by Gina L.
from Virtuous Daughters, February/March 2019~Volume 18, Number 6
"Panning for Gold" Proverbs 31 Study Series Part 23
What will you be remembered for after you breathe your last breath? It is a sobering and difficult question. Will it be your stylish clothing or your quick wit? Will it be your wall of accomplishments or your trophies of praise? Will it be your pile of possessions or your pretty hair? Probably it will be none of those things, but rather something related to who you are on the inside. But how does this inner character manifest itself outwardly in a life? We can't see inside and know what the heart and mind of a person is. Most often we see the inner workings of the heart by the outer workings of the hands and mouth. Yes, it is often your good works that show your good heart—a heart made good by the presence of the Holy Spirit. Ruth, Tabitha, Priscilla, Mary, Tryphena, Tryphosa, Lydia, Sara, and Phebe were all known for their good works. In fact good works can be used of God in a great way. Besides giving you true, enduring beauty, your good works also give God glory. What a high privilege and joy, and yet there is more too that God speaks regarding good works. Come, let us find the path the Virtuous Woman walked before us as God speaks to us the truth about the purpose and plan He has for our lives, for our works are writing our epitaph.
by Gina L.
from Virtuous Daughters, December 2018/January 2019~Volume 18, Number 5
"Panning for Gold" Proverbs 31 Study Series Part 22
I have never been a great gardener. It is partly because I don't have a natural knack for it and mostly because I rarely take the time to actually plant anything. You don't reap if you don't sow! One year though I read a book on wide raised-bed gardening, and it had great pictures and compelling text and inspired me to try. Could a rookie grow produce like that bountiful harvest pictured in the book? Judging from what that plot of ground in our backyard had previously yielded, one would have had many doubts.
by Gina L.
from Virtuous Daughters, October/November 2018~Volume 18, Number 4
"Panning for Gold" Proverbs 31 Study Series Part 21
My sons have developed the business of buying ATVs and fixing and selling them. It has been an eye-opening endeavor. When purchasing ATVs, my sons have seen every imaginable trick in the book by slick sellers trying to make their 4-wheelers appear something they are not. The deceptions are many. There are the cosmetic tricks, painting over blemishes, pumping up flat tires, and putting stickers or such over broken plastics. There are the motor tricks, hiding a knock with thicker oil, JB welding (gluing) together a broken part, and promising it only needs a small adjustment to run when it is blown up. Then there are the identity tricks, saying it has a title, but never producing it, giving the wrong title intentionally, or worse, having no title at all. Sometimes people are so sincere and genuine-looking that they are easy to believe, but my sons have found that the Bible's words, “all men are liars” are true. In fact, the outer appearance of many of these machines isn't always an accurate reflection of what is “under the hood.” They have become quite adept now at spotting the fakes, the tricks, and the deceptions, but it took many trials and mistakes to get to this point.
Quads are one thing, but later my sons will make a much bigger choice. I often wonder when they go to pick a wife, if this experience will serve them well and give them wisdom to avoid a much greater pitfall. You see, women have their bag of tricks too. There are fake words and feigned smiles that can cover a sour spirit. There are charm and personality that can deceive and hide a selfish, unthankful, lazy, or prideful pattern. And there are beauty and style, all made up into a perfect little package, that can draw attention away from a shallow character or a worldly mind. Even smooth words and flattery fool one who is unsuspecting and willing to ignore wise counsel.
by Gina L.
