Jan 11 2010

Love Dare - Day 6

 "Love is not irritable"

He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit, than he who captures a city.  -Proverbs 16:32

 

Love is hard to offend and quick to forgive.  How easily do you get irritated and offended?  Some people have the motto, “Never pass up an opportunity to get upset with your spouse.”  When something goes wrong, they quickly take full advantage of it by expressing how hurt or frustrated they are.  But this is the opposite reaction to love.

 

To be irritable means “to be near the point of a knife.”  Not far from being poked.  People are irritated are locked, loaded, and ready to overact.

 

When under pressure, love doesn’t turn sour.  Minor problems don’t yield major reactions.  The truth is, love does not get angry or hurt unless there is a legitimate and just reason in the sight of God.  A loving husband will remain calm and patient, showing mercy and restraining his temper.  Rage and violence are out of the question.  A loving wife is not overly sensitive or cranky but exercise emotional self-control.  She chooses to be a flower among the thorns and respond pleasantly during prickly situations.

 

If you are walking under the influence of love, you will be a joy, not a jerk.  Ask yourself, “Am I a calming breeze, or a storm waiting to happen?”

 

Why do people become irritable?  There are at least two key reasons that contribute to it:

 

Stress.  Stress weighs you down, drains your energy, weakens your health, and invites you to be cranky.  It can be brought on by the relational causes: arguing, division, and the bitterness.  There are excessive causes: overworking, overplaying, and overspending.  And there are deficiencies: not get enough rest, nutrition, or exercise.  Oftentimes we inflict these daggers on ourselves, and this sets us up to be irritable.

 

Life is a marathon, not a sprint.  This means you must balance, prioritize, and pace yourself.  Too often we throw caution to the wind and run full steam ahead, doing what feels right at the moment.  Soon we are gasping for air, wound up in knots, and ready to snap.  The increasing pressure can wear away at our patience and our relationship.

 

The Bible can help you avoid unhealthy stress.  It teaches you to let love guide your relationships to so you aren’t caught up in unnecessary arguments (Colossians 3:12-14).  To pray through your anxieties instead of tackling them on your own (Philippians 4:6-7).  To delegate when you are overworked (Exodus 18:17-23).  To avoid overindulgence (Proverbs 23:16)

 

It also exhorts you to take a “Sabbath” vacation day every week for worship and rest.  This strategically allows you time to recharge, refocus, and add breathing room or margin to your weekly schedule.  Establishing these kinds of extra spaces will place cushions between you and the pressures around you, reducing stress that keeps you on edge around your mate.  But there is a deeper reason why you can become irritable –

 

Selfishness.  When you’re irritable, the heart of the problem is primarily a problem of the heart.  Jesus said, “Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks” (Matthew 12:34 NKJV).  Some people are like lemons: when life squeezes them, they pour out a sour response.  Some are more like peaches: when the pressure is on, the result is still sweet.

 

Being easily angered is an indicator that a hidden area of selfishness or insecurity is present where love is supposed to rule.  But selfishness also wears many other masks:

 

Lust, for example, is the result of being ungrateful for what you have and choosing to covet or burn with passion for something that is forbidden.  When your heart is lustful, it will become easily frustrated and angered (James 4:1-3).  Bitterness takes root when he is provoked (Ephesians 4:31).  Greed for more money and possessions will frustrate you with unfulfilled desires (1 Timothy 6:9-10).  These strong cravings coupled with dissatisfaction lead you to lash out at anyone who stands in your way.  Pride leads you to act harshly in order to protect your ego and reputation.

 

These motivations can never be satisfied.  But when love enters your heart, it calms you down and inspires you to quit focusing on yourself.  It loosens your grasp and helps you let go of unnecessary things.

 

Love will lead you to forgive instead of holding a grudge.  To be grateful instead of greedy.  To be content rather than rushing into more debt.  Love encourages you to be happy when someone else succeeds rather than lying wake at night in envy.  Love says “share the inheritance” rather than “fight with your relatives.”  It reminds you to prioritize your family rather than sacrifice them for a promotion at work.  In each decision, love ultimately lowers your stress and helps you release the venom that can build up inside.  It then sets up your heart to respond to your spouse with patience and encouragement rather than anger and exasperation.

