Feb 05 2010

Love Dare - Day 31

Love and Marriage

 

A man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh. – Genesis 2:24

 

This verse is God’s original blueprint for how marriage is supposed to work. It involves a tearing away and a knitting together.  It reconfigures existing relationships while establishing a brand new one.  Marriage changes everything.

 

That’s why couples who don’t take this “leaving” and “cleaving” message to heart will reap the consequences down the line, when the problems are much harder to repair without hurting someone.

 

“Leaving” means that you are breaking a natural tie.  Your parents step into the role of counselors to be respected, but can no longer tell you what to do.  Sometimes the difficulty in doing this comes from the original source.  A parent may not be ready to release you yet from their control and expectations.  Whether through unhealthy dependence or inner struggles over the empty nest, parents don’t always take their share of this responsibility.  In such cases, the grown child has to make “leaving” a courageous choice of his own.  And far too often, this break is not made in the right way.

 

Are you and your spouse still living with unresolved issues because of a failure to cut the apron strings?  Do either of your parents continue to create problems within your home – perhaps without their even knowing it?  What needs to happen to put a stop to this before it creates too wide of a division in your marriage?

 

Unity is a marriage quality to be guarded at a great cost.  The purpose of “leaving,” of course, is not to abandon all contact with the past but rather to preserve the unique oneness that marriage is designed to capture.  Only in oneness can you become all that God means for you to be.

 

If you’re too tightly drawn to your parents, the singular identity of your marriage will not be able to come to flower.  You will always be held back, and a root of division will continue to send up new shoots into your relationship.  It won’t go away unless you do something about it.  For without “leaving,” you cannot do the “cleaving” you need, the joining of your hearts that’s required to experience oneness.

 

“Cleaving” carries the idea of catching someone by pursuit, clinging to them as your new rock of refuge and safety.  This man is now the spiritual leader of  your new home, tasked with the responsibility of loving  you “just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her” (Ephesians 5:25).  This woman is now one in union with you, called to “see to it that she respects her husband” (Ephesians 5:33).

 

As a result of this essential process, you are now free to become everything God meant when He declared you “one flesh.”

 

·        You are able to achieve oneness in your decision making, even when you begin from differing viewpoints.

 

·        You are able to achieve oneness in your priorities, even through you’ve come together from backgrounds that could hardly be more different.

 

·        You are able to achieve oneness in your sexual affections toward each other, even if either of both of you have memories of impurity in your pre-marital past.

 

God’s decision to make you “one flesh” in marriage can make anything possible.

 

If this is not how things are going in your home right now, you’re unfortunately in the majority.  It’s not out of character for couples of all kinds – even Christian couples – to ignore God’s design for marriage, thinking they know better than He does.  Genesis 2:24 may have sounded nice and noble when it was wrapped around the sharing of vows at the wedding.  But as a fundamental principle to be put into place and practiced as a living fact – this just seems too difficult to do.  But this is what you must make any sacrifice to reclaim.

 

It’s hard – extremely hard – when the pursuit of oneness is basically one-sided.  Your spouse may not be interested at all in recapturing the unity you had at first.  Even if there is some desire on his or her part, there may still be issues between you that are nowhere close to being resolved.

 

But if you’ll continue to keep a passion for oneness forefront in your mind and heart, your relationship over time will begin to reflect the inescapable “one flesh” design that is printed on its DNA.  You don’t have to go looking for it.  It’s already there.  But you don’t have to live it, or there’s nothing else to expect than disunity.

 

Leave.  And cleave.  And dare to walk as one.

 

 

Today’s Dare

 

Is there a “leaving” issue you haven’t been brave enough to conquer yet?  Confess it to your spouse today, and resolve to make it right.  The oneness of your marriage is dependent upon it.  Follow this with a commitment to your spouse and to God to make your marriage the top priority over every other human relationship.

 

 

May they all be one, as You, Father, are in Me and I am in You.  (John 17:21 HCSB)

 

Click here to buy a copy of The Love Dare book.  

Click here for a free online journal for the full 40 day challenge.

 

Material taken from The Love Dare by Stephen and Alex Kendrick, copyright © 2009 by B&H Publishing Group. Used by permission.  Unauthorized reproduction in any format is strictly prohibited by law.