from Virtuous Daughters, August/September 2018~Volume 18, Number 3
"Panning for Gold" Proverbs 31 Study Series Part 20
When we moved into our house in Cottonwood five years ago, I was amazed at the beautiful scenery that lies outside my windows and likewise blessed by the nice craftsmanship within our home. It was all just about perfect, except for a large wall-sized, full-length mirror which hung directly outside of our bedroom closet. Upon first glance in this mirror, I knew there was a problem. It wasn’t exactly like those funny house mirrors you find at a circus, but there was some major distortion going on. In reality, I may not have minded if the distortion made me taller and leaner, but it was a shorter and wider version of myself that looked back at me from that mirror. Remembering the problem with the mirror, I gladly snatched up a framed full-length mirror at a local garage sale for five dollars. This I rested against the untrustworthy mirror and the problem was solved, at least temporarily! I enjoyed the accurate reflection and the confidence based on truth my trusty mirror provided, until a rambunctious child knocked over the mirror and it was taken in pieces to the trash. Life goes on. People get busy. Minds forget things that they once knew. I never took the time to replace the old distorting mirror screwed into my wall. Rather, I got used to looking into that untrustworthy mirror, and in time, I made a huge mistake. I forgot it was untrustworthy. I based my reality on a lie. I believed fully the lie the mirror told me and forgot that the source was unreliable. Over time, I grew frustrated with myself as I embraced as truth the mirror’s widening deceit. Then one day, I was in the restroom at church and turned to gaze into the full-length mirror, and I was shocked. I was not what I thought I was. This mirror revealed a leaner version of myself, and all at once I remembered the problem my mirror at home possessed. I chided myself for forgetting something I should have known and basing my reality upon a lie. For the lie I believed about myself did affect me.
As I stood there realizing the trick of the untrustworthy mirror, I thought of a deeper truth. What mirror am I looking at to size up myself as a person? Do I look at what the world says about me and women in general and size up myself by my accomplishments in that mirror? Do I look inwardly into what I am feeling about myself and trust that mirror’s reflection? Do I look to others’ words around me and allow those to be my mirror of truth? Do I look at the past and believe that old reflection to be my current size and shape and state? Perhaps sometimes I do. Perhaps we all do. But why?
by Gina L.
from Virtuous Daughters, June/July 2018~Volume 18, Number 2
"Panning for Gold" Proverbs 31 Study Series Part 19
When I was a child, I remember buying a beautiful gold necklace. It shimmered. It shined. It almost glowed. The magnificent gold hues caught the light and caught my eye, and I paid such a bargain for such an elegant chain that would certainly grace my neck for years. Wearing that necklace, I felt so royal and rich and proud of the beauty it portrayed. My pride soon faded, however, as did the “gold” which had caught my eye. After coming out of the shower one day, not long after the purchase of my bargain, I looked in the mirror and gasped. My beautiful “gold” necklace had become a dull black color! The luster was gone and so was my pride and my newfound elegance. I had put my trust in a lie. I didn't know back then anything about gold.....or electroplating.....or that the word “genuine” didn't mean genuine through and through, but rather could refer to a thin outer coating of gold, much like the dusting of spray-painted gold on a metal chain. My wallet was empty and my neck now was empty as I took off that ugly, black reminder of my foolishness. But even then, somewhere under the surface, I was beginning to see the wisdom of the lesson which the gold-plated fake taught me, for now I knew what the words “solid gold” really meant.
As life progressed, I met people that reminded me of that necklace. They were so wonderful, kind, talented, beautiful, smart, and sometimes even “godly,” and they shined like gold to me. Sometimes I admired them for a time and even wanted to be like them. Didn't their friends around them praise and admire them too? “They must be solid, pure, and the real deal,” I thought. But it was just like my necklace. Not long after a little wear, the gold faded and the familiar ugly black was there in its place. I marveled. Their outward facade was just a light dusting of spray-painted gold. How often they must have attempted to apply that dusting to keep up the illusion of beauty and value that hid the real material that lay beneath the thin surface. I was young. I didn't know back then the words hypocrite......or superficial.....or that the word “fake” could be applied to a person. I chided myself again for my foolishness and learned that shallow flattery by imperceptive peers is no indication of genuine and solid character, nor is a shining exterior proof of a pure, honest interior. I realized that goldly and Godly are not the same things.
Later, I grew to recognize the spray painted gold dust in both people and jewelry....or so I thought. I was sure I had finally figured out the mystery. Looking beyond the glitter, I was convinced I found the way to see into the center and determine the true base that lay beneath the surface. I had learned to disregard the “advertisements” of genuineness and pureness made by the sellers of gold or by individuals about themselves. The outer dusting of pious, pure, and perfect words didn't always indicate the presence of the Person of Christ that was being portrayed, just as the empty praises and promises of the store clerk peddling his fake “genuine gold” were not trustworthy indicators of what lay beyond the eye's reach.
