Feb 08 2010

Love Dare - Day 34

Love Celebrates Godliness

 

[Love] does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth.  – 1 Corinthians 13:6

 

From the moment you close your Bible in the morning nearly everything else you’ll encounter throughout the day will be luring you away from its truths.  The opinions of your coworkers, the news coverage on television, your typical Websites, the various temptations of the day – all of these and more will be working overtime to shape your perceptions of what’s true and most desirable in life.

 

They’ll say that having a knockout wife who dresses to get other men’s attention is a good thing.  They say that bad language and immorality in the movies are fine for mature people.  They’ll say that church isn’t important in a person’s life.  They’ll say that we each must find God in our own way.

 

They’ll say a lot of things.  And they’ll say them so loudly and frequently that if we’re not careful, we can start believing that what they say is the way things should be.  We can begin valuing what everybody else values and thinking the way everybody else does.

 

But the meaning of “real life” changes dramatically when we understand that God’s Word is the ultimate expression of what real life is.  The teachings it contains are not just good guesses at what should matter.  They are principles that reflect the way things really are, the way God created life to be.  His ideals and instructions are the only pathways to real blessing, and when we see people following them in obedience to the Lord; it should cause us to rejoice.

 

What makes you the proudest of your husband?  Is it when he comes home with a trophy from the company golf tournament, or when he gathers the family before bedtime to pray together and read the Word?

 

What overjoys you the most in your wife?  Is it seeing her try a new painting technique in the children’s bedrooms, or seeing her forgive the neighbor whose dog dug up her plants?

 

You are one of the most influential people in your spouse’s life.  Have you been using your influence to lead them to honor God, or to dishonor Him?

 

Love rejoices most in the things that please God.  When your mate is growing in Christian character, persevering in faith, seeking purity, and embracing roles of giving and service – becoming spiritually responsible in your home – the Bible says we should be celebrating it.  The word “rejoices” in 1 Corinthians 13:6 carries the idea of being absolutely thrilled, excitedly cheering them on for what they’re allowing God to accomplish in their lives.

 

The apostle Paul, who helped establish and minister to many of the first-century churches, wrote in his letters how delighted he was to hear reports of the people’s faithfulness and growth in Jesus.  “We ought always to give thanks to God for you, brethren, as is only fitting, because your faith is greatly enlarged, and the love of each one of you toward one another grows ever greater; therefore, we ourselves speak proudly of you among the churches of God for your perseverance and faith in the midst of all your persecutions and afflictions which you endure” (2 Thessalonians 1:3-4).

 

The apostle John, who had walked closely with Jesus and became one of the main leaders in the early church, once wrote to his flock, “I have no greater joy than this, to hear of my children walking in the truth” (3 John 4).

 

That should be what energizes us when we see it happening in our mate.  More than when they save money on the grocery bill.  More than when they achieve success at work.  Sometimes by accepting modern culture’s take on what to applaud in our spouse, we can even be guilty of encouraging them to sin – perhaps by feeding their vanity, or by letting boys be boys.

 

But “love does not rejoice in unrighteousness” – not in ourselves and not in our mate.  Rather, love “rejoices with the truth,” the way Paul did when he said to the Roman church, “The report of your obedience has reached to all; therefore I am rejoicing over you, but I want you to be wise in what is good and innocent in what is evil” (Romans 16:19).  He knew that the pursuit of godliness, purity, and faithfulness was the only way for them to find joy and ultimate fulfillment.  Being “wise” about holiness while being “innocent” about sin – remaining unjaded and uncompromising as we travel through life – is the way to win in God’s eyes.

 

And what more could we want for our wife or husband than for them to experience God’s best in life?

 

Be happy for any success your spouse enjoys.  But save your heartiest congratulations for those times when they are honoring God with their worship and obedience.

 

Today’s Dare

 

Find a specific, recent example when your spouse demonstrated Christian character in a noticeable way.  Verbally commend them for this at some point today.

 

I will walk within my house in the integrity of my heart.  (Psalm 101:2)

 

 

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.

