Feb 01 2010

Love Dare - Day 27

 

Love Encourages

 

Guard my soul and deliver me; do not let me be ashamed, for I take refuge in You. – Psalm 25:20

 

Marriage has a way of altering our vision.  We go in expecting our mate to fulfill our hopes and to make us happy.  But this is an impossible order for our spouse to fill.  Unrealistic expectations breed disappointment.  The higher your expectations, the more likely your spouse will fail you and cause you frustration.

 

 If a wife expects her husband to always be on time, clean up after himself, and understand all her needs, she will likely live most her married life in constant disappointment.  But if she gets realistic and understands that he’s human, forgetful, and sometimes thoughtless, then she will be more delighted when he is responsible, loving, and kind.

 

Divorce is nearly inevitable when people refuse to allow their spouses to be human. So there needs to be a transition in your thinking.  You must choose to live by encouragement rather than by expectations.  The way your spouse has been for the last ten years is likely what he or she will be in the future apart from your loving encouragement and an intervention from God.  Love puts the focus on personal responsibility and improving yourself rather than on demanding more from others.

 

Jesus painted a picture of this when He talked about the person who saw the “speck” in his brother’s eye but didn’t notice the “log” in his own.

 

“How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ and behold, the log is in your eye?  You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye” (Matthew 7:4-5).

 

Does your spouse feel like they’re living with a speck inspector?  Are they routinely on edge, fearful of not living up to your expectations?  Would they say they spend most days sensing more of your disapproval than your acceptance?

 

Perhaps you’d respond by saying that the problem is not with you but with them.  If they really do come up short in a lot of areas, why is that your fault?  As far as you’re concerned, it takes both of you doing everything you can to make marriage work.  If your mate doesn’t want you to be so critical, they need to realize that the issues you bring up are legitimate.  You’re not saying you’re perfect, by any mean, but it does seem like you should be able to say what you think. Right?

 

The problem with this kind of attitude is that few people are able to respond to criticism with total objectivity. When it seems clear that someone is unhappy with you – whether by direct confrontation or the silent treatment – it’s hard not to take their displeasure personally.  Especially in marriage.

 

After all, unlike any other friendship, your relationship with your spouse began with both of you bending over backwards to please the other.  When your mate was your boyfriend or girlfriend, they were completely charmed by your personality.  You could almost do no wrong.  Your life together was so much easier.  And though you didn’t expect it to stay that way forever, you certainly didn’t see them being so sinful and getting so angry with you.  You never expected that this man or woman who promised to love you could get to where they didn’t even seem to like you.

 

So when this stark contrast becomes living reality, your natural reaction is to resist it.  During the early days of marriage, you may have been more inclined to listen and make subtle changes.  But as the years go by, your spouse’s disapproval only tends to entrench you.  Rather than making you want to correct things, it makes you want to dig in even deeper.

 

Love is too smart for that. Instead of putting your mate in a position to rebel, love teaches you to give them room to be themselves.  Even if you’re the goal-oriented type who places high demands on yourself, love calls you not to project your hard-driving ways onto your mate’s performance.  You must realize that marriage is a relationship to be enjoyed and savored along the way. It’s a unique friendship designed by God Himself where two people live together in flawed imperfection but deal with it by encouraging each other, not discouraging them.

 

The Bible says, “Encourage the exhausted, and strengthen the feeble” (Isaiah 35:3).  “Encourage one another and build up one another … Encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with everyone” (1 Thessalonians 5:11, 14).

 

Don’t you want married life to be a place where you can enjoy free expression of who you are, growing within a safe environment that encourages you even when you fail?  Your spouse does too – and love gives them that privilege.  If your wife or husband has told you on more than one occasion that you make them feel beat down and defeated, you need to take these words to heart.  Make a commitment to daily let go of unrealistic expectations and become your spouse’s greatest encourager.  And the person they’re created by God to be will begin to emerge with new confidence and love for you.

 

Today’s Dare

 

Eliminate the poison of unrealistic expectations in your home.  Think of one area where your spouse has told you you’re expecting too much, and tell them you’re sorry for being so hard on them about it.  Promise them you’ll seek to understand, and assure them of your unconditional love.