In my wisdom I came to disregard such ploys, and I found that I could look elsewhere to find out the true nature of an individual and see if they possessed a genuine, solid character after all. I determined to look at their works! Didn't Jesus even say that you can know a tree by its fruit? (Luke 6:44) Confident that I had found the secret to not being deceived again, I started on in my fruit inspection plan.
As I began in earnest to look at the quality and quantity of fruit displayed in those I met, I took inventory. I saw good works and good deeds. An outward conformity to many rules and convictions was displayed. I noted the absence of rotten, ugly overt sin. I observed religious ideas, fervor, affection for others, prayer, and even quoting of Scripture. Wasn't I seeing the genuine fruit of love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, and charity? My plan seemed foolproof and I found folks with loads of fruit who sparkled like my gold necklace and tasted like a delicious, fragrant piece of fresh fruit. My fruit inspecting was working and I would be deceived no more!
Then time wore on and the strangest thing happened. It was the necklace trick all over again, but I had fallen for it another time because I had failed to remember a truth from my childhood. Remember those Jolly Rancher candies? When I was a young, foolish child and cared nothing for the health of my teeth, I loved to suck on those as often as I could get them. Do you recall the wonderful fruit flavors they boasted? Sour apple, cherry, grape, watermelon, strawberry, lemon, peach, and orange. I can almost taste them now, and I can certainly remember their scent. But somewhere in my maturity, I learned that those weren't real fruit flavors anymore than they were real pieces of fruit. I discovered that scientists had found a way to mimic fruit flavors and that they were called artificial fruit flavor and were loaded with many chemicals to trick the brain.
It took many, many years for my wisdom to catch up to me and overtake my foolishness, but in time I learned to actually detect and to detest artificial flavor in food. It was even years later when I learned that the fruit adorning people's lives was not always genuine and real either. Surprised, I made the shocking discovery that many people were pasting on fruit that was nothing more than artificial fruit-flavored phonies. There is real fruit just as there is real gold. The real gold is solid to the core and has no need of being found out or rubbed off. The real fruit is genuine too, but it is not the work or the working of the individual that produces it, nor can you just paste it on the branches of your life. The fruit is of the Spirit and is the Spirit's doing. Jesus calls Christians the branches who “bring forth” the fruit, but He tells us plainly that He is the vine and the branch's job is to stay connected to—remain abiding in—the vine. The branch stays put and remains porous, allowing the Life to flow through it, and the genuine fruit to be brought forth by it. Jesus states that the branch (the Christian) can't bear fruit of itself and can do nothing without Him (John 15). So why are so many people sporting this artificial fruit?
Many don't want to wait on God—to wait for fruit-bearing season. True fruit may take awhile to show up. True fruit may not be obvious enough to those wanting to look fruitful and sparkle like gold. True fruit is the result of a relationship and may take years to develop, grow, and mature. But there may be a nice, easy shortcut. Fake fruit applied externally. Many try this shortcut thinking, “Godly, fruitful Christians seem to look this way and say these things and act like this, so I will mimic these actions. I will copy their words. I will wear their clothes and listen to their tunes and go where they go.” The problem is that all of these deeds add up to phony fruit and are akin to artificial fruit flavor. They look like fruit to many. They may even taste and smell like fruit to the immature (just like the old Jolly Ranchers could trick my youthful palette), but the artificial fruit flavor is really just the cousin of the fake “genuine gold” necklace. Hence, I grew in my understanding and found again that I had been foolish, thinking I was a capable genuine fruit inspector.
Just as I had found out that all that glitters in not real gold, I likewise found out that all that smelled fruity wasn't real fruit. I remembered something I had forgotten. The Bible was full of many who wore the right clothes, did the right works, said the right words, avoided the overt, obvious sins, and even quoted Scripture and knew it better than anyone, even teaching it! They seemed so filled with fruit, but they really were full of fake fruit, artificially flavored. They were the Pharisees. They loved their titles and their special seats and they also loved the praise of men.....even more than the praise of God. They loved to be seen doing their religious “fruitful” service and to be recognized and admired by the masses. They even loved their Scriptures, but Jesus told them to search them for it wasn't the Scriptures they trusted in that gave eternal life, but the Son of God, Whom they rejected.
