The Apple Tree, Part 2

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The Amazing Apple

 Miss Amazing is human just like you and me.  She’s not perfect by any means, but instead of focusing her life on something as shallow as charm and beauty, she has something going for her that will ensure her success every time.  Her value in life is described in the last half of Proverbs 31:30:  but a woman who fears the Lord, she will be praised. 

A trap for even Miss Amazing is to believe she must be loud and aggressive to attract a man to her life.  They crave the same “praise” that Miss Easy is looking for and cry, “I’ll never get noticed if I don’t show off!”  I know how it is.  As much as I want to be an amazing apple, I’ve been guilty of trying to impress men with my abilities and the things I’ve done in life.  I’ve even thrown in a little flirting!  Sadly, that game always ended up sour.  I didn’t act myself and walk away with no man on my arm—even though I tried so hard.  I can sense God shaking His head sadly, knowing I’d missed the point of being Christa—daughter of the King.  I remember clearly when He told me, “You don’t show yourself off; I will show you off.”   He wants nothing more than to show off His greatest possession, and He didn’t need my help.

My brother wisely put it this way, “If you have to do all that [immodesty, flirting, etc.] to get attention, then you must think that your character isn’t enough to attract someone.  Or you don’t have much character at all.”  That can be a painful statement, but it’s true.  It’s natural to want to feel accepted, to have a man’s attention, and it’s not wrong to tell people about ourselves and what you do.

You show honor to God when you take care of the body He has given you, but honorable, satisfying favor and attention doesn’t come from aggressively seeking it. Proverbs 27:2 says, Let another man praise you, and not your own mouth; a stranger, and not your own lips.  Your human flesh wants to do the exact opposite!  You want to push yourself ahead because you want that relationship now!  That wish will never be blessed by God.  He has another plan – total and complete trust that He will honor you for who you are and for the way you live.

“Fearing the Lord” means putting Him first in your life and developing a lifestyle that honors Him. Unlike Miss Easy, your entire focus in life is on giving Him your all, rather than promoting the Big Apple—also known as me, myself, and I.  Since you know you’re representing God, you should have no desire for selfish flattery or immodest dressing.  Purity in your hearts, minds, and bodies is your greatest aim.  When a man looks at you, you want him to see your beauty—your real beauty. A godly difference stands out and makes a godly man take notice.

Sincerity of Heart

Since flirting and flattery are shallow and selfish, Miss Amazing will choose to be gracious in her interaction with men.  Instead of aggressively pulling their attention toward herself, she quietly demands their attention by being a woman of honor.  When I say demands, I don’t mean with words or actions.  Miss Amazing will call for a man’s respect because she’s different from all the other girls.  This is the kind of woman Mr. Brave is looking for.

Godly Friendships

Miss Amazing knows that “bad company corrupts good habits” (I Corinthians 15:33).  She doesn’t want to fit in just anywhere.  She wants to mingle with people who have a lifestyle and standards like hers.  With those, she’ll find the strength and encouragement she needs to maintain her “Amazing Apple” status.  She doesn’t think she’s too good to reach out to the world around her; she just realizes that what she wants in a man can’t be found in the world’s popular crowd.   She’s looking for Mr. Brave, who has made his choice to mingle in the same crowds.

Internal Value

Although Miss Amazing desires a beautiful face and body like every other girl, she also knows that the most important part of her cannot be seen.  The real her, her born again spirit, is what’s most important.  She considers what God sees to determine her value (I Samuel 16:7).  As a result, she takes care of her outside by styling her hair, wearing make-up, and staying in tune with the latest fashions.  In the process, she makes sure that what she wears isn’t provocative and gaudy.  She’s not so insecure in herself that she must rely on the perfection of these things to find her worth.  After all, she wants to attract Mr. Brave, not Mr. Easy.

