Jan 27 2010

Love Dare - Day 22

Love is Faithful

 

I will betroth you to Me in faithfulness.  Then you will know the Lord. – Hosea 2:20

 

As Christians, love is the basis of our whole identity.  Our spiritual rebirth came about because “God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life” (John 3:16).

 

When asked to clarify what the greatest commandments of all were, Jesus answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart … your soul … your strength … your mind … and your neighbor as yourself” (Luke 10:27).

 

Our love for each other is supposed to be how people distinguish us as Christ’s disciples (John 13:35).  It is the root and ground of our existence (Ephesians 3:17), meant to be expressed with passion and fervency (1 Peter 4:8).  It is a quality that we are to “abound” in more and more (1 Thessalonians 3:12), always getting better at it, becoming increasingly defined by it.

 

So if love is what we were created to share, what do you do when your love is rejected?  How do you handle it when the one to whom you’ve pledged your life stops accepting the love you’re called to give?

 

The account of prophet Hosea is one of the most remarkable in the Bible.  Against all logic and propriety, God instructed him to marry a prostitute.  He wanted Hosea’s marriage to show what Heaven’s unconditional love looks like towards us.  Hosea’s union with Gomer produced three children but, as expected, this woman who had long made her living in immorality was not content to stay faithful to one man.  So Hosea was left to deal with a broken heart and the shame of abandonment.

 

He had loved her, but she had spurned his love.  They had grown close, but now she had been disloyal and adulterous, rejecting him for the lust of total strangers.

 

Time passed, and God spoke to Hosea again.  God told him to go and reaffirm his love for this woman who had been repeatedly unfaithful.  This time she had reached a new low and had to be bought off the slave block, but Hosea paid the price for her redemption and bought her home.  Yes, she had treated his love with contempt.  She had dealt treacherously with his heart.  But he welcomed her back into his life, expressing an unconditional love.

 

This is a true story, but it was used as a picture of God’s love for us.  He showers His favor on us without measure, though in return we often don’t pay attention.  At times we have acted shamefully and deemed His love an intrusion, as if it’s keeping us from what we really want.  We have rejected Him in many ways – even after receiving His gift of eternal salvation – and yet He still loves us.  He still remains faithful.

 

Even so, His love doesn’t keep Him from calling us to account for our mistreatment of Him.  We pay more of a price for our rejection than we often realize.  Yet He still chooses to respond with grace and mercy.  “In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace” (Ephesians 1:7).  In Him we have the model of what rejected love does.  It stays faithful.

 

Jesus called us to this kind of love in the passage known as the Sermon on the Mount.  He said to “love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you” (Luke 6:27-28).

 

"If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you?  For even sinners love those who love them.  If you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you?  For even sinners do the same"  (Luke 6:32-33).

 

"Love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for He Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil men" (Luke 6:35).

 

From the vantage point of the wedding altar, you would never have dreamed that the person you married might later become to you a kind of "enemy," one you would need to love as an act of almost total sacrifice.  And yet far too often in marriage, the relationship does indeed dwindle down to that level.  Even to the point of betrayal or, sadly, to  unfaithfulness.

 

For many, this is the beginning of the end.  Some respond by rapidly moving toward a tragic divorce.  Others, more protective of their reputation than even their own happiness, decide to keep the charade going.  But they have no intention of liking it--much less of loving each other again.

 

This is not the model, however for the follower of Christ.  If love is to be like His, it must love even when its overtures are returned unwanted.  And for your love to be like that, it must be His love to begin with.

 

You can give undeserved love to your spouse because God gave undeserved love to you--repeatedly, enduringly.  Love is often expressed the most to those who deserve it the least.

 

Ask Him to fill you with the kind of love only He can provide, then purpose to give it to your mate in a way that reflects your gratefulness to God for loving you.  That's the beauty of redeeming love.  That's the power of faithfulness.

