Sunday, April 6, 2008

Who's Your Daddy?

I recently returned from an overnight retreat with my gurlz from church, grades 6-12. The boyz were there, too, but I was responsible for the lesson for the ladies. It was my first full-fledged outing for a WHOLE lesson. I just wanted to share it, or at least part of it....just a warning, it's really L-O-N-G....remember it was written for teens/pre-teens. But lots of it applies to you and me. And Herbert, too.....

Who’s Your Daddy?

Genesis 1:26-27
Then God said, "Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, [b] and over all the creatures that move along the ground."
27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them (my emphasis).

What do you think of when you think of the image of God? What does it mean to be made in His image? What would the face of God look like? In Exodus 3:6 we are told that Moses hid his face because he was afraid to look at God. Why do you suppose Moses was afraid?
5 "Do not come any closer," God said. "Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground." 6 Then he said, "I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob." At this, Moses hid his face, because he was afraid to look at God.
I imagine that God is visually beautiful—so beautiful that we couldn’t even conceive of the magnitude of his beauty. And think! YOU are made in that image. But let’s look at the part that tells us that God made us in his image. If we are created in God’s image, it means not only do we have physical beauty, but we have his attributes, his characteristics. When I was growing up I always heard that God created man (Adam) in his image. I was taught, or it was kind of assumed, that Eve was basically an afterthought. In fact, this isn’t true at all. This is really exciting. God created man last, the pinnacle of his creation. Then the Bible tells us that God didn’t want Adam to be alone. After He created everything—heavens and earth, flora and fauna, grass, trees, sky—he created Adam—his masterpiece. But when Adam was created God said...hey, wait a minute…I’m not done yet. It’s not good—not right. Something -someONE is missing. That someone is Eve. Eve is the crowning event of creation. God’s final, finishing touch. When God creates Eve, he calls her his ezer kenedgo. In Hebrew this is very difficult to translate. Some translations are helper, companion—but these words lessen what God intended Eve to be. The closest translation that we have for ezer kenedgo is “sustainer beside him.” The entire Old Testament uses the word ezer only 20 other times. And each and every time ezer is describing God, himself. And not only that, he’s being described as the one who sustains, the one who comes through when he is most needed. The ONE who is meeting a desperate need. And girls: here’s news for you. You are the Eves of today.
Think about these two things: God created you as a woman, a Female. And God created you in His image. So, in you­ are those attributes and characteristics of God that are both feminine and holy. There are also attributes and characteristics that are considered masculine and holy.
Leader – desires respect
Provider – fulfilled when he’s meeting needs
Warrior—proves his worth and love by acquiring power and protecting
Just—plans and projects. Thinks about principles
Passionate—Aroused physically immediately by sight and touch. Spiritually and mentally aroused by what he deeply believes in
Practical—gets right to the point
Logical—evaluates based on facts
Futuristic—looks for new challenges
Modest of Soul—not embarrassed by physical nakedness. Says what he thinks, but sometimes avoids revealing his emotions and feelings, his spiritual side
Co-Laborer—easily led when she has confidence in her leader
Nurturer—Fulfilled with nourishing the live of another—physically, emotionally
Lover—Fulfilled when she demonstrates love to others, Also a Warrior. Conquers by love--prayer
Compassionate—Merciful, people oriented. Sensitive to individuals
Romantic—Physically aroused by what is said or done. Needs to hear or see love demonstrated
Kind—Patient…willing to listen
Intuitive—She has a gift to know about someone without prior information or evidence
Realistic—Looks at the present. Wants to preserve what she already has
Modest of Body—Hesitates to expose her physical self. Shows what she’s feeling by what she’s wearing. Not usually embarrassed to share her emotions or spiritual side.

