Real Love: When Nothing is Left
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Bob LepineBob Lepine is the Lead Pastor at Redeemer Community Church in Little Rock, Arkansas which he helped plant in 2008. He also serves on the Board of Directors for the Great Commission Collective, a church planting ministry connecting more than 150 churches world wide. Bob also hosts Mornings on Family Radio, a network of more than 70 radio stations in the US. He is also well known to radio and podcast listeners as the long-time co-host of FamilyLife Today® and as the on-air announcer for Truth...more
Is your love tank empty? Listen as Bob Lepine and hosts Dave and Ann Wilson share hope of how to get truly filled up again. Join us on FamilyLife Today.
Real Love: When Nothing is Left
Bob: There was a pop song, years ago, that included the line: “I’m all out of love.” Have you ever felt that way in marriage?—like there was no love left for your spouse? The Bible tells us that, when we’re out of love, there is a place we can go to get filled back up again.
This is FamilyLife Today for Friday, February 12th. Our hosts are Dave and Ann Wilson; I'm Bob Lepine. You can find us online at FamilyLifeToday.com. How do we find/how do we appropriate the love we need so that we can be loving husbands and wives to one another in marriage? We’re going to spend time talking about that today. Stay with us.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. I remember sitting down with a couple, asking them for their definition of love, years ago. What I got was romantic poetry back from them. What I really wanted them to understand, before we were all done in our [premarital] conversation, is that, while romantic poetry is lovely and wonderful, when you get down to the core—what real love looks like is commitment and self-sacrifice.
I mean, if I had to boil it down to two words—“What is love?”—and the reason we’re talking about this is, of course, because Valentine’s Day is this weekend; so it’s the holiday about love. I think everybody is thinking about: “What can we do that’s special?” and “Where can I express my love to you?” All of that is good; but if the foundation is not commitment and self-sacrifice, then you’re trying to build on the wrong foundation. Jesus said, “Greater love has no man than this that he lays down his life for his friends.” In marriage, don’t you think it is the same?
Ann: Yes; absolutely. I’m recalling, in the Bible studies that I’ve led over the years—and I’ll have a lot of 20-year-old women in there that are married/newly-married—and I’ll put a picture in front of them of a couple in their 20’s, newly- married, so in love/feeling so high you can tell by the looks on their faces. Then I’ll show a couple, walking down the road, holding hands, in their 90s.
I said, “Which one, to you, looks like that they are more in love?” I’m always so glad that they say, “The couple in their 90s,”—
Ann: —because they’ve gone through so much; and yet, they are still together; because love is way more than just feelings.
Dave: Yes; and that couple in their later years are committed, and they’ve had to daily/if not hourly self-sacrifice for one another. It is so interesting—isn’t it?—love isn’t a feeling;—
Dave: —it’s not poetry, although those are wonderful things.
Ann: —and fun.
Dave: You want that; but at the end of the day, it’s not even about me; it’s about serving someone I love.
Bob: I think, when you’re committed to one another—committed to your marriage, and you’re sacrificing for one another—I think what happens is: on top of that, come the feelings; they spring out of that—that’s kind of like the soil. In fact, the better feelings come out of that than just the momentary fleeting kind of romantic feelings that occasionally come our way.
We thought, with Valentine’s Day coming up this weekend, we ought to revisit what real love is. We’ve been listening this week to excerpts from the video series that we’ve put together called Love Like You Mean It®, based on the book that I wrote that came out last year. This is where that series finds its conclusion—with the last thing that the Bible has to say in its definition of love in 1 Corinthians 13—“Love never fails.” That’s what we’re going to dive into today.
[Excerpt from the Love Like You Mean It Video Series ]
Bob: In the part of the country where we live, and where I’ve lived most of my life, we may see flurries in the winter/snow flurries; and we’ll get an occasional snow fall maybe every other year; but it’s not a place where you can count on snow every winter. As often as we might get a snow storm, we might also get an ice storm. Those come as frequently as snow storms do for us. In fact, right after Christmas, back in the year 2000, there was an ice storm in our city that knocked out power for almost the entire city for a couple of days.
That Thursday afternoon, I remember we put a fire in the fire place; and we got out flashlights and candles. It felt kind of like an adventure for a few hours. We have a gas stove, so we were still able to cook stuff on the gas stove—we were glad for that—but after a while, what started off as an adventure started to wear on you. It got pretty discouraging. About 10 o’clock at night, we all decided, “Okay; let’s just go to bed.” We got out extra blankets, because we didn’t have heat in the house.
