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.

Jan 23 2010

Love Dare - Day 18

Love Seeks to Understand

 

How blessed is the man who finds wisdom, and the man who gains understanding. – Proverbs 3:13

 

We enjoy discovering as much as we can about the things we truly care about.  If it’s our favorite football team, we’ll read any article that helps us keep up with how they’re doing.  If it’s cooking, we’ll tune to those channels that share the best grilling techniques or dessert recipes.  If there’s a subject that appeals to us, we’ll take notice any time it comes up.  In fact, it’s often like an area of personal study.

 

It’s fine, of course, to have outside interests and to be knowledgeable about certain things.  But this is where love would ask the question, “How much do you know about our mate?

 

Think back to the days when you were courting.  Didn’t you study the one your heart was yearning for?

 

When a man is trying to win the heart of a woman, he studies her.  He learns her likes, dislikes, habits, and hobbies.  But after he wins her heart and marries her, he often stops learning about her. The mystery and challenge of knowing her seems less intriguing, and he finds his interests drifting to other areas.

 

This is also true in many cases for women, who start off admiring and building respect for the man they desire to be with.  But after marriage, those feelings begin to fade as reality reveals that her “prince” is a flawed and imperfect man.

 

Yet there are still hidden things to discover about your spouse.  And this understanding will help draw you closer together.  It can even give you favor in the eyes of your mate.  “Good understanding produces favor” (Proverbs 13:15).

 

Consider the following perspective: if the amount you studied your spouse before marriage were equal to a high school diploma, then you should continue to learn about your mate until you gain a “college degree,” a “master’s degree,” and ultimately a “doctorate degree.”  Think of it as a lifelong journey that draws your heart ever closer to your mate.

 

·        Do you know his or her greatest hopes and dreams?

·        Do you fully understand how they prefer to give and receive love?

·        Do you know what your spouse’s greatest fears are and why they struggle with them?

 

Some of the problems you have in relating to your spouse are simply because you don’t understand them.  They probably react very differently to certain situations than you do, and you can’t figure out why?

 

These differences – even the ones that are relatively insignificant – can be the cause of many fights and conflicts in your marriage.  That’s because, as the Bible says, we tend to “revile” those things we don’t understand (Jude 10).

 

There are reasons for his or her tastes and preferences.  Each nuance in your spouse’s character has a back story.  Each element of who he is, how he thinks, and what he’s like is couched in a set of guiding principles, which often makes sense only to the person who holds them.  But it’s worth the time it will take to study why they are the way they are.

 

If you missed the level of intimacy you once shared with your spouse, one of the best ways to unlock their heart again is by making a commitment to know them. Study them.  Read them like a book you’re trying to understand.

 

Ask questions.  The Bible says, “The ear of the wise seeks knowledge” (Proverbs 18:15).  Love takes the initiative to begin conversations.  In order to get your mate to open up, they need to know that your desire for understanding them is real and genuine.

 

Listen.  “Wise men store up knowledge, but with the mouth of the foolish, ruin is at hand” (Proverbs 10:14).  The goal of understanding your mate is to hear them, not to tell them what you think.  Even if your spouse is not very talkative, love calls you to draw out the “deep water” that dwells within them (Proverbs 20:5).

 

Ask God for discernment.  “The Lord gives wisdom; from His mouth come knowledge and understanding” (Proverbs 2:6).  Things like gender differences, family backgrounds, and varied life experiences can cloud your ability to know your mate’s heart and motivations.  But God is a giver of wisdom.  The Lord will show you what you need in order to know how to love your spouse better.

 

“By wisdom a house is built, and by understanding it is established; and by knowledge the rooms are filled with all precious and pleasant riches” (Proverbs 24:3-4).  There is a depth of beauty and meaning inside your wife or husband that will amaze you as you discover more of it.  Enter the mystery with expectation and enthusiasm.  Desire to know this person even better than you do now.  Make him or her your chosen field of study, and you will fill your home with the kind of riches only love can provide.

 

 

Today’s Dare

 

Prepare a special dinner at home, just for the two of you.  The dinner can be as nice as you prefer.  Focus this time on getting to know your spouse better, perhaps in areas you’ve rarely talked about.  Determine to make it an enjoyable evening for you and your mate.

