Jan 15 2010

Love Dare - Day 10

Love is Unconditional

 

God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ dies for us.  – Romans 5:8

 

If someone were to ask you, “Why do you love your wife?” or “Why do you love your husband?” – what would you say?

 

Most men would mention their wife’s beauty, her sense of humor, her kindness, her inner strength.  They might talk about her cooking, her knack for decorating, or what a good mother she is.

 

Women would probably say something about their husband’s good looks or his personality.  They’d commend him for his steadiness and consistent character.  They’d say they love him because he’s always there for them.  He’s generous.  He’s helpful.

 

But what if over the course of years, your wife or husband stopped being every one of those things.  Would you still love them?  Based on your answers above, the only logical response would be “no.”  If your reasons for loving your spouse all have something to do with his or her qualities – and then those same qualities suddenly or gradually disappear – your basis for love is over.

 

The only way love can last a lifetime is if it’s unconditional.  The truth is this: love is not determined by the one being loved but rather by the one choosing to love.

 

The Bible refers to this kind of love by using the Greek word agape (pronounced uh-GOP-ay).

 

It differs from the other types of love, which are – phileo (friendship) and eros (sexual love).  Both friendship and sex have an important place in marriage, of course, and are definitely part of the house you build together as husband and wife.  But if your marriage totally depends on having common interests or enjoying a healthy sex life, then the foundation of your relationship is unstable.

 

Phileo and eros are more responsive in nature and can fluctuate based upon feelings.  Agape love, on the other hand, is selfless and unconditional.   So unless this kind of love forms the foundation of your marriage, the wear and tear of time will destroy it.  Agape love is in “sickness and health” love, “for richer or poorer” love, “for better or worse” love.  It is the only kind of love that is true love.

 

That’s because this is God’s kind of love.  He doesn’t love use because we are lovable but because He is so loving.  The Bible says, “In this love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 4:10).  If He insisted that we prove ourselves worthy of His love, we would fail miserably.  But God’s love is a choice He makes completely on His own.  It’s something we receive from Him and then share with others.  “We love, because He first loved us” (1 John 4:19).

 

If a man says to his wife, “I have fallen out of love with you,” he is actually saying, “I never loved you unconditionally to begin with.”  His love was based on feelings or circumstances rather than commitment.  That’s the result of building a marriage on phileo or eros love.  There must be a stronger foundation than mere friendship or sexual attraction.  Unconditional love, agape love, will not be swayed by time or circumstance.

 

That’s not to say, though, that love which began for the wrong reasons cannot be restored and redeemed.  In fact, when you rebuild your marriage with agape as its foundation, then the friendship and romantic aspects of your love become more endearing than ever before.  When your enjoyment of each other as best friends and lovers is based on unwavering commitment, you will experience an intimacy that cannot be achieved any other way.

 

But you will struggle and fail to attain this kind of marriage unless you allow God to begin growing His love within you.  Love that “bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things” (1 Corinthians 13:7) does not come from within.  It can only come from God.

 

The Scriptures say that “neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38-39).  This is God’s kind of love.  And thankfully – by your choice – it can become your kind of love.  But first you must receive it and share it.

 

And don’t be surprised, when your spouse begins living confidently under its shade, if he or she doesn’t become even more lovable to you than you remember.  You will no longer say, “I love you because …” You will now say, “I love you, period.”

 

 

Today’s Dare

 

Do something out of the ordinary today for your spouse --- something that proves (to you and to them) that your love is based on your choice and nothing else.  Wash her car.  Clean the kitchen.  Buy his favorite dessert.  Fold the laundry.  Demonstrate love to them for the sheer joy of being their partner in marriage.

 

 

He who trusts in the Lord, loving kindness shall surround him.  (Psalm 32:10)

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. 

Jan 14 2010

Love Dare - Day 9

Love Makes Good Impressions

 

Greet one another with a kiss of love.  – 1 Peter 5:14

 

You’ve covered some serous ground so far in this journey.  Learning to demonstrate aspects of love patience, kindness, and encouragement are not always easy but are certainly crucial to a healthy relationship.  So dealing with the way you greet your spouse each day may seem inconsequential, but this small issue carries surprising significance.

