any of the other women in his field. [They had been there for years, probably] God set Ruth apart! It wasn’t her beauty, though I’m sure Ruth was beautiful and being a foreigner wasn’t what made her mysterious [She was set apart] because of her boldness, obedience,courage
and tenacity.

If you don’t have a spiritual mentor, please ask the Lord to present godly women who have the qualities you hope to attain in your life. A mentor helps you walk through your Christian walk and gives godly advice based on the Word of God. They offer prayer, counsel, and a special friendship that every man and woman should have. To know that there is someone who is dedicated to praying for you and encouraging you in the Christian faith is absolutely priceless. The Body of Christ needs each other. God is calling all of us to specific purposes and destinies, and we need one another to ensure we get there. Ruth needed those other reapers to show her all they knew. Her obedience to Boaz’s request, once again, set her up for more favor. She didn’t have to listen to Boaz, but Ruth’s teachable and obedient spirit submitted without hesitation. Obey the Lord’s voice and the wise counsel He sets before you, for obedience is the breeding ground for God’s grace to be exhaled upon you.

Next time we will gather around the third chapter of Ruth. I encourage you to study the next chapter with me so we can enter into dialogue about these great truths God has for us.

Question: What would be the report for you? If an eligible man asked his companions, “Who is this girl? Where did she come from?” what do you think would be the response? What would you hope to be the response?

Class Dismissed!

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Special thanks to Miss Jessica McGinnis for her contributions to this blog post. Please visit her blog: That’s Jess the Way It Is, and follow her on Twitter: @JessForJesus. 

Good Thing Training: Lessons from Ruth Part I

The story of Ruth is a familiar tale about loyalty, honor, romance, and God’s provision. Most Christian women are probably more interested in Ruth’s husband, Boaz, than the heroine herself, but Ruth is a woman whose life we should all venture to study. Her story has been retold and revered for sundry years in countless books and sermons about womanhood and singleness. Ruth was mentioned while I was conversing with another sister in the faith about marriage. Since then I was inspired to study Ruth and discover lessons we can glean from her life as we continue to embark on this Good Thing Training.

 Class is in Session!

Setting the Stage

In the beginning of the first chapter, a devastating famine has struck Bethlehem.  In order to ensure his family’s survival, a man named Elimelech leads his wife, Naomi, and two sons to the land of Moab. Elimelech eventually died, leaving behind his wife and children. His sons, Mahlon and Kilion, took for themselves two countrywomen as wives, Ruth and Orpah. Ten years later, Mahlon and Kilion both died, making Ruth and Orpah childless widows. Naomi, grieving the deaths of her husband and sons, decides to return to Bethlehem after receiving word that God had replenished the land with food. Her daughters-in-law offer to accompany Naomi on her journey, but Naomi insists they stay behind where they can remarry. Naomi attempted to discourage the young women from joining her in Bethlehem, which leads me to our first lesson from Ruth.

Brittany on Why She Admires Ruth

“…her selflessness because she had the opportunity to leave after her husband died. She could’ve gone back to the land of her people, remarrying could have been her primary concern. She wasn’t about that.”
  • Ruth chose singleness

And they lifted up their voices and cried again. And Orpah kissed her mother-in-law goodbye, but Ruth clung to her. Ruth 1:14, LEB

Naomi was insistent upon the young women remaining in Moab because she knew that their chances of remarrying were more likely in the land of their fathers. At that time, women who were widows were often victims of abuse and neglect. It wasn’t unlikely for a widow to be considered insignificant or an unworthy cause in the community. It was honorable for a woman to be married and Naomi was aware of the life that widowhood would offer Orpah and Ruth. She knew that the covenant of marriage would cover and protect them.

Ruth was willing to forsake the opportunity for love and remarriage. This is a powerful truth because there was nothing glamorous about widowhood. Ruth didn’t have any children, she was probably still very young which would have made her an eligible choice for marriage. Yet her loyalty to Naomi compelled her to sojourn to Bethlehem, a foreign land where the possibility for remarriage was neither guaranteed nor promised.

There are often times in our lives as women when we would rather have love than anything else. We value romance and endearing sentiments that make us feel treasured and adored. It’s important to know that there is absolutely nothing wrong with desiring love, romance, and marriage. God is love, His heart exhales romance into our spirits, and He created marriage.
However, the profundity lies in Ruth’s heart toward singleness: she would rather practice faithfulness in the life of her dead husband’s mother than to indulge her own desire to be a wife. What a sacrifice! Consider how it must bless God’s heart when we willingly commit to follow Him even when there is no guarantee that He will grant us every desire of our heart. Ruth didn’t follow Naomi out of obligation, but out of love and loyalty. In the same manner, we should have that intense commitment for God. Our hearts should be settled on following after Jesus in such a way that every other desire pales in the light of His glory.