Now these lists aren’t exclusive. It doesn’t necessarily mean that men aren’t merciful or kind, or romantic. Nor does it mean that women can’t be leaders, or warriors or just. It’s just the way we’re bent by God to have these characteristics within us. By realizing that God created BOTH man and woman in His image, we are able to become more fully alive within him. We are able to better become the women that He intended us to be.
There are so many expectations that the world, your folks, your friends, even the church places on you as young women. There’s Proverbs 31. Has anyone ever read that? WOW! What a to-do list! I’m a pretty capable person—but I could never ever get all that done! When does that woman sleep?
Are all those things desirable? Yes! Absolutely! But more, so much more than checking off this list of what a woman of virtue is, God wants your heart. He wants you to pursue him….even romance him! And Surprise! He pursues and romances you! He longs for you to long for Him. He’s you’re Abba, daddy, and you are his crowning creation.
So how do you start? How do you go about becoming a woman of virtue? A woman whose heart totally belongs to God? Proverbs 4:23 tells us this:
23 Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.

When the Bible refers to your heart, it doesn’t just mean the fist-sized muscle in the center of your chest. It means YOUR CENTER. Your thoughts, your passions, your desires. The part of you that gets really, really happy and the part of you that makes you feel really, really sad. And this verse tells us that ABOVE ALL you have to protect it—your life depends on it.
How can you protect your heart? You can hide. Never put yourself out there—never love anyone, because when you love, you risk being hurt. Never give your heart away. To Anyone. Because they may not come through for you. But when you do that you are limiting God. You limit the joys that he offers you.
The biggest key to protecting your heart, is to let God in. He will protect you, he will come through for you. He will be your ezer.
When you let God in, truly let Him in, things change. You become more attune to what’s right and wrong. You think about you’re myspace page. You realize that the way you act when you proclaim that you’re a Christian, has an effect on the way that non-believers think about Jesus. You can put a check mark over your tongue. You don’t want to spread the latest juicy gossip. Not just because it would hurt someone. Not just because it might come back and bite you, but because it would hurt God.
When you let God in, you handle joys and disappointments differently. The joys are better, greater. And you are more grateful. And the disappointments? Yes, they still hurt. As teenagers, they can hurt so strongly, cut so deeply, that you don’t think you can ever recover. They seem insurmountable. But when you let God in, he will help you through those disappointments. He’ll show you through his Word, through the people he puts around you, how to cope. And he’ll weep and grieve with you. And give you reason to hope.
By letting God in, letting Him become the Abba daddy father that He longs to be for you, you are opening yourself up to a life that you can only imagine. And just like your parents, God gives us boundaries. Do’s and don’ts. Not because he is on a power trip. Not because he wants to control us. But because he loves us.
God gives us boundaries to live by. He gave us the freedom to choose, but he gave us boundaries. Suppose I had a little goldfish in a bowl here. Let’s call him Herbert. Now, Herbert seems pretty content in his little bowl. He’s got a little fake pagoda that he swims in and out of. And I got him a sweet little plastic fern he can hide behind. I feed him his favorite fish flakes every day. I clean out his bowl regularly. I provide well for Herbert. I really love Herbert. I want Herbert to have all that life offers him. I want Herbert to be able to choose his own way. To make his own decisions. Herbert, I think, should be allowed to go free. I don’t want him to be held captive in this little bowl all his life. I don’t want him to bump his little head on the walls of that bowl. I think he should be allowed to see the world. He should be able to find his own way, to experience life. So, rather than keep him in his bowl, I put him on the table. What’s going to happen to Herbert if I set him free on this table? He’s going to flail around, flopping he won’t be able to breathe. Ever hear of the expression “fish out of water?” If I set Herbert free, if I take away the boundaries of his bowl, he’s going to not have a very good life, is he? For sure, not a very long one, either. I wouldn’t be loving Herbert if I set him free on that table there, would I? Now, I don’t know if goldfish long to see the world. I don’t know if they even know there is a world beyond the wall of their glass bowls. But I know that if they exceed those boundaries, they are bound for trouble. If we go outside the boundaries that God sets for us, we, too are bound for trouble.