 

You can tell a lot about the state of a couple’s relationship from the way they greet one another.  You can see it in their expression and countenance, as well as how they speak to each other.  It is even more obvious by their physical contact.  But how much importance should you give a greeting?

 

The Bible has more to say about greetings than you might expect.  The apostle Paul took time to encourage his readers to greet one another warmly when they met.  In fact, near the end of his letter to the Romans, he asked fellow believers to greet twenty-seven of his friends and loved ones for him.  He even took time to list each one by name.

 

It’s not just about your friends, however.  Jesus noted in His Sermon on the Mount that even pagans speak kindly to people they like.  That’s easy for anyone to do.  But He took it a step further and said that being godly included being humble and gracious enough to address even your enemies with kindness.

 

This raises an interesting question.  How do you greet your friends, coworkers, and neighbors?  How about acquaintances and those you meet in public?

 

You may even encounter someone you don’t necessarily like yet still acknowledge them out of courtesy.  So if you’re this nice and polite to other people, doesn’t your spouse deserve the same?  Times ten?

 

It’s probably something you don’t think about very often – the first thing you say to him or to her when you wake up in the morning, the look on your face when you get in the car, the energy in your voice when you speak on the telephone.  But here’s something else you probably don’t stop to consider – the difference it would make in your spouse’s day if everything about you expressed the fact that you were really, really glad to see them.

 

When someone communicates that they are glad to see you, your personal sense of self-worth increases.  You feel more important and valued.  That’s because a good greeting sets the stage for positive and healthy interaction.  Like love, it puts wind in your sails.

 

Think back to the story Jesus told of the prodigal son.  This young, rebellious man demanded his inheritance money and then wasted it on foolish lifestyle.  But soon his bad choices caught up with him, and he found himself eating scrapes in a pigpen.  Humbled and ashamed, he practiced his apologies and tried to think of the best way to go home and face his father.  But the greeting he was expecting was not the one he received.  “While he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion for him, and ran and embraced him and kissed” (Luke 15:20).

 

Of all the scenarios this young man had played out in his mind, this was likely the last one he expected.  But how do you think it made him feel to receive his father’s embrace and hear his thankful tone?  He no doubt felt loved and treasured once again.  What do you think it did in their relationship?

 

What kind of greetings would make your mate feel like that?  How could you excite his or her various senses with a simple word, a touch, a tone of voice?  A loving greeting can bless  your spouse through what they see, hear, and feel.

 

Think of the opportunities you have to greet each other on a regular basis.  When coming through the door.  When meeting for lunch.  When saying good-night.  When talking on the phone.

 

It doesn’t have to be bold and dramatic every time.  But adding warmth and enthusiasm gives you the chance to touch your mate’s heart in subtle, unspoken ways.

 

Think about your greeting.  Do you use it well?  Does your spouse feel valued and appreciated?  Do they feel loved?  Even when you’re not getting along too well, you can lessen the tension and give them value by the way you greet them.

 

Remember, love is a choice.  So choose to change your greeting.  Choose love.

 

 

Today’s Dare

 

Think of a specific way you’d like to greet your spouse today. Do it with a smile and with enthusiasm.  Then determine to change your greeting to reflect your love for them.

 

 

For I have come to have much joy and comfort in your love.  (Philemon 7)

 

 

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.

 

Click here to buy a copy of The Love Dare book.  

Click here for a free online journal for the full 40 day challenge.

 

Jan 13 2010

Love Dare - Day 8

Love is Not Jealous

 

Love is as strong as death, its jealousy unyielding as the grave.   It burns like blazing fire. – Song of Solomon 8:6 NIV

 

Jealousy is one of the strongest drives known to man.  It comes from the root word for zeal and means “to burn with an intense fire.”  Scripture pointedly says, “Wrath is fierce and anger is a flood, but who can stand before jealousy?” (Proverbs 27:4).

 

There are actually two forms: a legitimate jealousy based upon love, and an illegitimate jealousy based upon envy.  Legitimate jealousy sparks when someone you love, who belongs to you, turns his or her heart away and replaces you with someone else.  If a wife has an affair and gives herself to another person, her husband may have justified, jealous anger because of his love for her.  He is longing to have back what is rightfully his.

