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.

Jan 20 2010

Love Dare - Day 15

Love is Honorable

 

Live with your wives in an understanding way … and show her honor as a fellow heir of the grace of life.  – 1 Peter 3:7

 

There are certain words in our language that have powerful meanings.  Whenever these words are used, an air of respect is associated with them.  These words never lose their timeless quality, class, and dignity.  One of these will be our focus for today.  It is the word honor.

 

To honor someone means to give them respect and high esteem, to treat them as being special and of great worth. When you speak to them, you keep your language clean and understandable. You are courteous and polite.  When they speak to you, you take them seriously, giving their words weight and significance.  When they ask you to do something, you accommodate them if at all possible, simply out of respect for who they are. 

 

The Bible tells us to “honor” our father and mother, as well as those in authority.  It is a call to acknowledge the position or value of someone else.  Honor is a noble word.

 

This is especially true in marriage.  Honoring your mate means giving him or her your full attention, not talking to them from behind a newspaper or with one eye on the television. When decisions are being made that affect both of you or your whole family, you give your mate’s voice and opinion equal influence in your mind.  You honor what they have to say.  They matter – and because of the way you treat them, they should know it.

 

But there’s another word that calls us to a higher place, a word that isn’t often equated with marriage, though its relevance cannot be understated.  It’s a word that actually forms the basis for honor – the very reason why we give respect and high regard to our husband or wife.  That word is holy.

 

To say to your mate should be “holy” to you doesn’t mean that he or she is perfect. Holiness means they are set apart for a higher purpose – no longer common or everyday but special and unique.  A person who has become holy to you has a place no one can rival in your heart.  He or she is sacred to you, a person to be honored, praised, and defended.

 

A bride treats her wedding dress this way.  After wearing it on her special day, she covers and protects it, then sets it apart from everything else in her closet. You won’t catch her in it when she’s working in the yard or going out on the town.  Her wedding dress has value all its own. In this way, it is holy and sacred to her.

 

When two people marry, each spouse becomes “holy” to each other by way of “holy matrimony.”  This means no other person in the whole world is supposed to enjoy this level of commitment and endearment from you. Your relationship is like no other.  Your share physical intimacy with only her, only him.  You establish a home with this person.  You bear your children with this person.  Your heart, your possessions, your life itself is to be wrapped up in the uncommon bond you share with this one in individual.

 

Is that the way it is in your marriage?  Would your mate say you honor and respect them?  Do you consider them set apart and highly valued?  Holy?

 

Perhaps you don’t feel this way and maybe for good reason.  Perhaps you wish some outsider could see the level of disrespect you get from your wife or husband – someone who would make your mate feel embarrassed to be exposed for who they really are behind closed doors.

 

But that’s not the issue with love.  Love honors even when it’s rejected.  Love treats its beloved as special and sacred even when an ungrateful attitude is all you get in return.

 

It’s marvelous, of course, when a husband and wife are joined in this purpose, when they’re following the biblical command to be “devoted to one another” in love, when they’re giving “preference to one another in honor” (Romans 12:10).  “Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure” (Hebrews 13:4 NIV).

 

But when your attempts at honor go unreciprocated, you are to give honor just the same.  That’s what love dares to do – to say, “Of all the relationships I have, I will value ours the most.  Of all the things I’m willing to sacrifice, I will sacrifice the most for you. With all your failures, sins, mistakes, and faults – past and present – I will choose to love and honor you.”  That’s how you create an atmosphere for love to be rekindled.  That’s how you create an atmosphere for love to be rekindled.  That’s how you lead your heart to truly love your mate again.  And that’s the beauty of honor.

 

 

Today’s Dare

 

Choose a way to show honor and respect to your spouse that is above your normal routine.  It may be holding the door for her.  It might be putting his clothes away for him.  It may be the way you listen and speak in your communication.  Show your mate that he or she is highly esteemed in your eyes.

 

 

I will also honor them and they will not be insignificant.  (Jeremiah 30:19)

 

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 19 2010

Love Dare - Day 14

Love Takes Delight

 

Enjoy life with the wife you love all the days of your fleeting life. – Ecclesiastes 9:9 HCSB

 

One of the most important things you should learn on your Love Dare journey is that you should not just follow your heart.  You should lead it.  You don’t let your feelings and emotions do the driving.  You put them in the back seat and tell them where you’re going.

 

In your marriage relationship, you won’t always feel like loving.  It is unrealistic for your heart to constantly thrill as the thought of spending every moment with your spouse.  Nobody can maintain a burning desire for togetherness just one feelings alone.  But it’s also difficult to love someone only out of obligation.

 

A newlywed takes delight in the one they now call their spouse.  Their love is fresh and young, and the hopes for a romantic future linger in their hearts.  However, there is something just as powerful as that fresh, new love.  It comes from the decision to delight in your spouse and to love him or her no matter how long you’ve been married.  In other words, love that chooses to love is just as powerful as love that feels like loving.  In many ways, it’s a truer love because it has its eyes wide open.

 

Left to ourselves, we’ll always lean toward being disapproving of one another.  She’ll get on your nerves.  He’ll aggravate you.  But our days are too short to waste in bickering over pretty things.  Life is too fleeting for that.

 

Instead, it’s time to lead your heart to once again delight in your mate.  Enjoy your spouse.  Take her hand and seek her companionship. Desire his conversation.  Remember why you fell in love with her personality.  Accept this person – quirks and all – and welcome him or her back into your heart.

 

Again, you get to choose what you treasure.  It’s not like you’re born with certain pre-sets and preferences you’re destined to operate from.  If you’re irritable, it’s because you choose to be.  If you can’t function without a clean house, it’s because you’ve decided no other way will do.  If you pick at your mate more than you praise them, it’s because you’ve allowed your heart to be selfish.  You’ve led yourself into criticism.

 

So now it’s time to lead your heart back out.  It’s time to learn to delight in your spouse again, then to watch your heart actually start enjoying who they are.

 

It may surprise you to know that the Bible contains many romantic love stories, none more blatant and provocative than all eight chapters from the Song of Solomon.  Listen to the way these two lovers take pleasure in one another in this poetic book …

 

The woman: “Like an apple tree among the trees of the forest, so is my beloved among the young men.  In his shade I took great delight and sat down, and his fruit was sweet to my taste.  He has brought me to his banquet hall, and his banner over me is love” (Song of Solomon 2:3-4).

 

The man: “Arise, my darling, my beautiful one, and come along!  O my dove, in the clefts of the rock, in the secret place of the steep pathway, let me see your form, let me hear your voice; for your voice is sweet, and your form is lovely” (Song of Solomon 2:13-14).

 

Too sappy?  Too mushy? Not for those who lead their heart to delight in their beloved – even when the new wears off, even when she’s wearing rollers in her hair, even when his hair is falling out.  It’s time to remember why you once fell in love.  To laugh again.  To flirt again.  To dream again.  Delightfully.

 

Today’s dare may be directing you to a real and radical change of heart.  For some, the move toward delight may be only a small step away.  For others, it may require a giant leap from ongoing disgust.

 

But if you’ve been delighted before – which you were when you married – you can be delighted again.  Even if it’s been a long time.  Even if a whole lot has happened to change your perceptions.

 

The responsibility is yours to relearn what you love about this one to whom you’ve promised yourself forever.

 

 

Today’s Dare

 

Purposefully neglect an activity you would normally do so you can spend quality time with your spouse.  Do something he or she would love to do or a project they’d really like to work on.  Just to be together.

 

 

Give me your heart … and let your eyes delight in my ways.  (Proverbs 23:26)

 

 

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.