 

 

Feb 04 2010

Love Dare - Day 30

Love Brings Unity

 

Father, keep them in Your name, the name which You have given Me, that they may be one even as We are. – John 17:11

 

One of the most impressive things about the Bible is the way it linked together, with consistent themes running throughout, from beginning to end.  Though written over a span of 1,600 years and composed by more than forty writers of various backgrounds and skill levels, God sovereignty authored it with one united voice.  And He continues to speak through it today without going message.

 

Unity. Togetherness. Oneness. 

 

These are the unshakable hallmarks of our God.

 

From the very beginning of time, we see His unity at work through the Trinity – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. God the Father is there, creating the heavens and the earth.  The Spirit is “moving over the surface of the waters” (Genesis 1:2).  And the Son, who is “the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature” (Hebrews 1:3), joins in speaking the world into existence.  “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness” (Genesis 1:26).

 

Us. Our.

 

All three are in perfect oneness of mind and purpose.

 

We later see Jesus rising from the waters of baptism, as the Spirit descends like a dove and the Father announces over this majestic scene, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased” (Matthew 3:17).

 

Jesus later says, “I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me” (John 6:38).  His desire to answer His followers’ prayer is “so that the Father may be glorified in the Son” (John 14:13).  He asks the Father to send the Holy Spirit, knowing that the Spirit will faithfully testify about the Son He loves, for “no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God” (1 Corinthians 2:11 NIV).

 

Father, Son, and Spirit are in pristine unity.  They serve each other, love each other, and honor each other.  Though equal, they rejoice when the other is praised.  Though distinct, they are one, indivisible.

 

And because this relationship is so special – so representative of the vastness and grandeur of God – He has chosen to let us experience an aspect of it.  In the unique relationship of husband and wife, two distinct individuals are spiritually united into “one flesh” (Genesis 2:24).  And “what God has joined together, let man not separate” (Mark 10:9 NIV).

 

In fact, this mystery is so compelling – and the love between husband and wife so intertwined and complete – that God uses the imagery of marriage to explain His love for the church.

 

The church (the bride) is most honored when her Savior is worshiped and celebrated.  Christ (the bridegroom), who has given Himself up for her, is most honored when He sees her “as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless” (Ephesians 5:27 NIV).  Both Christ and the church love and honor the other.

 

That’s the beauty of unity.

 

Husband – What would happen in your marriage if you devoted yourself to loving, honoring, and serving your wife in all things?  What if you determined that the preservation of your oneness with this woman was worth every sacrifice and expression of love you could make?  What would change in your home if you took that approach to your relationship on a daily basis?

 

Wife – What would happen if you made it your mission to do everything possible to promote togetherness of heart with your husband?  What if every threat to your unity was treated as a poison, a cancer, an enemy to be eliminated by love, humility, and selflessness?  What would your marriage become if you were never again willing to see your oneness torn apart?

 

The unity of the Trinity, as seen beyond the reaches of history past and continuing into the future, is evidence of the power of oneness.  It is unbreakable.  It is unending.  And it is this same spiritual reality that disguises itself as your home and mailing address.  Though painted in the colors of work schedules and doctor visits and trips to the grocery, oneness is the eternal thread that runs through the daily experience of what you call “your marriage,” giving it a purpose to be defended for life.

 

Therefore, love this one who is as much a part of your body as you are.  Serve this one whose needs cannot be separated from your own.  Honor this one who, when raised upon the pedestal of your love, raises you up too in the eyes of God, all at the same time.

 

Today’s Dare

 

Isolate one area of division in  your marriage, and look on today as a fresh opportunity to pray about it.  Ask the Lord to reveal anything in your own heart that is threatening oneness with your spouse.  Pray that He would do the same for them.  And if appropriate, discuss this matter openly, seeking God for unity.

 

 

The Lord is our God, the Lord is one! (Deuteronomy 6:4)

 

 

Click here to buy a copy of The Love Dare book.  

Click here for a free online journal for the full 40 day challenge.

 

Material taken from The Love Dare by Stephen and Alex Kendrick, copyright © 2009 by B&H Publishing Group. Used by permission.  Unauthorized reproduction in any format is strictly prohibited by law.