Self-confidence

Miss Amazing is a confident person.  She knows what God has created her to be and is strong – strong enough not to fall for every man who gives her a second glance.  She’s not exemplifying pride or a characteristic of an extroverted personality.  She does not show off self.   She shows an understanding of a value placed on her life by Someone bigger than herself.  Such knowledge spurs her to fly beyond the mediocre vanities of life and on to greatness, no matter what other people think.  Like all men, Mr. Brave is attracted to this characteristic.  Something is so beautiful about human character, especially when it’s filled with God’s character.

Focus on the Future

Miss Amazing knows her place in the Kingdom of God.  She knows her role as ambassador and desires more than anything to hear God say, “Well done, good and faithful servant” (Matthew 25:23) It may mean that she becomes a nurse, a secretary, or a missionary in her pursuit.  No matter what her call is, she makes this her focus.  It’s her priority . . . and she desires no other way than to meet Mr. Brave on the road to her destiny.

Integrity

Miss Amazing knows that the “integrity of the upright will guide her” (Proverbs 11:3).  She has chosen to honor Jesus with her lifestyle, which means living a life of character.  Even when she doesn’t feel like it, she chooses to live according to God’s Word.  As a result, she trusts that God will “guide” her to Mr. Brave in His timing.  Because Mr. Brave values a life of doing what’s right at all costs, he will soon find her.

Wisdom

Miss Amazing finds great value in the wisdom of God.  She craves His Word, and desires to be led only by the Holy Spirit.  She knows this is the only way she will be a success in life.  She wants to “redeem” her time while on the earth (Ephesians 5:16) rather than make poor decisions because she chose to be led by her own mind.  Whether it be choosing the right car in the lot, or choosing the right husband, wisdom is her guide.  In the meantime, Mr. Brave is led by wisdom himself.  That hunger for wisdom will draw them together like “iron sharpens iron” (Proverbs 27:17).

***

 When you think of an “Easy Apple,” it’s easy to imagine a girl who waits tables at a bar at night, or who looks like a hooker strutting through the mall.  That’s not always the case, though.  Sometimes “Easy Apples” can be sweet Christian young women who don’t really know what they’re doing when they decide to flirt or throw on a mini skirt.  Often, they are ladies who simply want to feel accepted and appreciated.  They’re insecure about who they are and want someone to find them special and add value to their lives.

If this is you, don’t let the devil condemn you.  Everyone has given in to these temptations at one time or another.  The good news is that being Miss Easy doesn’t have to be permanent.  The simple act of repenting and changing the direction of your lifestyle is all that’s needed.  There’s a greater place to live than in the mud around the tree trunk.  There’s a branch with your name on it – a branch reserved for you, Miss Amazing Apple.

Even Miss Amazing doesn’t always think she’s worth pursuing.  They don’t see the value of having characteristics like these.  That’s usually why they give in to any man who comes along.  As a child of God, you should consider yourself worth pursuing—not easily caught!  You know you’re a lady, therefore, expect to be treated like one!  Like Proverbs says, see yourself as having worth far above rubies. Believe that you are a gem, and nothing – and no one – can take that value away!

Who can find a virtuous wife? For her worth is far above rubies. Proverbs 31:10

 

 

 

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The Apple Tree, Part 1

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Though some social media should never be allowed on cyber space, I came across this gem quote by Pete Wentz in an email years ago.  I can’t vouch for him and his lifestyle choice, but I do appreciate his insight when it comes to women and their value.

“Girls are like apples on trees. The best ones are at the top of the tree. The boys don’t want to reach for the good ones because they’re afraid of falling and getting hurt. Instead they get the rotten apples from the ground that aren’t as good, but easy. So the apples up top think that something’s wrong with them when in reality they’re amazing. They just have to wait for the right boy to come along – the one who’s brave enough to climb all the way to the top of the tree.”

Ever felt as though you were one of those apples at the top of the tree, totally invisible to any suitable candidate because you were so high above the ground?  You watch with envy when the other young women get snatched up and whisked away to their fairytale romance, and you’re left hanging from the highest branch…waiting.