 

The Bible describes God as having this kind of righteous jealousy for His people.  It’s not that He is envious of us, wishing He had what we have (since He already owns everything).  It’s that He deeply longs for us, desiring for us to keep Him as our first love.  He doesn’t want us to let anything take precedence over Him in our hearts.  The Bible warns us not to worship anything but Him because “the Lord your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God” (Deuteronomy 4:24).

 

With this established, we will shift our focus to the illegitimate kind of jealousy that is in opposition to love – the one that is rooted in selfishness.  This is to be jealous of someone, to be “moved with envy.”

 

Do you struggle with being jealous of others?  Your friend is more popular, so feel hatred towards her.  Your coworker gets the promotion, so you can’t sleep that night.  He may have nothing wrong, but you became bitter because of his success.  It has been said that people are fine with our succeeding, just as long as it is not more than theirs.

 

Jealousy is a common struggle.  It is sparked when someone else upstages you and gets something you want.  This can be very painful depending upon how selfish you are.  Instead of congratulating them, you fume in anger and think ill of them.  If you’re not careful, jealousy slithers like a viper into your heart and strikes your motivations and relationships.  It can poison you from living the life of love God intended.

 

If you don’t diffuse your anger by learning to love others, you may eventually begin plotting against them.  The Bible says that envy leads to fighting, quarreling, and every evil thing (James 3:16, 4:1-2).

 

There is a string of violent jealousy seen throughout Scripture.  It caused the first murder when Cain despised God’s acceptance of his brother’s offering.  Sarah sent away her handmaiden because Hagar could bear children while Sarah could not.  Joseph’s brothers saw he was their father’s favorite, so they threw him in a pit and sold him as a slave.  Jesus was more loving, powerful, and popular than the chief priests, so they envied Him and plotted His betrayal and crucifixion.

 

You don’t usually get jealous of disconnected strangers.  The ones you’re tempted to jealous of are primarily in the same arena with you.  They work in your office, play in your league, run in your circles … or live in your house.  Yes, if you aren’t careful, jealousy can also infect your marriage.

 

When you were married, you were given the role of becoming your spouse’s biggest cheerleader and the captain of his or her fan club.  Both of you become one and were to share in the enjoyment of the other.  But if selfishness rules, any good thing happening to only one of you can be a catalyst for envy rather than congratulations.

 

He may enjoy golf on the weekend while she stays home cleaning the house.  He boasts to her about shooting a great score and she feels like shooting him.

 

Or perhaps she is constantly invited to go out with friends while he is left home with the dog.  If he’s not careful, he can resent her popularity.

 

Because love is not selfish and puts other first, it refuses to let jealousy in.  It leads you to celebrate the successes of your spouse rather than resenting them.  A loving husband doesn’t mind his wife being better at something, having more fun, or getting more applause.  He sees her as completing him, not competing with him.

 

When he receives praise, he publicly thanks her for her support in aiding his own success.  He refuses to brag in such a way that may cause her to resent him.  A loving wife will be the first to cheer for her man when he wins.  She does not compare her weaknesses to his strengths.  She throws a celebration, not a pity party.

 

It is time to let love, humility, and gratefulness destroy any jealousy that springs up in your heart.  It’s time to let your mate’s successes draw you closer together and give you greater opportunities to show genuine love.

 

 

Today’s Dare

 

Determine to become your spouse’s biggest fan and to reject any thoughts of jealousy.  To help set your heart on your spouse and focus on their achievements, take yesterday’s list of negative attributes and discreetly burn it.  Then share with your spouse how glad you are about a success he or she recently enjoyed.

 

 

Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.  (Romans 12:15)

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.

Jan 12 2010

Love Dare - Day 7

Love Believes the Best

 

[Love] believes all things, hopes all things. – 1 Corinthians 13:7

 

In the deep and private corridors of your heart, there is a room.  It’s called the Appreciation Room.  It’s where your thoughts go when you encounter positive and encouraging things about your spouse.  And every so often, you enjoy visiting this special place.

