Moments with You Couples Devotional 2/29

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Fearing God (Part Five)

Psalm 101:2
I will give heed to the blameless way. When wilt Thou come to me? I will walk within my house in the integrity of my heart.

Some boys were tempting a young lad to pull a prank with them. The three young men taunted the other lad: “Come on, do this with us. Nobody will find out.”

Finally, the boy mentioned his father. So they taunted him further. They said, “Oh, you’re just afraid because if your father finds out he might hurt you!” And the boy looked back at the others and said, “No, I’m afraid if he finds out, it’ll hurt him.”

The more you fear God-the more you spend time in His presence-the more you dread displeasing Him. His presence in our lives shouldn’t be a heavy yoke around our necks. But we need to have a healthy dread of displeasing or hurting or disappointing Him.

If you could stand before God today in His throne room and watch a video of your life with Him, would there be a smile on His face? Would He be nodding His head in approval, saying, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant?” Would you like to have the confidence right now that God is smiling? You can…by beginning to respect Him, to practice the presence of God daily and to make your choices on the basis of what pleases Him.

At any point of time during the day, I would like to be ready to be ushered into the presence of God and see a smile of approval on His face. I don’t want Christianity to be a spare tire, fire insurance or something that is just there to bail me out of trouble. I want to walk with Jesus Christ moment by moment, yielded to the power of the Holy Spirit.

The fear of the Lord, then, should be a powerful, motivating factor in our lives. We shouldn’t be legalistic about it-viewing God with a giant flyswatter in the sky, ready to crush us when we displease Him.

Let this new concept of a healthy fear of God refresh you. Let the presence of God refurbish you. Practicing Christ’s presence in your life will set you free.

Prayer: That your marriage would be characterized by the benefits of fearing God.

Discuss: What will practicing the presence of God in your life liberate you to do?

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Moments with You Couples Devotional 2/28

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FEBRUARY 28

Fun and Games

A joyful heart is good medicine. PROVERBS 17:22

Everyone knows about the prestige of the Nobel Prize, an award given to those who make significant political, scientific and literary contributions to the cause of peace and human understanding. (It’s named, ironically, for the inventor of TNT. He wanted to be remembered for something constructive rather than destructive.) But perhaps you’ve never heard of the Ig Nobel Awards. These prizes are given for achievements that “first make people laugh, and then make them think.” Among recent honorees are those who have studied the following:

•How to stop hiccups
•Why woodpeckers don’t get headaches
•Why people dislike the sound of fingernails screeching on a blackboard
•Why dry spaghetti often breaks into more than two pieces when you bend it
•How many photographs a person must take to ensure that nobody in a group photo will have their eyes closed

One of my favorites was the 2006 winner in the “peace” category. He earned his Ig Nobel for inventing an electro-mechanical teenager repellent, a device that makes an annoying noise audible to teenagers but not to adults. (In the interest of fair play, he used the same technology to create cell-phone ring tones that could be heard by teenagers but not by their teachers.)

All this to say: Don’t feel like the only way you can cause your children to think and engage with you is through serious teaching. Bring up a wacky topic at the dinner table one night and see where the conversation goes. Get them thinking about making good choices over a game of Twister. Examine the creativity of God by asking them how many different faces they can make.

One of the greatest, most satisfying parts of parenting is learning how to make good use of fun. Laughter is God’s lubricant for the soul. Fun reduces friction when a parent wants to get an important truth in his or her child’s heart.

Learn to laugh. A lot!

DISCUSS
When would be some of the best times to incorporate instructive fun into your family’s schedule? Brainstorm something goofy that your kids would love for a family night.

PRAY
Pray that your hearts will be cheerful and fun-loving. There’s a lot of life that can really wear you down. 
 

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Moments with You Couples Devotional 2/27

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FEBRUARY 27

Believe It or Not

BY BARBARA RAINEY

Jesus answered them, “I told you, and you do not believe.” JOHN 10:25

We women are awfully fond of admitting that we need our husbands to affirm us and to express their love and appreciation of us through their words and actions. It’s important for us to know—especially after children and age have done their demolition work on our bodies and our once-youthful appearance—that we are still desirable and lovely.But if we want to be able to rest in the security of our husbands’ love, we need to do our part as well.

I remember the day, the time, the place and the details of one occasion when Dennis said to me—in the middle of a Saturday afternoon at home—”I love you, Barbara. I think you’re wonderful.”

