Tag Archives: Love

5 Simple Ways to Love Your Spouse

Create and sustain a healthy marriage by loving your spouse well.

Life is busy. Between carting the around kids and keeping up with a calendar full of commitments, we sometimes forget about the responsibilities that don’t get penciled into our planners. But God calls us to honor Him in all areas of our lives—and our marriages are no exception. Here are five ways to help you create and sustain a healthy marriage by loving your spouse well.

Compliment Their Character
Instead of commenting on the way they look, build them up with a compliment that focuses on the way they handle conflict, their work ethic or their trustworthiness. This type of compliment shows both love and respect to your spouse.

Give Them Your Undivided Attention
Surprise your significant other by making sitter arrangements for the kids and spend the night cooking a meal together or snuggling up and watching a movie. Taking care of any distractions in advance will show them that you’re interested in focusing on their needs.

Hold Their Hand
Show them affection during the most ordinary moments. Grab their hand while you’re grocery shopping or walk up to them in a crowded room and give them a hug. Showing physical affection in small ways, when they least expect it, will speak volumes.

Give Them A Gift
Stop by the store on your way home or order their favorite gifts, just because. These sweet surprises let your loved one know that they’re on your mind. Make sure they don’t feel like it takes a special occasion for them to be appreciated.

Take Care of the Honey-Do List
Is there an unfinished task that has been weighing on your spouse—maybe a closet that needs to be organized or yard work they haven’t gotten to? Remove that burden from their shoulders by taking care of it for them.

Keep your relationship thriving amid the demands and conflicts of everyday life by understanding The 5 Love Languages that define how men and women give and receive love. The 5 Love Languages books are all 40% off now through Valentine’s Day.

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Own Your Faith: 10 Practical Ways to Show God’s Love

Welcome to the Own Your Faith Challenge! We believe God has great things in store for 2017 and we’re excited to partner with you in making this year the best one yet. Each month, we’ll share a new challenge that focuses on a unique area of spiritual growth to keep you committed to your goals all year long.

This month, we’re getting intentional about showing the love of Christ. We encourage you to prayerfully consider the following acts of love. Listen to what God is laying on your heart, then choose 5 out of the 10 challenges below and complete them throughout the month.

  1. Visit a Nursing Home: Make this one a family affair and bring your kids along. Most senior living communities and retirement homes welcome visitors. Spend a Saturday afternoon getting to know some of the seniors by playing board games or simply listening to their stories. Be a friend to someone who may not otherwise have the company.
  1. Be a Good Listener: When people confide in us, our first reaction can often be to try to fix their problems. But sometimes what people really need is for someone to simply listen. Identify someone in your life who is going through a challenging time and give him or her a call or drop by for a visit. Ask lots of questions and focus on truly hearing what they are telling you without offering solutions.
  1. Delight in Someone’s Success: Think of a friend or family member who has recently reached a goal or accomplished something they have been working toward. Give them a call, write them a letter or stop by and congratulate them in person. Show genuine excitement and interest in their success.
  1. Support Our Troops: There are many organizations, both nationally and locally, that send letters of support to those who are serving our country. Write a heartfelt letter of thanks to a solider and spend some time in prayer for our men and women overseas.
  1. Invest in Your Family: Sometimes we forget to love the people God put right in front of us. Plan a family game night or an outing. Show your kids, your spouse and those who care for you just how important they are. Be sure to turn off your devices and give them your undivided attention.
  1. Write a Thank You Note: Think back on who has gone out of their way to help you lately. Maybe someone watched your kids when you were in a pinch, maybe someone prayed for something you were going through. Whatever the case may be, write a thank you card to express your gratitude.
  1. Be a Spiritual Mentor: Find someone who is just getting started out in their walk with the Lord and pour into their life. This doesn’t have to be a lifelong commitment, but it certainly could be. Invite them out for coffee or lunch and spend an hour meeting them where they are.
  1. Ask for Input: Whether you’re working on a home improvement project or a presentation at work, find someone and ask him or her for feedback. This is a simple way to show others that you love and respect them.
  1. Love Your Neighbor: We’re not talking metaphorically here – go love your literal neighbor! Bring them a plate of freshly baked treats, offer to help out with some yard work or invite them over for a cup of coffee.
  1. Pray in the Moment: Instead of telling someone you’ll pray for them, pray with them right then and there. Look for an opportunity to pray for someone in the moment. Grab their hands, bow your head and speak truth over their circumstances. Develop your prayer life with Christian Prayer Books.

We hope your heart is on fire for what God is going to do through you. Print off this list, highlight your areas of focus and get started on your challenges today! If you feel called to hone in on just one of these challenges, please do so. Know that any of these acts of love, no matter how big or small, will produce good fruit.

We’ll check in with you at the end of the month to hear how God used this challenge to affect change in your life and the lives of those around you. Remember to like us on Facebook for details on our upcoming challenges.

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Sandpaper Spouses

Karen Ehman February 24, 2016

Sandpaper Spouses 
KAREN EHMAN

“As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.” Proverbs 27:17 (NIV)

“This is NOT what I signed up for!” I cried out to God as I sat cross-legged on the bedroom floor of our first apartment, my eyes stinging with hot tears. Out in the living room sat my husband — bewildered, completely exasperated, unable to handle his wife’s volatile emotions.

I was a brand new bride of just six weeks. Our thank-you notes for the wedding gifts hadn’t even been sent! But already I had buyer’s remorse. Or I guess more accurately, “bridal remorse.” All I knew was that this “Happily Ever After” thing was not-so-happy after all.