 

 

Let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds.  (Hebrews 10:24)

 

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 31 2010

Love Dare - Day 26

Love is Responsible

 

When you judge another, you condemn yourself, since you, the judge, do the same things.  – Romans 2:1 HCSB

 

Today will be hard.  But as you seek God’s strength and wisdom, you will be able to get through it. This day could be a milestone in your marriage if you allow it to be.  So resolve to focus on what the Lord may be saying to you, and purpose to follow His leading.

 

Today is about personal responsibility.  It’s something we all agree others should have, but we struggle to maintain it ourselves.  Over the past few decades, there’s been a decline in personal responsibility.  More and more, people seem less likely to acknowledge their own mistakes. We see it in politics.  We see it in business.  We see it in celebrity headlines.

 

But this is not just a problem with the rich and famous.  To find an example of someone who has an excuse for every action, all we have to do is look in the mirror.  We are so quick to justify our motives.  So quick to deflect criticism.  So quick to find fault – especially with our spouse, who is always the easiest one to blame.

 

We tend to believe that our views are correct, or at least much more correct than our mate’s.  And we don’t believe that anybody, give our same set of circumstances, would act much differently than we have.  As far as we’re concerned, we’re doing the best we can.  And our spouse just ought to be glad we’re as good to them as we are.

 

But love doesn’t pass the blame so easily or justify selfish motives.  Love is not nearly as concerned with its own performance as with other’s needs.  When love takes responsibility for its actions, it’s not to prove how noble you’ve been but rather to admit how much further you have to go.

 

Love doesn’t make excuses.  Love keeps working to make a difference – in you and in your marriage.

 

That’s why the next time you’re in an argument with your spouse, instead of working up your comebacks, stop and see if there’s something worth listening to in what your mate is saying.  What might happen in your relationship if instead of passing blame, you first admitted your own wrongs?  As the Scripture says, “Rebuke is more effective for a wise man than a hundred blows on a fool” (Proverbs 17:10 NKJV).

 

Love is responsible and is willing to admit and correct its faults and errors up front.  Are you taking responsibility for this person you chose for yourself as the love of your life?  How deliberate are you about making sure your spouse’s needs are met?  Or are you only concerned with your mate fulfilling yours?  Love calls us to take responsibility for our partner in marriage.  To love them.  To honor them.  To cherish them.

 

Are you taking responsibility for your own faults?  Have you said or done things to your spouse – or to God – that are wrong?  Love desires to have a right relationship with both God and your mate.  Once that is right, the stage is set for other areas to fall into place.

 

A real heart of repentance may take a while to grow in you. Pride is very resistant to responsibility, but humility and honesty before God and your spouse is crucial for a healthy relationship.

 

This doesn’t mean you’re always wrong and your spouse is always right.  This is not a demand that you become a doormat.  But if there is something that’s not right between you and God, or you and your spouse, then that should be the first priority.

 

“If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us” (1 John 1:8).  However, “if we confess our sins, [God] is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).  Confess your areas of sin first, then you’ll be on better ground to work things out with your spouse.

 

In order to walk with God and to keep His favor, you must stay clean before Him.  That doesn’t mean you can never stumble but you confess it to God and ask for forgiveness when you do.

 

Can your spouse say that you have wronged or wounded them in any way and never made it right?  Part of taking responsibility is admitting when you’ve failed and asking for forgiveness.  It’s time to humble yourself, correct your offenses, and repair the damage.  It’s an act of love.  God wants there to be no unresolved issues between the two of you.

 

The problem is, to do it sincerely you must swallow your pride and seek forgiveness regardless of how your spouse responds.  They should forgive you, but your responsibility does not lie with their decision.  Admitting your mistakes is your responsibility.  If they have wronged you, leave that for them to deal with at another time.

 

Ask God to show you where you have failed in your responsibility, then get it right with Him first. Once you’ve done that, you need to get right with your spouse.  It may be the most difficult thing you’ve ever done, but it is crucial to taking the next step in your marriage and with God.  If you are sincere, you may be surprised at the grace and strength God give you when you take this step.

 

Today’s Dare

 

Take time to pray through your areas of wrongdoing.  As for God’s forgiveness, then humble yourself enough to admit them to your spouse.  Do it sincerely and truthfully.  Ask your spouse for forgiveness as well.  No matter how they respond, make sure you cover your responsibility in love.  Even if they respond with criticism, accept it by receiving it as counsel.

 

Each one must examine his own work … in regard to himself alone. (Galatians 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.

