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Monday, October 26, 2015

The closer your spouse moves to your love, the further they move from their fear.

I think there is a very good reason that "Do not fear" is the most frequent directive God gives us in his Word. The Gospels mention fear twice as often as they mention sin.

The reason for this focus on fear is because of what it does to us and to our relationships. Fortunately, the Bible gives us clear antidote for fear: love.
There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.
1 John 4:18 (NIV)
Fear Fills a Love Void

It's important to remember that the way love is expressed is typically different for men and women, and if you aren't expressing love in the way your spouse needs it expressed, then there is a love void.  For many men, things like respect, being sexually desired and being trusted top their love list.  Many wives, on the other hand, want emotional intimacy, time and attention, and to feel cared for in order to feel loved.

It takes determined effort to love intentionally in the way your spouse most feels loved, because our default is to love in the way we want love expressed to us. Thus you may think you are communicating love, but your love is not being received by your spouse.

Where there is an absence of love expressed in a marriage relationship, fear rushes in to fill the void. 

What kinds of fear and insecurities fill a love void?
  • He doesn't love me any more
  • She isn't attracted to me
  • I'm not good enough
  • He doesn't think I'm worth his time
  • She doesn't respect me
  • He/she wouldn't still choose me
Perfect Love?

It's interesting to me that the Scripture above says that "perfect" love casts out fear.

What is perfect love? It's the unconditional, overwhelming and powerful God-kind-of-love that pursues us relentlessly, even in our brokenness and weakness, even when we reject Him. In the face of that kind of love, fear can't last. It just can't.

But my love is not so perfect. I can be selfish. I can put conditions on my love. I can be forgetful and thoughtless.

Still, in all my imperfection, I realize that the closer I come to giving my wife the kind of love God gives me, expressed in the ways that are meaningful to her, the more fear will be forced out of her thinking. The closer I get to loving her the way she needs, the further she will move away from fear.

Why does it take "perfect love" to cast out fear? Because fear is a stronghold. And once we start to agree with the lie that created the fear in the first place, it can be hard for us to discern the truth. Fear creates filters that keep us agreeing with the lies that created the fear in the first place.

If I became convinced that my wife did not respect me, I see her actions through the lens of disrespect. So if she made an effort to show me respect, I would likely either miss it altogether or disregard it under the assumption that she was simply faking it.

Where fear has gained a foothold, it takes strong and consistent expressions of love to overcome it. So if you've renewed your commitment to love your spouse well, have a little patience as the fear begins to dissolve. It might take time and persistence.

Here's another truth about love and fear. Where love is not persistent, even relentless, fear will sneak back in. It doesn't take a lot of feeling unloved before we begin to agree with the lies that held us in fear to begin with.

You're Not on Your Own

You may think I'm asking too much of you, to love your spouse well, consistently and fervently. The good news is that it's not all up to you. We have an amazing and limitless love source in Jesus. That's not just a trite saying. It's truth!

But how do you tap into this Love source in a way that can benefit your marriage? With out a doubt, the best way is to experience for yourself the incredible and unstoppable love Jesus has directed toward you and to fully embrace it.

Soak up the love of God for you until it overwhelms you and comes spilling out of you. Experience for yourself what it means to be fully known and yet completely loved. Experience the joy and peace of secure love.

The Place of Secure Love

I call love and grace the two bookends of marriage. They are what hold the whole thing together. Grace and love work in concert to keep your marriage from toppling over.

Grace says, "I will choose to believe in your love for me, even when it is not evident, even when your actions or words seem to run counter to that belief." Grace also says, "I will love you no matter what, assuming the best, loving you as if you are already loving me as well as I know you want to."

Grace is not always an easy choice. In fact it can be really hard. But grace, in the form of the absolute belief in the love of your spouse, brings you to the place of secure love, where fear cannot break in.
The primary way our heart feels secure is when we know we are loved. No doubts, no misgivings, no shadowlands where second-guessing and fear play games with our confidence. Among other things, Christ died for us so we can know once and for all that we are completely, ultimately, and profoundly loved.
Grace Filled Marriage, p. 63
Just imagine for a minute what your marriage would be like if your husband or wife never, ever doubted that you deeply loved him or her! What if you never doubted that you were loved just as deeply? How delightful would it be to do everything out of the security of the love you share instead of out of trying to earn it or perform for it.