The first few years of my marriage were rocky and rough. I had envisioned a relationship of marital bliss. Flowers. Candlelight dinners. Holding hands at the movies. Long strolls on the beach.

Then the wall of reality hit. Instead of the candlelight dinner, it was burnt roast. When he once again came home late from work, I wrongly interpreted that as him caring little about my culinary efforts. We didn’t get to the hand-holding at the theater much because we couldn’t make up our minds about which show to see. And I strolled on the beach, all right — all alone — just after I stormed away from my husband following yet another argument.

Although we possessed a mutual love for each other (really we did) our personalities and approach to life could not have been more different! In fact, we joke today that if we went on one of those online dating sites, instead of matching us up as perfect soul mates, the computer screen would blink a bright red message “DO NOT DATE! TOTALLY INCOMPATIBLE!”

Often, my husband and I just plain rub each other the wrong way. Yep. We’re different. We are what I call “sandpaper spouses” and our rough-around-the-edges relationship often finds us turning to God when we feel like turning away from each other.

When we encounter conflict, I am verbal and process my thoughts quickly, backing him into a corner. He prefers to pause and ponder before sorting his thoughts or sharing his feelings. This difference makes him view me as critical and combative. And I label him an avoider, accusing him of caring little about resolving conflict.

When making decisions, he is methodical and thorough, carefully weighing all options. I prefer to decide in a snap and forge ahead to the next thing. This difference causes me to label him as indecisive and tempts him to brand me knee-jerk and impulsive.

Having a spouse who faces life differently can often tempt us to attack each other. But what if instead we were to flip the situation, and see things that rub us the wrong way as blessings instead … that enable our spiritual growth?

Today’s key verse states, “Iron sharpens iron.” If your kitchen knife is dull, you sharpen it by grinding it against a rough stone, not by rubbing it on cushy cotton. In the same way, the rough patches in our personalities can help sharpen us in the areas of love, compassion and patience — mostly patience!

And I know from experience that my less-than-perfect marriage has grown my prayer life immensely as I take my concerns to God during times of tumult.

My husband’s slower-paced decision making causes me to pause and pray before I forge ahead and consider other options I might not have thought of initially. My verbal processing encourages my husband to talk through issues rather than stuff his feelings inside, where they might fester and explode later. And our different philosophies teach us patience and perspective.

Will you join me today in thanking God for sandpaper spouses? Rather than our differences driving us crazy, instead may they drive us all straight to our knees.

Father, I want to see the differences in my marriage as opportunities for growth as I take my concerns — and my attitudes and responses — to You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

TRUTH FOR TODAY:
Colossians 3:12-13, “Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the LORD has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.” (ESV)

Hebrews 13:4a, “Marriage should be honored by all …” (NIV)

RELATED RESOURCES:
For a free printable entitled “10 Ways to Love Your Sandpaper Spouse” and a chance to win Karen Ehman’s book LET. IT. GO.: How to Stop Running the Show and Start Walking in Faith, visit Karen’s blog.

REFLECT AND RESPOND:
In what ways does dealing with personality differences in marriage help to smooth out your rough edges? List what it has done for you. (For example: developed patience, driven you to prayer, etc.)

© 2016 by Karen Ehman. All rights reserved.

Proverbs 31 Ministries
630 Team Rd., Suite 100
Matthews, NC 28105
www.Proverbs31.org

When You Hate Valentine’s Day

Amy Carroll FEBRUARY 8, 2016

When You Hate Valentine’s Day
AMY CARROLL

“The righteous cry out, and the LORD hears them; he delivers them from all their troubles. The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” Psalm 34:17-18 (NIV)

I remember the year I skipped Valentine’s Day and created my own personal boycott. I glared at cards and roses in the store as I shopped, snorted at commercials with lovey-dovey messages, turned my head away from couples holding hands and built a wall of protection around my aching heart.

Just months before I stared uncomprehendingly across the table as my first love and fiancé repeated his previous sentence, “I just don’t know if I can be faithful to you for the rest of our lives.”

Suddenly, I felt an unfamiliar feeling. Instead of being drawn to this man, I had the overwhelming need to flee. My ears heard my mouth form the words, “Then I guess I can’t marry you,” as I stood and walked out of the student union.

In the exhaustion of mid-finals study, my tired mind and thudding heart could hardly grasp what had just happened. Not only had I allowed myself to love deeply and completely, but I was convinced marrying that man was God’s plan for me.

Until that moment. When it all shattered.

Where once I felt loved, I now felt rejected. Where once I felt secure, I felt rocked. Where once I felt sure of my happy future, I now felt lonely and unsure of myself.

The despair lasted for months; the fog just wouldn’t lift. I kept trying to fix things, but the relationship was too broken. Still, I couldn’t seem to move on.

I continued my regular activities with a plastic smile to cover my broken heart. I even went to church and kept going through the spiritual motions, but instead of turning to God for healing, I withdrew inside.

One night, alone in my apartment, I felt God drawing me. At first I resisted. Finally, with a sense of dread (I was convinced God was angry with me for pushing Him away), I lay flat on my bedroom with my face to the floor. Waiting for God’s wrath, I experienced in a way I’ve never felt before or since, the overwhelming, physical presence of God’s love. He surrounded me, enveloped me, comforted me and began healing me.

Maybe you’re facing Valentine’s Day this year without that loving feeling. Maybe you’ve been betrayed by a friend, rejected by someone you love or rocked by a bad romance.

