Jan 24 2010

Love Dare - Day 19

Love is impossible

 

Let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. –I John 4:7

 

The Love Dare starts with a secret.  And though it’s been an unspoken element throughout each day, you’ve likely grown more and more suspicious of it all the time.  Now that you’re this far, it’s a secret you’re discovering for yourself, even if you haven’t exactly known how to put it into words.

 

The secret is this:  you cannot manufacture unconditional love (or agape love) out of your own heart.  It’s impossible.  It’s beyond your capabilities.  It’s beyond all our capabilities.

 

You may have demonstrated kindness and unselfishness in some form, and you may have learned to be more thoughtful and considerate.  But sincerely loving someone unselfishly and unconditionally is another matter altogether.

 

So how can you do it?  Like it or not, agape love isn’t something you can do.  It’s something only God can do.  But because of His great love for you—and His love for your spouse—He chooses to express His love through you.

 

Still, you may not believe that.  You may be convinced that with enough hard work and commitment, you can muster up unconditional, long-term, sacrificial love from your own heart.  You want to believe it’s in you.

 

But how many times has your love failed to keep you from lying, from lusting, from overreacting, from thinking evil of this person you’ve vowed before God to love for the rest of your life.

 

How many times has your love proven incapable of controlling your anger?  How many times has your love motivated you to forgive or brought about a peaceable end to an ongoing argument?

 

It’s this failure that exposes mankind’s sinful condition.  We’ve all fallen short of God’s commands (Romans 3:23).  We’ve all demonstrated selfishness, hatred, and pride.  And unless something is done to cleanse us of these ungodly attributes, we will stand before God guilty as charged (Romans 6:23).  That’s why if you’re not right with God, you can’t truly love your spouse because He is the Source of that love.

 

You can’t give what you don’t have.  You can’t call up inner reserves and resources that aren’t there to be summoned.  In the same way that you can’t give away a million dollars if you don’t have it to start with, you cannot pay out love in greater measure than you own.  You can try, but you will fail.

 

So the hard news is this:  love that is able to withstand every pressure is out of your reach, as long as you’re only looking within yourself to find it.  You need someone who can give you that kind of love.

“Love is from God” (I John 4:7).  And only those who have allowed Him into their heart through faith in His Son, Jesus—only those who have received the Spirit of Christ through belief in His death and resurrection—are able to tap into love’s real power.  “Apart from me,” Jesus said, “you can do nothing” (John 15:5).

 

But He also said, “If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you” (John 15:7).  God has promised through Christ to dwell in your heart through faith so that you can “know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God” (Ephesians 3:19 NKJV).

 

When you surrender yourself to Christ, His power can work through you.  Even at your very best, you are not able to live up to God’s standards.  But He “is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us” (Ephesians 3:20). That’s how you love your spouse.

 

So, this unsettling secret—as defeating as it may feel—has a happy ending for those who will stop resisting and will receive the love God has for them.  This means that the love He has “poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us” (Romans 5:5) is always available, every time we choose to submit to it.

 

You simply won’t be able to do it without Him.

 

Perhaps you’ve never given our heart to Christ, but you sense Him drawing you today.  You may be realizing for the first time that you, too, have broken God’s commands, and that your guilt will keep you from knowing Him.  But Scripture says that if you repent by turning away from your sin and turning to God, He is willing to forgive you because of the sacrifice his Son made on the cross.  He is pursuing you, not to enslave you but to free you, so you can receive His love and forgiveness.  Then you can share it with the one you’ve been called most specifically to love.

 

Perhaps you’re already a believer, but you would admit that you have walked away from fellowship with God.  You’re not in the Word, you’re not in prayer, maybe you’re not even in church anymore.  The love you used to feel coursing through your veins has dwindled into apathy.

 

The truth is, you can’t live without Him and you can’t love without Him.  But there is no telling what He could do in your marriage if you put your trust in Him.

 

TODAY’S DARE

 

Look back over the dares from the previous days.  Were there some that seemed impossible to you?  Have you realized your need for God to change your heart and to give you the ability to love?  Ask Him to show you where you stand with Him, and ask for the strength and grace to settle your eternal destination.

