Feb 13 2010

Love Dare - Day 39

Love Endures

 

Love never fails. – 1 Corinthians 13:8

 

Of all the things love dares to do, this the ultimate.  Though threatened, it keeps pursuing.  Though challenged, it keeps moving forward.  Though mistreated and rejected, it refuses to give up.

 

Love never fails.

 

Many times when a marriage is in crisis, the spouse who is trying to make things work will go to the other, declaring in no uncertain terms that no matter what has happened in the past, he or she is committed to this marriage.  Their love can be counted on to last.  They promise.  But not wanting to hear this yet, the other spouse holds their position.  They still want out.  They don’t see this marriage lasting long-term.  Nor do they even want it to anymore.

 

The partner who has just laid his or her heart on the line, extending the olive branch, can’t handle the rejection.  So they withdraw their statement.  “Fine.  If that’s the way you want it, that’s the way it’ll be.”

 

But if love is really love, it doesn’t waffle when it’s not received the way you want it to be.  If love can be told to quit loving, then it’s not really love.  Love that is from God is unending, unstoppable.  If the object of its affection doesn’t choose to receive it, love keeps giving anyway.

 

Love never fails.

 

Never.

 

That’s what Jesus’ love is like.  His disciples were nothing if not unpredictable.  After their final Passover meal together, when Jesus told them they would all forsake Him before the night was over, Peter declared, “Even though all may fall away because of You, I will never fall away … Even if I have to die with You, I will not deny You” (Matthew 26:33, 35).  All the other disciples echoed the very same promise.

 

But later that night, Jesus’ inner circle of followers – Peter, James, and John – would sleep through Christ’s agony in the garden.  On the way to Christ’s crucifixion, Peter would deny Him three times in the courtyard.  But at the precise moment, the Bible says Jesus “turned and looked” at him (Luke 22:61).  His men had failed Him – again – within hours of their sworn promises.  Yet He never stopped loving them, because He and His love are “the same yesterday and today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8).

 

When you have done everything within your power to obey God, your spouse may still forsake you and walk away – just as Jesus’ followers did to Him.  But if your marriage fails, if your spouse walks away, let it not be because you gave up or stopped loving them.

 

Love never fails.

 

Of the nine “fruits of the Spirit” listed in Galatians 5, the first of all is love.  And because the unchanging Holy Spirit is its source – the same Holy Spirit who dwells in the hearts of all believers – then the love He creates in you is unchanging as well.  It is based on the will of God, the calling of God, and the Word of God – all unchanging things. The Bible declares them “irrevocable” (Romans 11:29).  “Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away” (Luke 21:33).

 

Only a few days ago you were Love Dared to build your marriage on the Word of God.  That’s because when all else fails, the truth of God will still be standing.  Along the way you have also been dared to be patient, to be unselfish, to sacrifice for your mate’s needs.

 

These are not just loving ideas, existing in isolation.  Each quality of love outlined in this book is based on the love of God, captured and expressed in the Word of God.  The unchanging Word of God.  No challenge or circumstance can occur that will ever put an expiration date on Him or His love.  Therefore, your love – made of the same substance – bears the same, unchanging characteristics.

 

Love never fails.

 

So today your dare is to put your unfailing love into the most powerful, personal words you can.  This is your chance to declare that no matter what imperfections exist – both in you and in your spouse – your love is greater still.  No matter what they’ve done or how often they’ve done it, you choose to love them anyway.  Though you’ve been far from steady in your treatment of them over the years, your days of being inconsistent in love are over.  You accept this one man or woman as God’s special gift to you, and you promise to love them until death.

 

You’re saying to your spouse, “Even if you don’t like what you’re reading – even if you don’t like me – I choose to love you anyway.  Forever.”

 

Because love never fails.

 

Today’s Dare

 

Spend time in personal prayer, then write a letter of commitment and resolve to your spouse.  Include why you are committing to this marriage until death, and that you have purposed to love them no matter what.  Leave it in a place that your mate will find it.