 

Feb 03 2010

Love Dare - Day 29

Love’s Motivation

 

Render service with a good attitude, as to the Lord and not to men.  – Ephesians 6:7 HCSB

 

It doesn’t take much experience to discover that your mate will not always motivate your love.  In fact, many times they will de-motivate it.  More often than you’d like, it will seem difficult to find the inspiration to demonstrated your love.  They may not even receive it when you try to express it.  That’s simply the nature life, even in fairly healthy marriages.

 

But although moods and emotions can create all kinds of moving motivational targets, one is certain to stay in the same place, all the time.  When God is your reason for loving, your ability to love is guaranteed.

 

That’s because love comes from Him.

 

Think of it like this. When you were a child, your parents certainly established rules for you to follow.  Your bedtime was at a certain hour.  Your room had to be kept mostly clean.  Your schoolwork needed to be finished before you could go play.  If you were like most people, you bent these rules as often as you obeyed them.  And if not for the incentive of force and consequences, you might not have obeyed them at all.

 

But if you met Christ along the way or received any kind of Bible teaching, you probably were exposed to this idea – “Children, be obedient to your parents in all things, for this is well-pleasing to the Lord” (Colossians 3:20).  If you took this to heart at all, you knew you didn’t merely have your parents to answer anymore.

 

This was no longer a battle of wills between you and a flesh-and-blood authority figure.  This was now between you and God.  Your mom and dad were just the go-betweens.

 

As it turns out, however, the relationship between parents and children isn’t the only thing enhanced by letting God become your driving motivation.  Consider the following areas where pleasing Him should become our goal:

 

Work. “Do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men” (Colossians 3:23).

 

Service. “Obey those who are your masters on earth, not with external service, as those who merely please men, but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord” (Colossians 3:22).

 

Everything. “Work hard at “whatever you do … knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance.  It is the Lord Christ whom you serve” (Colossians 3:23-24).

 

Even marriage. “Wives, be subject to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord” (Colossians 3:18).  “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her” (Ephesians 5:25).

 

The love that’s demanded from you in marriage is not dependent on your mate’s sweetness or suitability.  The love between a husband and wife should have one chief objective: honoring the Lord with devotion and sincerity.  The fact that it blesses our beloved in the process is simply a wonderful, additional benefit.

 

This change of focus and perspective is crucial for a Christian.  Being able to wake up knowing that God is your source and supply – not just of your own needs but also those of your spouse – changes your whole reason for interacting with your mate.

 

No longer is it this imperfect person who decides how much love you’ll show, but rather it’s your omni-perfect God who can use even a flawed person like yourself to bestow loving favor on another.

 

Has your wife become fairly hard to live with lately?  Is her slowness at getting over a disagreement wearing on your patience?  Can she not just give it a rest?  Don’t withhold your love just because she thinks differently from you.  Love her “as to the Lord.”

 

Is your husband tuning you out, not saying much, apparently brooding over something he’s not interested in sharing?  Do you feel hurt by his unwillingness to open up?  Are you tired of him being so short with you, not even responding to the children the way he needs to?  Don’t battle back with a double dose of silence and inattention.  Love him anyway.  “As to the Lord.”

 

Love motivated by mere duty cannot hold out for very long.  And love that is only motivated by favorable conditions can never be assured of sufficient oxygen to keep it breathing.  Only love that is lifted up as an offering to God – returned to Him in gratitude for all He’s done – is able to sustain itself when all other reasons have lost their ability to energize us.

 

Those who are fine with mediocre marriages can leave their love to chance and hope for the best.  But if you are committed to giving your spouse the best.  But if you are committed to giving your spouse the best love you possibly can, you need to shoot for love’s highest motivation.  Love that has god as its primary focus is unlimited in the heights it can attain.

 

 

Today’s Dare

 

Before you see your spouse again today, pray for them by name and for their needs.  Whether it comes easy for you or not, say “I love you,” then express love to them in some tangible way.  Go to God in prayers again, thanking Him for giving you the privilege of loving this one special person – unconditionally, the way He loves both of you.

 

 

As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord. (Joshua 24:15)

 

 

Click here to buy a copy of The Love Dare book.  

Click here for a free online journal for the full 40 day challenge.

 

Material taken from The Love Dare by Stephen and Alex Kendrick, copyright © 2009 by B&H Publishing Group. Used by permission.  Unauthorized reproduction in any format is strictly prohibited by law.

