F3 Gastonia

Fitness, Fellowship, Faith

Author: HIPAA (page 1 of 10)

Day 35: Love is Accountable

Mighty sequoia trees tower hundreds of feet in the air and can withstand intense environmental pressures.  Lightning can strike them, fierce winds can blow, and forest fires can rage around them.  But the sequoia endures, standing firm, only growing stronger through the trials.

One of the secrets to the strength of this giant tree is what goes on below the surface.  Unlike many trees, they reach out and interlock their roots with the sequoias around them.  Each becomes empowered and reinforced by the strength of each others.

The secret to the sequoia is also the key to maintaining a strong, healthy marriage.  A couple that faces problems alone is more likely to fall apart during rough times.  However, the ones who interlock their lives in a network of other strong marriages radically increase their chances of surviving the fiercest of storms. It is crucial that a husband and wife pursue godly advice, healthy friendships, and experienced mentors.

Everyone needs wise counsel throughout life.  Wise people constantly seek it and gladly receive it.  Fools never ask for it and then ignore it when it’s given to them.

As the Bible so clearly explains, “The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man is he who listens to counsel” (Proverbs 12:15).

Gaining wise counsel is like having a detailed road map and a personal guide while traveling on a long, challenging journey.  It can be the difference between continual success or the destruction of another marriage.  It is vital that you invite strong couples to share the wisdom they have gained through their own successes and failures.

Why waste years of your life learning painful lessons when you could discover those same truths during a few hours of wise counsel?  Why not cross the bridges others have built?  Wisdom is more valuable than gold.  Not receiving it is like letting priceless coins pass through your fingers.

Good marriage mentors warn you before you make a bad decision.  They encourage you when you are ready to give up. And they cheer you on as you reach new levels of intimacy in your marriage.

Do you have an older couple or a friend or a friend of the same gender you can turn to for good advice, for prayer support, and for regular accountability checkups?  Do you have someone in your life who shoots straight with you?

You and your spouse need these types of friends and mentors on a consistent basis.  The Bible says, “Encourage one another day after day … so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin” (Hebrews 3:13).  Too often we can isolate ourselves from others.  If we are not careful, we could push away the people who love us the most.

You must guard yourself against the wrong influencers.  Everyone has an opinion and some people will encourage you to act selfishly and leave your mate in order to pursue your own happiness.  Be careful about listening to advice from people who don’t have a good marriage themselves.

If your marriage is hanging by a thread or already heading for a divorce, then you need to stop everything and pursue solid counseling as quickly as possible. Call a pastor, a Bible-believing counselor, or a marriage ministry today.  As awkward as it may initially be to open up your life to a stranger, your marriage is worth every second spent and every sacrifice you will make for it. Even if your marriage is fairly stable, you’re in no less need of honest, open mentors – people who can put wind in your sails and make your marriage even better.

How do you pick a good mentor?  You look for a person who has the kind of marriage you want.  You look for a person whose heart for Christ comes first before everything else.  You look for someone who doesn’t live by his or her opinions but by the unchanging Word of God.  And more times than not, this person will likely be delighted you asked for help.  Start praying for God to send this person into your life.  Then pick a time to meet and talk.

If this doesn’t sound too important to you, it would be a good idea to ask yourself why.  Do you have something to hide?  Are you afraid you will be embarrassed?  Do you think your marriage is exempt from needing outside help?  Does diving into a river of positive influence not appeal to you?  Don’t be the captain of another Titanic divorce by ignoring the warning signs around you when you could have been helped.

Here’s an important reminder from Scripture: “Each one of us will give an account of himself to God” (Romans 14:12).  This appointment is unbreakable.  And though we’re all ultimately responsible for the way we approach it, we can surely stand as much help as others can give.  It might just be the relational influence that takes your marriage from mediocre to amazing.

Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed.  – Proverbs 15:22

Today’s Dare

 

Find a marriage mentor – someone who is a strong Christian and who will be honest and loving with you.  If you feel that counseling is needed, then take the first step to set up an appointment.  During this process, ask God to direct your decisions and discernment.

Day 34: Love Celebrates Godliness

From the moment you close your Bible in the morning nearly everything else you’ll encounter throughout the day will be luring you away from its truths. The opinions of your coworkers, the news coverage on television, your typical Websites, the various temptations of the day – all of these and more will be working overtime to shape your perceptions of what’s true and most desirable in life.

 

They’ll say that having a knockout wife who dresses to get other men’s attention is a good thing. They say that bad language and immorality in the movies are fine for mature people. They’ll say that church isn’t important in a person’s life. They’ll say that we each must find God in our own way.

 

They’ll say a lot of things. And they’ll say them so loudly and frequently that if we’re not careful, we can start believing that what they say is the way things should be. We can begin valuing what everybody else values and thinking the way everybody else does.

But the meaning of “real life” changes dramatically when we understand that God’s Word is the ultimate expression of what real life is. The teachings it contains are not just good guesses at what should matter. They are principles that reflect the way things really are, the way God created life to be. His ideals and instructions are the only pathways to real blessing, and when we see people following them in obedience to the Lord; it should cause us to rejoice.

What makes you the proudest of your husband? Is it when he comes home with a trophy from the company golf tournament, or when he gathers the family before bedtime to pray together and read the Word?

What overjoys you the most in your wife? Is it seeing her try a new painting technique in the children’s bedrooms, or seeing her forgive the neighbor whose dog dug up her plants?

You are one of the most influential people in your spouse’s life. Have you been using your influence to lead them to honor God, or to dishonor Him?

Love rejoices most in the things that please God. When your mate is growing in Christian character, persevering in faith, seeking purity, and embracing roles of giving and service – becoming spiritually responsible in your home – the Bible says we should be celebrating it. The word “rejoices” in 1 Corinthians 13:6 carries the idea of being absolutely thrilled, excitedly cheering them on for what they’re allowing God to accomplish in their lives.

The apostle Paul, who helped establish and minister to many of the first-century churches, wrote in his letters how delighted he was to hear reports of the people’s faithfulness and growth in Jesus. “We ought always to give thanks to God for you, brethren, as is only fitting, because your faith is greatly enlarged, and the love of each one of you toward one another grows ever greater; therefore, we ourselves speak proudly of you among the churches of God for your perseverance and faith in the midst of all your persecutions and afflictions which you endure” (2 Thessalonians 1:3-4).

The apostle John, who had walked closely with Jesus and became one of the main leaders in the early church, once wrote to his flock, “I have no greater joy than this, to hear of my children walking in the truth” (3 John 4).

That should be what energizes us when we see it happening in our mate. More than when they save money on the grocery bill. More than when they achieve success at work. Sometimes by accepting modern culture’s take on what to applaud in our spouse, we can even be guilty of encouraging them to sin – perhaps by feeding their vanity, or by letting boys be boys.

But “love does not rejoice in unrighteousness” – not in ourselves and not in our mate. Rather, love “rejoices with the truth,” the way Paul did when he said to the Roman church, “The report of your obedience has reached to all; therefore I am rejoicing over you, but I want you to be wise in what is good and innocent in what is evil” (Romans 16:19). He knew that the pursuit of godliness, purity, and faithfulness was the only way for them to find joy and ultimate fulfillment. Being “wise” about holiness while being “innocent” about sin – remaining unjaded and uncompromising as we travel through life – is the way to win in God’s eyes.

And what more could we want for our wife or husband than for them to experience God’s best in life?

Be happy for any success your spouse enjoys. But save your heartiest congratulations for those times when they are honoring God with their worship and obedience.

[Love] does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth.  – 1 Corinthians 13:6

Today’s Dare

 

Find a specific, recent example when your spouse demonstrated Christian character in a noticeable way.  Verbally commend them for this at some point today.