I know how it feels.  I was thirty-two when I got married.  My high standards and desire for God’s best kept me “hanging” for years.  However, when I looked at some of the other “apples” and what they had to go through to get their man, hanging didn’t look so bad.  I refused to be one of those “easy” girls.  I wanted to be listed in the category of “amazing.”  I wanted to attract the guy “who’s brave enough to climb all the way to the top.”  I realized, though, that attracting the right one comes with a price…the price of sticking to what makes me who I am.

Like I did for a season, the world looks at a person and finds that person’s value in what that person can do.  Look at Hollywood.  Very rarely do you see a magazine headline boasting about a woman’s virtues: “Sally Smith Is Voted ‘Most Virtuous Woman’ in 2016!”  Instead, you’ll see them applauding a person’s acting ability, great talents, or amazing beauty.  All of it is based on what that person can do or what they like.  But God declares that a person’s value is based on who they are as God’s creation and on the love He has for them, regardless of their talents or looks.  God looks at the heart when it comes to deciding a person’s worth.

But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look at his appearance or at his physical stature, because I have refused him. For the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” I Samuel 16:7

God made you amazing! David said in Psalm 139:14, I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; marvelous are Your works, and that my soul knows very well.  He placed in your unique characteristics that make you you, that make your life interesting to both you and the people around you.  Your life is colored by your talents, personality, likes and dislikes.  But who you are is the most important part about you.

My favorite verse since I was a teenager has been Proverbs 31:30:  Charm is deceitful and beauty is passing, but a woman who fears the Lord, she will be praised. Your maturity, your lifestyle, and your godly character are what counts in a relationship.  They are the attributes that will stand for eternity and never fade with age.  They’re free, and you can have them without being the next Hilton or Lopez.

If you’re a young woman whose focus is on being like Jesus, your desire will be to use your look, talents, and abilities to advance the Kingdom of God.  If you use those talents to try to attract a boy, you will be very disappointed.  Who you are determines the man that you attract.  Do you want a man who is only attracted to your looks and talents, or a man that values what God’s desires most in a person?  A man who only appreciates your body or your amazing singing voice will be a man that abandons you when those things fade and times get tough.  That would be the man going for the “easy apple.”

The Easy Apple

Miss Easy is the type of girl who’s desperate for a relationship.  She hangs around the trunk of the tree, hoping that the right man for her will see her in plain sight and sweep her off her feet.  The problem is that Miss Easy Apple’s method of attracting a guy to her life is based on the shallow exterior.  As a result, who she attracts will be someone attracted to exactly what she’s flaunting—shallow charm and beauty.  In the book of Proverbs, this woman is considered very foolish.

Flattery

Flattery is excessive or insincere praise.  Miss Easy often uses this trait to get a man’s attention by raving on and on about his looks or talents.  Since men thrive on affirmation, a guy that uses flattery himself will rise to the occasion.   This means is setting Miss Easy up for heartbreak because she’ll soon find that everything Mr. Easy’s been saying to her wasn’t from his heart.  Though Mr. Brave likes affirmation like every other man, he sees right through her shallow praise.

Flirtation

Like flattery, flirting is based on selfishness. Some people just think it’s cute, but it’s making a demand on someone to focus on them, but for the wrong reasons.  The guys who respond to flirting are the ones who do plenty of it themselves—with whichever girl is closest.   Excessive flirtation, on the other hand, makes Mr. Brave nauseous.

Foolish Friends

Miss Easy also likes to hang around the “in” crowd because she thinks it will cause her to be more accepted.  This “hangout” might give her a chance with one of those hot guys everyone raves over.  This action will also turn out disappointing.  Most of the time, the popular crowd is made up of peers who sport worldly lifestyles and everything Miss Easy should avoid if she really wants to get somewhere in life.  Mr. Brave doesn’t hang out there, but Mr. Easy sure does!

No Plan for the Future

Miss Easy’s main plan for her future is romance.  Her world revolves around the next date.  No matter what she does, her mind immediately goes to the men who will potentially be there.  If she applies for a new job, she considers the male employees.  If she goes to the store, she wonders what man she might run into.  Her focus is consistently revolving around little more than gratifying her romance life.  If she does happen to get an exciting idea to attend college or help in her church, the nagging idea of another boyfriend is not far behind.  Unfortunately, any man who’s focus is on Jesus will find that life’s mission in another young woman very shallow.  Only Mr. Easy finds her unending spontaneity enticing.