Let me suggest you start here, by listening to this video, This Love, by Housefires. Close your eyes and let the love they sing about wash over you. Let it strike your heart. And when it is finished, pray and ask God to stir the same kind of love in your for your spouse.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Are you living the story you want to be living?
We are all living a story. I am. You are. Your spouse is. And so is your marriage.

So what is your story?

I recently read Don Miller's awesome book A Million Miles in a Thousand Years. It's all about story, and it opened my eyes to the fact that good, bad or indifferent, our lives tell a story.

To me, your story is about partnering with God to live toward your full identity and destiny. The logical extension of this is that the story of your marriage is about partnering with God to see that your spouse also comes into their true identity and destiny.

Two Stories Become One

Because you are married, your story doesn't stand alone. You are also an integral part of someone else's story. The idea of "two becoming one" extends to the story a husband and wife are writing together. Of course you each have unique roles in the story, but the characters are intimately intertwined.

Don Miller describes it this way. "It’s interesting that in the Bible, in the book of Ecclesiastes, the only practical advice given about living a meaningful life is to find a job you like, enjoy your marriage, and obey God. It’s as though God is saying, Write a good story, take somebody with you, and let me help."

I actually think God's role is stronger than that of a "helper" in a story we write for ourselves. I believe that in a sense God is the author of our story, with us as the co-writers. Or maybe it's like God is the ghost writer (Holy Ghost writer?) but we get to put our name on the book. It's not that he dictates it line by line, but God creates us for a purpose and places inside of us a unique identity for accomplishing that purpose.

I believe God is also the instigator of our hopes and dreams and the One who provides constant encouragement and guidance. Too often we act as if our aspirations are a divine guessing game, as we try to figure out God's plan. But I've had times of earnest seeking when I've asked God to show me the way, and I got the sincere impression that he simply asked me in return, "What do you want?" I sometimes think we see our dreams as not being "holy" enough unless they involve selling all our possessions and moving to Africa to preach the Gospel. I believe all the dreams God puts in your heart are holy. Don't be afraid to dream big and believe that God can and will redirect you if it's not a good way to go.

Don't Be Afraid to Change Your Story

What's holding you back from living a larger story? For many, it's fear.  Fear of failure? Fear getting it wrong? Miller say that, "great stories go to those who don’t give in to fear. The most often repeated commandment in the Bible is 'Do not fear.' It’s in there over two hundred times." He goes on to say that, "most of our greatest fears are relational. It’s all that stuff about forgiveness and risking rejection and learning to love. We think stories are about getting money and security, but the truth is, it all comes down to relationships."

"The ambitions we have will become the stories we live. If you want to know what a person’s story is about, just ask them what they want. If we don’t want anything, we are living boring stories, and if we want a Roomba vacuum cleaner, we are living stupid stories. If it won’t work in a story, it won’t work in life."

So what do you want in your story?  What do you want in your relationships? Specifically, what do you want in your marriage? Yes it can be scary to risk wanting a larger marriage story than the one you are currently living, but that is the stuff of life.

Change your Story, Change You

"If the point of life is the same as the point of a story, the point of life is character transformation," says Miller. "We were designed to live through something rather than to attain something, and the thing we were meant to live through was designed to change us. The point of a story is the character arc, the change."

Yes, living a larger story in your marriage will change you. It will transform your marriage, and will probably significantly impact your spouse as well. Change can be frightening. After all we are creatures of comfort. Most of us don't tend to like change. It's disruptive and can be difficult work. But inevitably, if you want a better story, you've got to throw yourself into it and embrace the inevitable change.

"We don’t want to be characters in a story because characters have to move and breathe and face conflict with courage. And if life isn’t remarkable, then we don’t have to do any of that; we can be unwilling victims rather than grateful participants." I don't know about you, but I'd rather be a participant than a victim.