Brittany on Contentment in Singleness

 “Being content with one’s singleness is a process that takes work and intentionality.  It’s not something that one should expect to happen overnight, especially if just exiting a meaningful relationship. But even in a world obsessed with love and relationships,  it is completely attainable. For most people, it will require a complete paradigm shift as well as a complete surrender to Christ. The paradigm shift is needed because even in Christian circles, contentment in singleness is often thought of as a cover-up by someone who secretly hates singleness. [A paradigm shift requires] …a complete surrender to Christ because He is the one who changes us and gives us complete joy in Him and Him alone. When Christ becomes our Superior Pleasure, we find out that as long as we have a fulfilling, personal relationship with Him, contentment in singleness and in life in general, comes as a result.”
  • Ruth was willing to forsake lesser gods to follow Almighty God

And she [Naomi] 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.” Ruth 1:15-16, ESV

It is important to remember that Ruth was a Moabite. Moab was the son conceived by Lot and one of Lot’s daughters (see Genesis 19:30-38). The Moabites and the children of Israel were not allies or friends. A commentary I read noted that it wasn’t an abomination for Israelites to marry Moabites, but the Moabites were restricted from the assembly of God (see Deuteronomy 23:3-6). These two groups were commonly in conflict with one another throughout Biblical history. The Moabites served pagan gods, one being Chemosh. In Ruth’s decision to follow after Naomi’s God she had to leave every other god in the dust. Ruth not only abandoned her family and her homeland, but every ounce of familiarity she had ever known. Ruth pointedly tells Naomi that she would adopt her God as her own, denying her allegiance to any other god or ideology. We should learn this lesson: When we decide to follow God, we must leave every other contrary idol, lifestyle, desire, and way of thinking behind. Ruth didn’t know the God of Naomi, but in faith she willingly followed Naomi to an unfamiliar place in hopes of encountering an all-powerful God. Let us be encouraged by Ruth’s example and let go of any old memories, relationships, or behavior that will not benefit us in the next season of our lives. It takes a desire for holiness to pursue God, but it takes great faith to leave lesser gods behind.

  • Ruth was unwavering

Naomi urged the girls to go back to Moab twice, after which Orpah decided to return. Ruth, on the other hand, remained at Naomi’s side. It takes a determined person to say no to someone they love and respect. Naomi was a mother figure to Ruth, yet Ruth was unrelenting in her decision to stay. Usually, if a respected mentor advises against something we have decided to do, we change our minds about our decision. Ruth was fully persuaded that she would join Naomi in Bethlehem and did not bat an eye underneath Naomi’s admonitions. Neither was Ruth shaken when Orpah turned back, and once again Naomi gave Ruth permission to leave, but Ruth held steady. She didn’t alter her position because her friend changed her mind.

Brittany on Naomi’s Insistence on Remarriage

“When people see qualities in you, they realize you would be a good fit for someone else. They want you to be a blessing for someone else. Naomi realized that [Ruth and Orpah] had more to give, [that] their time [for love] was not up.”

We should never base our willingness to obey on our friend’s approval or company. Following hard after God may mean that you have to leave some friends behind. When you both encounter an opportunity to be obedient, and your friend turns back, keep pressing! Don’t relent! Obedience is always worth the journey. Be faithful and obey the Lord’s call for you to go deeper in your relationship with Him. Ruth simply obeyed and followed God out of devotion to Naomi, but she had no idea that Boaz was on the other side of her obedience. 

  • Ruth’s obedience orchestrated opportunity

So Naomi returned, and Ruth the Moabite her daughter-in-law with her, returning from the countryside of Moab. And they came to Bethlehem at the beginning of the harvest of barley. Ruth 1:22, LEB

