Friday, July 28, 2006

Precious Purity

As a 28 year-old virgin in a gynecologist office, I expect gasps and sideways glances when I speak about my lack of sexual activity. Today was different.

My new male doctor was referred to me through the church. This being my first visit, I spoke with him about my past, and my desire to have his female nurse practitioner do my breast exam. He then shared with me his policy on exams for virgins, which is much less intrusive. He also offered for the nurse practitioner to do the whole exam. We discussed details to make sure that this would be the best measure. While many doctors are sensitive to women in situations like this, this doctor takes a stance on honoring purity in the fear of God. I had come expecting the normal, yet not so comfortable, situation for women. But what I got was a lesson from God.

Just two days prior, I had been walking along a four-lane road in our town. I usually have my workouts planned along long, populated roads. I like the protection advantage that many eyes can provide, though I prefer to work out along trails and quiet roads. Unfortunately on this prior day, a man in a car decided to harass me during a large portion of my workout. I even darted across four lanes to get to the other side as he pulled into a driveway in front of me. Sadly, this is the social transaction I've come to expect. It's so normal for people to look out for their own interests instead of the ways of God. (I'm as guilty as anyone in this.)

As I left the doctors office today, tears streamed down my face as I thanked the Lord for what I didn't know I needed. I needed to have a man make a decision to honor my own purity in the fear of God. I've not had someone knowingly and intentionally do that before. I entered the doctors office expecting the norm, though not horrible in itself. I left with a dose of grace.

Grace comes washing over us at times, like a heavy rain in a sun-parched land. There's so much of God's abundant grace that the soil of our hearts can only take a portion of it in. Even that small, small bit of grace absorption leaves us beyond our saturation point.

I see both of these incidents as a lesson from God. He showed me the world's ways, and he showed me the potential of how a man can honor me through fearing God. In this I know better what to look for in a husband. I also have hope that there is protection and rest in God's ordained boundaries. A man who fully ascribes to God the glory due Him will treat precious what is of great worth and value in His sight. . . for example, our sexual purity before marriage and heart purity once married.

© 2006 by Kendra Hinkle.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Hair in the Popcorn (1 Samuel 6)

One night during my high school years I was at a movie theater with my friends. I purchased a bag of popcorn to eat during the movie. At that age I was a serious long distance runner and did not have much concern for the gallon of fatty, fake butter that was poured over my corn. It was a delightful mouth of salty butterness. Some time into the show, I froze. Danger. Very serious danger was in my mouth! Trying to keep composure of both my outward reaction and my gag reflex, I began to pull a very long tangled mess of popcorn and hair out of my mouth. Even worse was the fact that I had unknowingly swallowed part of it though it was still attached. Extracting it was NOT fun.

At that point, what do you do? You can complain to the manager, but none of that theater's popcorn is going to make its way back into my mouth. The ordinary (someone else's hair) had already mingled with the holy (my popcorn). May it never be!

The closing of 1 Samuel 6 is quite similar if you think creatively about it. The Ark of God was holy. And God intended for Israel to also be a holy nation. ("You shall be holy as I am holy." Lev. 11:44-47) On the contrary Israel mingled with the ordinary, Godless nations around them. It affected how they treated the Holy God.

For example, Israel saw the Ark being carried home by two milch cows pulling a cart and made a burnt sacrifice is made from the cows and the cart. As I read I think, "They've got it. They are using the ordinary to honor God." Yet, ignorant and enjoying idolatry, Israel forgot the holiness of God. Men curiously peered into the Ark as if it were ordinary, but God had instructed them otherwise.

By their sin these men fell to death at the hand of a holy God. What is holy was not intended to be mingled with ordinary, Godless elements. Holiness is meant to define the ordinary, but in our sin we use the ordinary in rebellion against God. Like a hair in the throat of God is our ignorant mingling of the holy and the ordinary for selfish pursuit.

To apply this principle, I find myself convicted of worshipping the image in the mirror as if it defines who I am and what I will be worthy of, but God has instructed me to find my worth and my value in Him. He is the source of my worth and my very body is called a temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 6:19). By letting the ordinary define my life, I will have a failing standard to judge by. But keeping my heart tuned to the Holy One allows me wisdom and help in removing the unholy hair from my popcorn.

© 2006 by Kendra Hinkle.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Hot Potato Ark (1 Samuel 5)

In chapter 4 God did not show up to help when Israel used the Ark as a lucky charm in their battle with the Philistines. Israel was living in an unholy way by mimicking the pagan religions around them. The nations around them viewed gods as limited to particular elements like controlling the sea, having power over fertility, or having powers within a certain nation's borders. Israel lived apart from God in their hearts, yet assumed that God was contained by the Ark of the Covenant. If they brought it to battle, so God would be with them. Unfortunately, their plan did not work and God chose to remain silent and unmoved while they were spanked in battle.