Don't Get Stuck in a Sentence

The Lord has been speaking to me a lot about story lately. It seems to be everywhere I turn. As I was reading this book, I heard a sermon preached by Eric Johnson entitled, "Don't Get Stuck in a Sentence."

I'm not sure why, but we seem to get stuck in our stories. We are struggling in a single sentence and somehow think that's the whole book. As Eric said, we may linger at an unhappy paragraph or a page and forget that our life is an entire book, yet unfinished. Maybe it's even a volume or an entire library, as our story intersects the many stories of others in our lives.

Miller's reason for us getting stuck in our story is that, "Humans are designed to seek comfort and order, and so if they have comfort and order, they tend to plant themselves, even if their comfort isn’t all that comfortable. And even if they secretly want for something better."

I've come across a lot of unhappy couples who seem stuck in their marriage story, trapped in a sentence, unwilling or unable to embrace the vulnerability required to write the book God has in mind for their future.

How would you like to change your story and the story of your marriage? Are you willing to risk dreaming a larger dream and to do what it takes to see it come true? Are you willing to risk dreaming with your spouse?

Aff Link
I highly recommend Donald Miller's book A Million Miles in a Thousand Years. You can buy the book here:  Kindle Version  |  Paperback Version

If you've read A Million Miles in a Thousand Years I'd love to hear what you thought of it.  Leave a comment below.

Book Refrences:  Miller, Donald (2009-08-26). A Million Miles in a Thousand Years: What I Learned While Editing My Life . Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.

Image Credit: aaron007 /

Friday, October 16, 2015

See below for your chance to win a free copy of Keep Your Love On by Danny Silk

Today I'm bringing back Friday Freebies! One Friday of every month I'll be giving away marriage-strengthening resources of some kind. To make sure you don't miss the future giveaways, you should sign up to get my posts by email. You'll also get my free bonus report, "What Husbands and Wives Need Most." Be sure to use the RaffleCopter tool below to let me know you signed up in order to receive points toward today's giveaway.

[Aff Link]
I had already read Keep Your Love On, written by Danny Silk, when the publisher contacted me offering a free review copy, but I enthusiastically jumped at the opportunity to share this fabulous book with my readers.

Keep Your Love On is one of the best relationship books I've ever read. Not only will it have a significant impact on your marriage, but many of the insights apply to other important relationships in your life as well.

Rather than trying to give you a complete overview of the book, allow me to whet your appetite by discussing one of the central themes of the book: how to be powerful in a relationship.

Are You Powerful?

What does it mean to be "powerful?" It's probably not what you think.

Danny Silk explains it this way, "If you heard someone described as a powerful person, you might assume he or she would be the loudest person in the room, the one telling everyone else what to do. But powerful does not mean dominating. In fact, a controlling, dominating person is the very opposite of a powerful person."

Being powerful is really about being strong in your own identity and not allowing others to negatively influence that by their behavior toward you. The only control truly powerful people exert is over themselves. Powerful people refuse to on take a victim mentality. They influence their environment rather than allowing their environment to control them. They respond rather than react.

Having this kind of power is what allows them to love others selflessly and unconditionally.

"A powerful person’s choice to love will stand, no matter what the other person does or says. When powerful people say, 'I love you,' there’s nothing that can stop them. Their love is not dependent on being loved in return. It is dependent on their powerful ability to say, 'Yes' and carry out that decision. This protects their love from external forces, or from being managed by other people. Powerful people can be who they say they are on a consistent basis. And because they know how to be themselves , they invite those around them to be themselves. Only powerful people can create a safe place to know and be known intimately."

Don't you want to have that kind of power in your own relationships? If you want to get there, you'll have to read the book, but I'll give you a peak at one of the keys:

"Repentance means to change the way you think. In order to repent from a life of powerlessness, you will need to identify the lies you believe and the influence those lies have in your life. Once you identify these lies, renounce them and break your agreement with them. Then ask the Holy Spirit to come and tell you the truth."

I hope you'll get this amazing book and read it cover to cover. It's packed with solid, biblical insights and tools that can help transform the atmosphere of your marriage relationship. If you purchase the book from Amazon using one of my affiliate links, you'll help support this ministry.
Either way, please read it, digest it, and then give your copy to someone else.