 

Feb 02 2010

Love Dare - Day 28

Love Makes Sacrifices

 

He laid down His life for us.  We should also lay down our lives for our brothers. – 1 John 3:16 HCSB

 

Life can be hard.  But what we usually mean is that our life can be hard.  We’re the first to feel it when we’re the ones being mistreated or inconvenienced.  We’re quick to sulk when we’re the ones who feel deprived or unappreciated.  When life is difficult for us, we notice.

 

But too often the only way we notice that life is hard for our mate is when they start complaining about it.  Then instead of genuinely caring or rushing in to help, we might think they just have a bad attitude.  The pain and pressure they’re under don’t register with us the way it does when it’s our pain and pressure.  When we want to complain, we expect everyone to understand and feel sorry for us.

 

This doesn’t happen when love is at work.  Love doesn’t have to be jarred awake by your mate’s obvious signs of distress.  Before worries and troubles have begun to bury them, love has already gone into action mode.  It sees the weight beginning to pile up and it steps in to help.  That’s because love wants you to be sensitive to your spouse.

 

Love makes sacrifices.  It keeps you so tuned in to what your spouse needs that you often respond without being asked.  And when you don’t notice ahead of time and must be told what’s happening, love responds to the heart of the problem.

 

Even when your mate’s stress comes out in words of personal accusation, love shows compassion rather than becoming defensive.  Love inspires you to say “no” to what you want, in order to say “yes” to what your spouse needs.

 

That’s what Jesus did.  “He laid down His life for us” to show us that “we should also lay down our lives” for others.  He taught us that the evidence of love is found in seeing a need in others, then doing all we can to satisfy it.  “For I was hungry and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me” (Matthew 23:35-36).

 

These are the types of needs you should be looking for in your wife or husband.  Instead of sitting around upset that they’re not treating you the way you think they should, let love pick you up out of your self-pity and turn your attention to their needs.

 

Is he “hungry” – needing you sexually, even when you don’t feel like it?

 

Is she “thirsty” – craving the time and attention you seem to be able to give everyone else?

 

Does he feel like a “stranger” – insecure in his work, needing home to be a refuge and sanctuary?

 

Is she “naked” – frightened or ashamed, desperate for the warm covering of your loving affirmation?

 

Is he feeling “sick” – physically tired and needing you to help guard him from interruptions?

 

Does she feel in “prison” – fearful and depressed, needing some safety and intervention?

 

Love is willing to make sacrifices to see that the needs of your spouse are given your very best effort and focus.  When your mate is overwhelmed and under the gun, love calls you to set aside what seems so essential in your own life to help, even if it’s merely the gift of a listening ear.

 

Often all they really need is just to talk this situation out.  They need to see in your two attentive eyes that you truly care about what this is costing them, and you’re serious about helping them seek answers.  They need you to pray with them about what to do, and then keep following up to see how it’s going. 

 

The words “How can I help you?” need to stay fresh on your lips.

 

The solutions may be simple and easy for you to do, or they may be complex and expensive, requiring time, energy and great effort.  Either way, you should do whatever you can to meet the real needs of the one who is a part of who you are.  After all, when you help them, you are also helping yourself. That’s the beautiful part of sacrificing for your spouse.  Jesus did it for us.  And He extends the grace to do it for others.

 

When the New Testament believers began to walk in love, their lives together were marked by sharing and sacrifice.  Their heartbeat was to worship the Lord and to serve His people.  “All those who had believed were together and had all things in common; and they began selling their property and possessions and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have “need” (Acts 2:44-45).  As Paul said to one of these churches in a later decade, “I will most gladly spend and be expended for your souls” (2 Corinthians 12:15).  Lives that have been raised from death by Jesus sacrifice should be ready and willing to make daily sacrifices to meet the needs of others.

 

Today’s Dare

 

What is one of the greatest needs in your spouse’s life right now?  Is there a need you could lift from their shoulders today by a daring act of sacrifice on your part?  Whether the need is big or small, purpose to do what you can to meet the need.

 

 

Bear one another’s burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ. (Galatians 6:2)

 

 

Click here to buy a copy of The Love Dare book.  

Click here for a free online journal for the full 40 day challenge.

 

Material taken from The Love Dare by Stephen and Alex Kendrick, copyright © 2009 by B&H Publishing Group. Used by permission.  Unauthorized reproduction in any format is strictly prohibited by law.