What do you believe God is saying to you?  Is there a stirring in your heart?  What decision have you made in response to this?

 

This is impossible, but with God all things are possible.  (Matthew 19:26)

 

 

 

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.

Jan 23 2010

Love Dare - Day 18

Love Seeks to Understand

 

How blessed is the man who finds wisdom, and the man who gains understanding. – Proverbs 3:13

 

We enjoy discovering as much as we can about the things we truly care about.  If it’s our favorite football team, we’ll read any article that helps us keep up with how they’re doing.  If it’s cooking, we’ll tune to those channels that share the best grilling techniques or dessert recipes.  If there’s a subject that appeals to us, we’ll take notice any time it comes up.  In fact, it’s often like an area of personal study.

 

It’s fine, of course, to have outside interests and to be knowledgeable about certain things.  But this is where love would ask the question, “How much do you know about our mate?

 

Think back to the days when you were courting.  Didn’t you study the one your heart was yearning for?

 

When a man is trying to win the heart of a woman, he studies her.  He learns her likes, dislikes, habits, and hobbies.  But after he wins her heart and marries her, he often stops learning about her. The mystery and challenge of knowing her seems less intriguing, and he finds his interests drifting to other areas.

 

This is also true in many cases for women, who start off admiring and building respect for the man they desire to be with.  But after marriage, those feelings begin to fade as reality reveals that her “prince” is a flawed and imperfect man.

 

Yet there are still hidden things to discover about your spouse.  And this understanding will help draw you closer together.  It can even give you favor in the eyes of your mate.  “Good understanding produces favor” (Proverbs 13:15).

 

Consider the following perspective: if the amount you studied your spouse before marriage were equal to a high school diploma, then you should continue to learn about your mate until you gain a “college degree,” a “master’s degree,” and ultimately a “doctorate degree.”  Think of it as a lifelong journey that draws your heart ever closer to your mate.

 

·        Do you know his or her greatest hopes and dreams?

·        Do you fully understand how they prefer to give and receive love?

·        Do you know what your spouse’s greatest fears are and why they struggle with them?

 

Some of the problems you have in relating to your spouse are simply because you don’t understand them.  They probably react very differently to certain situations than you do, and you can’t figure out why?

 

These differences – even the ones that are relatively insignificant – can be the cause of many fights and conflicts in your marriage.  That’s because, as the Bible says, we tend to “revile” those things we don’t understand (Jude 10).

 

There are reasons for his or her tastes and preferences.  Each nuance in your spouse’s character has a back story.  Each element of who he is, how he thinks, and what he’s like is couched in a set of guiding principles, which often makes sense only to the person who holds them.  But it’s worth the time it will take to study why they are the way they are.

 

If you missed the level of intimacy you once shared with your spouse, one of the best ways to unlock their heart again is by making a commitment to know them. Study them.  Read them like a book you’re trying to understand.

 

Ask questions.  The Bible says, “The ear of the wise seeks knowledge” (Proverbs 18:15).  Love takes the initiative to begin conversations.  In order to get your mate to open up, they need to know that your desire for understanding them is real and genuine.

 

Listen.  “Wise men store up knowledge, but with the mouth of the foolish, ruin is at hand” (Proverbs 10:14).  The goal of understanding your mate is to hear them, not to tell them what you think.  Even if your spouse is not very talkative, love calls you to draw out the “deep water” that dwells within them (Proverbs 20:5).

 

Ask God for discernment.  “The Lord gives wisdom; from His mouth come knowledge and understanding” (Proverbs 2:6).  Things like gender differences, family backgrounds, and varied life experiences can cloud your ability to know your mate’s heart and motivations.  But God is a giver of wisdom.  The Lord will show you what you need in order to know how to love your spouse better.

 

“By wisdom a house is built, and by understanding it is established; and by knowledge the rooms are filled with all precious and pleasant riches” (Proverbs 24:3-4).  There is a depth of beauty and meaning inside your wife or husband that will amaze you as you discover more of it.  Enter the mystery with expectation and enthusiasm.  Desire to know this person even better than you do now.  Make him or her your chosen field of study, and you will fill your home with the kind of riches only love can provide.

