Feb 04 2010

Love Dare - Day 30

Love Brings Unity

 

Father, keep them in Your name, the name which You have given Me, that they may be one even as We are. – John 17:11

 

One of the most impressive things about the Bible is the way it linked together, with consistent themes running throughout, from beginning to end.  Though written over a span of 1,600 years and composed by more than forty writers of various backgrounds and skill levels, God sovereignty authored it with one united voice.  And He continues to speak through it today without going message.

 

Unity. Togetherness. Oneness. 

 

These are the unshakable hallmarks of our God.

 

From the very beginning of time, we see His unity at work through the Trinity – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. God the Father is there, creating the heavens and the earth.  The Spirit is “moving over the surface of the waters” (Genesis 1:2).  And the Son, who is “the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature” (Hebrews 1:3), joins in speaking the world into existence.  “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness” (Genesis 1:26).

 

Us. Our.

 

All three are in perfect oneness of mind and purpose.

 

We later see Jesus rising from the waters of baptism, as the Spirit descends like a dove and the Father announces over this majestic scene, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased” (Matthew 3:17).

 

Jesus later says, “I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me” (John 6:38).  His desire to answer His followers’ prayer is “so that the Father may be glorified in the Son” (John 14:13).  He asks the Father to send the Holy Spirit, knowing that the Spirit will faithfully testify about the Son He loves, for “no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God” (1 Corinthians 2:11 NIV).

 

Father, Son, and Spirit are in pristine unity.  They serve each other, love each other, and honor each other.  Though equal, they rejoice when the other is praised.  Though distinct, they are one, indivisible.

 

And because this relationship is so special – so representative of the vastness and grandeur of God – He has chosen to let us experience an aspect of it.  In the unique relationship of husband and wife, two distinct individuals are spiritually united into “one flesh” (Genesis 2:24).  And “what God has joined together, let man not separate” (Mark 10:9 NIV).

 

In fact, this mystery is so compelling – and the love between husband and wife so intertwined and complete – that God uses the imagery of marriage to explain His love for the church.

 

The church (the bride) is most honored when her Savior is worshiped and celebrated.  Christ (the bridegroom), who has given Himself up for her, is most honored when He sees her “as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless” (Ephesians 5:27 NIV).  Both Christ and the church love and honor the other.

 

That’s the beauty of unity.

 

Husband – What would happen in your marriage if you devoted yourself to loving, honoring, and serving your wife in all things?  What if you determined that the preservation of your oneness with this woman was worth every sacrifice and expression of love you could make?  What would change in your home if you took that approach to your relationship on a daily basis?

 

Wife – What would happen if you made it your mission to do everything possible to promote togetherness of heart with your husband?  What if every threat to your unity was treated as a poison, a cancer, an enemy to be eliminated by love, humility, and selflessness?  What would your marriage become if you were never again willing to see your oneness torn apart?

 

The unity of the Trinity, as seen beyond the reaches of history past and continuing into the future, is evidence of the power of oneness.  It is unbreakable.  It is unending.  And it is this same spiritual reality that disguises itself as your home and mailing address.  Though painted in the colors of work schedules and doctor visits and trips to the grocery, oneness is the eternal thread that runs through the daily experience of what you call “your marriage,” giving it a purpose to be defended for life.

 

Therefore, love this one who is as much a part of your body as you are.  Serve this one whose needs cannot be separated from your own.  Honor this one who, when raised upon the pedestal of your love, raises you up too in the eyes of God, all at the same time.

 

Today’s Dare

 

Isolate one area of division in  your marriage, and look on today as a fresh opportunity to pray about it.  Ask the Lord to reveal anything in your own heart that is threatening oneness with your spouse.  Pray that He would do the same for them.  And if appropriate, discuss this matter openly, seeking God for unity.

 

 

The Lord is our God, the Lord is one! (Deuteronomy 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.

