Category: Jan/Feb 2013

Love is Not Jealous

envy2“Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude.” -1 Corinthians 13:4-5

I think jealousy, boasting, pride, and rudeness go together in this verse for a reason. When jealousy looks us square in the nose, it is easy to treat others rudely in order to feel better about ourselves. We retreat to our pride in order to hide our insecurities.

I have an example from my own life of this. Unfortunately, envy is something I struggle with constantly. My insecurities can overthrow me in an instant. A long time ago, while hanging out with a group of friends, a lovely young lady made my ex-boyfriend some lemonade. I knew the two of them had very little interest in each other, but I was still mending from the breakup and my insecurities took over. So when he praised her for her thoughtful gesture, I matter-of-factly blurted out that my guy friend next to me had made me dinner earlier, and he was a great person too. It was random, awkward, and didn’t produce whatever desirable results I thought it would. Although my guy friend did deserve recognition for his kind act, so did the woman who was kind enough to make lemonade. It really wasn’t that I wanted to praise my friend publicly, but more like show off the fact that I was loved enough for someone else to do something nice for me too.

Jealousy taints love in its selfishness. When we see something we desire in the hands of someone else, we turn to pride and judgmental behavior. Think about it. How often do you gossip about that girl at your church who is nothing but joyful and sweet, especially on the days when you’re miserable? How often do you complain that your spouse does nothing nice for you when you see someone else’s spouse do something wonderful?

It is hard to love others when we are insecure about ourselves and fail to trust in the great things God has promised us. Instead of appreciating others or rejoicing with others, we separate ourselves from them and put up walls built out of pride. Love is not jealous because love should have no walls. Those walls only slow us down, they never protects us like we want, and they keep us from the authentic relationships that we crave.
Verses to Meditate On
James 3:16
For wherever there is jealousy and selfish ambition, there you will find disorder and evil of every kind.

Proverbs 14:30
A peaceful heart leads to a healthy body; jealousy is like cancer in the bones.

Romans 13:13
Because we belong to the day, we must live decent lives for all to see. Don’t participate in the darkness of wild parties and drunkenness, or in sexual promiscuity and immoral living, or in quarreling and jealousy.

Book Spotlight: Wild at Heart

wild-at-heartWild at Heart
by John Eldredge

Target Audience: All
Great for women who want to understand the male heart

What lies within the deepest parts of a man’s soul? What does he truly crave in life? What wounds him? What feeds his spirit?

In Wild at Heart, John Eldredge addresses the inner workings of the male being. Woman seeks to domesticate man, Satan seeks to wound him, and he himself seeks purpose and passion. Eldredge challenges men to stop holding themselves back – to defend against Satan’s lies and attacks, and embrace the design God had for man at the beginning.

Topics Covered:

  • Passionately living and pursuing adventure
  • Satan’s attacks on the male soul as well as his marriage
  • Finding validation as a man
  • The relationship between man and the Father, as well as the relationship between man and his earthly father
  • Healing from deep wounds with the help of Christ
  • Strategy in the midst of spiritual warfare
  • What a woman needs from her man

Available on Amazon
Available on Christianbook.com

For insight into the female heart, read Stasi and John Eldredge’s book, Captivating

Love is Kind

SONY DSC“…Love is kind” 1 Corinthians 13:4

In the times when I was suffering the most, there were two things that helped me through: the Word of God and the kindness of others.

The first time I got my heart sincerely broken was in freshman year of high school. I forget what event had occurred, but I remember that it resulted with me crying my eyes out in a bathroom stall during class period. I heard a knock on the stall door and a concerned voice ask, “Hey, are you okay, hon?” When I opened the stall, I found a sweet high school girl on the other side. She handed me a tiny plastic stocking filled with candy, asked me what was wrong, and then – in a public school bathroom – prayed over me. Two weeks later, I ran into her at lunch break, and she asked me how I was doing, genuinely concerned.

That is the sort of kindness that sticks with you. That is the sort of kindness that gives you strength.