 

 

Today’s Dare

 

Prepare a special dinner at home, just for the two of you.  The dinner can be as nice as you prefer.  Focus this time on getting to know your spouse better, perhaps in areas you’ve rarely talked about.  Determine to make it an enjoyable evening for you and your mate.

 

Acquire wisdom; and with all your acquiring, get understanding.  (Proverbs 4:7)

 

 

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.

 

Jan 22 2010

Love Dare - Day 17

Love Promotes Intimacy

 

He who covers over an offense promotes love, but whoever repeats the matter separates close friends. – Proverbs 17:9 NIV

 

You can be close to a good friend you’ve known since childhood or college days.  You can be close to a sibling, your parents, or a cousin who’s about your same age.  But nothing rivals the closeness that’s experienced between a husband and wife.  Marriage is the most intimate of all human relationships.

 

That’s why we need it so much.  Each of us comes into life with an inborn hunger to be known, love, and accepted.  We want people to know your name, to recognize us when they see us, and to value who we are. The prospect of sharing our home with another person who knows us down to the most intimate detail is part of the deep pleasure of marriage.

 

Yet this great blessing is also the site of its greatest danger.  Someone who knows us this intimately can either love us at a depth we never imagined, or can wound us in ways we may never fully recover from.  It’s both the fire and the fear of marriage.

 

Which of these are you experiencing the most in your home right now?  Are the secrets your spouse knows about you reasons for shame, or reason for drawing you closer?  If your spouse were to answer this same question, would they say you make them feel safe, or scared?

 

If home is not considered a place of safety, you will both be tempted to seek it somewhere else.  Perhaps you might look to another person initiating a relationship that either flirts with adultery or actually enters in.  You may look for comfort in work or outside hobbies, something that partially shields you from intimacy but also keeps you around people who respect and accept you.

 

Your mate should not feel pressured to be perfect in order to receive your approval.  They should not walk on eggshells in the very place where they ought to feel the most comfortable in their bare feet.  The Bible says, “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear” (1 John 4:18).  The atmosphere in your marriage should be one of freedom.  Like Adam and Eve in the garden, your closeness should only intensify your intimacy.  Being “naked” and “not ashamed” (Genesis 2:25) should exist in the same sentence, right in your marriage – physically and emotionally.

 

Admittedly, this is tender territory.  Marriage has unloaded another person’s baggage into your life, and yours into theirs.  Both of you have reason to feel embarrassed that this much has been revealed about you to another living soul.  But this is your opportunity to wrap all this private information about them in the protective embrace of your love, and promise to be the one who can best help him or her deal with it.

 

Some of these secrets may need correcting.  Therefore, you can be an agent of healing and repair – not by lecturing, not by criticizing, but by listening in love and offering support.

 

Some of these secrets just need to be accepted.  They are part of this person’s make-up and history.  And though these issues may not be very pleasant to deal with, they will always require a gentle touch.

 

In either case, you and you alone wield the power either to reject your spouse because of this or to welcome them in – warts and all.  They will either know they’re in a place of safety where they are free to make mistakes, or they will recoil into themselves and be lost to you, perhaps forever.  Loving them well should be your life’s work.

 

Think of it this way.  No one knows you better than God does, the One who made you.  The writer of Psalm 139 was right when he said, “You know when I sit down and when I rise up; You understand my thought from afar.  You scrutinize my path and my lying down, and are intimately acquainted with all my ways.  Even before there is a word on my tongue, behold, O Lord, You know it all” (Psalm 139:2-4).

 

And yet God, who knows secrets about us that we even hide from ourselves, loves us at a depth we cannot begin to fathom.  How much more should we – as imperfect people – reach out to our spouse in grace and understanding, accepting them for who they are and assuring them that their secrets are safe with us?

 

This may be an area where you’ve really failed in the past. If so, don’t expect your mate to immediately give you wide-open access to their heart.  You must begin to rebuild trust.  Jesus Himself is described as One who doesn’t barge into people’s lives but who stands at the door and knocks.  “If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and I will dine with him, and he with Me” (Revelation 3:20).

 

The reality of intimacy always takes time to develop, especially after being compromised.  But your commitment to re-establishing it can happen today – for anyone willing to take the dare.