Day 33: Love Completes Each Other

God creates marriage by taking a man and a woman and uniting them as one. And although love must be willing to act alone if necessary, it is always better when it is not just a solo performance. Love can function on its own if there is no other way, but there is a “more excellent way” (1 Corinthians 12:31). And love dares not to stop loving before it gets there.

 

This “completing” aspect of love was revealed to mankind from the beginning. God originated the human race with male and a female – two similar but complementary designs meant to function in harmony.

Our bodies are made for each other. Our natures and temperaments provide balance, enabling us to more effectively complete the tasks at hand. Our oneness can produce children, and our teamwork can best raise them to health and maturity. When one is weak, the other is strong. When one needs building up, the other is equipped to enhance and encourage. We multiply one another’s joys and divide one another’s sorrows.

The scriptures say, “Two are better than one because they have a good return for their labor. For if either of them falls, the other one will lift up his companion. But woe to the one who falls, the one will lift up his companion. But woe to the one who falls when there is not another to lift him up”(Ecclesiastes 4:9, 10). It’s like your two hands, which don’t just coexist together but multiply the effectiveness of the other. In order to do what they do, neither is quite complete without the other.

Although our differences can frequently be the source of the misunderstanding and conflict, they have been created by God and can be ongoing blessings if we respect them.

One of you may be better at cooking, for instance, while the other is more thorough in cleaning the dishes. One may be more gentle and able to keep peace among family members, while the other handles discipline more directly and effectively. One may have a good business head, but needs the other to help him remember to be generous.

When we learn to accept these distinctions in our mate, we can bypass criticism and go straight to helping and appreciating one another.

But some can’t seem to get past their partners differences. And they suffer many wasted opportunities as a result. They don’t take advantage of the uniqueness that makes each of them more effective when including the other.

One such example from the Bible is Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor who presided over the trial of Jesus. Unaware of who Christ was and against his better judgment, he allowed the crowd to influence him into crucifying Jesus.

But the one person who was more sensitive to what was really happening was Pilate’s wife, who came to him at the height of the uproar and warned him he was making a mistake. “While he was sitting on the judgment seat, his wife sent him a message, saying, ‘Have nothing to do with that righteous Man; for last night I suffered greatly in a dream because of Him” (Matthew 27:19).

She was apparently a woman of keen discernment who grasped the magnitude of these events before her husband did. Certainly, God’s sovereignty was at work, and nothing would have kept His Son from marching obediently to the cross for us. But Pilate’s dismissal of his wife’s intuition reveals an unfortunate side to man’s nature that is often downplayed. God made wives to complete their husbands, and He gives them insight that in many cases is kept from their men. If this discernment is ignored, it is often to the detriment of the man making the decision.

The effectiveness of your marriage is dependent upon both of you working together. Do you have big decisions to make about your finances or retirement planning? Are you having a real problem with a coworker who’s getting harder and harder to deal with, and you are grappling with the appropriate action to take? Are you absolutely convinced that your educational choices for the children are right, no matter what your spouse thinks?

Don’t try doing all the analysis yourself. Don’t disqualify his or her right to voice an opinion on matters that affect both of you. Love realizes that God has put you together on purpose. And though you may wind up disagreeing with your spouse’s perspectives, you should still give their views respect and strong consideration. This honors God’s design for your relationship and guards the oneness He intends.

Joined together, you are greater than your independent parts. You need each other. You complete each other beautifully.

If two lie down together they keep warm, but how can one be warm alone?  — Ecclesiastes 4:11

Today’s Dare

 

Recognize that your spouse is integral to your future success.  Let them know today that you desire to include them in your upcoming decisions, and that you need their perspective and counsel.  If you have ignored their input in the past, admit your oversight and ask them to forgive you.

Day 32: Love Meets Sexual Needs

Some people think the Bible has nothing good to say about sex, as though all God seems concerned about is telling us when not to do it and who not `and the blessing it can be for both husband and wife. Even its boundaries and restrictions are God’s ways of keeping our sexual experiences at a level far beyond any of those advertised on television or in the movies.

