A Lifelong Love Reading Plan
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- 1. A LIFELONG LOVE 7-Day Reading Plan Taken from his new book "A Lifelong Love," Gary Thomas speaks into the eternal purposes of marriage. Learn practical tools to help craft your marriage into an inspiring relationship, spreading spiritual life to others.
- 2. 1 John 3:1 Galatians 3:26-29 Get the Book DAY 1 GOD AS FATHER-IN-LAW It came almost as a warning, and frankly, I needed one at the time. I was a young husband, and during an intense time of prayer, I sensed God telling me very directly that Lisa wasnt just my wife, but she was also His daughter and I was to treat her accordingly. This was a moment of revelation for me, and the force of this insight grew once I had kids of my own. If you want to get on my good side, just be good to one of my kids. Conversely, if you really want to make me angry, pick on my kids. Be mean to them. My blood pressure will go up if your name is even mentioned because Id much rather you mess with me than with one of my kids. So when I realized I was married to Gods daughterand that you, women, were married to Gods sons Everything about how I viewed marriage changed. God feels about my wifeHis daughterin an even holier and more passionate way than I feel about my own daughters. Suddenly, my marriage was no longer about just me and one other person; it was very much a relationship with a passionately interested third partner. I realized one of my primary forms of worship throughout the rest of my life would be honoring God by taking care of a woman who would always be, in His divine mind, His little girl. We often hear pastors contemplate the fatherhood of God, a wonderful and true doctrine. But if you want to change your marriage, extend this analogy and spend some time meditating about God as Father-in-Law. Because when you marry a believer, He is! Have you ever thought of your spouse as the son/daughter of God? How does this change your relationship (both actions and attitudes) with him/her?
- 3. Hebrews 13:14-21 Philippians 3:20-21 Get the Book DAY 2 LOOKING FOR THE LIFE TO COME Ask yourself: in my marriage, how often do I get trapped into fighting over things that, in the end, dont really matter? How many marital problems would be solved if couples would simply read the Sermon on the Mount once a month together? This isnt to disdain the things of the earthno need to do thatits to exalt the things of heaven. Jonathan Edwards wrote like a poet: Fathers and mothers, husbands, wives or children, or the company of earthly friends, are but shadows; but the enjoyment of God is the substance. These are but scattered beams, but God is the sun. These are but streams; but God is the fountain. These are but drops, but God is the ocean. All of this means we have to work at keeping our focus, our magnificent obsession; otherwise, we might put all our focus on lesser (but still important) aimstrying to improve our communication, get our finances in order, keep our romance fresh and fun, and so on. We have to remember that these are not the stuff of life and they are not the end goal. After all, as Edwards reminds us. If our lives be not a journey towards heaven, they will be a journey to hell. If you truly desire to live this out, talk with your spouse and/or a group of good friends on a monthly basis. Ask one another: How is the hope of heaven influencing the way we love one another, the way we raise our kids, the way we spend our money, and the way we focus our time? How are you and your spouse daily living out your hope of heaven? If you were able to keep an eternal mindset, how would this affect your day-to-day life?
- 4. Luke 6:32-35 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 Get the Book DAY 3 LOVING THE UNLOVING Our reward will be great, Jesus said, not when we love people who love us back, but when we love the ungrateful and the evil as God does. If you are married to the godliest, kindest, most giving and thoughtful spouse who ever lived, that will be your reward. There will be no extra credit in the heavenlies for having enjoyed an easier marriage than most. So youll have some very pleasant decades, while someone else may be storing up for eternity. If, for instance, your spouse takes you for granted, you may never be appreciated on this earth, but the day will comeJesus promises it!when you see your heavenly Father-in-Law face-to-face and He says to you, You loved My son (or daughter) so well, even though I know he never understood how blessed he was to be married to you. Now, let Me show you how I spend all of eternity rewarding those who love in My name. Receive your rewards, enter into your rest! You see how believing in that day changes how we define what is a good day in the here and now? Well look for opportunities to love, serve, notice, encourage, and appreciate, instead of being obsessed with how well our spouses are loving, serving, noticing, encouraging, and appreciating us. This is encouraging for those of you who are taken for granted. Lets be honest: some of you married fools. I dont mean to be flippant, but the Bible says there are fools, right? It seems to me, somebody must marry them. Maybe you picked one. From an earthly perspective, thats a wasted life. From an eternal perspective, you have the opportunity to set yourself up for a particularly thrilling and fulfilling conversation at the judgment seat of Christ. How do these passages encourage you to love you spouse even when its hard? How will this lesson impact the way you live out your daily life with him or her?