TODAY'S DARE

Choose today to react to tough circumstances in your marriage in loving ways instead of with irritation.  Begin by making a list of areas where you need to add margin to your schedule.  Then list any wrong motivations that you need to release from your life.

 

 Things to ponder: 

Where do you need to add margin to your life?  When have you recently overreacted?  What was your real motivation behind it?

 

I always do my best to have a clear conscience towards God and men.  -Acts 24:16

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.

Jan 10 2010

Love Dare - Day 5

Day 5

Love is not rude

He who blesses his friend with a loud voice early in the morning, it will be reckoned a curse to him.

—Proverbs 27:14

 

Nothing irritates others as quickly as being rude. Rudeness is unnecessarily saying or doing things that are unpleasant for another person to be around. To be rude is to act unbecoming, embarrassing, or irritating. In marriage, this could be a foul mouth, poor table manners, or a habit of making sarcastic quips. However you look at it, no one enjoys being around a rude person. Rude behavior may seem insignificant to the person doing it, but it’s unpleasant to those on the receiving end.

As always, love has something to say about this. When a man is driven by love, he intentionally behaves in a way that’s more pleasant for his wife to be around. If she desires to love him, she purposefully avoids things that frustrate him or cause him discomfort.

The bottom line is that genuine love minds its manners.

Embracing this one concept could add some fresh air to your marriage. Good manners express to your wife or husband, “I value you enough to exercise some self-control around you. I want to be a person who’s a pleasure to be with.” When you allow love to change your behavior—even in the smallest of ways—you restore an atmosphere of honor to your relationship. People who practice good etiquette tend to raise the respect level of the environment around them.

For the most part, the etiquette you use at home is much different than the kind you employ with friends, or even with total strangers. You may be barking or pouting around the house, but if the front door chimes, you open it all smiling and kind. Yet if you dare to love, you’ll also want to give your best to your own. If you don’t let love motivate you to make needed changes in your behavior, the quality of your marriage relationship will suffer for it.

Women tend to be much better at certain types of manners than men, though they can be rude in other ways. King Solomon said, “Better to live on a corner of the roof than share a house with a quarrelsome wife” (Proverbs 25:24 niv). But men especially need to learn this important lesson. The Bible says, “It is well with the man who is gracious” (Psalm 112:5). A man of discretion will find out what is appropriate, then adjust his behavior accordingly.

There are two main reasons why people are rude: ignorance and selfishness. Neither, of course, is a good thing. A child is born ignorant of etiquette, needing lots of help and training. Adults, however, display their ignorance at another level. You know the rules, but you can be blind to how you break them or be too self-centered to care. In fact, you may not realize how unpleasant you can be to live with.

 

Test yourself with these questions:

• How does your spouse feel about the way you speak and act around them?

• How does your behavior affect your mate’s sense of worth and self-esteem?

• Would your husband or wife say you’re a blessing, or that you’re condescending and embarrassing?

 

If you’re thinking that your spouse—not you—is the one who needs work in this area, you’re likely suffering from a bad case of ignorance, with a secondary condition of selfishness. Remember, love is not rude but lifts you to a higher standard.

Do you wish your spouse would quit doing the things that bother you? Then it’s time to stop doing the things that bother them. Will you be thoughtful and loving enough to discover and avoid the behavior that causes life to be unpleasant for your mate? Will you dare to be delightful?

Here are three guiding principles when it comes to practicing etiquette in your marriage:

1. Guard the Golden Rule. Treat your mate the same way you want to be treated (see Luke 6:31).

2. No double standards. Be as considerate to your spouse as you are to strangers and coworkers.

3. Honor requests. Consider what your husband or wife already asked you to do or not do. If in doubt, then ask.

 

Today’s Dare

 

Ask your spouse to tell you three
things that cause him or her to be
uncomfortable or irritated with you.
You must do so without attacking them
or justifying your behavior. This is
from their perspective only.