The next day, the power is still out. About halfway through the day—this is not fun anymore, now, to not have any power—we went a whole day that day into the evening with no power. Now, you’re starting to get really discouraged and depressed; and “How long is this going to be? Should we drive out of town?” Well, you can’t really; because the roads are still iced over.
But the third day, you wake up to no power, and this no fun at all. Any adventure you had on that first night has completely drained; and you’ve got nothing to do, and life is no fun. I remember thinking, “How did people live 150 years ago when nobody had electricity?” I was realizing how accustomed I had become to being able to flick a switch, and a light would come on.
We’ve all been through power outages or power failures; that’s going to happen with thunderstorms. In any city, something is going to affect the power grid; you’re going to lose power for a while. The Bible says about love that love never goes out—never fails/never falters—even in a thunderstorm, love does not flicker. We sing about it in church: “Love never fails, it never gives up, it never runs out.” God’s love for us is endless, and our love for one another ought to be endless as well.
Now, does that sound like you? Are you the kind of person whose love never fails?—where it never runs out? Or are there times when you’re all out of love? God’s love for us is different than our love for one another; right? In the Bible, it says that, “The steadfast love”—steadfast: it never changes—“The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases. His mercies never come to an end. They are new every morning. Great is His faithfulness.” Our love is not like that; is it? Our love flickers, and falters, and fails.
This next part is really important, so stay with me here. You have probably not lived in a house, where the water supply is fed by a cistern. Most of us live in a place where our water comes into our house, either from a well or from a city water supply. A cistern is different. In the old days, gutters used to collect rain water; and that rain water would be diverted to a holding tank—that was the cistern. That cistern would be the supply of water, either to irrigate the crops or—if it went through a filter—to supply water for household use.
Everything is fine as long as the cistern is full of water. As long as you’ve got enough rain that feeds the cistern, then you’ve got enough water to take care of the fields or take care of the house; but in a drought, when it hasn’t rained for a while, the cistern gets low: you don’t have water for your crops, for your fields, for your house. Now, the supply is out; and that’s when things get hard.
Now, I’ve heard people talk, for years, about how each one of us has a love tank in us; maybe, you’ve heard this too. We have this bucket in us that longs to be filled up with love; and from the time we are born, our caregivers/our parents—those people who come around us—they love on us, and our bucket gets filled up. Even as little babies, our love tank gets filled as people love on us; or if nobody is loving on you, then you wind up with an empty love tank.
As you grow up, you love others; they love you. Sometimes, you’re given love; sometimes, you’re filling your own tank up/your own bucket of love up. The idea here is that, in order for us to love others well, we have to have a supply of love in us. We have to have been loved well in order to love others well. We should be working to fill each other’s love tank up. Well, the problem with that idea is that there is not enough love among us to keep filling one another’s buckets up. There are always going to be people, whose love tank runs dry; because they didn’t get the human love to fill them up that they need.
But along comes God, and He says, “When you surrender your life to Me—when you become a part of My family/become one of My children; you become a child of God”—He says—“I have an endless supply of love that I will keep pouring into you so that the love in you will never run dry.” As God’s child, our rain buckets get filled up from His supply. Now, His love for us comes into us, and it is out of the abundance of love that He has for us that we’re able to love other people.
Now, you may be thinking, “Well, I’m a child of God; but my love tank still runs dry sometimes.” That’s because something has crimped the line; something has kept you from receiving God’s love for you/from it being poured into you so that it’s available to be poured out to others. It’s not because God ran out of love; His supply never runs out. It’s because you’ve not gone to the supply and been filled up with God’s love for you.
When we’re out of love, as children of God, the place to go is to Jesus; and say, “I’m out of love. I need to be filled again with Your love for me.” We do that through spiritual disciplines: we do that through reading and memorizing passages of Scripture, meditating on the Bible, praying, worshipping, joining together with others in fellowship. These habits of grace—as one author has referred to them—these are the habits that God uses to keep pouring love and grace into us so that, as it’s poured into us, it can overflow out of us to others.
This is God’s principle for us being the kind of loving people He’s called us to be. For our love to never fail, we have to be connected to the endless supply of love that God provides; and we have to make sure the hose is not crimped up, but that we keep it open—that we’re always drawing on His endless supply of love—and that it is overflowing from us to others.
I’ll illustrate this with a favorite illustration of mine. This is something that had a profound impact on me the first time I read it. It’s a story of a woman, who lived in Holland in the 1940s. Her name was Corrie ten Boom. Corrie was part of a family that provided shelter and refuge for Jews, who were fleeing persecution from the Nazis at the beginning of World War II. It’s talked about in a book that’s been written called The Hiding Place.