Can I gently remind you of an important truth? A truth that made all the difference to me?

If you are God’s child, you are involved in the greatest love story ever created. Jesus created you, knows you inside and out, and loves you from the top of your head to the tips of your toes. You can celebrate love this year just like everyone else, knowing that you’ve got a deeper understanding than anything that’s advertised or on the shelves in a store.

Twenty-seven years later, I think back to those devastating days with a wry smile. The younger version of myself, who thought that things couldn’t get better, has walked through the hurt into a future that has turned out to be bright — not perfect, but definitely joyful.

Jesus was there through every painful step of those early days of break-up, and He truly used heartbreak to do good things in me. Although I couldn’t see it then, God, in His infinite goodness, was there cupping His loving hands around my broken heart and shaping something beautiful. Even if you can’t see or feel that healing at work, I can confidently tell you He’s doing it for you even now.

God, I come to You shattered and brokenhearted but with a heart full of faith. I believe You not only can heal me but You can turn this despair into joy. You can use my healed hurt to make me more compassionate. I pray You would give me the determination to celebrate Your love story this Valentine’s Day. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

TRUTH FOR TODAY:
John 15:9, “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love.” (NIV)

Zephaniah 3:17, “The LORD your God in your midst, The Mighty One, will save; He will rejoice over you with gladness, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing.” (NKJV)

RELATED RESOURCES:
Amy Carroll’s book, Breaking Up with Perfect, is full of stories showing how God redeems the imperfect circumstances of life. Purchase it today for more encouragement.

Amy invites you to visit her blog today where she has a Valentine’s giveaway for singles. You can enter for yourself or for a single person you love!

REFLECT AND RESPOND:
Using the gift of hindsight, write a list of hard circumstances God has lovingly used to shape you.

When the opportunity comes, spend time listening to a hurting friend. When the time is right, share one of your stories of hope.

© 2016 by Amy Carroll. All rights reserved.

Proverbs 31 Ministries
630 Team Rd., Suite 100
Matthews, NC 28105
www.Proverbs31.org

Just Because

Lysa TerKeurst JANUARY 27, 2016

Just Because 
LYSA TERKEURST

“Dear children, let’s not merely say that we love each other; let us show the truth by our actions.” 1 John 3:18 (NLT)

Grace looked up from the old, worn photo album to see Richard the postman making his way through the cold to her door. What a sweet young man, she thought.

Grace loved her walks to the mailbox in late spring and through the summer, but the cold winter air seemed to whip through her thin skin. Though in her heart she still felt like a young, energetic girl, her age was evident to her. Aches and pains made her careful and slow. As the air turned cooler, Richard made it a habit to deliver Grace’s mail to her door.

Today was an especially lonely day for Grace. It was the seventeenth. No one but her Jim would have known what a special day this was. It wasn’t her birthday or their anniversary. For 42 years the seventeenth of every month was their unique day, as Jim would say, just because.

Though they never were rich with money, they were determined to be rich with love. For this reason, on the seventeenth Jim always found some special way to say it and live out 1 John 3:18, “Dear children, let’s not merely say that we love each other; let us show the truth by our actions.”

Over the years the gifts had been as simple as a scribbled note or as elaborate as a bouquet of store-bought flowers. But the message was always the same: “Just because.” Once he’d secretly taken Grace’s wedding band from her jewelry box and had it engraved with their special saying.

She found such comfort, confidence and connection in those two simple words. To Grace it was more than a gesture of love; it was an outward symbol of much more.

When she’d gotten sick and couldn’t keep up with the house, it meant I love you for who you are, not what you do. When they had an argument, it meant even when we don’t see eye-to-eye I love you still. When she started aging, it meant yours is a timeless beauty. Though Jim had never been a man of many words, his “just because” was perfect and poetic to Grace.

Jim had passed away three weeks earlier. It wasn’t a sudden death; they both had known his end was near. They’d had a sweet time of reminiscing, hugging, crying and then as quickly as he came into her life all those years ago, he was gone. She missed him terribly but had peace.

They’d had a wonderful life and left nothing unsaid. Now Grace loved flipping through their old photo albums savoring pictures, but even more so she loved touching all the mementos from over the years written in his masculine handwriting.

Though she’d seen the postman coming, the doorbell startled Grace. Carefully, she made her way to the door. She graciously took the few letters he handed her and apologized for not having cookies. Maybe tomorrow. She then walked slowly to the kitchen to open her mail. A bill, another sympathy card and something that made her heart jump and melt all at the same time.

Her eyes filled with tears and her hand trembled as she slid her finger underneath the envelope’s back flap. It was a simple letter as they always were, delivered on the seventeenth as they always had been. Before his death, Jim had arranged for Richard to make one last special delivery. “Not even death shall stop my heart. Just because, Jim.”

~ ~ ~
Sometimes a short story illustrates a point better than pages of instruction on how to be more intentional with relationships.

All relationships take work. And I know firsthand how hard it can be. I imagine some of you have prayed for a more tender relationship with your spouse. I’ve been there. I understand.

So I wrote this story to remind myself to pursue this kind of intentionality with Art during the good days and the really hard ones too. This kind of love — not flashy, but forever; not commercial, but committed — isn’t always easy, but it truly is honoring to the Lord and to your spouse.

I pray this story settles into your heart and encourages you that even the smallest acts of love toward your spouse can bring about the most loving legacies.