Lack of Integrity

Integrity is a near-lost art to Miss Easy.  She is so engrossed in promoting her life and her relationships that she will do anything to get it.  A little fib here and there doesn’t seem to faze her as long as she gets what she wants.   That lack of integrity shows up in more than her work ethic, however. It shows up in her relationships as well.  She will put on a “good girl” face and tell a few sweet lies to get a guy to think she’s something more than she really is.  This will eventually backfire, however, because even Mr. Easy will eventually see through her charade.  Mr. Brave will steer clear from the very start.

Foolishness

Because of her lack of integrity, Miss Easy tends to make foolish decisions based on the way she feels.  Her money very quickly disappears at the mall or online.  She agrees to make deals with people because it looks good on the surface.  Being led by the Holy Spirit, of course, isn’t even considered.  Again and again her foolish lifestyle draws her away from stability and the life God had always intended for her to have.  In the meantime, Mr. Brave is going in the opposite direction, while foolish Mr. Easy is in hot pursuit.

External Value

Miss Easy craves beauty, but like charm, it’s deceitful.  It not only can change; it will change. There’s not a person on this planet who doesn’t undergo a shift in appearance as the years go by.  Because her value and means of attracting guys is all wrapped around the exterior, this attribute is especially important to Miss Easy.  She’ll “dress to impress” and spend hours preparing to flaunt herself.  She sees her worth in how she looks as if that’s the only significant part of her.  Mr. Easy will be instantly attracted for all the wrong reasons, but Mr. Brave will decline because of the lack of virtue he sees in her heart.

To be continued…

The Perfect Romance

This thought from the year I got married showed up on my Facebook newsfeed this morning. It’s so precious to see what God can do when you put Him first!

“A young woman is often told that she needs some romance in her life when she’s not in a relationship. However, she does have romance if she’s a Christian. It’s with Jesus, the Lover of her soul, the One who loves her so much that He gave His life for her. There’s no greater romance than rejecting counterfeit lovers for the One who loves her most and who’s plan for romance is perfect.”

When Dating Is Wrong

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We’ve heard a lot of opinions about dating.  When is it appropriate to date?  At what age should a person start dating?  Is courtship better than dating?  Is dating even healthy for a Christian? With so many views, we could get confused and frustrated in culture where dating many times over is totally acceptable.

When we get down to the root of it all, however, it’s not about dating vs. courtship, or dating only at a certain age.  It’s about staying in the will of God in every area of our relationships.  Though dating in general may not be sinful, a wrong heart motive behind it may be as wrong as dating the wrong person at the wrong time.

God first looks at the heart (I Samuel 16:7).  He always has and always will.  In fact, we can’t even get saved unless we believe in our hearts (Romans 10:9,10).  Many people can “date” with a pure heart motive. However, if the heart motivation behind a dating relationship is wrong in God’s eyes, that dating relationship is not from Him. Dating then is not the issue; the heart is the issue.  Is the heart wrong?  Then the dating is wrong.

As we read the following points ask ourselves, “What is the condition of my heart? Am I dating for the right reasons?”

  1. Am I motivated by filling a need like loneliness?
  2. Am I motivated by the thrill of accessing a certain group?
  3. Am I motivated by avoiding responsibilities?
  4. Am I motivated by ignoring a season of growth and maturing?
  5. Am I motivated by lustful desires?
  6. Am I motivated emotions, and nothing more?
  7. Am I disobeying God when He specifically said not to date this person?

If we answer “yes” to any of these, it’s time to step back and analyze our relationship-.

We must always remember that our actions toward and with people are to be motivated by love.  Love for Jesus and love for others (John 13:34).

When we obey Jesus and His will for our lives, we are loving Him (John 14:15). We don’t ask questions, but simply do what He says, even if it means overcoming disappointment that a relationship may not happen.