- 5. Isaiah 40:29 Acts 1:8 Get the Book DAY 4 DIVINE DEPENDENCE If your marriage and family feel like a joke or as if theyre bordering on chaos, its not anything that God hasnt seen or isnt capable of redeeming. So much of Christian teaching today is about us developing our gifts, improving our talents, reaching our potential, yet so much of Jesuss teaching and modeling is about surrendering to the work of the Holy Spirit. Lets allow marriage to teach us to trust this Holy Spirit. Hes proven Himself. If we truly want to transform our marriages, we must learn the glory of divine dependence. God will never call us to do something without giving us everything that is necessary in order for us to finish the task. It may not be all that we think we need, but it will be all that we do need. This is not to say the job will feel easy. But God promises through Isaiah, He gives strength to the weary, and to him who lacks might He increases power (Isa. 40:29 NASB). Dont pass over this thought, because its crucial: Isaiah 40:29 assumes that God will call us to various tasks for which we lack enough power on our own. The secret, then, to a truly sacred marriage is actually a person, Gods promised Holy Spirit. Because God is such a relational God (meeting our need for salvation by sending His Son), it shouldnt surprise us that He meets our need for transformation by also sending Himself in the person of His Holy Spirit. Since marriage is one of the most profound acts of worship any two believers can ever share, it is impossible to be married in a sacred manner without the Holy Spirit being active in our lives, helping us to understand what it means to love, giving us the power to love, convicting us when we fail to love, renewing our hearts when we grow weary in love, and pouring out hope when we grow discouraged in love. Do you lean on the Holy Spirit to strengthen you and your marriage? What is a specific situation where you lacked ability, but were strengthened by the Holy Spirit?
- 6. Matthew 6:33 Matthew 6:19-21 Get the Book DAY 5 SEEK FIRST THE KINGDOM If our mission from Christ is to seek first the kingdom of God, how can a successful, God-honoring marriage not be marked by mission? Were not told to seek first an intimate marriage, a happy life, obedient children, or anything else. Jesus tells us to seek first one thing, and one thing only: His kingdom and His righteousness (the two words define and build on each other, creating one common pursuit). A successful marriage is not only supported by a kingdom pursuit, but in many ways the pursuit is a prerequisite for post-infatuation intimacy. Life without this aim, and marriage without this purpose, is going to lose a lot of its luster. We hunger for this today: cooperating together, meshing, working like a mountain climbing team, ascending the peak of our dream, and then holding each other at the end of the day. God has planted this hunger deep within every married couple. Its more than a hunger for companionship. Its more than a hunger to create new life. Its a third hunger, a hunger to do something significant together. According to Gods Word, we were joined to make a difference. We were married for a mission. Being married for a mission can revitalize a lot of marriages in which the partners think they suffer from a lack of compatibility; my suspicion is that many of these couples actually suffer from a lack of purpose. Jesuss words given to individuals in Matthew 6:33 are perhaps even truer in marriage. When we give away our life, we find it. When we focus outside our marriage, we end up strengthening our marriage. Is your marriage one with mission? How can you and your spouse more fully live a life of mission as a couple?
- 7. Psalm 146:3 Psalm 95:1-7 Get the Book DAY 6 MARRIED LIKE A MONK Isnt it true that many marital arguments result from disappointment with our spouses? We want them to be something or do something or catch something and they arent or they dont, and we feel sorry for ourselves. We really do want them to love us like God loves us. We expect them to just know when weve had a hard day; to know that were lying when we say, Dont worry. Its no big deal. I dont need anything special; to know that we need them to be strong or soft, to yield or to hold firm, just because thats what we need them to do. If they truly loved us, they would know, right? Be honest: Dont you think or feel tha