Corrie and her family gave shelter to these Jews; they were eventually found out. Not only were the Jews taken to concentration camps, but Corrie’s family was arrested; and they were sent to the same concentration camps with the Jews that they had been hiding. Corrie and her sister Betsy were in their 50s at this time. They went to a number of different camps; ultimately, ended up in the Ravensbrück Camp in northern Germany. There, they were prisoners; they were ill-treated, but they never lost their hope.
In fact, they had smuggled a Bible into the concentration camp; and they were sharing God’s Word with other prisoners. Well, shortly before Christmas in 1944, Corrie’s sister Betsy died. She had become weak in the concentration camp and, ultimately, passed right before Christmas. Fifteen days later, Corrie wound up being released from the concentration camp. It turned out later it was because of a clerical error. In fact, right after the New Year had begun, the women in Corrie’s unit were all taken to the gas chambers and were exterminated. Corrie would have died if it had not been for that clerical error that saved her life.
A few years after that, Corrie had begun speaking about her experiences and sharing about God’s love and forgiveness in churches all around Europe. She found herself one night in a church in Munich, Germany, where she was preaching to a congregation about God’s love and forgiveness. She tells the story of what happened that night at this church in Munich. Let me read this to you. Corrie says:
It was in a church in Munich that I saw him: a balding, heavy set man in a gray overcoat, a brown felt hat clutched between his hands. People were filing out of the basement room, where I had just spoken, moving along the rows of the wooden chairs to the door at the rear. It was 1947. I had come from Holland to defeated Germany with the message that God forgives. That’s when I saw him, working his way forward against the others.
One moment, I saw the overcoat and the brown hat; the next, a blue uniform and a visor cap with skull and cross bones. It came back to me with a rush: the huge room with its harsh overhead lights, the pathetic pile of dresses and shoes at the center of the floor, the shame of walking naked past this man. I could see my sister’s frail form ahead of me, ribs sharp beneath the parchment.
Now, this man was in front of me, his hand thrust out. “A fine message, fräulein. How good it is to know that, as you say, our sins are at the bottom of the sea.”
[Corrie says:] And I, who had spoken so glibly of forgiveness, fumbled in my pocketbook rather than take his hand. He would not remember me, of course. How could he remember one prisoner among those thousands of women? But I remembered him and the leather crop swinging from his belt. I was face to face with one of my captors, and my blood seemed to freeze.
“You mentioned Ravensbrück in your talk,” he said. “I was a guard there.” No, he did not remember me. “But since that time,” he went on “I’ve become a Christian. I know God has forgiven me for the cruel things I did there, but I would like to hear it from your lips as well, fräulein.” His hand came out again. “Will you forgive me?” I stood there. I, whose sins had again and again been forgiven, I could not forgive. Betsy had died in that place.
It could not have been many seconds that he stood there, with his hand held out; but to me, it seemed like hours as I wrestled with the most difficult thing I ever had to do. I had to do it; I knew that. The message that God forgives has a prior condition—we must forgive those who have injured us—“If you do not forgive men their trespasses,” Jesus says, “neither will the Father in heaven forgive your trespasses.” Still, I stood there, with the coldness clutching my heart; but forgiveness is not an emotion; I knew that too. Forgiveness is an act of the will, and the will can function regardless of the temperature of the heart.
“Help,” I prayed silently. “I can lift my hand; I can do that much. You supply the feeling.” So [Corrie says] woodenly/mechanically, I thrust my hand into the one stretched in front of me. As I did, an incredible thing took place. A current started in my shoulder, raced down my arm, sprang into our joined hands; and then this healing warmth seemed to flood my whole being, bringing tears to my eyes. “I forgive you, brother,” I cried “with all my heart.” For a long moment, we grasped each other’s hands—the former guard and the former prisoner.
I had never known—[listen; she says]—I had never known God’s love so intently as I did then. [In her book, The Hiding Place, Corrie says] I discovered that, when God tells us to love our enemies, He gives, along with the command, the love itself.
I think we have to remember that, in marriage—our love will fail; God’s love will never fail—we’ll run out; He never will. When you’re out of love, God can supply the love you need so that your marriage can continue and go the distance. That love can grow; it can spring up in you like it did for Corrie. Love never fails; that’s good news.
For more than 40 years, Mary Ann and I have had hanging in our bedroom our wedding invitation—it’s framed—and at the bottom of the invitation is 1 John 4:19. It’s a verse that says simply, “We love because He first loved us.” That’s the message of the Bible; God calls us to be dispensers of the love that He has poured out on us through His Son. His love never fails.