It almost seems like a paradox in chapter 5, when the Ark of God gets passed around Philistia like a hot potato, receiving a bold shout of disapproval from God. Each city it goes into is struck with plagues, confusion, and pestilence. Among these Godless people, the Ark represents the presence and power of a God greater than their own gods. After 7 months, they finally decide to return the Ark to Israel so they can resume their lives of peaceful idolatry.

To each nation, God disciplines like a wise father. He chastises and communicates to each so that they will understand who He is. To Israel, who has known God, He withdraws his presence when they limit Him and try to manipulate him. His silent resistance communicates disapproval. Their worst fate is the loss of Almighty God, and they get to taste the loss of His presence and favor. Though still blessed with His presence because of His choice to make them His people, they do not have freedom from experiencing the consequences of their sin. A holy God among sinful people requires people to be made holy. Holiness is immutable, therefore it is Israel who must be transformed before God and not God before Israel.

For Philistia, a nation ignorant of God, he also speaks in terms they understand. When the Ark is placed next to Dagon (a pagan god), the people of the city thrice find it face down in the dust next to the Ark. Pagan gods had no power outside of their boundaries, but God shows His power in every city that the Ark enters to rest. The pagans may not know God, but they see and experience his almighty power and dominion. A holy God living among sinful people requires them to be changed. Ignorant of God, Philistia returned to their former ways by choosing to remove the holy from their presence.

Overall, what we see in both situations is this:
--living in the presence of a holy God requires a sinner to be changed
--God's will is for His own glory among all people
--He is directing His purposes, even when things seem to have gone so wrong
--He will not tolerate untruth (Israel) or ignorance (Philistia)

© 2006 by Kendra Hinkle.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Return to Me (1 Samuel 4)

Lip service cannot hide the heart.
I am not fooled by guile.
In true repentance should my daughter return,
her heart would be safe in me.
Yet, Israel has forsaken her first Love
with a ferocious appetite for the wind.

Her walls of protective blessing obey my voice,
crumbling before her enemies.
Adamantly in desperation she raises a flag of victory in my Name,
but pretending my presence does not hide her bleeding heart.
“Return to Me, my love, and you will be safe.”
But she does not want the Holy.

Decisively, in glorious array, I sit unmoved and silent
as a tidal wave of Philistine fury rises from my deep.
Tragedy upon tragedy sweeps away her men of renown.
Wisdom wails through her pain, “The glory of God has departed!”
I have chosen to chasten her hard heart
so she might wholly return to me.
© 2006 by Kendra Hinkle.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Obedience to the Call (1 Samuel 3)

Samuel definitely gets press time in this chapter. He was the ignorant boy who acted with a right heart, while the High Priest's educated and highly positioned sons brought down the house of God with their selfish ambition. Samuel was obedient and faithful. Eli's sons were impatient and greedy. God's character ultimately allowed Eli's son's be ruined in their folly, while He raised Samuel to a place of honor. Remember that "man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart"(1 Samuel 16:7b).

Samuel slept in the Holy of Holies at the center of the Temple to make sure that the golden lamp stands did not extinguish before sun-up. Samuel heard God call His name one night while sleeping there, and the Bible reminds us that Samuel had not yet experientially known God. The boy was obedient to authority and in learning, but three times he runs to Eli instead of responding to the voice of God. He was ignorant of God's voice. Eli discerned that Samuel was being called by God and taught the boy to humbly listen.

The first of the two characteristics that I really like in Samuel is obedience. Samuel was a student and a servant for Eli. He had the job of sleeping in the Temple floor and putting oil into the lamps. As a faithful servant according to Eli's instruction, there was no glory by human standards. But Samuel had a great heart. Later in the chapter, Samuel must be obedient to God and faithfully deliver his first prophesy. Though he is afraid, Samuel must speak painful truth to his earthly mentor and surrogate father, Eli. Samuel's obedience is tested not only through human authority, but through God's authority.

Secondly, Samuel does not make a place for himself to be honored. As he places himself into the center of God's will and listens, Samuel is directed to a place of honor that only God could give. From lamplighter to national leader, God chooses to exalt Samuel to lead the people back to God.

It is very tempting for me, in my desire for an official job in young women's ministry, to make much of myself. Within, I have the very heart of Eli's sons. Self-promotion and greed motivate me. Yet, through Christ I have the capacity for obedience and a God-ward motivated heart. His great act of mercy through Jesus enables me to trust that He has chosen to exalt and make low according to His purposes on earth. I do not need to make much of myself, but to trust that He knows better than I what will bring Him the glory. As I faithfully serve in what I know, He will make a straight path before me.

© 2006 by Kendra Hinkle.