Dear Lord, I am so thankful for who You are — the Great Lover of our souls. Cultivate in me a heart of generosity and intentionality so Your love can shine through me into my relationships. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

TRUTH FOR TODAY:
John 13:34-35, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (NIV)

RELATED RESOURCES:
You don’t need to feel alone. We want to help you get the resources you’ve been looking for to help you through the ups and downs of marriage. Click here for our top picks for helpful marriage resources.

Let the decor of your home tell the story of your love with the “We Still Do” sign and frame. Find out more here.

REFLECT AND RESPOND:
Who do you need to be more intentional with when it comes to expressing your love? Ask the Lord to show you one simple way you can say “I love you” to that person today — no fancy packaging required.

We don’t have to wait for special occasions like Valentine’s Day to show others how much they mean to us. Do something kind and out of the ordinary for someone this week — just because.

© 2016 by Lysa TerKeurst. All rights reserved.

Proverbs 31 Ministries
630 Team Rd., Suite 100
Matthews, NC 28105
www.Proverbs31.org

A Wrecked Marriage Saved

Sharon Glasgow SEPTEMBER 23, 2015

A Wrecked Marriage Saved
SHARON GLASGOW

“A truly wise person uses few words; a person with understanding is even-tempered.” Proverbs 17:27 (NLT)

“I can’t STAND my husband. I’ve had enough; it’s over. I’m finished with this marriage, Sharon. I’m done … DONE!” Kate yelled as I held the phone away from my ear. When she stopped to take a breath, my friend started sobbing. I could hear her children fighting and her baby screaming in the background.

Before I could respond, Kate asked, “May the kids and I come over for lunch? I need your help. I don’t know what to do.”

Everything in me wanted to say, “NO!” We were renovating our house and using my bedroom as a makeshift kitchen. I hadn’t been grocery shopping and had no idea what I’d feed all our kids, the two of us and the construction crew.

Despite my hesitations, I said, “C’mon over and …” Her phone disconnected before I finished the sentence.

Rummaging through a box, I found lunch — oatmeal, walnuts and maple syrup. I boiled water on a tabletop burner, wiped 15 bowls that were covered in construction dust and prayed for God to help me help my friend. I knew if her marriage was going to be saved, it wouldn’t be because of my words. It’d be because of God’s.

Kate didn’t seem to notice the messy house. She had tunnel vision and only saw her wrecked marriage. After we ate lunch, the kids played outdoors while my friend and I stayed inside. I let her talk for over an hour. As she told me her story, I thought to myself, Oh my! I can’t imagine being married to this man either! He’s an inconsiderate jerk.

At the end, Kate looked at me and asked, “Well, what do you think?”

I paused before answering. My flesh wrestled with my spirit big time. The more she talked, the angrier I became for her. Part of me wanted to come up with mean jabs for her to say back to her husband. Or encourage her to give him the silent treatment. Or go yell at him myself!

But I knew none of these “solutions” would help heal Kate’s heart or her marriage. Do you remember the old saying, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all”? Scripture tells us a similar thing in today’s key verse of Proverbs 17:27, “A truly wise person uses few words; a person with understanding is even-tempered.”

Sitting with my friend, I took a deep breath, silently asked God to forgive my anger and instead of giving advice, I said, “Let’s pray and ask God what He thinks.”

I prayed for help to say only what He wanted me to say. Words rolled out of my mouth that I hadn’t planned. Words based on Scripture, not my emotions. Words of kindness, not contempt. So much better than my thoughts.

Oh my goodness — I can count more times than not when I’ve blurted out words that should never have been said, especially in the heat of the moment. Do you know what I mean? Mercy!

But, let me tell you something — if we consistently read God’s Word and pray, the most amazing thing will happen: We’ll follow the Holy Spirit’s leading, even when our human desires want to do or say something different.

I’m thankful I paused and invited the Lord into my conversation that day. Kate said, “I’m going to need more prayer to get through. Everything you prayed convicted me. I do love him and have renewed hope that God is going to turn this around.”

Notice she didn’t say she would need tons of conversations, clever words or plans to retaliate. Just a short prayer based on Scripture revived her. We have continued to pray together, and her wrecked marriage is being restored.

The next time you’re tempted to give someone a piece of your mind or spout long-winded advice, pause first. Invite the Lord, through prayer, to lead your thoughts and guide your few words.

Lord, help me not to lean on my own understanding but in everything acknowledge You so that You can direct my words, thoughts and actions. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

TRUTH FOR TODAY:
Proverbs 15:28, “The heart of the godly thinks carefully before speaking; the mouth of the wicked overflows with evil words.” (NLT)

Proverbs 15:7, “The lips of the wise give good advice; the heart of a fool has none to give.” (NLT)

RELATED RESOURCES:
Visit Sharon’s blog for more encouragement on ministering to hurting people and enter your name to win a free gift.

Learn how to resolve conflict with kindness and confidence in your most important relationships with an Unglued Devotional by Lysa TerKeurst.

REFLECT AND RESPOND:
Do your words reflect the fruit of the Spirit, as described in Galatians 5:22-23: love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control?

Take note of your words each day. Are they few or many?

© 2015 by Sharon Glasgow. All rights reserved.