 

In Christian marriage, romance is meant to thrive and flourish. After all, it was created by God. It’s all part of celebrating what God has given, becoming one with our mate while simultaneously pursuing purity and holiness. He delights in us when this happens.

 

The Song of Solomon, for example, though frequently misunderstood as nothing more than an allegory about God’s passion for His people, is actually a beautiful love story. It describes sexual acts between a husband and wife in poetic detail, showing how each one responds to the other. It expresses how honesty and understanding in sexual matters lead to a life of confident love together.

It’s true that sex is only one aspect of marriage. But as time goes by, one of you will likely value its importance more highly than the other. As a result of this, the nature of your oneness as man and wife will feel threatened and endangered.

Again, the biblical foundations of marriage were originally expressed in the creation of Adam and Eve. She was made to be “a helper suitable for him” (Genesis 2:18). The unity of their relationship and physical bodies was so strong, they were said to become “one flesh” (Genesis 2:24).

This same oneness is a hallmark of every marriage. In the act of romance, we join our hearts to each other an expression of love that no other form of communication can match. That’s why “the marriage bed is to be undefiled” (Hebrews 13:4). We are not to share this same experience with anyone else.

But we are weak. And when this legitimate need goes unmet – when it’s treated as being selfish and demanding by the other – our hearts are subject to being drawn away from marriage, tempted to fulfill this longing somewhere else, some other way.

To counteract this tendency, God established marriage with a “one flesh” mentality. “The wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does; and likewise also the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does” (1 Corinthians 7:4).

Sex is not to be used as a bargaining chip. It is not something God allows us to withhold without consequence. Though there can be abuses to this divinely designed framework, the heart of marriage is one of giving ourselves to each other to meet the other’s needs.

Sex is one God-given opportunity to do that.

So “stop depriving one another,” the Bible warns, “except by agreement for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer, and come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of you lack of self-control” (1 Corinthians 7:5).

You are the one person called and designated by God to meet your spouse’s sexual needs. If you allow distance to grow between you in this area, if you allow staleness to set in, you are taking something that rightly (and exclusively) belongs to your spouse. If you let your mate know – by words, actions, or inactions – that sex needn’t be any more than you want it to be, you rob from them a sense of honor and endearment that has been set in place by biblical mandate. You violate the “one flesh” unity of marriage.

So whether you perceive yourself as being on the deprived end, or you would admit that you are the one depriving the other, know that God’s plan for you is to meet in the middle and come to a place of agreement. But also know that the path to getting there will not be accomplished by sulking, arguing or demanding. Love is the only way to reestablish loving union between each other. All the things the Love Dare entails – patience, kindness, selflessness, thoughtfulness, protection, honor, forgiveness – will play a role in renewing your sexual intimacy. When the love of Christ is the foundation of your marriage, the strength of your friendship and sexual relationship can be enjoyed at a level this world can never know.

“You have been bought with a price,” God has declared (1 Corinthians 6:20). He set His affections on you and went to every length to draw you into desiring Him. Now it is your turn to pay the loving price to win the heart of your mate. When you do, you will enjoy the pure delight that flows when sex is done for all the right reasons. And as if that’s not enough, you will also have the opportunity to “glorify God in your body” (1 Corinthians 6:20). How beautiful.

The husband must fulfill his duty to his wife, and likewise also the wife to her husband. – 1 Corinthians 7:3

Today’s Dare

 

If at all possible, try to initiate sex with your husband or wife today.  Do this in a way that honors what your spouse has told you (or implied to you) about what they need from you sexually. Ask God to make this enjoyable for both of you as well as a path to greater intimacy.

Day 31: Love and Marriage

This verse is God’s original blueprint for how marriage is supposed to work. It involves a tearing away and a knitting together. It reconfigures existing relationships while establishing a brand new one. Marriage changes everything.