 

  

Today's Dare

Love is a choice, not a feeling.  It is an initiated action, not a knee-jerk reaction.  Choose today to be committed to love even if your spouse has lost most of their interest in receiving it.  Say to them today in words similar to these, "I love you.  Period.  I choose to love you even if you don't love me in return."

 

I have chosen the faithful way. (Psalm 119:30)

 

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 26 2010

Love Dare - Day 21

Love is Satisfied in God

 

The Lord will continually guide you, and satisfy your desire. – Isaiah 58:11

 

Day 20 was a vitally important day in the Love Dare – and in your life.  You came face-to-face with the glaring need of every human heart.  And perhaps for the very first time, you became aware of how personal this need really is.  You may have realized that nothing in your toolbox of talents and resources could repair the damage that sin leaves, and that Jesus is the only One who can supply what you’ve been missing.  If you’ve received Him by faith and have turned your life over to Him to manage and lead, then His Holy Spirit is renewing your heart.  His wisdom, grace, and power can now be released into everything you do.  Including, not the least, your marriage.

 

But whether this is new territory for you or if you’ve been a follower of Jesus for quite a while, now is the time for you to firm up one thing in your mind: you need God every single day.  This is not a part-time proposition.  He alone can satisfy, even when all else fails you.

 

Your husband may be late coming home.  Again.  But God will always be right on time.

 

Your wife may let you down.  Again.  But God can always be trusted to deliver on His promises.

 

Every day you place expectations on your spouse.  Sometimes they meet them.  Sometimes they don’t.  But never will they be able to totally satisfy all the demands you ask of them – partly because some of your demands are unreasonable, partly because your mate is human.

 

God, however, is not.  And those who approach Him in utter dependence each day for the real needs in their life are the ones who find out just how dependable He is.

 

Can your spouse give you an inner peace?  No.  But God can.  “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.  And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7).

 

Can your spouse enable you to be content no matter what life throws at you?  No.  But God can.  “In any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled … I can do all things through Him who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:12-13).

 

There are needs in your life only God can fully satisfy.  Though your husband or wife is able to complete some of these requirements – at least now and then – only God is able to do it all.  Your need for love.  Your need for acceptance.  Your need for joy.  It’s time to stop expecting somebody or something to keep your functioning and fulfilled on a non-stop basis.  Only God can do that as you learn to depend on Him.  But He wants to do it His way.  “My God will supply all your need according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19).

 

The needs of love, peace, and adequacy are real.  No one is saying you shouldn’t have them.  But rather than plugging into things that are unstable at best and are subject to change – your health, your money, even the affections and best intentions of your mate – plug into God instead.  He’s the only One in your life that can never change.  His faithfulness, His truth, and His promises to His children will always remain. That’s why you need to seek Him every day.

 

Our only reason for not doing this is because we really don’t trust God to supply what we need.  And yet the Bible says, “Delight yourself in the Lord; and He will give you the desires of your heart” (Psalm 37:4).  When we are seeking Him first, loving Him first, making our relationship with Him top priority, He promises to supply us with what we really need – which, actually, is all it really takes to satisfy us.

 

Jesus once spoke to a woman at a Samaritan well, a woman who had tried getting her needs met through a string of failed relationships.  With both her life and water bucket empty, she had come to this place broken and hardened yet still desperately in need.  But in Christ she found what He called “living water” (John 4:10) – a supply that wasn’t just for quenching temporary thirst.  What He offered her was a drink of soul satisfaction that never quits giving and refreshing.  And that is what’s available to you each morning at sunrise and each night before bed, no matter who your spouse is what they’ve done to you.

 

God is your everyday supply.  Of everything you need.

 

Today’s Dare

 

Be intentional today about making time to pray and read your Bible.  Try reading a chapter out of Proverbs each day (there are thirty-one – a full month’s supply), or reading a chapter in the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John).  As you do, immerse yourself in the love and promises God has for you.  This will add to your growth as you walk with Him.