 

Feb 03 2010

Love Dare - Day 29

Love’s Motivation

 

Render service with a good attitude, as to the Lord and not to men.  – Ephesians 6:7 HCSB

 

It doesn’t take much experience to discover that your mate will not always motivate your love.  In fact, many times they will de-motivate it.  More often than you’d like, it will seem difficult to find the inspiration to demonstrated your love.  They may not even receive it when you try to express it.  That’s simply the nature life, even in fairly healthy marriages.

 

But although moods and emotions can create all kinds of moving motivational targets, one is certain to stay in the same place, all the time.  When God is your reason for loving, your ability to love is guaranteed.

 

That’s because love comes from Him.

 

Think of it like this. When you were a child, your parents certainly established rules for you to follow.  Your bedtime was at a certain hour.  Your room had to be kept mostly clean.  Your schoolwork needed to be finished before you could go play.  If you were like most people, you bent these rules as often as you obeyed them.  And if not for the incentive of force and consequences, you might not have obeyed them at all.

 

But if you met Christ along the way or received any kind of Bible teaching, you probably were exposed to this idea – “Children, be obedient to your parents in all things, for this is well-pleasing to the Lord” (Colossians 3:20).  If you took this to heart at all, you knew you didn’t merely have your parents to answer anymore.

 

This was no longer a battle of wills between you and a flesh-and-blood authority figure.  This was now between you and God.  Your mom and dad were just the go-betweens.

 

As it turns out, however, the relationship between parents and children isn’t the only thing enhanced by letting God become your driving motivation.  Consider the following areas where pleasing Him should become our goal:

 

Work. “Do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men” (Colossians 3:23).

 

Service. “Obey those who are your masters on earth, not with external service, as those who merely please men, but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord” (Colossians 3:22).

 

Everything. “Work hard at “whatever you do … knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance.  It is the Lord Christ whom you serve” (Colossians 3:23-24).

 

Even marriage. “Wives, be subject to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord” (Colossians 3:18).  “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her” (Ephesians 5:25).

 

The love that’s demanded from you in marriage is not dependent on your mate’s sweetness or suitability.  The love between a husband and wife should have one chief objective: honoring the Lord with devotion and sincerity.  The fact that it blesses our beloved in the process is simply a wonderful, additional benefit.

 

This change of focus and perspective is crucial for a Christian.  Being able to wake up knowing that God is your source and supply – not just of your own needs but also those of your spouse – changes your whole reason for interacting with your mate.

 

No longer is it this imperfect person who decides how much love you’ll show, but rather it’s your omni-perfect God who can use even a flawed person like yourself to bestow loving favor on another.

 

Has your wife become fairly hard to live with lately?  Is her slowness at getting over a disagreement wearing on your patience?  Can she not just give it a rest?  Don’t withhold your love just because she thinks differently from you.  Love her “as to the Lord.”

 

Is your husband tuning you out, not saying much, apparently brooding over something he’s not interested in sharing?  Do you feel hurt by his unwillingness to open up?  Are you tired of him being so short with you, not even responding to the children the way he needs to?  Don’t battle back with a double dose of silence and inattention.  Love him anyway.  “As to the Lord.”

 

Love motivated by mere duty cannot hold out for very long.  And love that is only motivated by favorable conditions can never be assured of sufficient oxygen to keep it breathing.  Only love that is lifted up as an offering to God – returned to Him in gratitude for all He’s done – is able to sustain itself when all other reasons have lost their ability to energize us.

 

Those who are fine with mediocre marriages can leave their love to chance and hope for the best.  But if you are committed to giving your spouse the best.  But if you are committed to giving your spouse the best love you possibly can, you need to shoot for love’s highest motivation.  Love that has god as its primary focus is unlimited in the heights it can attain.

 

 

Today’s Dare

 

Before you see your spouse again today, pray for them by name and for their needs.  Whether it comes easy for you or not, say “I love you,” then express love to them in some tangible way.  Go to God in prayers again, thanking Him for giving you the privilege of loving this one special person – unconditionally, the way He loves both of you.