Sometimes God beckons us to tread on unknown terrain in order to lead us to a place of unmerited favor. Naomi and Ruth arrived to Bethlehem in time to receive the harvest–the good of the land. Ruth’s obedience and willingness to follow God positioned her to walk into a season of reaping and harvesting. How could Ruth partake of the harvest without first sowing? She wasn’t a citizen of Bethlehem, and she wasn’t a child of Israel; the fruit of the harvest was not hers to possess. Yet, she arrived in time to receive the good of the land. Ruth was planting seeds on the journey along the way–seeds of obedience and faithfulness. Had Ruth turned back, she would have missed the harvest. Had she allowed Naomi to discourage her or Orpah to influence her, she would have missed the harvest. Naomi meant well, but it’s better to follow God’s direction rather than man’s suggestion. Society sometimes says that marriage is the only way to gain significance, and that it is better than being single. Naomi originally discouraged Ruth’s choice of intentional singleness, but Ruth knew that following God would be more beneficial than marrying a Moabite who serves pagan gods. When Ruth chooses to follow the authentic God, He leads her a fruitful place, a new home, and to Boaz. Ruth had no way of knowing that with each step away from Moab, she was aligning herself to the path that would lead her to her future husband… and the God who had captured her heart.

Stay tuned for Lessons from Ruth Part II as we delve into the second chapter of Ruth together.

Question: Which lesson from this post would you consider to be the most difficult? Why? 

Class Dismissed!

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Special thanks to Miss Brittany Boulware for her contributions to this blog post. Please visit her blog: The Beautiful Ashes, and follow her on Twitter: @Beautiful_Ashes. 

 

Read Lessons from Ruth II NOW!

The Scent of Singleness

You may not have a title or high position in your church, but you are a minister. Ministry is any act of service that edifies people and brings glory to God. Jesus said to His disciples that if they followed Him, He would make them fishers of men. He would make them ministers — carriers of the gospel and testimony of Jesus Christ. Many people may be familiar with the notion that marriage is a ministry. Husbands and wives are called to serve God together as they selflessly edify, encourage and uplift one another. A healthy marriage should draw people to God; it should encourage people to follow your God and your example. What you might not know is your ministry begins much sooner than your wedding day.

Singleness is a Ministry

Before we graduate to the ministry of marriage, we have to qualify ourselves through faithfulness in the ministry of singleness. In marriage your ministry is focused on your spouse and his or her needs, whereas in singleness your ministry is focused on God and what He has need of you to perform in the Kingdom. Your singleness is a time of uninterrupted, completely devoted service to God. Your allegiance to this ministry is to serve God to the fullest capacity you can muster.

But none of these things move me; nor do I count my life dear to myself, so that I may finish my race with joy, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God. — Paul via Acts 20:24

Your singleness is a race, a course that the Lord has set out for you to run. It is a ministry that God has purposed for us to embrace, but it is up to us whether we will accept it or not. Our single status is a given, but we can choose if we will honor God in our singleness. Paul said that he received his ministry from the Lord. God offers us the opportunity and privilege to honor Him and serve others during our singleness, but we have the option to either accept or deny this ministry. If you do not accept God’s design for singles, you may begin to focus on the circumstantial frustrations and disappointments in your singleness rather than the ministry of singleness. You may allow your emotions to dictate and control your willingness to serve God during your singleness. You could let the pressures of friends and family telling you to jump into a relationship influence your spirit until you’re no longer content with God. You could let your loneliness cause your prayer life to spiral downward. Any of these things would inevitably circumvent all that God wants to develop in and through you during this season. God wants you to live purposefully single. What did Paul say to hardships and pressures weighing against him?

But none of these things move me!

If you want to experience the fullness of God in your singleness, you must accept the ministry of singleness and determine that none of the pressures, temptations, or emotions will move your position of holy singleness. As a single person, your ministry includes 1) giving yourself fully to devotion to God, 2) giving yourself to the service of others, 3) and cultivating faithfulness during the waiting season. I will develop these ideas in a forthcoming message, but now I want to delve into another idea.

Spread the Aroma

But thanks be to God, who always leads us as captives in Christ’s triumphal procession and uses us to spread the aroma of the knowledge of Him everywhere. For we are to God the pleasing aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. To the one we are an aroma that brings death; to the other, an aroma that brings life… — 2 Corinthians 2:14-16

As Christians, we have a special call — a radical purpose. Singles have a special advantage in the Kingdom of God to be about our Father’s business. If our singleness is a ministry, then our singleness is also worship. A wise man said, “Anything you do for God is worship. Whatever you worship, you imitate. Whatever you imitate, you become.” You can worship God with your singleness. Paul reveals an interesting thought: God leads us as captives in Christ’s procession.