-----------------------------

The words from the mouth of a wise man are gracious. (Ecclesiastes 10:12)

 

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.

 

Reproduced with permission
Jan 09 2010

Love Dare - Day 4

Day 4

Love is thoughtful

How precious also are Your thoughts to me. . . .
How vast is the sum of them! If I should count them,
they would outnumber the sand. —Psalm 139:17–18

 

Love thinks. It’s not a mindless feeling that rides on waves of emotion and falls asleep mentally. It keeps busy in thought, knowing that loving thoughts precede loving actions.

When you first fell in love, being thoughtful came quite naturally. You spent hours dreaming of what your loved one looked like, wondering what he or she was doing, rehearsing impressive things to say, then enjoying sweet memories of the time you spent together. You honestly confessed, “I can’t stop thinking about you.”

But for most couples, things begin to change after marriage. The wife finally has her man; the husband has his trophy. The hunt is over and the pursuing done. Sparks of romance slowly burn into grey embers, and the motivation for thoughtfulness cools. You drift into focusing on your job, your friends, your problems, your personal desires, yourself. After a while, you unintentionally begin to ignore the needs of your mate.

But the fact that marriage has added another person to your universe does not change. Therefore, if your thinking doesn’t mature enough to constantly include this person, you catch yourself being surprised rather than being thoughtful.

“Today’s our anniversary?”

“Why didn’t you include me in that decision?”

“Don’t you ever think about anyone but yourself?”

If you don’t learn to be thoughtful, you end up regretting missed opportunities to demonstrate love. Thoughtlessness is a silent enemy to a loving relationship.

Let’s be honest. Men struggle with thoughtfulness more than women. A man can focus like a laser on one thing and forget the rest of the world. Whereas this can benefit him in that one arena, it can make him overlook other things that need his attention.

A woman, on the other hand, is more multi-conscious, able to maintain an amazing awareness of many factors at once. She can talk on the phone, cook, know where the kids are in the house, and wonder why her husband isn’t helping . . . all simultaneously. Adding to this, a woman also thinks relationally. When she works on something, she is cognizant of all the people who are somehow connected to it.

Both of these tendencies are examples of how God designed women to complete their men. As God said at creation, “It is not good for the man to be alone; I will make him a helper suitable for him” (Genesis 2:18). But these differences also create opportunities for misunderstanding.

Men, for example, tend to think in headlines and say exactly what they mean. Not much is needed to understand the message. His words are more literal and shouldn’t be overanalyzed. But women think and speak between the lines. They tend to hint. A man often has to listen for what is implied if he wants to get the full meaning.

If a couple doesn’t understand this about one another, the fallout can result in endless disagreements. He’s frustrated wondering why she speaks in riddles and doesn’t just come out and say things. She’s frustrated wondering why he’s so inconsiderate and doesn’t add two and two together and just figure it out.

A woman deeply longs for her husband to be thoughtful. It is a key to helping her feel loved. When she speaks, a wise man will listen like a detective to discover the unspoken needs and desires her words imply. If, however, she always has to put the pieces together for him, it steals the opportunity for him to demonstrate that he loves her.

This also explains why women will get upset with their husbands without telling them why. In her mind she’s thinking, “I shouldn’t have to spell it out for him. He should be able to look at the situation and see what’s going on here.” At the same time, he’s grieved because he can’t read her mind and wonders why he’s being punished for a crime he didn’t know he committed.

Love requires thoughtfulness—on both sides—the kind that builds bridges through the constructive combination of patience, kindness, and selflessness. Love teaches you how to meet in the middle, to respect and appreciate how your spouse uniquely thinks.

A husband should listen to his wife and learn to be considerate of her unspoken messages. A wife should learn to communicate truthfully and not say one thing while meaning another.

But too often you become angry and frustrated instead, following the destructive pattern of “ready, shoot, aim.” You speak harshly now and determine later if you should have said it. But the thoughtful nature of love teaches you to engage your mind before engaging your lips. Love thinks before speaking. It filters words through a grid of truth and kindness.