When we love others, we don’t use someone’s attention and time for personal gain.  Love doesn’t lead them to do something that will hurt them.  Instead, it strives to lead them into a stronger relationship with God, and helping them stay in – not out – of His will for their lives.  Anything less is selfishness.

When is dating wrong? When it’s not motivated by love.  When is dating right?  When it’s motivated by love . . . and love only.  When this is our motivation, God’s best relationships are sure to find us . . . because our hearts can be trusted!

 

Photo courtesy of Google images.

Hand’s Off!

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In the past, I have tried to make things happen or tried to figure out how I think God should make something happen!  I have a detail-oriented brain that likes to organize everything under the sun, lest –gasp!—the whole world should come to a screeching halt.

One time, I returned from a trip where I had met a bunch of neat people—including a guy.  Once home, I got on the Internet and searched for his name on Facebook.  As soon as I went to click the “Add as Friend” button, God stopped me and told me not to initiate.  I was irritated at the thought, but after a few minutes of mental war, I pulled my cursor away from the button.  The next day (yes, the very next day!) I went to church and got further instructions from God through a traveling evangelist: “The favor factor is on your life.  Don’t mess it up with looking.  Don’t check. God has a plan.  When it’s right, the plan will be perfect.”  Okay, okay, I get the message!

Later there were times when I still had to control my impulses. I was so tempted to try to look up a potential candidate on Facebook, or “innocently” ask questions about so-and-so.  As God pointed out to a friend of mine, who will you thank when you initiate the relationship and get the guy?  You would only be able to pat yourself on the back for the relationship.  That doesn’t honor God, and in the long run, it doesn’t satisfy you.  Better to step back and let God hold the reins.

I’ve heard a pastor put the faith-and-wait issue like this: “Faith is the constant; time is the variable.” Your job is to keep your faith solid and unchanging.  The only thing that may seem uncertain is the timing that only God can handle.  Since God’s capable of doing everything and anything, it would seem logical that He should be the one working out the details.  If you’re anything like I was, though, you want to help God take care of His business.  You know, take some of the load off His shoulders….

Abraham tried to do just that—and paid for it.  While God had a great plan in mind to get Abe’s son, Abraham tried to step in and choose the method himself.  He had a baby through his servant woman.  From then on, nothing but chaos ruled in the house.  Abe ended up sending the woman and his new son away, never to be seen again.  After a good discussion with Abraham, God put His plan into action.  Even when it seemed naturally impossible, the promise showed up through Isaac.

Like Abraham, God wants your dreams to come true through the promise He’s given you, not through your human efforts.  God instructs you in Proverbs 3:5, 6: Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will direct your paths.  If you’re truly trusting God with all your heart—including those romantic dreams—then you’ll be willing to let Him do the work.  Your tiny mind can only reason things through so far before you come up short.  Your benefits result in letting Someone else be the mastermind behind it all.

To be continued…

Love Is a Verb

love is a verb

Love.  We all want it and can’t live without it.  We seek it, idolize it, and make it our life’s goal.  But do we know what we’re really looking for?  Is that object we call “love” really what we’re expecting?

Love is depicted in many ways in the world.  We see movies, novels, and dating relationships describing love as an emotional tie to another person.  We’re given the idea that love is found only on Valentine’s Day in the form of a box of chocolates.  We’re convinced that love is found in the physical attraction to someone through a kiss or an embrace.  Worst of all, lust is portrayed as synonymous to love, despite all its harmful effects.  Out of all the choices, which one is truly “love”?

God, of course, gives the most accurate description of love:

Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends. John 15:13

Here is a definition of love most of our culture knows nothing about!  We see very little giving, much less dying for others.   But according to the God of the universe, the greatest form of love is giving up one’s life.

For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. Romans 5:7

The greatest example of this, of course, is Jesus.  He dared! People all over the world have laid down their life for someone or something, but never for so great a cause.  Others have laid down their lives for their friends, but rarely for their enemies.  In contrast, Jesus did this for people in the present and people in the future, regardless of their love for Him.  He allowed Himself to be given.