If you are interested in winning a paperback copy of the book, complete as many of the Rafflecopter credits below as you can. Contest closes Tuesday at midnight.

a Rafflecopter giveaway
Tuesday, October 6, 2015

"Do or do not. There is no try."

Yes, the headline is intentionally provocative. Stay with me while I explain why you might need to quit trying in your marriage. Trust me, I'm not talking about reaching for the escape hatch. Actually, it is quite the opposite.

I recently listened to a podcast by Michael Hyatt that resonated with me, and I thought I'd share it with you, because it has great implications for marriage.

Michael's suggestion is that we commit to eliminating the word "try" from our vocabulary. You see, the problem with "try" is that it leaves you an easy out, a convenient back door, a ready excuse for not accomplishing something. 

Compare these two statements that a husband might make:
  • "I am going to try to love my wife more selflessly."
  • "I am going to do whatever it takes to love my wife more selflessly."
If you were a wife, which of these would you rather hear your husband say? The second statement means he is all in; that he won't accept anything less than achieving the goal of becoming more selfless in the way he loves his wife. It represents comittment and determination. The first statement; not so much.

While putting away the word "try" from your discourse, especially where your marriage is concerned, may seem like a semantic game, I think it represents the state of mind you should have when you set goals in your marriage.

Do or Do Not

There is a great scene in the original Star Wars movie that speaks directly to this idea of not trying any more.  In the scene, Yoda, the wise Jedi master, is training Luke, the young and immature Jedi Knight. When Luke fails at a task assigned to him by Yoda, he initially wants to give up. At the master's encouragement, Luke reluctantly says he will try again. At his point Yoda makes his famous statement:
Do or do not, there is no try.
There is power in deciding to go for it. A 100% commitment to a goal creates confidence and inspiration in yourself and others. The truth is that failure is much more likely when you don't have a strong commitment. Settling in  your heart to accomplish something causes you to get creative and to seek alternatives to quitting when the going gets tough.

Tired of Trying?

Some of you may have been in long seasons of trying to improve your marriage. Some of you are tired of trying and tired of waiting for things to get better. Maybe you are in a largely sexless marriage. Maybe you are longing for your spouse to join you on your faith journey. Maybe you lack the emotional intimacy that you know is possible.

Stop believing in impossibility and start believing that in God all things are possible. God is the business of making the impossible possible.

Whatever the desire is, regardless of how long it's been, let me suggest you reset your heart and mind. Here are a few things to do:

1. State the goal in clear, try-free, I-centered terms

Create a statement that demonstrates your commitment to the goal. Include terms like "whatever it takes," "no matter what," or "until I see breakthrough."

Don't set goals for your partner. You have no doubt heard it said that you can't change your spouse. Since you are the only person in your marriage that you have control over, it only makes sense to set goals for yourself. Even goals for your relationship should be slanted toward your part in the outcome.

2. Define what it looks like

Relationship goals can be a bit ambiguous to define. Things like better communication, deeper intimacy and more selflessness are great goals, but they lack clarity and may not lead you to the specific steps you need to take.

So in addition to the goal, go into some detail about what having accomplished the goal would look like. Again, focus on your contribution to the goal and don't put a bunch of expectations on your spouse.

3. Commit it to prayer

Prayer changes things. Regular intercession on behalf of your marriage toward the accomplishment of your goal helps you realize that you are not alone in your pursuits.  Realize that God is for you and for your marriage. Submit your heart's desire to him in prayer, and listen to what he says to you about it. I believe God has divine strategies to impart to you.

4. Take consistent action

Look for every small opportunity to move toward your goal. Small steps, taken consistently, will get you there more reliably than the occasional giant leap. Yes, giant leaps can and do happen, but these are more likely to occur when you are doing the daily business of being faithful to what you committed to.

What do you commit to quite trying on? Leave a comment.

PS  If you want to listen to the original Michael Hyatt podcast for yourself, click this link.

Image Credit: Barron Fujimoto / Flickr

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