Kindness isn’t just doing something nice for someone else, although that is certainly wonderful on its own and is highly, highly encouraged. But kindness penetrates a person’s soul when it shows concern for their well-being. Sometimes saying, “How are you? How can I pray for you?” is the kindest act there is.

When was the last time you treated your spouse with that sort of kindness? Doing your wife’s taxes or doing your husband’s laundry are wonderful and kind acts, but that is not the sort of kindness that is gives strength to their souls. What do they need? What weighs against their heart? What are they struggling with? Do you know? Do they know that you care about those things?

And as for single individuals: are you showing that kindness to your brothers and sisters in Christ? Do you show that kindness to those who don’t know Christ? Do you call those who are going through a rough time and ask how you can pray for them? Do you have sincere concern for their well-being?

I adore the stories of Jesus feeding multitudes of people. Jesus cared that His people were fed physically, but even more so, He cared that His people were fed spiritually. In those times of deep suffering, we all need that spiritual strength. We all need the type of kindness that goes beyond a physical need, and meets us at our core.

Verses to Meditate On
Proverbs 11:17
A man who is kind benefits himself, but a cruel man hurts himself.

Ephesians 4:32
Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.

Philippians 2:4-7
Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant,being born in the likeness of men.

Book Spotlight: The Wonder of His Love

loveThe Wonder of His Love
by Nancy Stafford

Target Audience: All
Great for daily personal reflection

When was the last time you fully meditated on the love of God? We may sing “Jesus Loves Me” but do we really understand the depths of that love? How wondrous is the passionate, faithful love of our God! He is the only example of perfect love – His love is the only true love.

In The Wonder of His Love, Nancy Stafford writes on the amazing love of God. Dividing her insights into 31 devotionals, Stafford encourages awe at God’s eternal and unfailing love for His people. It is that love that sustains us, and it is that love that has saved us.

Topics covered:

  • The transforming love of God
  • Growing closer to the Lord in light of His love
  • Love beyond feelings
  • The faithful love of God
  • Standing firm in God’s love
  • God’s love in comparison to earthly love
  • Meditating on God’s love

Available on Amazon

Available on Christianbook.com

Love Suffers Long

grief2“Love suffers long…” -1 Corinthians 13:4

Many translations change this verse to say “love is patient,” but I prefer leave in the bit about suffering. When we think about the word patience, we often think of not exploding at someone who annoys us, or keeping a cool temper when someone speaks harshly towards us. It is true that those things are important in loving others, but there is much more to patience than that.

Suffering happens in marriage. Although I am not married, I cannot think of one marriage I have encountered that has not gone through a trial; whether it is recovering from adultery, facing a crippling disease, or living with an unbelieving spouse. It is much easier to throw in the towel and walk away than it is to put up with long-term suffering. Our limited logic tells us that love should be easy, and if it isn’t – if any form of suffering is involved – we should bail.

Praise God that His love is not like that! How our Lord suffers in the name the love! How much does He suffer when you fail to acknowledge who He is? How much does He suffer while you forget Him and chase your idols? How much does He suffer when you bitterly accuse and reject Him? The cross was not the only place Jesus endured suffering. He suffered at the hands of Pharisees, He suffered at the hand of mockers, and He suffers when we reject the love He offers to us. Our Lord knows what it’s like to suffer long more than anyone who has ever lived.  And being that He existed before time began, He also has suffered the longest of any of us.

Love is not failing to establish boundaries to protect ourselves, nor is it enabling someone so that they never face the consequences of their actions. But this world is utterly broken, and therefore, earthly love involves suffering. The test is loving in spite of suffering. Although we are not called to torture ourselves, we are called to love those who treat us badly (Luke 6:27-36). Sometimes that’s from a distance, sometimes that’s right where we’re standing. We must pray for our enemies (Matthew 5:44), forgive those who have hurt us (Colossians 3:13), and serving our spouses despite their selfishness because it pleases the Lord (Ephesians 5:21). Love suffers long, but the Lord gives us strength. All we have to do is ask for it – He knows exactly how much strength we need and will provide it to us to love others just as He has loved us.