When you are with boys, there are boundaries you should follow. You don’t want to dress provocatively. Remember, when we talked about men/boys being passionate? When you dress in a way that distracts boys, that causes them to lust after you, you aren’t being fair to them. You are being a stumbling block to them. You’re tempting them to sin. You also cause yourself to sin—to miss the mark. You are dressing so that your attention is more on “do I look good, who is looking at me?” than it is on God and on being loving and kind. Your body, the creation of God, is a precious gift that you have been given. When you share too much of it, physically or visually, you are lessening the value of that gift. You are making it less precious. You don’t want to casually flirt with boys, to make them think that you’re an easy mark. If you don’t put God in first place in your heart, where He can protect you, you become tempted to go outside the boundaries God has set for you. You become tempted to fill up the longing for a loving relationship with God with a loving relationship with a boy. At your ages, this confuses things, and muddies up your priorities. And it has life-long effects. Remember Herbert? Following boundaries in being modest, is protecting your heart.
When you expose yourself to things that you know you shouldn’t (TV, movies, music with explicit lyrics) you are crossing dangerous boundaries. And what makes them dangerous is that you don’t realize the danger you are in. Garbage in/garbage out is an old computer saying. You numb yourself to the ways in the shows you watch, the words you are hearing, so that you don’t realize Satan is using those things to distract you, to take your eyes off God, and to make your heart less protected. There is a story I have read about a family with 4 teenagers who wanted to see a movie that had been rated PG-13 or R. The kids really, really wanted to see this movie. Their dad said “no.” The kids came up with a list of the pros and cons about the movie: The movie had a great moral theme. The good guys win in the end; there were only 3 swear words in the movie, the only violence was a building exploding and the only sex wasn’t actually shown, but was more implied, off-screen. Some people from their church had even seen the movie, and said it wasn’t all that bad. Dad still said no. The next night (when the kids wanted to join a big group of kids going to the movie) Dad brought out a big plate of brownies. YUM! The dad offered them to the teens, but said now “Wait—I want to tell you about the pros and cons of these brownies before you eat them. They are made by the hand of your loving father, made with the finest chocolate, real butter, fresh eggs. They even have pecans.” The kids were thinking at this point, great—and each grabbed one, poised to bite into it. “But wait! There’s one special ingredient in these brownies. You see, I put just a little bit of dog poo in them. I cooked it to 350 degrees, so all the bacteria have been killed. There’s just a tiny bit. I bet you can’t even taste it.” The teens didn’t eat the brownies…no surprise, here. The dad acted surprised though….there was only just a tiny bit of poo in the brownies. And the rest of the ingredients were great. The kids held firm. Dad then explained that the brownies were like the movie (or music, or TV…or whatever you expose yourself to that you know you shouldn’t). Satan would like us to believe that just a little bit of evil doesn’t matter. But, the truth is even a little bit of pop makes the difference between a great treat and something disgusting and totally unacceptable. So protect your hearts by not exposing them to the evil that pervades the world.
And filling up your life with things that takes your eyes off of God allows you to feel like it’s ok to cross other boundaries. When you spend hours and hours on myspace or dittytalk or just texting back and forth to your friends, it’s a lot of fun. And God wants you to have that community, those relationships. But what he doesn’t want is for your life to be so crowded, your time so consumed by those kinds of things, that you don’t have time for Him. It says in the Bible that he is a jealous God. He wants to spend time with you. He doesn’t want you to cram him in-between a text and a post here and there. And just an aside about dittytalk and myspace, facebook and the like: the internet is forever. Once you hit that enter key—that send key—that upload, it’s there. Yes, you can delete it. But it’s out there for the whole world to see. And there’s no guarantee that before you’ve deleted it, it’s been downloaded by someone else, and they’ll keep it going…in perpetuity. Or that email you sent as a funny may get passed along to someone who you never meant to see it. Yes, you can say I have it set to private, only people I invite can see my stuff. Really? That’s not true. And the photos you may post—anyone can see them. Your mom. Your dad. Your pastor. Me. Same goes for the comments you make. So, before you send it, before you enter it, think about the repercussions. Remember there’s someone else on the other side of that link, looking and feeling and thinking about what they see you’ve posted. Think about who may see it. Imagine if one of your non-believing friends looked at it. Would it make your walk with God real to them? Or would you look like a hypocrite. Someone who says one thing and then turns around and does another.
So girls, write that verse on your hearts. Proverbs 4:23: Above all else protect your heart, for it is the wellspring of life. And let God in. Allow Him to fill those empty places inside of you. He wants you to play a special part in His story. A part that ONLY you can fill. Pursue Him with all your heart and He will welcome you with open, loving arms.

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