 

 

 

Feb 07 2010

Love Dare - Day 33

Love Completes Each Other

 

If two lie down together they keep warm, but how can one be warm alone?  -- Ecclesiastes 4:11

 

God creates marriage by taking a man and a woman and uniting them as one.  And although love must be willing to act alone if necessary, it is always better when it is not just a solo performance.  Love can function on its own if there is no other way, but there is a “more excellent way” (1 Corinthians 12:31).  And love dares not to stop loving before it gets there.

 

This “completing” aspect of love was revealed to mankind from the beginning.  God originated the human race with male and a female – two similar but complementary designs meant to function in harmony.

 

Are bodies are made for each other.  Our natures and temperaments provide balance, enabling us to more effectively complete the tasks at hand.  Our oneness can produce children, and our teamwork can best raise them to health and maturity.  When one is weak, the other is strong.  When one needs building up, the other is equipped to enhance and encourage.  We multiply one another’s joys and divide one another’s sorrows.

 

The scriptures say, “Two are better than one because they have a good return for their labor.  For if either of them falls, the other one will lift up his companion.   But woe to the one who falls, the one will lift up his companion.  But woe to the one who falls when there is not another to lift him up”(Ecclesiastes 4:9, 10).  It’s like your two hands, which don’t just coexist together but multiply the effectiveness of the other.  In order to do what they do, neither is quite complete without the other.

 

Although our difference can frequently be the source of the misunderstanding and conflict, they have been created by God and can be ongoing blessings if we respect them.

 

One of you may be better at cooking, for instance, while the other is more thorough in cleaning the dishes.  One may be more gentle and able to keep peace among family members, while the other handles discipline more directly and effectively.  One may have a good business head but needs the other to help him remember to be generous.

 

When we learn to accept these distinctions in our mate, we can bypass criticism and go straight to helping and appreciating one another.

 

But some can’t seem to get past their partners differences.  And they suffer many wasted opportunities as a result.  They don’t take advantage of the uniqueness that makes each of them more effective when including the other.

 

One such example from the Bible is Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor who presided over the trial of Jesus.  Unaware of who Christ was and against his better judgment, he allowed the crowd to influence him into crucifying Jesus.

 

But the one person who was more sensitive to what was really happening was Pilate’s wife, who came to him at the height of the uproar and warned him he was making a mistake.  “While he was sitting on the judgment seat, his wife sent him a message, saying, ‘Have nothing to do with what righteous Man; for last night I suffered greatly in a dream because of Him” (Matthew 27:19).

 

She was apparently a woman of keen discernment who grasped the magnitude of these events before her husband did.  Certainly, God’s sovereignty was at work, and nothing would have kept His Son from marching obediently to the cross for us.  But Pilate’s dismissal of his wife’s intuition reveals an unfortunate side to man’s nature that is often downplayed.  God made wives to complete their husbands, and He gives them insight that in many cases is kept from their men.  If this discernment is ignored, it is often to the detriment of the man making the decision.

 

The effectiveness of your marriage is dependent upon both of you working together.  Do you have big decisions to make about your finances or retirement planning?  Are you having a real problem with a coworker who’s getting harder and harder to deal with, and you are grappling with the appropriate action to take?  Are you absolutely convinced that your educational choices for the children are right, no matter what your spouse thinks?

 

Don’t try doing all the analysis yourself.  Don’t disqualify his or her right to voice an opinion on matters that affect both of you.  Love realizes that God has put you together on purpose.  And though you may wind up disagreeing with your spouse’s perspectives, you should still give their views respect and strong consideration.  This honors God’s design for your relationship and guards the oneness He intends.

 

Joined together, you are greater than your independent parts. You need each other.  You complete each other.

 

Today’s Dare

 

Recognize that your spouse is integral to your future success.  Let them know today that you desire to include them in your upcoming decisions, and that you need their perspective and counsel.  If you have ignored their input in the past, admit your oversight and ask them to forgive you.

 

 

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.