 

 

Today’s Dare

 

Determine to guard your mate’s secrets (unless they are dangerous to them or to you) and to pray for them.  Talk with your spouse, and resolve to demonstrate love in spite of these issues.  Really listen to them when they share personal thoughts and struggles with you.  Make them feel safe.

 

I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine.  (Song of Solomon 6:3)

 

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.

 

Jan 21 2010

Love Dare - Day 16

Love Intercedes

 

Beloved, I pray that in all respects you may prosper and be in good health, just as your soul prospers. – 3 John 2

 

You cannot change your spouse.  As much as you may want to, you cannot play God and reach into their heart and mold them into what you want them to be.  But that’s what most couples spend a large part of their time trying to do – change their spouse.

 

Insanity has been described as doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.  But isn’t that what happens when you try to change your mate?  It’s frustration at the highest level.  At some point you have to accept that it’s not something you can do.  But here’s what you can do.  You can become a “wise farmer.”

 

A farmer cannot make a seed grow into a fruitful crop.  He cannot argue, manipulate, or demand it to bear fruit.  But he can plant the seed into fertile soil, give it water and nutrients, protect it from weeds, and then turn it over to God.  Millions of farmers have made a livelihood from this process over the centuries.  They know that not every seed sprouts.  But most will grow when planted in proper soil and given what they need.

 

There is no guarantee that anything in this book will change your spouse.  But that’s not what this book is about.  It’s about daring to love.  If you take the Love Dare seriously, there is a high likelihood that you will be personally changed from the inside out.

 

And if you carry out each dare, your spouse will likely be affected and your marriage will begin to bloom in front of your eyes.  It may take weeks.  It may even take years. But regardless of the soil you’re working with, you are to plan for success.  You are to get weeds out of your marriage.  You are to nurture the soil of your mate’s heart and then depend on God for the results.

 

But you won’t be able to do this alone.  You will need something that is more powerful than anything else you have.  And that is effective prayer.

 

Prayer really does work.  It’s a spiritual phenomenon created by an unlimited, powerful God.  And it yields amazing results.

 

Do you feel like giving up on your marriage?  Jesus said to pray instead of quitting (Luke 18:1).  Are you stressed out and worried?  Prayer can bring peace to your storms (Philippians 4:6-7) Do you need a major breakthrough?  Prayer can make the difference (Acts 12:1-7).

 

God is sovereign.  He does things His way.  He’s not a genie in a lamp that submits to your every wish.  But He does love you and desires an intimate relationship with you.  This doesn’t happen apart from prayer.

 

There are some key elements that must be in place for prayer to be effective.  But suffice to say that prayer works best when coming from a humble heart that is in a right relationship with God and others.  The Bible says, “Confess sins to one another, and pray for one another … The effective prayer of righteous man can accomplish much” (James 5:16).

 

Have you ever wondered why God gives you overwhelming insight into your spouse’s hidden faults?  Do you really think it’s for endless nagging?  No, it is for effective kneeling.  No one knows better how to pray for your mate than you.

 

Has your scolding or nagging been working?  The answer is no, because that’s not what changes a heart.  It is time to try talking to God in your prayer closet instead.

 

A husband will find that God can “fix” his wife a lot better than he can.   Wife will accomplish more through strategic prayer than from all her persuasive efforts.  It is also a much more pleasant way to live.

 

So turn your complaints into prayers and watch the Master work while you keep your hands clean.  If your spouse doesn’t have any type of relationship with God, then it’s clear what you need to start praying for.

 

Beyond this, begin to pray for exactly what your mate needs.  Pray for his heart.  Pray for her attitude. Pray for your spouse’s responsibilities before God.  Pray for truth to replace lies.  Pray for forgiveness would replace bitterness.  Pray for your heart’s desires – for love and honor to become the norm.  Pray for romance and intimacy to go to a deeper level.

 

One of the most loving things you can ever do for your spouse is to pray for them.  “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to” (Matthew 7:7)

 

 

Today’s Dare

 

Begin Praying for your spouse’s heart.  Pray for three specific areas where you desire for God to work in your spouse’s life and in your marriage.

 

 

If anyone is God-fearing and does His will, He listens to him (John 9:31).

 

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.