 

 

 

 

Jan 30 2010

Love Dare - Day 25

 

Love Forgives

 

What I have forgiven, if I have forgiven anything, I did it for your sakes in the presence of Christ. – 2 Corinthians 2:10

 

 

This one is tough – perhaps the toughest dare in the book.  But if there is to be any hope for your marriage, this is a challenge that must absolutely be taken seriously.  Counselors and ministers who deal with broken couples on a regular basis will tell you that this is the most complex problem of all, a rupture that is often the last to be repaired.  It cannot just be considered and contemplated but must be deliberately put into practice.  Forgiveness has to happen, or a successful marriage won’t.

 

Jesus painted a vivid image of forgiveness in His parable of the ungrateful servant.  A man who owed a sizable sum of money was surprised when his master heard his appeals for mercy and totally canceled his debt.  But upon being released from this enormous load, the servant did a most unexpected thing; he went to another man who owed him a much smaller amount and demanded immediate payment.  When the master heard of it, things changed dramatically in his arrangement with the slave.  “His lord, moved with anger, handed him over to the torturers until he should repay all that was owed him” (Matthew 18:34).  A day that had begun with joy and relief ended in grief and hopelessness.

 

Torture. Prison. When you think of unforgiveness, this is what should come to your mind, for Jesus said, “My heavenly Father will also do the same to you, if each of does not forgive his brother from your heart” (Matthew 18:35).

 

Imagine you find yourself in a prison-like setting.  As you look around, you see a number of cells visible from where you’re standing.  You see people from your past incarcerated there – people who wounded you as a child.  You see people you once called friends but who wronged you at some point in life.  You might see one or both of your parents there, perhaps a brother or sister or some other family member.  Even your spouse is locked in nearby, trapped with all the others in this jail of your own making.

 

This prison, you see, is a room in your own heart.  This dark, drafty, depressing chamber exists inside you every day.  But not far away, Jesus is standing there, extending to you a key that will release every inmate.

 

No. You don’t want any part of it.  These people have hurt you too badly.  They knew what they were doing and yet they did it anyway – even your spouse, the one you should have been able to count on most of all.  So you resist and turn away.  You’re unwilling to stay here any longer – seeing Jesus, seeing the key in His hand, knowing what He’s asking you to do.  It’s just too much.

 

But in trying to escape, you make a startling discovery.  There is no way out.  You’re trapped inside with all other captives.  Your unforgiveness, anger, and bitterness have made a prisoner of you as well.  Like the servant in Jesus’ story, who was forgiven an impossible debt, you have chosen not to forgive and have been handed over to the jailers and torturers.  Your freedom is now dependent on your forgiveness.

 

Coming to this conclusion usually takes us a while. We see all kinds of dangers and risks involved in forgiving others.  For instance, what they did was really wrong, whether they admit it or  not.  They may not even be sorry about it.  They may feel perfectly justified in their actions, even going so far as to blame you for it.  But forgiveness doesn’t absolve anyone of blame.  It doesn’t clear their record with God.  It just clears you of having to worry about how to punish them.  When you forgive another person, you’re not turning them loose.  You’re just turning them over to God, who can be counted on to deal with them His way.  You’re saving yourself the trouble of scripting any more arguments or trying to prevail in this situation.  It’s not about winning and losing anymore. It’s about freedom.  It’s about letting go.

 

That’s why you often hear people who have genuinely forgiven say, “It felt like a weight being lifted off my shoulders.”  Yes, that’s exactly what it is.  It’s like a breath of fresh air rushing into your hear.  The stale dankness of the prison house is flooded with light and coolness.  For the first time in a long time, you feel at peace.  You feel free.

 

But how do you do it?  You release your anger and the responsibility for judging this person to the Lord.  “Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath for it is written, ‘Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,’ says the Lord” (Romans 12:19).

 

How do you know you’ve done it?  You know it when the thought of their name or the sight of their face – rather than causing your blood to boil – causes you to feel sorry for them instead, to pity them, to genuinely hope they get this turned around.

 

There’s so much more that could be said and so many emotional issues you may need to fight through to get there.  But great marriages are not created by people who never hurt each other, only by people who choose to keep “no record of wrongs” (1 Corinthians 13:5).