Proverbs 31 Ministries
630 Team Rd., Suite 100
Matthews, NC 28105
www.Proverbs31.org

Ciera Horton

50 Shades of Irony: The Black and White of Grey

I don’t always speak up every time I see another upwelling issue in our culture — quite frankly, sometimes it’s easy to become immune to what you’re surrounded by daily.  But when it comes to the release of Fifty Shades of Grey, I cannot sit by in silence.  It already made 8.6 million the first day of its release, while some places (like the entire country of Malaysia) have banned it completely.
What is so compelling about the enigmatic Christian Grey (interesting name) and his relationship with Anastasia Steele (who is softer than her name implies)?  This BDSM romance has captured the hearts of women across the country, spurring on new and unnatural sexual fantasies.  The danger is that we as a culture are normalizing the perversion, turning our gaze away from truth and we as Christians are forgetting what it means to be audacious.
I believe we should not only boycott what I’m calling “Fifty Shades of Irony” but we should continue to speak out the truth with boldness — we don’t need to read the book or see the movie (neither of which I ever plan to do) in order to be informed about it and understand its negative influence.  Here’s why.
The film presents a warped view of sex.
For those of you who don’t know, BDSM stands for Bondage & Discipline (BD), Dominance & Submission (DS), Sadism & Masochism (SM).  Sadism is the tendency to get pleasure from inflicting pain or humiliation and masochism is pleasure in self inflicted pain.  The relationship is not equal, but is consensually based on one party being the dominant and the other the receiver.
This need to dominate or to be dominated by another illuminates an underlying longing to be led, a longing that can only be filled by the Lord.  Whatever your thoughts are on this kind of role-play, mine is simple: This portrayal of sexual gratification though pain and humiliation is not sharing the deepest intimacy out of self sacrifice, gentleness, love or true passion.  It is fundamentally self serving.  Seeking to bring pain to another, even in a consensual context, seems to deviate from Scripture’s truths about love and sexuality.  Hebrews 13:4 says, “Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous.”
So, dear Christian, do not foster curiosity.
Recognize that most negative aspects of our culture are warped versions of good things.  God’s blessing of sex is turned into pornography, erotica, prostitution and rape.  Freedoms turn into abuses; wisdom into intellectual pride with declarations of autonomy; innovation into a reliance on man’s accomplishments.
But culture itself is not evil.  Humans are.  Our battle is not one of Christian culture vs. secular culture.  The clash is between hope and despair and the first step to this kind of epistemological humility is recognizing our deep need for God’s mercy and His blessing of hope.
Romanticizing pain delegitimizes it.
In the book, Christian Grey has a Red Room of Pain where he carries out his sadistic pleasures.  These include handcuffs and whips.  In one scene, he takes a riding crop used for horses and strikes her.
This breaks my heart — we are making this kind of relationship the ideal!  This is the kind of context people flee from, are wounded by, carry emotional scars from because this kind of relationship is not based on mutual respect for another individual.  And when we romanticize pain and tell women “This is what you should want!” then we delegitimize the actual pain of people who have endured abuse.  It’s just that simple.  This encompasses emotional and physical abuse, sexual molestation, rape and by extension even human trafficking.  According to Equality Now, there are over 20 million adults and children in sexual bondage being trafficked around the world, forced into servitude.  I’d like to argue that we serve them the utmost disrespect in supporting a film of this nature.
The woman’s identity is found in the man’s.
Anastasia Steele, our protagonist, is a shy virgin with a low self esteem, no self sufficiency, a fear of abandonment and no sexual identity.  All of these things are fulfilled in the charismatic and controlling Christian Grey.  In the trailer, Anastasia asks him, “So you’re a control freak?” and his reply is, “I exercise control in all things.” Interesting.
All of this is along the lines of the common “He completes me” relationship mentality which only makes me gag.  Her worth, identity and confidence are all dependent on one man, which is both deeply sexist and also dangerous for women who claim to identify with Anastasia.  Anyone who watches this film and resonates with her insecurities is now being told to find worth and satisfaction in a controlling figure who is both abusive and self absorbed.
Instead, we shouldn’t be dependent on others or self sufficient, but we should recognize our own inadequacy, genuine desire for relationships with others and desperate need for the relationship with Jesus, the only one which can fulfill.
Sin supposedly leads to freedom — the ultimate lie of a fallen world.
To see this matter more clearly, look at the titles of the books themselves.  Fifty Shades of Grey.  Fifty Shades Darker.  Fifty Shades Freed.  We start with grey – between black and white, between right and wrong in the blurred “grey areas”.  Then it goes darker, accepting a lifestyle of sin.  Then freedom.
Let me make myself clear.  Darkness does not lead to freedom.  Shackles of slavery do not lead to liberty.  Indulging in sin is not going to lead to victory over it.  This mindset is humanistic, individualized and part of the relative truth age in which we live.  In our postmodern world, we are encouraged to “love” in a way that is only accepting, encouraging, unprejudiced and never challenging.  For the world, this leads to a tyranny of immorality in which standards are scorned, and the tolerant are intolerant of dissension.  I laugh when I consider how Nathaniel Hawthorne might write the Scarlet Letter about today — our culture wouldn’t ostracize immorality, they would shun purity.
For Christians, this often means a watered down faith that is no longer bold or audacious or proclaiming truth.  The truth is hard!  The Gospel is not easy and Jesus was culturally controversial.  Why are we on the defensive?  We should stand nobly for what is honorable, virtuous and holy.  We should strive to both encourage and challenge.  Our culture, in an attempt to accept and love all, has lost sight of the beauty in tough accountability.  I’m learning more and more that to speak the truth is loving and to love is to be truthful.