The Art of Creative Romance

lookRomance can be an intimidating word. Thanks to high-budget chick flicks and imaginative romance novels, it feels like the bar for romance keeps getting higher and higher. The truth is, romance is not as complicated as it seems. It’s not particularly elaborate, expensive, or theatrical. It does, however, take a bit of planning and thought; but overall, romance comes down to five basic things: personalization, presentation, variety, planning, and a special twist.

Personalization
Say your sweetheart knows you love baseball and decides their next romantic gesture should involve that particular sport. If they bought you a random jersey from a random team you might appreciate it, but it wouldn’t have half the impact as them buying you a jersey with your favorite player’s name on it, right? Relationships involve knowing and appreciating another person for who they are. The best way to show someone you adore them is to include who they are in your romantic gestures. What do they like? What do they dislike? What makes them happy? What styles are they into? What do they prefer? Pay close attention to who your sweetheart is – after all, that’s who you fell in love with.

Presentation
Buying a woman a dozen roses and handing them to her is romantic, yes. But how much more romantic is it to take those dozen roses and placing them on the ground one by one, leading from her front door to a love letter on the bed? Presentation is a big part of romance. It doesn’t always have to be over-the-top, but a little extra thought in presentation adds to the quality of the gesture.

Variety
Dinner and a movie is – in all honesty – a pretty solid date. The reason dinner and a movie gets so much flack is because many people make it a default date, failing to put in the effort to keep variety in their dating life. Variety is a huge key in being romantic. Expensive dates need to be balanced out with cheap dates, serene strolls on the beach need to be balanced with adrenaline-pumping roller coaster rides, double dates need to balanced out with intimate dates for two. Keep a date journal or calendar of the dates you go on, paying special attention to repetition and style. It’s easy to hit a plateau in your dating life, so keep a record to make sure that doesn’t happen.

phone2Planning
Spontaneity is incredibly romantic… sometimes. But when spontaneity is the only thing holding together your date night life, it can become dull fast. A lot of time is wasted when no one has a decision for the evening. The reason this is saddening is because planning a date or romantic interlude is incredibly easy. All it takes is a little research and a few notes. Grab the nearest newspaper and look for upcoming events. Look on the internet for attractions pertaining to your sweetheart’s interests. Look through romantic idea books and websites and write what ideas you like. Look at holidays coming up over the next few months and see what romance is inspired by it. Dates are simple enough to plan for weeks in advance, and they turn out better when you do so. (Note: you can plan something a week ahead and still make it look spontaneous.) Putting in the extra effort of planning ahead makes the date more romantic, helps the date run smoother, and it ensures that your romantic life is getting the proper attention it deserves.

A Special Twist
Adding a twist to a romantic gesture easily increases its romantic value. There are many books that offer romantic ideas and gestures, and they should not only inspire you to be romantic, but to be creative. Think about how you can put a twist on the romantic ideas other people have come up with. This is romantic innovation. Twists can be as simple as replacing the words in an idea. For example, instead of breakfast in bed, make it lunch in bed. Instead of a one dozen roses, make it four dozen roses. Instead of an Italian dinner for two, make it an Italian vacation for two! Twists are not incredibly difficult to come up with and they make a huge difference in the quality of your romantic gesture.

Note that all of these elements do not need to be incorporated all at once. That would be exhausting! The idea is to look at what your options are and then make that romantic gesture your own. Romance is no place for laziness. Even if you don’t consider yourself a creative person, you can be creative in romance. Your relationship will be all the better for it, too.

Throw a Singleness Party

singlenesspartyA singleness party is not to be confused with a singles party. A singles party creates an environment where single guys and gals can get together and mingle, possibly leaving with a new crush by the end of the evening. A singleness party is all about celebrating being single and creating friendships with others who are in the same season. Here are a few simple ideas for your next singleness shindig.

Gift Bag

Give your guests gifts that enrich their singleness. Here are a few gift ideas:

  • A daily devotional book
  • A journal for them to write to their future spouses in (to be presented to their spouse on the honeymoon)
  • A Bible study relating to singleness
  • Stationary sets
  • Gift items from non-profits that give back to the community, such as Thistle Farms, C28, any fair trade website, or even a local store in your town that donates to charitable causes. You can check out different gifts for different causes at Shop With Meaning.
  • There are also singles gag-gifts you can pick up at various online stores, like Zazzle.