Let’s consider a wedding. As the processional music begins, a hush falls over the place. The anticipation builds and everyone halts with hopefulness. Why? The bride is coming. But, she cannot walk down the aisle until the procession occurs. The bridesmaids and groomsmen are dazzling in their ensembles with blinding smiles to match the joy in their hearts. The groom takes his place in front of the altar, anxiously awaiting to behold his bride. The tension builds as two young men unroll the aisle runner and finally the flower girl takes her place. She slowly glides down the aisle, delicately dropping dainty flowers. Everyone in the audience silently applauds her beauty and bravery as she makes her way down to the altar. I wonder if flower girls realize that they are responsible for ushering in the bride. Everyone knows that after the flower girl makes it to the altar at the end of her procession, the bride immediately follows.

We are like that flower girl.

The maid of honor, best man, bridesmaids, groomsmen and ring-bearer are all apart of the procession and they have different roles. They are all needed for the wedding to be complete, but the flower girl has a special role. She is the only member of the processional who walks on the runner before the bride arrives; she has privileges that others in the procession don’t have. Similarly, the single Christian has advantages that the married Christian does not have. The marriage and singleness ministries are different, but they are both important to God. However, the flower girl is responsible for setting the atmosphere for the bride to appear.

Paul said that we are the procession for Christ’s entrance. Each Christian has a different role and has a different race set before him, but each one has the same purpose: to make way for the King to come. The flower girl is usually a young child, but her job is far from insignificant. Her job may not seem as glamorous as carrying the ring, but if the flower girl is not in place, then the atmosphere won’t be acceptable for the bride to come. Sometimes as singles, we believe the lie that we have no place in our churches or in the Kingdom of God because we are single. That is not true! Sometimes we feel ostracized or belittled because of our single status. Every member of the Body is needed to prepare the way for God to come on the scene in the earth. Even the flower girl.

As the flower girl makes way for the bride, she is dropping flowers. Paul said that God uses us to spread the aroma of Christ in the land just as that young girl spreads the aroma of floral delight down the aisle. Worship has a scent that pleases God. As we live our single lives for Him, we will carry the aroma of Jesus with us that will not only turn the heads of people, but it will attract the “bride.” The aroma will draw Jesus closer to us.

Just as your worship has a fragrance, your ministry of singleness has a scent. Although we may be living seemingly mundane lives, God is using this season of singleness to change our fragrance that will attract His glory and draw men toward Him. Holiness, purity, radical prayer, passionate worship, consecration, and complete surrender to God should be the scent of every unmarried person’s life. It is not easy to commit to this ministry of singleness. There will be times when you’d much rather blend in with those singles who settle because they are tired of waiting. Singles should never be sitting on the sidelines while we wait. The bride can’t come if the flower girl refuses to walk down the aisle. Prepare the way for the King and carry an aroma that will draw Him toward you. Remember, what you worship, you will become. If you worship God in your singleness, you will be like Him in your marriage. So, when those moments of discouragement come…when loneliness and temptation to compromise come knocking, what will you do? Consider the flower girl. What is her motivation for making it down the aisle — to finish the race — to finish her task? Is it the intimidation of all of the people watching her? Is it her friend in the pew waiting to poke fun at her if she trips and spills her flowers? Is it her eagerness to get the task over with? Is it her fascination with the pretty bridesmaids who she secretly wishes she could be? She wonders, Who would want to be a lowly flower girl? No, that is not what motivates her to make it down the aisle. She keeps her pace and leaves the aroma because she is captivated with her purpose and the unwavering, unshakeable truth that immediately behind her is the center of attention, the point of it all, the reason for the wedding. She knows that the Son of God is blazing behind her in His awesome glory, and that although she is a flower girl now, that same God will transform her into a bride for her own groom.

So, I pose the question that God asked me: “If singleness has a scent, what does yours smell like?”

Five Truths for Christian Singles

In February I began a mini-series on singleness as the Lord began to reveal some things to me about His plan for the single Christian. (If you missed them, check them out here: Lessons from Lot & I’m Saved, So Why Am I Single?) In the most recent installment, I listed a few reasons why many of us remain in our singleness season. After that message, I began to feel pressed to express truths for every single person in the Kingdom.

#1: You are not single because God has forgotten about you.

And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows. — Jesus via Matthew 10:30, 31 

The Bible says that the love of Christ surpasses knowledge (Ephesian 3:19). The love of the Father is unfathomable and mindbogglingly inconceivable. How a perfect God could ever love us when we were yet in our sin is a mystery. But since we know He loves us, we know that there is no good thing He will withhold from us!

If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gits to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask Him! — Jesus via Matthew 7:11.