 

That’s why couples who don’t take this “leaving” and “cleaving” message to heart will reap the consequences down the line, when the problems are much harder to repair without hurting someone.

 

“Leaving” means that you are breaking a natural tie. Your parents step into the role of counselors to be respected, but can no longer tell you what to do. Sometimes the difficulty in doing this comes from the original source. A parent may not be ready to release you yet from their control and expectations. Whether through unhealthy dependence or inner struggles over the empty nest, parents don’t always take their share of this responsibility. In such cases, the grown child has to make “leaving” a courageous choice of his own. And far too often, this break is not made in the right way.

Are you and your spouse still living with unresolved issues because of a failure to cut the apron strings? Do either of your parents continue to create problems within your home – perhaps without their even knowing it? What needs to happen to put a stop to this before it creates too wide of a division in your marriage?

Unity is a marriage quality to be guarded at a great cost. The purpose of “leaving,” of course, is not to abandon all contact with the past but rather to preserve the unique oneness that marriage is designed to capture. Only in oneness can you become all that God means for you to be.

If you’re too tightly drawn to your parents, the singular identity of your marriage will not be able to come to flower. You will always be held back, and a root of division will continue to send up new shoots into your relationship. It won’t go away unless you do something about it. For without “leaving,” you cannot do the “cleaving” you need, the joining of your hearts that’s required to experience oneness.

“Cleaving” carries the idea of catching someone by pursuit, clinging to them as your new rock of refuge and safety. This man is now the spiritual leader of your new home, tasked with the responsibility of loving you “just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her” (Ephesians 5:25). This woman is now one in union with you, called to “see to it that she respects her husband” (Ephesians 5:33).

As a result of this essential process, you are now free to become everything God meant when He declared you “one flesh.”

· You are able to achieve oneness in your decision making, even when you begin from differing viewpoints.

· You are able to achieve oneness in your priorities, even through you’ve come together from backgrounds that could hardly be more different.

· You are able to achieve oneness in your sexual affections toward each other, even if either of both of you have memories of impurity in your pre-marital past.

God’s decision to make you “one flesh” in marriage can make anything possible.

If this is not how things are going in your home right now, you’re unfortunately in the majority. It’s not out of character for couples of all kinds – even Christian couples – to ignore God’s design for marriage, thinking they know better than He does. Genesis 2:24 may have sounded nice and noble when it was wrapped around the sharing of vows at the wedding. But as a fundamental principle to be put into place and practiced as a living fact – this just seems too difficult to do. But this is what you must make any sacrifice to reclaim.

It’s hard – extremely hard – when the pursuit of oneness is basically one-sided. Your spouse may not be interested at all in recapturing the unity you had at first. Even if there is some desire on his or her part, there may still be issues between you that are nowhere close to being resolved.

But if you’ll continue to keep a passion for oneness forefront in your mind and heart, your relationship over time will begin to reflect the inescapable “one flesh” design that is printed on its DNA. You don’t have to go looking for it. It’s already there. But you don’t have to live it, or there’s nothing else to expect than disunity.

Leave. And cleave. And dare to walk as one.

A man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh. – Genesis 2:24

Today’s Dare

 

Is there a “leaving” issue you haven’t been brave enough to conquer yet?  Confess it to your spouse today, and resolve to make it right.  The oneness of your marriage is dependent upon it.  Follow this with a commitment to your spouse and to God to make your marriage the top priority over every other human relationship.

Day 30: Love Brings Unity

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.

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

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.

Day 29: Love’s Motivation

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.

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

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.

Day 28: Love Makes Sacrafices

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.

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

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.

Day 27: Love Encourages

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.

Guard my soul and deliver me; do not let me be ashamed, for I take refuge in You. – Psalm 25:20

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.

Day 26: Love Is Responsible

Today will be hard. But as you seek God’s strength and wisdom, you will be able to get through it. This day could be a milestone in your marriage if you allow it to be. So resolve to focus on what the Lord may be saying to you, and purpose to follow His leading.