A book on singleness, marriage, or dating is also a great gift idea for your guests. Here are a few suggestions:

  • The 10 Best Decisions a Single Can Make by Bill and Pam Farrel
  • When I Get Married by Jerusha Clark
  • Passion and Purity by Elisabeth Elliot
  • Real Marriage by Mark and Grace Driscoll
  • Sacred Sex by Tim Alan Gardner
  • Captivating by John and Stasi Eldredge
  • Wild at Heart by John Eldredge
  • Wide Awake by Erwin Raphael McManus

Food

For a singleness party, any type party food is acceptable. Feel free to do fancy appetizers, a potluck, or a tasting party. If you want to add a spin on it, try adding a theme, such as “a dish you want at your wedding”, “a food your children will be eating often”, or “the dish that will win your spouse’s heart.” Have fun with it!

Activities

Questions and Answers
Sit in a circle and ask questions to each individual on their singleness. Try some of these questions:

  • How the Lord has used your singleness for good?
  • What is one thing you love about being single?
  • What is one thing you would like to do before getting married?
  • What is one trait you would like in your future spouse?
  • What is your biggest struggle as a single?
  • What was your biggest relationship heartbreak?
  • Do you believe in love at first sight? Soulmates? True love?
  • What do you expect marriage to be like?
  • What is better: dating or courtship?

Asking these questions in a group setting brings about great insight and discussion. It also lets your single friends know that they’re not alone in their fears and desires as singles.

Apples to Apples
Play this popular card game with a twist: whatever cards you win are the adjectives that describe your future spouse.

Create For Charity
Create something to give to others. Make food baskets for shelters, make packages to send over seas to troops, make scarves or quilts for the homeless. Contact local charities and see what they accept for contributions. You can also have your guests create gifts for family members or special people who have spoken into their lives. If you don’t want to create, donate! Have each of your guests bring items to donate to a cause or charity.

Get Prayer Partners
Have all guests put their name in a jar, then shake up the names and create prayer partners or small prayer groups. Have the prayer partners sit together for 20-30 minutes, discussing their fears, concerns, and desires for singleness and marriage. Tell everyone that they should contact their partner(s) once a week with updates and concerns. Encourage prayer partners to pray for each other at least once a week for wisdom and guidance concerning their singleness, marriage, and future spouse.

Letter to Your Future Spouse
Give each person a sheet of stationary and have them write a letter to their future spouse. Encourage them to write about how they want to serve their spouse, what marriage means to them, what romantic gestures they like, favorite Bible verse, words of wisdom, how they are praying for their spouse now, and any other information they want to share with their future spouse.

Romantic Time Capsule

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFirst decide if this capsule is for you, your kids, or to any stranger who happens to find it. Keep in mind that anyone could find it at any time, so don’t put intimate items and details into your capsule!

Pick out a metal box, a sturdy can with a lid (a coffee can works well), or shoebox, depending on where you’re planning to store it. Fill it with items from the past year, such as:

  • Photos you took that year together
  • Movie ticket stubs
  • Fortune cookie fortunes
  • Love letters, emails, and notes you’ve written to one another
  • Newspaper clippings
  • A list of romantic ideas
  • A list of dates you went on
  • A list of restaurants you tried together
  • A list of special memories
  • Marriage advice for other people who may find the capsule
  • Articles on family and marriage

We even have a time capsule print out sheet for you! Fill it out together, then add it into the capsule. Write a large note on the capsule saying, “DO NOT OPEN UNTIL 2022!” (Or whatever date you decide to open it.) Find a place in your backyard to bury it; or you can place it in the corner of a closet or cupboard if you don’t own your home.

Now that you’ve put it away, forget about it! When it’s time to open your capsule, reminisce and enjoy the good old days. Once you’re done fawning over your old memories, make another time capsule!

Click here for our Time Capsule Fill Out PDF