 

 

Today’s Dare

 

Whatever you haven’t forgiven in your mate, forgive it today.  Let it go.  Just as we ask Jesus to “forgive us our debts” each day, we must ask Him to help us “forgive our debtors” each day as well.  Unforgiveness has been keeping you and your spouse in prison too long.  Say from your heart, “I choose to forgive.”

 

Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.  (Luke 23:34).

 

 

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 29 2010

Love Dare - Day 24

Love vs. Lust

 

The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever.  – 1 John 2:17

 

Adam and Eve were supplied with everything they needed in the Garden of Eden.  They had fellowship with God and intimacy with one another.  But after Eve was deceived by the serpent, she saw the forbidden fruit and set her heart on it.  Before long, Adam joined in her wishes, and against God’s command both of them ate.

 

That’s the progression.  From eyes to heart to action.  And then follows shame and regret.

 

We, too, have been supplied with everything we need for a full, productive, enriching life.  “We have brought nothing into the world, so we cannot take anything out of it either” (1 Timothy 6:7).  But the Bible goes on to say that, having basics of food and clothing, we should be “content.”  And Jesus promised these two things would always be provided to God’s children (Matthew 6:25-33).

 

God’s blessings, however, go so far beyond these fundamental needs, we could rightly say that we want for nothing.  Yet like Adam and Eve, we still want more.  So we set our eyes and hearts on seeking worldly pleasure.  We try to meet legitimate needs in illegitimate ways.  For many it’s seeking sexual fulfillment in another person or in pornographic images designed to feel like a real person.  We look, stare, and fantasize.  We try to be discreet but barely turn our eyes away.  And once our eyes are capture by curiosity, our hearts become entangled. Then we act on our lust.

 

We can also lust after possessions or power or prideful ambition.  We see what others have and we want it.  Our hearts are deceived into saying, “I could be happy if I only had this.”  Then we make the decision to go after it.

 

“But those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a snare and many foolish and harmful desires which plunge men into ruin and destruction” (1 Timothy 6:9).

 

Lust is in opposition to love.  It means to set your heart and passions on something forbidden.  And for a believer it’s the first step out of fellowship with the Lord and with others.  That’s because every object of your lust – whether it’s a young coworker or a film actress, or coveting after a half-million dollar house or a sports car – represents the beginnings of a lie.  This person or thing that seems to promise sheer satisfaction is more like a bottomless pit of unmet longings.

 

Lust always breeds more lust.  “What is the source of the wars and the fights among you?  Don’t they come from the cravings that are at war within you?  (James 4:1 HCSB).  Lust will make you dissatisfied with your husband or wife.  It breeds anger, numbs hearts, and destroys marriages.  Rather than fullness, it leads to emptiness.

 

It’s time to expose lust for what it really is – a misguided thirst for satisfaction that only God can fulfill.  Lust is like a warning light on the dashboard of your heart, alerting you to the fact that you are not allowing God’s love to fill you.  When your eyes and heart are on Him, your actions will lead you to lasting joy, not to endless cycles of regret and condemnation.

 

“His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence.  For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust” (2 Peter 1:3-4).

 

Are you tired of being lied to by lust?  Are you fed up with believing that forbidden pleasures are able to keep you happy and content?  Then begin setting your eyes on the Word of God.  Let His promises of peace and freedom work their way into your heart.  Daily receive the unconditional love He has already proven to your through the cross. Focus on being grateful for everything God has already given you rather than choosing discontentment.

 

You’ll find yourself so full on what He provides, you won’t be hungry anymore for the junk food of lust.

 

And while you’re at it, set your eyes and heart on your spouse again.  “Let your fountain be blessed, and rejoice in the wife of your youth … Be exhilarated always with her love.  For why should you, my son, be exhilarated with an adulteress and embrace the bosom of a foreigner?  For the ways of a man are before the eyes of the Lord, and He watches all his paths” (Proverbs 5:18-21).

 

“Do not love the world nor the things in the world.  If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him” (1 John 2:15).  Lust is the best this world has to offer, but love offers you the best life in the world.

 

 

Today’s Dare

 

End it now.  Identify every object of lust in your life and remove it.  Single out every lie you’ve swallowed in pursuing forbidden pleasure and reject it.  Lust cannot be allowed to live in a back bedroom.  It must be killed and destroyed – today – and replaced with the sure promises of God and a heart filled with His perfect love.

 

Act as free men, and do not use your freedom as a covering for evil.  (1 Peter 2:16)

 

 

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.