 

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Feb 06 2010

Love Dare - Day 32

Love Meets Sexual Needs

 

The husband must fulfill his duty to his wife, and likewise also the wife to her husband. – 1 Corinthians 7:3

 

Some people think the Bible has nothing good to say about sex, as though all God seems concerned about is telling us when not to do it and who not `and the blessing it can be for both husband and wife.  Even its boundaries and restrictions are God’s ways of keeping our sexual experiences at a level far beyond any of those advertised on television or in the movies.

 

In Christian marriage, romance is meant to thrive and flourish.  After all, it was created by God.  It’s all part of celebrating what God has given, becoming one with our mate while simultaneously pursuing purity and holiness.  He delights in us when this happens.

 

The Song of Solomon, for example, though frequently misunderstood as nothing more than an allegory about God’s passion for His people, is actually a beautiful love story.  It describes sexual acts between a husband and wife in poetic detail, showing how each one responds to the other.  It expresses how honesty and understanding in sexual matters lead to a life of confident love together.

 

It’s true that sex is only one aspect of marriage.  But as time goes by, one of you will likely value its importance more highly than the other.  As a result of this, the nature of your oneness as man and wife will feel threatened and endangered.

 

Again, the biblical foundations of marriage were originally expressed in the creation of Adam and Eve.  She was made to be “a helper suitable for him” (Genesis 2:18).  The unity of their relationship and physical bodies was so strong, they were said to become “one flesh” (Genesis 2:24).

 

This same oneness is a hallmark of every marriage.  In the act of romance, we join our hearts to each other an expression of love that no other form of communication can match.  That’s why “the marriage bed is to be undefiled” (Hebrews 13:4).  We are not to share this same experience with anyone else.

 

But we are weak.  And when this legitimate need goes unmet – when it’s treated as being selfish and demanding by the other – our hearts are subject to being drawn away from marriage, tempted to fulfill this longing somewhere else, some other way.

 

To counteract this tendency, God established marriage with a “one flesh” mentality.  “The wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does; and likewise also the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does” (1 Corinthians 7:4).

 

Sex is not to be used as a bargaining chip.  It is not something God allows us to withhold without consequence.  Though there can be abuses to this divinely designed framework, the heart of marriage is one of giving ourselves to each other to meet the other’s needs.

 

Sex is one God-given opportunity to do that.

 

So “stop depriving one another,” the Bible warns, “except by agreement for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer, and come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of you lack of self-control” (1 Corinthians 7:5).

 

You are the one person called and designated by God to meet your spouse’s sexual needs.  If you allow distance to grow between you in this area, if you allow staleness to set in, you are taking something that rightly (and exclusively) belongs to your spouse.  If you let your mate know – by words, actions, or inactions – that sex needn’t be any more than you want it to be, you rob from them a sense of honor and endearment that has been set in place by biblical mandate. You violate the “one flesh” unity of marriage.

 

So whether you perceive yourself as being on the deprived end, or you would admit that you are the one depriving the other, know that God’s plan for you is to meet in the middle and come to a place of agreement.  But also know that the path to getting there will not be accomplished by sulking, arguing or demanding.  Love is the only way to reestablish loving union between each other.  All the things the Love Dare entails – patience, kindness, selflessness, thoughtfulness, protection, honor, forgiveness – will play a role in renewing your sexual intimacy.  When the love of Christ is the foundation of your marriage, the strength of your friendship and sexual relationship can be enjoyed at a level this world can never know.

 

“You have been bought with a price,” God has declared (1 Corinthians 6:20).  He set His affections on you and went to every length to draw you into desiring Him.  Now it is your turn to pay the loving price to win the heart of your mate.  When you do, you will enjoy the pure delight that flows when sex is done for all the right reasons.  And as if that’s not enough, you will also have the opportunity to “glorify God in your body” (1 Corinthians 6:20).  How beautiful.

 



Today’s Dare

 

If at all possible, try to initiate sex with your husband or wife today.  Do this in a way that honors what your spouse has told you (or implied to you) about what they need from you sexually.  Ask God to make this enjoyable for both of you as well as a path to greater intimacy.

 

 

How beautiful and delightful you are, my love.  (Song of Solomon 7:6)

 

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 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.