 

So Christians, stand for what is right.  This is one time when we don’t need to see the film or read the book to understand the deeply rooted issues.  Boycott this movie and speak out for purity and the sanctity of marriage.  This sense of truth and hope is what we can share to the Fifty Shades culture.  They need a million shades of light, not deeper depths of darkness.
Bio: A sophomore at Wheaton College, Ciera is a unique blend of academic and artistic: she reads Kerouac and Chaucer, paints still life and modern art and loves writing poetry on her typewriter named Ernest.  As a writer and champion public speaker, she grew up hanging out with Christian music stars, artists and writers who greatly influenced her culturally-engaging outlook on life, which she writes about at www.cierahorton.blogspot.com.
Ciera Horton

Gary Chapman – Believing God in All of Life



Married more than 45 years to Karolyn, Dr. Gary Chapman is just the man to turn to for help on improving or healing our most important relationships. His own life experiences, plus over forty years of pastoring and marriage counseling, led him to publish his first book in the Love Language series, The Five Love Languages. Millions of readers credit this continual #1 New York Times bestseller with saving their marriages by showing them simple and practical ways to communicate their love to their partner.

I talked with Dr. Chapman not too long ago and what I found was a man that was very concerned with followers of Christ being just that – followers of Christ.

Gary speaks to thousands of couples nationwide through his weekend marriage conferences. He hosts a nationally syndicated radio program, Love Language Minute, and a Saturday morning program, Building Relationships with Dr. Gary Chapman, that air on more than 400 stations. He also serves as senior associate pastor at Calvary Baptist Church in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.

John: Was The Five Love Languages your first book?

Dr. Chapman: No, it was my third book. I wrote two books before that. One was called Toward a Growing Marriage, which was been retitled To the Marriage you’ve Always Wanted. Then I wrote Hope for the Separated: Wounded Marriages Can Be Healed, which is written to people who are separated but not divorced and encouraging reconciliation. Then I wrote The Five Love Languages.

John: The Five Love Languages certainly has taken off and catapulted your career. I think it sold over 6 million copies. Has that book changed your life, has it changed your marriage in a sense? I mean obviously it has been quite a few years since you wrote that book, but has what you’ve done some years ago impacted you today?

Dr. Chapman: My personal life, yes. In fact in my life greatly. My language is words of affirmation. My wife’s language is acts of service, so in the early years of our marriage, I would give her words of affirmation. I would speak my language. I would tell her how nice she looks. I would tell her how much I appreciate what she did. I would tell her a dozen times a day I love you but after a while she said to me one night, “You know, you keep on saying ‘I love you, I love you.’ If you love me, why don’t you help me?” I was blown out of the saddle because in my mind I was loving her. In her mind, if I loved her I would be helping her. I would be doing acts of service. Yeah, it radically changed my life and that’s why to this day, I’m vacuuming floors, I wash dishes; I start the dishwasher. I take the trash out. I live with a happy woman.

John: That’s awesome. I just have a few questions, basic questions. From your experience of being a counselor, when God calls two people together, why is it that they forget, together to be married, why is, Dr. Chapman, that more often than not they forget that they are still sinners being called into that marriage?

Dr. Chapman: I think, John, we don’t typically go around thinking of ourselves as sinners. We like to think of ourselves of being pretty good people. The reality is we are all sinners. That means that we are self-centered, which leads often to selfishness. Two people who are selfish will never have a good marriage because marriage has to do with love, which means we are looking out for the other person’s interest. I think just by nature we are selfish and we are more concerned about being loved than we are loving. Consequently, if my spouse is not speaking my love language I begin to feel like they don’t love me, then the differences arise, the irritations arise, and we get into conflicts and often into arguments about those things. Before long we don’t even like each other and we tend to blame the other person because they are not doing this, that or the other thing. Essentially they are not speaking our love language, but I think the root problem is always selfishness.

I don’t know why, except I think it is just a good tool of the enemy to keep us focusing on the other person and it is their problem and consequently we don’t get around to looking at ourselves and where the real problem was.

John: Dr. Chapman if someone is engaged to be married, what would you say is the single most important piece of advice that you would give them?

Dr. Chapman: Well, I think that there are many things but if I have to choose only one… I would say that the foundation of spiritual unity would be the most important and the reason I say that is because I believe in God and I believe what God has said and I believe that how He revealed himself in Christ deeply impacts every other aspect of life. If we are not in unity on those key fundamental spiritual issues, we are far more likely to have severe problems in the marriage relationship. I wrote a book maybe two or three years ago called, “Things I wish I had known before we got married” which was my attempt to help singles by sharing with them 12 things that I know now that had I known before we got married would have made my marriage much easier. That is one of the things I will do within that book. I think the chapter title is I wish I had known that spirituality is not to be equated with going to church because so many people feel like we would both go to church. We are both Christians without really exploring what that means and what the real spiritual foundation is. I think that’s the one I would focus on.

John: Do you think the Bible allows for people to marry an unbeliever?

Dr. Chapman: I really don’t think the Bible encourages that. The Scriptures say, I asked the question can two walk together if they are not in agreement? I think the answer is something like, not very well and probably not very far. I just think that the fundamental issues, now let’s face it, there are many people who are married and one is a Christian and one is not a Christian. There are people who marry when either one of them is Christians and one of them becomes a Christian and the other doesn’t. There are certainly many marriages where one is a Christian and one is not, but if you are on the fly and looking at marriage I think the Bible would encourage you to discuss the spiritual issues and particularly one’s relationship with Christ and the nature of their relationship, the depth of their relationship, to make sure you are marching to the beat of the same drummer. I just think that’s fundamental.

John: Dr. Chapman do you mind if I ask you a few questions about what you think about the church here in the U.S.?