 

 

As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord. (Joshua 24:15)

 

 

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 02 2010

Love Dare - Day 28

Love Makes Sacrifices

 

He laid down His life for us.  We should also lay down our lives for our brothers. – 1 John 3:16 HCSB

 

Life can be hard.  But what we usually mean is that our life can be hard.  We’re the first to feel it when we’re the ones being mistreated or inconvenienced.  We’re quick to sulk when we’re the ones who feel deprived or unappreciated.  When life is difficult for us, we notice.

 

But too often the only way we notice that life is hard for our mate is when they start complaining about it.  Then instead of genuinely caring or rushing in to help, we might think they just have a bad attitude.  The pain and pressure they’re under don’t register with us the way it does when it’s our pain and pressure.  When we want to complain, we expect everyone to understand and feel sorry for us.

 

This doesn’t happen when love is at work.  Love doesn’t have to be jarred awake by your mate’s obvious signs of distress.  Before worries and troubles have begun to bury them, love has already gone into action mode.  It sees the weight beginning to pile up and it steps in to help.  That’s because love wants you to be sensitive to your spouse.

 

Love makes sacrifices.  It keeps you so tuned in to what your spouse needs that you often respond without being asked.  And when you don’t notice ahead of time and must be told what’s happening, love responds to the heart of the problem.

 

Even when your mate’s stress comes out in words of personal accusation, love shows compassion rather than becoming defensive.  Love inspires you to say “no” to what you want, in order to say “yes” to what your spouse needs.

 

That’s what Jesus did.  “He laid down His life for us” to show us that “we should also lay down our lives” for others.  He taught us that the evidence of love is found in seeing a need in others, then doing all we can to satisfy it.  “For I was hungry and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me” (Matthew 23:35-36).

 

These are the types of needs you should be looking for in your wife or husband.  Instead of sitting around upset that they’re not treating you the way you think they should, let love pick you up out of your self-pity and turn your attention to their needs.

 

Is he “hungry” – needing you sexually, even when you don’t feel like it?

 

Is she “thirsty” – craving the time and attention you seem to be able to give everyone else?

 

Does he feel like a “stranger” – insecure in his work, needing home to be a refuge and sanctuary?

 

Is she “naked” – frightened or ashamed, desperate for the warm covering of your loving affirmation?

 

Is he feeling “sick” – physically tired and needing you to help guard him from interruptions?

 

Does she feel in “prison” – fearful and depressed, needing some safety and intervention?

 

Love is willing to make sacrifices to see that the needs of your spouse are given your very best effort and focus.  When your mate is overwhelmed and under the gun, love calls you to set aside what seems so essential in your own life to help, even if it’s merely the gift of a listening ear.

 

Often all they really need is just to talk this situation out.  They need to see in your two attentive eyes that you truly care about what this is costing them, and you’re serious about helping them seek answers.  They need you to pray with them about what to do, and then keep following up to see how it’s going. 

 

The words “How can I help you?” need to stay fresh on your lips.

 

The solutions may be simple and easy for you to do, or they may be complex and expensive, requiring time, energy and great effort.  Either way, you should do whatever you can to meet the real needs of the one who is a part of who you are.  After all, when you help them, you are also helping yourself. That’s the beautiful part of sacrificing for your spouse.  Jesus did it for us.  And He extends the grace to do it for others.

 

When the New Testament believers began to walk in love, their lives together were marked by sharing and sacrifice.  Their heartbeat was to worship the Lord and to serve His people.  “All those who had believed were together and had all things in common; and they began selling their property and possessions and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have “need” (Acts 2:44-45).  As Paul said to one of these churches in a later decade, “I will most gladly spend and be expended for your souls” (2 Corinthians 12:15).  Lives that have been raised from death by Jesus sacrifice should be ready and willing to make daily sacrifices to meet the needs of others.

 

Today’s Dare

 

What is one of the greatest needs in your spouse’s life right now?  Is there a need you could lift from their shoulders today by a daring act of sacrifice on your part?  Whether the need is big or small, purpose to do what you can to meet the need.

 

 

Bear one another’s burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ. (Galatians 6:2)

 

 

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 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.