The Pharisees may have fooled many, but not Christ. He doesn't fall for the artificial fruit flavor or the fake gold necklace. He sees into the heart of man and knows our inward parts. He knows our thoughts and the reason we do our actions, the good actions and the bad. His eyes are running to and fro throughout the whole earth and He is looking. He sees you. He sees me. He sees who we are on the inside and if we care to please Him or man. In fact, He is looking for those whose heart is solid gold—perfect toward Him—to show Himself strong in their lives. You see, He has no use for the ones who heap up artificial fruit upon themselves and whose hearts are not perfect toward Him because if He did show himself strong in their lives, they would snatch all the glory for themselves, while feigning to be giving it to God. God is not fooled. Man is often utterly fooled and often filled with foolishness, but not God.
It is also extremely difficult to fool for long those who live in the same household with you. This is evident in the life of the Virtuous Woman of Proverbs 31. She had no need of foolish fake fruit or golden spray paint. She was virtuous through and through. In her we see a genuine, pure, solid, Godly woman who fears the Lord and shows forth out of a pure heart actions that flow from the very heart of God. She is the real deal. There are many fakes that are posing as virtuous women and you likely will fall for many of them, but God won't and neither will her husband and children.
Notice what Proverbs 31:28 says about the Virtuous Woman, “Her children arise up, and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praiseth her.” Notice that those who know this woman best and see her day in and day out praise her and call her blessed. This is not empty flattery nor is this praise easily earned. We all know that our husbands and children see the person beneath the surface, not the spray-painted gold dust that we can be tempted to put on as a shortcut to seeking the very heart of God and allowing Him to prune away all He desires and reproduce His character in us. They see our core. Do humility, repentance and confession to God, obedience, forgiveness, surrender, patience, kindness, and genuine love characterize us as one who has allowed God full reign in our heart, seeking to be made beautiful and Godly by Him, from the inside out?
Whited sepulchers are nothing more than clean-looking containers housing dead bones. Is that what we really are? Are we desiring to merely whiten the outside of our houses and trick others with our “pure” religious activities or garb? We may succeed in our desire to trick mankind, but we will still be just containers of dead bones and we will never trick God. Following God is not as easy as following man-made rules. Knowing what is wise and right to do in each situation is hard, but allowing God to lead, even when it makes us look bad to the world or to our circle, is absolutely imperative if we desire to be more than just a black necklace in disguise or a white house of dead bones. The Virtuous Woman was able to earn the genuine praise of those who lived right under her own roof by her solid character which didn't change with her environment or wear off with time. She never had to reapply a gold dusting to her exterior because who she was on the outside was just a reflection of who she was on the inside. What would your household say about you? What would God say?
God doesn't require perfection on the outside, but He does desire perfection on the inside, as we see by Him looking for one whose heart is perfect toward Him. It's funny. It's really the exact opposite of the fake gold necklace and the fake fruit epidemic. God's ways are always opposite the world. The world wants to see a beautiful shell. God wants our hearts. Not just a part or a corner of them either, but He wants our whole heart to be His. That is the solid gold, genuine, pure core that He desires. Then, we must let Him do what He wants with the outer shell. He will work in His way and in His time and produce a beauty far surpassing the purest gold, but this real beauty may be something man will never really see, though they will certainly glimpse it, but God will see it. It is precious to Him! God will produce the beautiful, genuine, real fruit of the Spirit in the life of one whose heart is all His. Join me in the prayers of David, a man after God's own heart, asking God to “Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me” (Psalm 51:10), and allowing God full reign of our hearts, inviting Him to “Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” (Psalm 139:23-24)
Labor at the heart level, not the skin level. Labor at the core and throw away the dusting can of golden spray paint and the stench of the perfume of the artificial fruit that seeks to mask the odor of the dead bones, fearing God and giving Him your whole heart, thereby garnering the praise of your husband and of your God, raising children who call you blessed, for such does the Virtuous Woman!
The Article Library
This "Library" contains articles that were published in previous issues of Virtuous Daughters. It will keep growing as we continue to upload articles from the 20 years of printing. We pray they are an encouragement to you!