Dr. Chapman: No that’s fine.

John: What do you think, are we in a healthy state when you look at … you obviously do a lot of speaking? You have a radio program. You are heard all over. There are many churches that have utilized your books. You probably know a lot of pastors as well and counselors at work in lay ministry. Do you think the church is as proactively seeking those that are having problems or troubles in their marriage and attempting to fix them as the church used to be?

Dr. Chapman: I think, John, my short answer would be I wish we were doing much more. My goal has always been and I challenge churches to this, that every church large or small would have an ongoing marriage enrichment program; that is, that they are doing something all the time throughout the year to enrich marriages. Most churches, at least most smaller churches, a pastor will preach on marriage once a year maybe a two or three week series and that’s basically all that’s done. I just believe we’ve got to do more than that but even the smaller church can have one couple in the church who has a passion for marriage enrichment. You can send them to get training. Many marriage seminars provide them books and they can begin to lead a small group with maybe just five or six couples to start with, take them through some curriculum whatever curriculum and then one of those couples will say “Hey we can do this” and so now you’ve got another lead couple. I believe if we are taking our people through various curriculums during each year and people know in the church it’s always a place where we can go to get help in our marriage, I think they will begin to invite non-Christians to get into that kind of program. It can be a door into the church for those who are non-Christians.

I wish we were doing much more. I think many of our larger churches do have members who are fostering marriage and family life programs in the church and I think that’s wonderful but I wish we were doing much more.

John: Do you think the church has kind of stepped back from doing that because the church to some extent kind of follows what’s going on in culture, or do you think there is something else going on?

Dr. Chapman: I don’t know that we’ve stepped back from doing it. I don’t think we ever did really a good job to be honest with you. Back when things were more stable in our culture, the churches I don’t think even sensed much of a need to be doing anything about marriage because the most famous were stable families, but it is as things have unraveled in our society and the family has become so dysfunctional in our society that the churches have begun to take it seriously and I think many of them are still taking it seriously. My priority would be that it would just permeate more of our churches and that more of our pastors would see the need for this. I think a part of it, John, is that pastors don’t have time to do it themselves and they don’t have quite the vision of asking God to give them a couple in their church who will have a passion for this. It just takes one couple who has a passion for it and they can begin something that will go on. I just challenge pastors to pray for that couple, look for that couple and then seek to empower that couple.

John: Dr. Chapman you have a new book that’s hitting called Extraordinary Grace: How the Unlikely Lineage of Jesus Reveals God’s Amazing Love. I can speculate about that book but I’d love to hear what your thoughts are going into it.

Dr. Chapman: You know, John, that book grew out of a sermon that I gave at our church last Christmas on Matthew 1 on the lineage of Jesus, looking at the ancestors of Jesus who are listed in that chapter. It is very dry reading for most people. It is just the list of all these names, but I gave a sermon on that then pointed out that many of those people who were in the lineage of Jesus were people who committed really pretty bad things in their lives, experienced forgiveness and God used them and they are in the lineage of Jesus. The message of that book bottom line is I say, “Look. If God can use these people with the things that they committed, then God can use you. His grace is real. His forgiveness is real and God can use you.” I’m hoping that this book is going to help a lot of people who look at themselves and look at their history and say, “You have done this, this, this, and this … and God can never use me.” The reality is God can use anyone who turns to him in repentance and faith.

In the book we kind of flesh out those biblical characters and just look at the real life they lived and used that as an illustration of the grace of God. I’m very excited about it. Chris Fabry my coauthor is someone, you might you know Chris. Chris is a great fiction writer and he was very instrumental in fleshing out some of those stories in the book.

John: What do you and your family enjoy doing?

Dr. Chapman: It is just my wife and I. The kids are grown and gone. We enjoy a lot of things. We both enjoy being involved in the life of the church. We were heavily involved in the life of the church. My wife is involved in the women’s ministry, in our music ministry. Of course, I’m still involved in counseling and various other administrative things in the church but a lot of our lives have centered around the church. We are in a large church and have a lot of staff members that we work with. I’m not the single pastor. I’m just one of the associate pastors. We enjoy that.

We also enjoy our grandchildren. We have two and they are two and half hours away from us but we see them about every six weeks. I just took my 12-year-old grandson with me to Brazil. He wanted to see the rainforest, so my publisher in Brazil had asked me to come down. We just launched The Love Languages Devotional Bible in Portuguese and he asked me to come down. I said, “Okay, if you will arrange for me to have two days in the rainforest with my 12-year-old grandson I will come.” They did and we had a great time together.

John: Was that your first time doing that?

Dr. Chapman: Actually to go to the rainforest, yes. I’ve been to Brazil once before about four years ago but I’ve never been to the rainforest and so we had fun with marquees and the snakes, the alligators, mosquitoes and …

John: Were the mosquitoes as big in Brazil as they are in North Carolina?

Dr. Chapman: The mosquitoes were not what I had anticipated. They, maybe because it was wintertime there but still hot and is in the 80s, but maybe they have more mosquitoes in the summer time but we really didn’t have as many mosquitoes as I anticipated. Of course we took our yellow fever shot and our typhoid shot and all that. We were ready.

John: Whatever may come.

Dr. Chapman: That’s right.

John: Dr. Chapman I thank you very much for the opportunity to chat with you today and we are extremely looking forward to Extraordinary Grace coming out.