God not only loves you, but He cherishes you. He could never forget about you, for you are the very reason He sent Jesus to die. You are the motive for Jesus’ mission on earth. God was willing to lose Jesus for a moment in order to win you for an eternity. That same God could never forget about You, even when we forget about Him. You are a jewel in His crown and an important character in God’s love story. You were the “damsel in distress” (this is not just for the ladies, but for you, too, fellas!) whose Knight in shining armor paraded into the city on a donkey. That same King could never forget about His bride.

#2: You are not single because you are unattractive.

Then the Lord will appear over them; His arrow will flash like lightning. The Sovereign Lord will sound the trumpet; He will march in the storms of the south, and the Lord Almighty will shield them… The Lord their God will save them on that day as the flock of His people. They will sparkle in His land like jewels in a crown. How attractive and beautiful they will be! — Zechariah 9:14-16

We already know that we are fearfully and wonderfully made…that every fabric of our being was not only designed and fashioned by God, but His hands stitched and molded us into the person you and I are today. God has been dreaming about you since before the world was made. How He longed for someone who looks exactly like you! So, out of His bosom you were formed. Not only that, but Zechariah depicts God as a warrior in this passage. He swoops in and saves the day and He goes on to note how amazing and beautiful those jewels in His crown are. There is no possible way that you–God’s finest handiwork–are single because you are not attractive. You are a wonder to behold. As you fashion your spirit-man to look more like Jesus, that glow will turn heads left and right. Don’t think you’re single because of how you look or because (you think) no one notices you. Perhaps, the onlookers don’t have the capacity to fully appreciate the amazing creation that you are. Even if they cannot see your wonder or behold your beauty, you stop God in His tracks every time He looks down on you.

#3: You are not single because you have baggage.

Do you want to know how I can dare to say this bold statement? I’ll let you in on my secret. We all have baggage! There is not a single soul in existence who does not suffer or struggle from some sort of baggage or wound. Whether self-inflicted or afflicted from external forces, we all have baggage in our trunk. The good news about this is that God is a healer!

But for you who revere My name, the Sun of righteousness will rise with healing in His wings. And you will go out and leap like calves released from the stall…on the day when I do these things, says the Lord Almighty. — Malachi 4:2,3

God has likened us as young calves who have been locked away in a stall…that when He comes and heals us from our baggage, we will leap and gallivant with freedom, exuberance and the testimony that God has redeemed us and removed the reproach of baggage! No, my dear, you are not single because of your baggage because we all have baggage, and God is faithful to remove baggage and all of the damage that is associated with it.

#4: You are not single because there are no more eligible men or women left.

This is a lie that the devil wants you to believe in order to coax you into settling for the next person who makes his or herself available to you. There are so many men and women of God swarming around this world, but that’s not the issue and it should not be your concern. In your waiting season, your delight should be in the Lord. Trust Him. When we complain that there is no one left for us to marry, we are ultimately expressing our unwillingness to trust the Lord to write our love story. How silly that we would dare second-guess the Author of our life’s story when He knows the end from the beginning! So, yes, there are plenty of amazing people who God is yet preparing for us, but don’t get in a rush to end your singleness so that you can snag yourself one of them. Sisters, every good man is not your man. Fellas, every beautiful lady is not yours to have and hold forever. Wait on God to lead you to the one you’re supposed to finish your life’s mission with. Delight in God and stop looking!

#5: You are not single because you are inadequate.

Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light. — Jesus via Matthew 11:28-30

To my dear friends who suffer from feelings of inadequacy, hopelessness, incompetence, or just a sense of impossibility that marriage or a healthy relationships could ever be a reality in your life…I leave you with this simple, yet powerful truth. God gives strength to the feeble, hope to the hopeless, and comfort to the weary. It doesn’t matter what you have experienced in life, you are not inadequate and a healthy relationship is in God’s dream for you! If you are a believer in Jesus, the Bible says you are more than a conqueror! Every good thing is available to you and I, not because of anything we have done to deserve it, but simply because of what Jesus did for us on the cross. God loves marriage. He desires love for you because He is love. Love doesn’t need you to perform in order to earn it. You need not jump through any hoops. All you must do is let God embrace you in His arms and envelop you in His inconceivable love. That love heals, protects and completes us all through and through. It will wash away every thought and lie from the enemy that tells you that you are inadequate and somehow don’t deserve true love. God’s love will rebuild everything in you the devil tried to destroy…and when that love does its perfect work, God can trust you in the arms of a man or woman who is almost as crazy about you as God is.

I have given you five reasons why I know that you’re not single, but I will close by giving you one reason why I know you ARE single right now. It is this beautiful truth:

You are single because, for the time being, your God wants you all to Himself.