 

 

You open Your hand and satisfy the desire of every living thing.  (Psalm 145:16)

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 25 2010

Love Dare - Day 20

Love is Jesus Christ

 

While we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.Romans 5:6

 

The previous day and dare lead to no other conclusion that this.  Thankfully, it’s a conclusion you can live with—today, tomorrow, and forever.

 

Jesus has come “to seek and to save” you (Luke 19:10).  Everything you’ve failed at and haven’t been able to do, every minute you’ve wasted trying to fix things your own way—all of it can be forgiven and made right by putting your life into the hands of the One who first gave it to you.

 

Maybe you’ve never done this.  Then today is your day.  “Now is the acceptable time, behold, now is the day of salvation” (2 Corinthians 6:2).

 

Maybe you did it years ago, but you’ve wandered far from your spiritual roots.  Then “repent and return, so that your sins may be wiped away, in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord” (Acts 3:19).  Even if you’ve already made Christ your way of life and have never stopped walking in fellowship with Him, the following Scriptures will be a grateful reminder of all He’s done for you.

 

The Bible says we are sinful from birth, from the moment we arrive.  “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin my mother conceived me” (Psalm 51:5).  “All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment” (Isaiah 64:6).  It’s not as though God sends innocent people to hell.

 

We deserve it.  We simply can’t be good enough to live with a pure and holy God. 

 

However, “God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him” (I John 4:9).  “Although He existed in the form of god, [He] did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant…He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Philippians 2:6-8).  “He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed” (I Peter 2:24).  By His death, He made invalid the very idea that you are unloved and devalued.  If you ever feel that way, you’re not looking at the cross.  He proved His love for you there.

 

Love like this cannot be fully understood.  “One will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die.  But God demonstrates His own love towards us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:7-8).

 

Nor can love like this be earned.  “The wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23).  “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9).

 

But it must be received.  “If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation” (Romans 10:9-10).

 

And when you have received this new life and love as your own, you are free to love in ways you’ve never been capable before.

 

“This is how we know what love is:  Jesus Christ laid down his life for us.  And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers…This is His command; to believe in the name of His Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as He commanded us” (I John 3:16, 23 NIV).  “The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love” (I John 4:8).

 

He was willing to love you even though you didn’t deserve it, even when you didn’t love back.  He was able to see all your flaws and imperfections and still choose to love you.  His love made the greatest sacrifice to meet your greatest need.  As a result, you are able (by His grace) to walk in the fullness and blessing of His love.  Now and forever.

 

This means you now share this same love with your spouse.  You can love even when you’re not love in return.  You can see all their flaws and imperfections and still choose to love.  And though you can’t meet their needs the way God can, you can become His instrument to meet the needs of your spouse.  As result, he or she can walk in the fullness and blessing of your love.  Now and till death.

 

True love is found in Christ alone.  And after you have received His gift of new life by accepting His death in your place and His forgiveness for your sins, you are finally ready to live the dare.

 

TODAY’s DARE

 

Dare to take God at His Word.  Dare to trust Jesus Christ for salvation.  Dare to pray “Lord Jesus, I’m a sinner.  But You have shown Your love for me by dying to forgive my sins, and You have proven Your power to save me from death by Your resurrection.  Lord, change my heart, and save me by Your grace.”

 

Write about what this experience has been like for you.  Even if you are only renewing your commitment to receive and express His love, what has He shown you today?

 

In His love and in His mercy He redeemed them.  (Isaiah 63:9)

 

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 24 2010

Love Dare - Day 19

Love is impossible

 

Let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. –I John 4:7

 

The Love Dare starts with a secret.  And though it’s been an unspoken element throughout each day, you’ve likely grown more and more suspicious of it all the time.  Now that you’re this far, it’s a secret you’re discovering for yourself, even if you haven’t exactly known how to put it into words.