When was the last time you spent a few minutes thinking about how you could better understand and demonstrate love to your spouse? What immediate need can you meet? What’s the next event (anniversary, birthday, holiday) you could be preparing for? Great marriages come from great thinking.

 

Today’s Dare

Contact your spouse sometime during
the business of the day. Have no agenda
other than asking how he or she
is doing and if there is anything
you could do for them.

-------------------------------------------

 I thank my God in all my remembrance of you. (Philippians 1:3)

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.

 

 

Reproduced with permission

 

 

Jan 08 2010

Love Dare - Day 3

Day 3

Love is not selfish

 Be devoted to one another in brotherly love;
give preference to one another in honor. —Romans 12:10

 

We live in a world that is enamored with “self.” The culture around us teaches us to focus on our appearance, feelings, and personal desires as the top priority. The goal, it seems, is to chase the highest level of happiness possible. The danger from this kind of thinking, however, becomes painfully apparent once inside a marriage relationship.

If there were ever a word that basically means the opposite of love, it is selfishness. Unfortunately it is something that is ingrained into every person from birth. You can see it in the way young children act, and often in the way adults mistreat one another. Almost every sinful action ever committed can be traced back to a selfish motive. It is a trait we hate in other people but justify in ourselves. Yet you cannot point out the many ways your spouse is selfish without admitting that you can be selfish too. That would be hypocritical.

Why do we have such low standards for ourselves but high expectations for our mate? The answer is a painful pill to swallow. We are all selfish.

When a husband puts his interests, desires, and priorities in front of his wife, that’s a sign of selfishness. When a wife constantly complains about the time and energy she spends meeting the needs of her husband, that’s a sign of selfishness. But love “does not seek its own” (1 Corinthians 13:5). Loving couples—the ones who are enjoying the full purpose of marriage—are bent on taking good care of the other flawed human they get to share life with. That’s because true love looks for ways to say “yes.”

One ironic aspect of selfishness is that even generous actions can be selfish if the motive is to gain bragging rights or receive a reward. If you do even a good thing to deceitfully manipulate your husband or wife, you are still being selfish. The bottom line is that you either make decisions out of love for others or love for yourself.

Love is never satisfied except in the welfare of others. You can’t be acting out of real love and selfishness at the same time. Choosing to love your mate will cause you to say “no” to what you want so you can say “yes” to what they need. That’s putting the happiness of your partner above your own. It doesn’t mean you can never experience happiness, but you don’t negate the happiness of your spouse so you can enjoy it yourself.

Love also leads to inner joy. When you prioritize the well-being of your mate, there is a resulting fulfillment that cannot be duplicated by selfish actions. This is a benefit that God created and reserves for those who genuinely demonstrate love. The truth is, when you relinquish your rights for the sake of your mate, you get a chance to lose yourself to the greater purpose of marriage.

Nobody knows you as well as your spouse. And that means no one will be quicker to recognize a change when you deliberately start sacrificing your wants and wishes to make sure his or her needs are met.

If you find it hard to sacrifice your own desires to benefit your spouse, then you may have a deeper problem with selfishness than you want to admit.

 

Ask yourself these questions:

• Do I truly want what’s best for my husband or wife?

• Do I want them to feel loved by me?

• Do they believe I have their best interests in mind?

• Do they see me as looking out for myself first?

 

Whether you like it or not, you have a reputation in the eyes of those around you, especially in the eyes of your spouse. But is it a loving reputation? Remember, your marriage partner also has the challenge of loving a selfish person. So determine to be the first to demonstrate real love to them, with your eyes wide open. And when all is said and done, you’ll both be more fulfilled.

“Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves” (Philippians 2:3).

 

Today’s Dare

 Whatever you put your time, energy, and
money into will become more important
to you. It’s hard to care for something
you are not investing in. Along with
restraining from negative comments,
buy your spouse something that says,
“I was thinking of you today.”

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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.

Reproduced with permission