Personally speaking, I want to thank you for The Five Love Languages. You helped two scrawny very self-centered people, my wife and I. About 22 or 23 years ago we got your book and didn’t necessarily read it; got married and similar story, to be perfectly honest, as you and your wife. I was kind of doing my thing; my wife was kind of doing her thing. I kept telling her how much I loved her and she kept wanting me to wash the dishes or do something. We had a couple of kids and I continued to just tell her how much I loved her and I wasn’t necessarily taking an active role in that. You certainly helped her realize what her love language was and then she told me what her love language was and told me what mine was as well. Praise God we are still married and we have six kids and we are doing great. We are just so thankful for you and for many others who have counseled us through great books. Again I appreciate your ministry.

Dr. Chapman: Thanks for sharing that John. I think that’s the story of a lot of people. I have just been so encouraged with the way God has used that book to help couples and I never tire of hearing stories like that. All of us, as we said earlier, are selfish. If we don’t find an answer to that, of course the answer is found in Christ, but in the practical sense of how do you express that love and love language concept really, really does help. Thanks for sharing that.

John: You are welcome. God bless you brother.

Dr. Chapman: Thank you. Goodbye.

 

Sincere Love

Boyd Bailey

Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. Romans 12:9-10

Insincere love is motivated by control and self satisfaction. The one in need of love is used to satisfy the giver’s guilty conscience. They deludedly admire one another for their good deeds. Hypocritical love lacks unconditional and unselfish attributes that an unfeigned faith exhibits. Furthermore, sincere love hates what is evil. The resulting acts of charity are shallow if they ignore injustice or heaven forbid, promote sin. Genuine love upholds God’s holy standards.

Sincere love looks to do good in the name of God. Yes, you love not expecting anything in return, but you hope the recipient of your kind gesture will pay it forward in Jesus’ name. For example, you may anonymously help pay off a friend’s debt so one day they could be in a position to do the same for someone else. Or, you quietly provide meals for a sick friend and volunteer to care for their lawn. Perhaps you invite your neighbor and their child to church.

The goal of this command is love, which comes from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. 1 Timothy 1:5

A pure heart, a good conscience and a sincere faith can’t help but love well. The closer we walk with Christ the more we love and the more genuinely we love. Like luscious green ferns flourish from regular rain, so our devotion to one another hydrates and brings our love alive. My devotion to you in love means I think the best of you and do not give up on you. A devoted love looks out for the best interest of its friends. Sincere love is available to serve when needed.

Lastly, how I honor you above myself is evidence of my sincere love. So, I offer you the better seat at the theater, the preferred position at work or the optimal opportunity in a relationship. I defer to your comfort not mine, your financial benefit not mine, and your interests not mine. I best honor you above myself when I model how Jesus honored me above Himself. He died for me when I was dead in my sins. He loved me before I loved Him. Sincere love loves like Christ!

Walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. Ephesians 5:2

Prayer: Heavenly Father, grow my love to be sincere like the love of my savior Jesus.

Related Readings: Romans 5:8; Ephesians 6:23-24;  Philippians 2:1-3; 1 John 3:16

Post/Tweet today: Like luscious green ferns flourish from regular rain, so our devotion to one another hydrates and brings our love alive. #sincerelove

© 2013 by Boyd Bailey. All rights reserved.
Wisdom Hunters Resources / A registered 501 c3 ministry info@mail.wisdomhuntersdevotional.com / www.wisdomhunters.com

Unfailing Love

Boyd Bailey

Love never fails. 1 Corinthians 13:8

Love’s failure rate is zero. It has never scored a grade of “F” on any life exam. There is a 100% guarantee when love is applied it will succeed. For example, love finds a person stuck in their sins and woos them back into a loving relationship with the Lord and their loved ones. It finds a way to work things out when a disagreement erupts over conflicting opinions. Yes, love by nature is set up for success, it is always reliable. Love is the default behavior for Jesus followers.

We love ourselves when we die to ourselves. Indeed, we are set up for success as servants of Jesus when our love is other centered. So in marriage we seek to out serve each other, we value our spouse’s needs above our own. Our selfless love brings out the best in our mates. Yes, we migrate from a motivation of having our way to a satisfaction in seeing it their way. Successful marriages are built on selfless love. We are blessed, when we choose to first bless our best friend.

Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him. John 12:24-26, ESV

Is your language laced with love? Are your actions accompanied by love? If so, you are a raving success in God’s eyes. Look for ways to love and you will never lack opportunities to love. Be a successful lover of the Lord and people you will be energized by obedience to God’s greatest commands. Everyday you love is everyday you succeed for your Savior. Today, in Jesus name, love every human being you meet at their point of need. Why? Because He first loved you!

The Lord’s love doesn’t fail for one-second. You may feel like a failure, but His love lifts you up to live another day for Him. Your circumstances will not consume you, because Christ’s love is your protection. Like a fire retardant blanket the love of God shields you from the fiery flames of fear. If you run away, His love does not stay away. When you make mistakes, His mercies are new every morning. You succeed when you are loved by your Heavenly Father’s unfailing love!

Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. Lamentations 3:22

 

Prayer: Heavenly Father thanks for loving me to be a lover on Your behalf.

Related Readings:Numbers 11:23; Psalm 103:11; Romans 13:8; 2 Corinthians 8:8; 1 John 4:19

Post/Tweet today: Love migrates from a motivation of having our way to a satisfaction in seeing it their way. #love

 

© 2012 by Boyd Bailey. All rights reserved.

Wisdom Hunters Resources / A registered 501 c3 ministry

info@mail.wisdomhuntersdevotional.com / www.wisdomhunters.com