 

Acquire wisdom; and with all your acquiring, get understanding.  (Proverbs 4:7)

 

 

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 22 2010

Love Dare - Day 17

Love Promotes Intimacy

 

He who covers over an offense promotes love, but whoever repeats the matter separates close friends. – Proverbs 17:9 NIV

 

You can be close to a good friend you’ve known since childhood or college days.  You can be close to a sibling, your parents, or a cousin who’s about your same age.  But nothing rivals the closeness that’s experienced between a husband and wife.  Marriage is the most intimate of all human relationships.

 

That’s why we need it so much.  Each of us comes into life with an inborn hunger to be known, love, and accepted.  We want people to know your name, to recognize us when they see us, and to value who we are. The prospect of sharing our home with another person who knows us down to the most intimate detail is part of the deep pleasure of marriage.

 

Yet this great blessing is also the site of its greatest danger.  Someone who knows us this intimately can either love us at a depth we never imagined, or can wound us in ways we may never fully recover from.  It’s both the fire and the fear of marriage.

 

Which of these are you experiencing the most in your home right now?  Are the secrets your spouse knows about you reasons for shame, or reason for drawing you closer?  If your spouse were to answer this same question, would they say you make them feel safe, or scared?

 

If home is not considered a place of safety, you will both be tempted to seek it somewhere else.  Perhaps you might look to another person initiating a relationship that either flirts with adultery or actually enters in.  You may look for comfort in work or outside hobbies, something that partially shields you from intimacy but also keeps you around people who respect and accept you.

 

Your mate should not feel pressured to be perfect in order to receive your approval.  They should not walk on eggshells in the very place where they ought to feel the most comfortable in their bare feet.  The Bible says, “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear” (1 John 4:18).  The atmosphere in your marriage should be one of freedom.  Like Adam and Eve in the garden, your closeness should only intensify your intimacy.  Being “naked” and “not ashamed” (Genesis 2:25) should exist in the same sentence, right in your marriage – physically and emotionally.

 

Admittedly, this is tender territory.  Marriage has unloaded another person’s baggage into your life, and yours into theirs.  Both of you have reason to feel embarrassed that this much has been revealed about you to another living soul.  But this is your opportunity to wrap all this private information about them in the protective embrace of your love, and promise to be the one who can best help him or her deal with it.

 

Some of these secrets may need correcting.  Therefore, you can be an agent of healing and repair – not by lecturing, not by criticizing, but by listening in love and offering support.

 

Some of these secrets just need to be accepted.  They are part of this person’s make-up and history.  And though these issues may not be very pleasant to deal with, they will always require a gentle touch.

 

In either case, you and you alone wield the power either to reject your spouse because of this or to welcome them in – warts and all.  They will either know they’re in a place of safety where they are free to make mistakes, or they will recoil into themselves and be lost to you, perhaps forever.  Loving them well should be your life’s work.

 

Think of it this way.  No one knows you better than God does, the One who made you.  The writer of Psalm 139 was right when he said, “You know when I sit down and when I rise up; You understand my thought from afar.  You scrutinize my path and my lying down, and are intimately acquainted with all my ways.  Even before there is a word on my tongue, behold, O Lord, You know it all” (Psalm 139:2-4).

 

And yet God, who knows secrets about us that we even hide from ourselves, loves us at a depth we cannot begin to fathom.  How much more should we – as imperfect people – reach out to our spouse in grace and understanding, accepting them for who they are and assuring them that their secrets are safe with us?

 

This may be an area where you’ve really failed in the past. If so, don’t expect your mate to immediately give you wide-open access to their heart.  You must begin to rebuild trust.  Jesus Himself is described as One who doesn’t barge into people’s lives but who stands at the door and knocks.  “If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and I will dine with him, and he with Me” (Revelation 3:20).

 

The reality of intimacy always takes time to develop, especially after being compromised.  But your commitment to re-establishing it can happen today – for anyone willing to take the dare.

 

 

Today’s Dare

 

Determine to guard your mate’s secrets (unless they are dangerous to them or to you) and to pray for them.  Talk with your spouse, and resolve to demonstrate love in spite of these issues.  Really listen to them when they share personal thoughts and struggles with you.  Make them feel safe.

 

I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine.  (Song of Solomon 6:3)

 

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.