Friday, 6 January 2012

Degrees of Love

Bernard of Clairvaux
I recently sat in on a webinar conducted by New Life Live. One of the presenters was Dr. Dave Stoop. He outlined degrees of love which were originally developed by Bernard of Clairvaux a French monk, who was articulating various ways in which humans tend to relate to God. Stoop attempted to adapt the degrees to the marriage relationship. The first three degrees accurately describe the basis for many marriages.

First Degree:
The first degree of love is based what the other person does for you emotionally. While we are called to love the other person Bernard says, “But nature is so frail and weak that necessity compels her to love herself first; and this is carnal love, wherewith man loves himself first and selfishly…” This is the love of self for the sake of self. You are focused on your own needs. The person makes you feel good about yourself, they bring you joy and add to your emotional well being.

Second Degree:
The second degree is still “me” centered. This love stems from what the person does for you in tangible ways. The person provides a home, clothing, shelter and a certain amount of security. Or they are good with the children, they keep the home neat and tidy and take care of running the household.

Third Degree:
The third degree takes the focus off of what the relationship does for you emotionally and physically and puts the spotlight on the one you profess to love. At this point in the relationship you have learned to admire, respect and love the other person for who they are as an individual. The person desires to honor and glorify God and conducts themselves accordingly. You appreciate that they are kind, thoughtful and considerate. You recognize that their values and principles are above reproach. They are responsible and are of good character.

Marriages based on degrees one and two are going to be unfulfilling. No one human being can consistently meet all your emotional needs. It is only a matter of time before you become disenchanted. The second degree is more like a business arrangement than a marriage. I’m satisfied as long as you continue to meet my physical needs. As more and more desires and/or expectations fail to get met the less happy you are in the arrangement.

God’s plan for marriage calls for us to be other centered. Those couples who are able to attain the third degree of love realize that in their spouse God has given them a very special gift. They have learned that their emotional needs can best be met by God and that God “will supply all (their) needs according to His glorious riches in Christ Jesus.” Phil. 4:19”

Wednesday, 4 January 2012

Dealing with the Devil

In their book entitled Love and War, John and Stasi Eldredge devote a section to spiritual warfare. They write:

“Satan is a liar, ‘the father of lies’ (John 8:44), so utterly convincing he deceived a glorious man and woman to betray God, whom they walked with every day. I think we tend to dismiss Adam and Eve as the idiots who got us all into this mess in the first place. But they had not yet sinned; they had experienced no wounding; they were man and woman in their glory. And they were deceived. It ought to give us all a healthy respect for what the enemy is capable of.

(Satan) puts his spin on a situation. It typically comes as a thought or a feeling. ‘She doesn’t really love you. He’ll never change. She’s always doing that.’ (By the way, when the word ‘always’ is part of the equation, you know you are well into an agreement)

An agreement is a very subtle but momentous shift in us, where we believe the spin, we go with the feeling, and we accept as reality the deception Satan is presenting…Once we buy in to the lie and make the agreement, we come under the spell and come under the influence of that interpretation of events. Then it pretty much plays itself out; it becomes self-fulfilling. These agreements begin to define the relationship. They certainly color the way we experience one another. It can be devastating to just let this stuff roll on unchecked and unchallenged.

So how do we acknowledge them? Ask Jesus:
Lord, what are the agreements I have been making about my marriage?
What are the agreements that I have been making about love?
What are the agreements I have been making about my spouse?

The Eldredges suggest the following prayer in a way to deal with the insidious lies that Satan will keep pouring on.

Jesus, forgive me for giving place to this in my heart. I reject this agreement. I renounce it. I break agreement with (fill in the blank) I break this agreement and I ask for your light and I ask for your love to come into these very places. Shine your light here. Bring me back to what is true. Bring your love into this place, Lord. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.

A 2009 Barna Study indicated that four out of ten Christians (40%) strongly agreed that Satan “is not a living being but is a symbol of evil.” An additional two out of ten Christians (19%) said they “agree somewhat” with that perspective.

A reference to Satan appears more than 23 times in Scripture. If God believes that Satan exists I guess it would behoove us to do the same.

Monday, 2 January 2012

Nothing is Impossible With God

The following is written by Dave Boehi and first appeared in 2006 in a Marriage Memo. What was true then is still true today.

“A wife writes to say her marriage is falling apart. She is so depressed, she says, "I can barely even work or get out of bed.”

Another says she is separated from her husband and would like to reconcile, “but I cannot go through him coming back and sucking all the life out of me again. I think it may just kill me. I feel empty, and I have no strength left.”

A mother and father are heartbroken about the struggles their daughter is having in her marriage. “We long to see them live together in a home where Christ is obeyed, honored, served, and where they can have peace, joy, and the hope of a future together.”

During this Christmas season, I’ve been thinking of these marriages—and so many others represented in the letters and e-mails FamilyLife receives every day. These are people who need a special dose of the hope that God offers through Christ.

One of my favorite parts of the nativity story is when Mary is told she will bear a son who “will be called the Son of the Most High.” She asks, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” and the angel replies, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you…For nothing will be impossible with God" (Luke 1:34-37).

I love that final phrase: “For nothing will be impossible with God.” It’s the type of truth we need to remember in our lives, our marriages, our families.

We need to remember that the God who made it possible for a virgin to conceive can heal any marriage and any family problem.

The God who came to live with us understands the temptations we face, and gives us the power to turn away from them.

The God who sent angels to speak to men 2,000 years ago still speaks to us today through His Word.

The God who sent Jesus to “save His people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21) … because we couldn’t do it on our own … now gives us the power to walk with Him every hour of every day.

We all have something going on in our lives that should cause us to turn to God—some problem or situation that we just can’t seem to solve ourselves.

As we enter 2012 let us remember that in Christ we have the hope that God wants to be intimately involved in our lives and that nothing is impossible for Him.     Happy New Year!