 

He delights in unchanging love.  (Micah 7:18)

                                                      

 

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 11 2010

Love Dare - Day 37

Love Agrees in Prayer

 

If two of you agree on earth about anything that they may ask, it shall be done for them by May Father.  – Matthew 18:19

 

If someone told you that by changing one thing about your marriage, you could guarantee with near 100 percent assurance that your life together would significantly improve, you would at least want to know what it was.  And for many godly couples, that “one thing” is the daily practice of praying together.

 

To someone who tends to devalue spiritual matters, this sounds fairly ridiculous.  And if told that shared prayer is a key ingredient in marital longevity and leads to a heightened sense of sexual intimacy, they would think you had really gone too far. But the unity that grows between a man and woman who regularly pray together forms an intense and powerful connection.  Within the sanctuary of your marriage, praying together can work wonders on every level of your relationship.

 

When you were joined together as husband and wife, God gave you a wedding gift – a permanent prayer partner for life.  When you need wisdom on a certain decision, you and your prayer partner can seek God together for the answer.  When you’re struggling with your own fears and insecurities, your prayer partner can hold your hand and intercede on your behalf.  When you and your spouse are not getting along and can’t get past a particular argument or sticking point, you can call a time out, drop your weapons, and go with your partner into emergency prayer.  It should become your automatic reflex action when you don’t know what else to do.

 

It’s hard to stay angry long with someone for whom you’re praying.  It’s hard not to back down when you’re hearing your mate humbly cry out to God and beg Him for mercy in the midst of your heated crisis.  In prayer, two people remember that God has made them one.  And in the grip of His uniting presence, disharmony blends into beauty.

 

Praying for your spouse leads your heart to care more deeply about them.  But more importantly, God is pleased when He sees you both humbling yourselves and seeking His face together.  His blessing falls on you when you agree in prayer.

 

The word Jesus used when He talked about “agreeing” in prayer has the idea of harmonic symphony. Two separate notes, played one at a time, sound different.  They’re opposed to each other.  But play them at the same time – in agreement – and they can create a pleasing sense of harmony.  Together they give a fuller, more complete sound than either of them can make on its own.

 

Agreeing in prayer is like that – even in the midst of disagreeing.  It pulls you both back toward your real center.  It places you on common ground, face-to-face before the Father.  It restores harmony in the midst of contention.

 

The church – which in Scripture has a marriage connotation with Christ – can sometimes be a place where conflict rules.  The disharmony that can flare up over various matters can derail the church from its mission and disrupt the free flow of worship and unity.  At times godly church leaders will see what is taking place, break off discussions, and call the people of God to prayer.  Instead of continuing the discord and allowing more feelings to be hurt, they will seek unity by turning their hearts back to God and appealing to Him for help.

 

The same thing happens in our homes when there is an intervention of prayer, even at high points of disagreement.  It stops the bleeding.  It quiets the loud voices.  It pauses you as you realize whose presence you’re in.

 

But prayer is for a lot more than breaking up fights.  Prayer is a privilege to be enjoyed on a consistent, daily basis.  When you know that prayer time awaits you before going to bed, it will change the way you spend your evening.  Even if your prayers together are typically short and to the point, this will become a standing appointment that you can orbit your day around, keeping God in the middle of everything.

 

It’s true that beginning a habit like this can initially feel awkward and uncomfortable.  Anything this powerful will surprise you with its weight and responsibility when you actually try doing it.  But bear in mind that God wants you to engage with Him – invites you, in fact – and He will grow you as you take it seriously and push past those times when you don’t know what to say.

 

You’ll look back at this common thread that ran through everything from average Mondays to major decisions and be so thankful for this “one thing” that changed everything.  This is one area where it’s imperative that you agree to agree.

 

 

Today’s Dare

 

Ask your spouse if you can begin praying together.  Talk about the best time to do this -- whether it’s in the morning, your lunch hour, or before bedtime.  Use this time to commit your concerns, disagreements, and needs before the Lord.  Don’t forget to thank Him for His provision and blessing.  Even if your spouse refuses to do this, resolve to spend this daily time in prayer yourself.