For God so love the world that He gave His only begotten son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. John 3:16

Our human instinct is to fulfill its cravings at the expense of everyone else, with no pain toward ourselves.  Jesus, however, commanded us to love our neighbor – friend or foe – as ourselves (Mark 12:31).  When we love “us,” do we take advantage of ourselves?  Do we take from ourselves more readily than we give?  Do we deprive ourselves of our daily needs?  They answer is clearly “no”, yet we often do exactly that to others, not realizing that we’re stepping out of the boundaries of love.  We forget God’s command to do unto others as we would have them do to us (Luke 6:31).

It’s easy to give a gift or assist someone we like.  We feel more inclined to show love to someone who loves us in return.  But what about the times someone isn’t able to return the favor, or chooses not to?  That’s when we are called to be the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37).

A man was beaten, robbed, and left for dead on the side of the road.  Shamefully, two devoted Jews passed by without offering aid.  They were followed by a Gentile, focused on a destination of his own.  He stumbled across that horrific sight crying out to him for help.  He hesitated. Time was ticking away.  He was human like the rest of us, so I could imagine the debate that went on in his head: “You’ll be late for your meeting!  If you’re late, they’ll never promote you to that new position!  Let someone else come and help him.”  Thankfully, he didn’t give in to the argument.  He stepped aside and assisted the man, inconveniencing himself and his pocketbook.

This Samaritan was a “good” Samaritan.  But what separates a person from the just “good” and the “loving” is the action taken to back up the goodness.  A “good” man has a few compassionate thoughts fly through his head, yet still continues on because he must keep his schedule.  A “good and loving” person will go beyond inward goodness; he will put aside his desires and help the person less fortunate. Greater still is when he pays the extra bit to keep the other person going, even after he must leave. That is love.

Just the same, negative feelings often arise when our flesh wishes to do anything other than show love.  It may be that it’s going to take an uncomfortable amount of effort to show it.  We might have to swallow our pride and humble ourselves in front of someone we’ve wronged.  Someone who has hated us might be a candidate for love, but our flesh may cry for justice rather than mercy.  Whatever the situation, we cannot rely on our senses.  The greatest test of love is how we act when our feelings don’t line up with our actions.  It’s an act of faith that says, “I will do this out of a tender heart toward God, regardless of the way I feel.”

An emotion-led relationship is often controlled by hormones and has nothing to do with commitment.  The feelings change the moment someone does something we don’t like. The fuzzy feelings of getting a gift and a special night out eventually fade.  Physical touch and sexual “love” is temporary and subject to a person’s presence.  Lust does nothing but take out of selfishness.  The only reliable and authentic form of true love is found in only one place – in the nature of the Father.  Apart from Him, we flounder in our own strength to accurately show and receive love.  When we don’t know Him, we don’t know love, for He is love.

A minister once said that “love is a verb.”  It’s an action, not a feeling.  It’s a decision, not a fleeting thought.  Thankfully, Jesus understood this.  He acted on His love to the point of torture.  This may never be demanded of us; but like the Good Samaritan, we still have opportunities every day to put down our flesh and its desire to take rather than give.   We may have to reprogram our minds to think without selfishness interfering with our actions.  We may have to start with the small actions of love in order to attain to the big actions.  The opportunities are there if we’ll keep our eyes on the greatest Example God gave us – Jesus, love in the flesh.

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.  He who does not love does not know God, for God is love. I John 4:7, 8

.Photo courtesy of Google Images

Christ Is Enough

We live in a culture of romance. So much romance that it seems our lives are incomplete without it. But if we are Christians, we are complete, with or without a boyfriend or girlfriend, husband or wife.  He is enough, more than enough, because He alone can fulfill us. He has taken care of the most important part of our lives. Our sins have been forgiven, our eternity set in heaven, and our value determined by Him alone. No person or relationship can fulfill all that. Though God may bless us with a spouse, Christ is ultimately enough.