 

Today is about personal responsibility. It’s something we all agree others should have, but we struggle to maintain it ourselves. Over the past few decades, there’s been a decline in personal responsibility. More and more, people seem less likely to acknowledge their own mistakes. We see it in politics. We see it in business. We see it in celebrity headlines.

 

But this is not just a problem with the rich and famous. To find an example of someone who has an excuse for every action, all we have to do is look in the mirror. We are so quick to justify our motives. So quick to deflect criticism. So quick to find fault – especially with our spouse, who is always the easiest one to blame.

We tend to believe that our views are correct, or at least much more correct than our mate’s. And we don’t believe that anybody, give our same set of circumstances, would act much differently than we have. As far as we’re concerned, we’re doing the best we can. And our spouse just ought to be glad we’re as good to them as we are.

But love doesn’t pass the blame so easily or justify selfish motives. Love is not nearly as concerned with its own performance as with other’s needs. When love takes responsibility for its actions, it’s not to prove how noble you’ve been but rather to admit how much further you have to go.

Love doesn’t make excuses. Love keeps working to make a difference – in you and in your marriage.

That’s why the next time you’re in an argument with your spouse, instead of working up your comebacks, stop and see if there’s something worth listening to in what your mate is saying. What might happen in your relationship if instead of passing blame, you first admitted your own wrongs? As the Scripture says, “Rebuke is more effective for a wise man than a hundred blows on a fool” (Proverbs 17:10 NKJV).

Love is responsible and is willing to admit and correct its faults and errors up front. Are you taking responsibility for this person you chose for yourself as the love of your life? How deliberate are you about making sure your spouse’s needs are met? Or are you only concerned with your mate fulfilling yours? Love calls us to take responsibility for our partner in marriage. To love them. To honor them. To cherish them.

Are you taking responsibility for your own faults? Have you said or done things to your spouse – or to God – that are wrong? Love desires to have a right relationship with both God and your mate. Once that is right, the stage is set for other areas to fall into place.

A real heart of repentance may take a while to grow in you. Pride is very resistant to responsibility, but humility and honesty before God and your spouse is crucial for a healthy relationship.

This doesn’t mean you’re always wrong and your spouse is always right. This is not a demand that you become a doormat. But if there is something that’s not right between you and God, or you and your spouse, then that should be the first priority.

“If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us” (1 John 1:8). However, “if we confess our sins, [God] is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). Confess your areas of sin first, then you’ll be on better ground to work things out with your spouse.

In order to walk with God and to keep His favor, you must stay clean before Him. That doesn’t mean you can never stumble but you confess it to God and ask for forgiveness when you do.

Can your spouse say that you have wronged or wounded them in any way and never made it right? Part of taking responsibility is admitting when you’ve failed and asking for forgiveness. It’s time to humble yourself, correct your offenses, and repair the damage. It’s an act of love. God wants there to be no unresolved issues between the two of you.

The problem is, to do it sincerely you must swallow your pride and seek forgiveness regardless of how your spouse responds. They should forgive you, but your responsibility does not lie with their decision. Admitting your mistakes is your responsibility. If they have wronged you, leave that for them to deal with at another time.

Ask God to show you where you have failed in your responsibility, then get it right with Him first. Once you’ve done that, you need to get right with your spouse. It may be the most difficult thing you’ve ever done, but it is crucial to taking the next step in your marriage and with God. If you are sincere, you may be surprised at the grace and strength God give you when you take this step.

When you judge another, you condemn yourself, since you, the judge, do the same things.  – Romans 2:1 HCSB

Today’s Dare

 

Take time to pray through your areas of wrongdoing.  As for God’s forgiveness, then humble yourself enough to admit them to your spouse.  Do it sincerely and truthfully.  Ask your spouse for forgiveness as well.  No matter how they respond, make sure you cover your responsibility in love.  Even if they respond with criticism, accept it by receiving it as counsel.

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