 

In the morning my prayer comes before You. (Psalm 88:13)

 

 

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 09 2010

Love Dare - Day 35

Love is Accountable

 

Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed.  – Proverbs 15:22

 

Mighty sequoia trees tower hundreds of feet in the air and can withstand intense environmental pressures.  Lightning can strike them, fierce winds can blow, and forest fires can rage around them.  But the sequoia endures, standing firm, only growing stronger through the trials.

 

One of the secrets to the strength of this giant tree is what goes on below the surface.  Unlike many trees, they reach out and interlock their roots with the sequoias around them.  Each becomes empowered and reinforced by the strength of each others.

 

The secret to the sequoia is also the key to maintaining a strong, healthy marriage.  A couple that faces problems alone is more likely to fall apart during rough times.  However, the ones who interlock their lives in a network of other strong marriages radically increase their chances of surviving the fiercest of storms.  It is crucial that a husband and wife pursue godly advice, healthy friendships, and experienced mentors.

 

Everyone needs wise counsel throughout life.  Wise people constantly seek it and gladly receive it.  Fools never ask for it and then ignore it when it’s given to them.

 

As the Bible so clearly explains, “The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man is he who listens to counsel” (Proverbs 12:15).

 

Gaining wise counsel is like having a detailed road map and a personal guide while traveling on a long, challenging journey.  It can be the difference between continual success or the destruction of another marriage.  It is vital that you invite strong couples to share the wisdom they have gained through their own successes and failures.

 

Why waste years of your life learning painful lessons when you could discover those same truths during a few hours of wise counsel?  Why not cross the bridges others have built?  Wisdom is more valuable than gold.  Not receiving it is like letting priceless coins pass through your fingers.

 

Good marriage mentors warn you before you make a bad decision.  They encourage you when you are ready to give up.  And they cheer you on as you reach new levels of intimacy in your marriage.

 

Do you have an older couple or a friend or a friend of the same gender you can turn to for good advice, for prayer support, and for regular accountability checkups?  Do you have someone in your life who shoots straight with you?

 

You and your spouse need these types of friends and mentors on a consistent basis.  The Bible says, “Encourage one another day after day … so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin” (Hebrews 3:13).  Too often we can isolate ourselves from others.  If we are not careful, we could push away the people who love us the most.

 

You must guard yourself against the wrong influencers.  Everyone has an opinion and some people will encourage you to act selfishly and leave your mate in order to pursue your own happiness.  Be careful about listening to advice from people who don’t have a good marriage themselves.

 

If your marriage is hanging by a thread or already heading for a divorce, then you need to stop everything and pursue solid counseling as quickly as possible. Call a pastor, a Bible-believing counselor, or a marriage ministry today.  As awkward as it may initially be to open up your life to a stranger, your marriage is worth every second spent and every sacrifice you will make for it.  Even if your marriage is fairly stable, you’re in no less need of honest, open mentors – people who can put wind in your sails and make your marriage even better.

 

How do you pick a good mentor?  You look for a person who has the kind of marriage you want.  You look for a person whose heart for Christ comes first before everything else.  You look for someone who doesn’t live by his or her opinions but by the unchanging Word of God.  And more times than not, this person will likely be delighted you asked for help.  Start praying for God to send this person into your life.  Then pick a time to meet and talk.

 

If this doesn’t sound too important to you, it would be a good idea to ask yourself why.  Do you have something to hide?  Are you afraid you will be embarrassed?  Do you think your marriage is exempt from needing outside help?  Does diving into a river of positive influence not appeal to you?  Don’t be the captain of another Titanic divorce by ignoring the warning signs around you when you could have been helped.

 

Here’s an important reminder from Scripture: “Each one of us will give an account of himself to God” (Romans 14:12).  This appointment is unbreakable.  And though we’re all ultimately responsible for the way we approach it, we can surely stand as much help as others can give.  It might just be the relational influence that takes your marriage from mediocre to amazing.

 

 

Today’s Dare

 

Find a marriage mentor – someone who is a strong Christian and who will be honest and loving with you.  If you feel that counseling is needed, then take the first step to set up an appointment.  During this process, ask God to direct your decisions and discernment.

 

In abundance of counselors there is victory.  (Proverbs 11:14)

 

 

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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