Bob: What we’ve been listening to—Session 10 from the Love Like You Mean It video series—that we hope couples will go through this content: get the book/go through the video series with other couples. In fact, we made this video series so that, if you don’t have ten weeks to go through all of it, you pick Week 1 and you do Week 10. Then you can fill in the middle with whatever issues you want to work on; right? If you need to work on patience, or kindness, or not being rude or irritable, or commitment, you can decide what the middle parts need to be.
Dave: By the end of the day, you’re going to probably watch all of them—[Laughter]—because you’re going to realize—or actually your spouse is going to tell you, “You need to watch the patience one,”—or whatever.
Bob: Yes; right.
Ann: We all do.
Dave: I mean, at the end of the day, though, what you said is so true with the foundation. The only way you are going to go the long term is commitment and sacrifice. You have to stay committed to that, or you’re never going to make it. And it’s not easy.
Bob: If I’m depending on my own strength or my own supply of love to pour out to my spouse, that’s going to run dry.
Ann: That’s so interesting; because I used to think, when we first got married, that the closer I wanted to get to Dave, I would just move closer—I would do more; I would say more, which are all good things—but the older I got, the more I realized the closer I come to Jesus—the more I know Him and I spend time with Him—then it pours out of me as a natural outflow of His Spirit.
Dave: I can’t count the number of times, in our 40 years, that we’ve been in a conversation, or in some dark and hard spot—and I probably didn’t say this to Ann—but I’m thinking, “I can’t love her. I can’t get the feelings I need to have right now to speak kind words back to her. I am/I don’t have it; I can’t do it.” You know, in some ways, you’re like, “I’m hopeless.” On the other side, you’re like, “That’s exactly where God wants you.”
Dave: It’s like, “You can’t; I can. You’ve got to come to Me to get filled up, and then you can; but you can’t in your own strength.”
Bob: That’s, I think, the action point for all of us, when we go, “I feel like I’m out of love—
Bob: —“for my spouse”; spend time with Jesus.
Bob: If you need a retreat day—if you need to get away and just spend it with Jesus as He pours His love into you—you’ll be filled up with love for other people; that’s what the message of 1 Corinthians 13 is. Our hope is that that message is a message that more and more couples will have a chance to hear/to interact with.
We put together the Love Like You Mean It video series in hopes that listeners, like you, would call four or five other couples and say, “Hey, let’s go through this study on marriage together.” Each video session is about 15 or 20 minutes long. There is a workbook: some great discussion questions for you; some homework for you to do. We think this can have a powerful impact on your marriage and on the marriages of others you know if you’ll just invite them to be part of this series with you.
The Love Like You Mean It video series is available now from us, here, at FamilyLife®. You can go to our website, FamilyLifeToday.com, to see some clips from the series, find out more, order the series from us. In fact, I just found this out—I found out that now through Valentine’s Day/so this week—our team has been telling anybody, who has been calling to get the video series, that they are throwing in my book free. You get the video series and the book, Love Like You Mean It, together when you go to our website, FamilyLifeToday.com, to order or when you call 1-800-FL-TODAY. That’s good through Valentine’s Day. Take advantage of that. Again, the website—FamilyLifeToday.com—or call 1-800-FL-TODAY. Do something proactive for your marriage and the marriages of other people you know.
In fact, let me just say a word quickly to those of you who are—maybe, you’re empty nesters; you’ve been married for—I don’t know—25/30 years or longer. Why don’t you invite some younger couples, who are in the first 10 years of their marriage, to join you to go through this study? I know you’re thinking, “Those younger people don’t want to go through a marriage study with old folks like us.” Well, actually, yes; they do. They want to hear the wisdom of people, who have figured out how to go the distance. You would be a great asset—just think about four or five couples you know, who are younger couples, and make this your assignment this spring—to take them through Love Like You Mean It. Again, more information about the study available, online, at FamilyLifeToday.com; or call 1-800-FL-TODAY for more information.
And we hope you have a great weekend this weekend. Hope you are able, in some way, to celebrate Valentine’s Day together as a couple, and hope you’re able to worship together as a family in your local church in some way as well. We hope you can join us on Monday. Gary Thomas is going to be here to talk about what happens when a relationship gets toxic or destructive. Are there times when you do need to walk away? We’ll talk more about that with Gary Thomas on Monday. I hope you can tune in for that.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch. He got some help this week from Justin Adams. We also want to thank our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our hosts, Dave and Ann Wilson, I’m Bob Lepine. Have a great weekend. We will see you Monday for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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