 

The secret is this:  you cannot manufacture unconditional love (or agape love) out of your own heart.  It’s impossible.  It’s beyond your capabilities.  It’s beyond all our capabilities.

 

You may have demonstrated kindness and unselfishness in some form, and you may have learned to be more thoughtful and considerate.  But sincerely loving someone unselfishly and unconditionally is another matter altogether.

 

So how can you do it?  Like it or not, agape love isn’t something you can do.  It’s something only God can do.  But because of His great love for you—and His love for your spouse—He chooses to express His love through you.

 

Still, you may not believe that.  You may be convinced that with enough hard work and commitment, you can muster up unconditional, long-term, sacrificial love from your own heart.  You want to believe it’s in you.

 

But how many times has your love failed to keep you from lying, from lusting, from overreacting, from thinking evil of this person you’ve vowed before God to love for the rest of your life.

 

How many times has your love proven incapable of controlling your anger?  How many times has your love motivated you to forgive or brought about a peaceable end to an ongoing argument?

 

It’s this failure that exposes mankind’s sinful condition.  We’ve all fallen short of God’s commands (Romans 3:23).  We’ve all demonstrated selfishness, hatred, and pride.  And unless something is done to cleanse us of these ungodly attributes, we will stand before God guilty as charged (Romans 6:23).  That’s why if you’re not right with God, you can’t truly love your spouse because He is the Source of that love.

 

You can’t give what you don’t have.  You can’t call up inner reserves and resources that aren’t there to be summoned.  In the same way that you can’t give away a million dollars if you don’t have it to start with, you cannot pay out love in greater measure than you own.  You can try, but you will fail.

 

So the hard news is this:  love that is able to withstand every pressure is out of your reach, as long as you’re only looking within yourself to find it.  You need someone who can give you that kind of love.

“Love is from God” (I John 4:7).  And only those who have allowed Him into their heart through faith in His Son, Jesus—only those who have received the Spirit of Christ through belief in His death and resurrection—are able to tap into love’s real power.  “Apart from me,” Jesus said, “you can do nothing” (John 15:5).

 

But He also said, “If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you” (John 15:7).  God has promised through Christ to dwell in your heart through faith so that you can “know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God” (Ephesians 3:19 NKJV).

 

When you surrender yourself to Christ, His power can work through you.  Even at your very best, you are not able to live up to God’s standards.  But He “is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us” (Ephesians 3:20). That’s how you love your spouse.

 

So, this unsettling secret—as defeating as it may feel—has a happy ending for those who will stop resisting and will receive the love God has for them.  This means that the love He has “poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us” (Romans 5:5) is always available, every time we choose to submit to it.

 

You simply won’t be able to do it without Him.

 

Perhaps you’ve never given our heart to Christ, but you sense Him drawing you today.  You may be realizing for the first time that you, too, have broken God’s commands, and that your guilt will keep you from knowing Him.  But Scripture says that if you repent by turning away from your sin and turning to God, He is willing to forgive you because of the sacrifice his Son made on the cross.  He is pursuing you, not to enslave you but to free you, so you can receive His love and forgiveness.  Then you can share it with the one you’ve been called most specifically to love.

 

Perhaps you’re already a believer, but you would admit that you have walked away from fellowship with God.  You’re not in the Word, you’re not in prayer, maybe you’re not even in church anymore.  The love you used to feel coursing through your veins has dwindled into apathy.

 

The truth is, you can’t live without Him and you can’t love without Him.  But there is no telling what He could do in your marriage if you put your trust in Him.

 

TODAY’S DARE

 

Look back over the dares from the previous days.  Were there some that seemed impossible to you?  Have you realized your need for God to change your heart and to give you the ability to love?  Ask Him to show you where you stand with Him, and ask for the strength and grace to settle your eternal destination.

What do you believe God is saying to you?  Is there a stirring in your heart?  What decision have you made in response to this?

 

This is impossible, but with God all things are possible.  (Matthew 19:26)

 

 

 

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.