 

On the walls are written kind words and phrases describing the good attributes of your mate.  These may include characteristics like “honest” and “intelligent,” or phrases like “diligent worker,” “wonderful cook,” or “beautiful eyes.”  They are things you’ve discovered about your husband or wife that have embedded themselves in your memory.  When you think about these things, your appreciation for your spouse begins to increase.  In fact, the more time you spend meditating on these positive attributes, the more grateful you are for your mate.

 

Most things in the Appreciation Room were likely written in the initial stages of your relationship.  You could summarize them as things you liked and respected about your loved one.  They were true, honorable, and good.  And you spent a great deal of time dwelling on them in this room … before you were married.  But you may have found that you don’t visit this special room as often as you once did.  That’s because there is another competing room nearby.

 

Down another dark corridor of your heart lies the Depreciation Room, and unfortunately you visit there as well.

 

On its walls are written the things that bother and irritate you about your spouse.  These things were placed there out of frustration, hurt feelings, and the disappointment of unmet expectations.

 

This room is lined with the weaknesses and failures of your husband and wife.  Their bad habits, hurtful words, and poor decisions are written in large letters that cover the walls from one end to the other.  If you stay in this room long enough, you get depressed and start expressing things like, “My wife is so selfish,” or “My husband can be such a jerk.”  Or maybe, “I think I married the wrong person.”

 

Some people write very hateful things in this room where tell-off statements are rehearsed for the next argument.  Emotional injuries fester here, adding more scathing remarks to the walls.  It’s where ammunition is kept for the next big fight and bitterness is allowed to spread like a disease.  People fall out of love here.

 

But know this.  Spending time in the Depreciation Room kills marriages.   Divorces are plotted in this room and violent plans are schemed.  The more time you spend in this place, the more your heart devalues your spouse.  It begins the moment you walk in the door, and your care for them lessens with every second that ticks by.

 

You may say, “But these things are true!”  Yes, but so are the things in the Appreciation Room.  Everyone fails and has areas that need growth.  Everyone has unresolved issues, hurts, and personal baggage.  This is a sad aspect of being human.  We all have sinned.  But we have this unfortunate tendency to downplay our own negative attributes while putting our partner’s failures under a magnifying glass.

 

Let’s get down to the real issue here.  Love knows about the Depreciation Room and does not live in denial that it exists. 

 

But love chooses not live there.

 

You must decided to stop running to this room and lingering there after every frustrating event in your relationship.  It does you no good and drains the joy out of your marriage.

 

Love chooses to believe the best about people.  It gives them the benefit of the doubt.  It refuses to fill in the unknowns with negative assumptions.  And when our worst hopes are proven to be true, love makes every effort to deal with them and move forward.  As much as possible, love focuses on the positive.

 

It’s time to start thinking differently.  It’s time to let love lead your thoughts and your focus.  The only reason you should glance in the door of the Depreciation Room is to know how to pray for your spouse.  And the only reason you should ever go in this room is to write “COVERED IN LOVE” in huge letters across the walls.

 

It’s time to move into the Appreciation Room, to settle down and make it your home.  As you choose to meditate on the positives, you will learn that many more wonderful character qualities could be written across these walls.  Your spouse is a living, breathing, endless book to be read.  Dreams and hopes have yet to be realized. Talents and abilities may be discovered like hidden treasure.  But the choice to explore them starts with a decision by you.

 

You must develop the habit of reining in your negative thoughts and focusing on the positive attributes of your mate.  This is a crucial step as you learn to lead your heart to truly love your spouse.  It is a decision that you make, whether they deserve it or not.

 

 

Today’s Dare

 

For today’s dare, get two sheets of paper.  On the first one, spend a few minutes writing out positive things about your spouse.  Then do the same with negative things on the second sheet. Place both sheets in a secret place for another day.  There is a different purpose and plan for each.  At some point during the remainder of the day, pick a positive attribute from the first list and thank your spouse for having this characteristic.

 

If there is anything praiseworthy -- meditate on these things. (Philippians 4:8 NKJV)

 

 

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.

Click here to buy a copy of The Love Dare book.  

Click here for a free online journal for the full 40 day challenge.