I heard what he said. But the first thoughts that rushed through my mind were, He can’t really mean that. I’m worn out by the constant demands of the kids. The house is a mess. I don’t have a stitch of make-up on. I can’t be all that much fun to be with on most days. So I said, “I don’t know if I believe that or not.”

“You don’t have to believe me if you don’t want to,” he answered. “But it’s true.” It was like a light bulb clicking on. I don’t know why it seemed more sure and certain to me at that moment than any other, but I realized he was right. It was my choice to believe him . . . or not. He couldn’t give me the affirmation and love I needed if I wouldn’t receive it! I couldn’t expect him to affirm and value me if I dismissed his compliments as false.

So rather than listening to my emotions, I chose to believe the truth that he did in fact really love me, and I chose to do my part, which was to receive that love.

DISCUSS
Wives, discuss your need for words of affirmation. Do you believe those words when your husband shares them with you? Why or why not?

PRAY
Wives, ask God to help you be a good receiver of your husband’s love. 
 

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Moments with You Couples Devotional 2/26

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FEBRUARY 26

Get Real

When you are praying, do not use meaningless repetition as the Gentiles do. MATTHEW 6:7

Tommy was a National Guard Reservist called into action during the Gulf War. On the last Sunday before his actual deployment, the church he attended had a special time of prayer, sending him off with their promise of support and encouragement.

As you can imagine, the prayers for Tommy’s safety were thick with theology and high-sounding words (as churchy prayers often are): “Sovereign God of the universe, we trust that You will protect this young man on his mission, O Lord, and that You will keep him within the shelter of Your wings.” All very sincere, I’m sure, but quite flowery and unoriginal.

Then a little eight-year-old voice piped up from the back, “Dear Jesus, don’t let Tommy get killed, okay? That’s all. Okay. Amen.” The sanctuary fell silent, as everyone suddenly knew that the prayers they had encrusted in adult euphemisms had really been grown-up attempts to say this one thing: “Don’t let Tommy get killed, okay?” It took a child to express what adults couldn’t.

When Robbie Castleman, author of Parenting in the Pew, told me that story, it reminded me of something I’d heard my friend Andre Kole, one of the top illusionists in the world, say: “The hardest people in all the world to fool with your tricks are children.” That’s because children aren’t as complex as adults in trying to figure something out. They just see it for what it is. They’re not filtering the solution through so many possibilities.

The next time you pray with your spouse or with a child, get real. Get real simple. Be real honest. Get real with God. With total reverence for God, tell Him what you’d really like to tell Him. I believe God breaks out in a big grin when we get real with Him.

DISCUSS
How are your prayers duplicates of what you’ve heard others pray? Do you feel comfortable enough with God to be honest with Him? What is one thing you’d like to get real with God about in prayer?

PRAY
Whatever you pray for today, keep it simple. Just talk straight with Him. 
 

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Moments with You Couples Devotional 2/25

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FEBRUARY 25

Hope Reborn

He will surely be gracious to you at the sound of your cry. ISAIAH 30:19

My mother, Dalcie Rainey, died just before sunrise on a Sunday morning after a gallant two-year battle with Alzheimer’s. She was buried that Tuesday. Then Barbara and I, after lingering behind to visit with family for a day, left early on Thursday and drove to Nashville, arriving just in time for the birth of our third grandchild.

The scene outside the birthing room was thick with drama as Barbara and the other wannabe grandmother stood with their ears cupped shamelessly to the door, straining to hear what was happening on the other side. “It’s a boy? A girl?” Nurses paced in and out as both women—like two White House reporters—peppered them for any shred of information.

Finally, at 4:43 P.M., one of the happiest sounds in the world trickled under the door—a newborn baby’s cry. Our son Samuel soon inched into the hallway, his grin as wide as the Mississippi River we’d crossed a few hours before. The two grannies accosted him, demanding to know the sex of the baby. And though he tried to remain mysterious—”Stephanie hasn’t even held him yet . . .”—notice theclassic slip. Both grannies seized on the newfound data, and Samuel Peterson Rainey II was celebrated into the world by a burst of hallway cheers.

As I wrote in an email to family and friends later that evening, trying to capture what I was feeling: “What a contrast of emotions—from the grave to the cradle. I’m grateful to God for how this week concluded. It was a great reminder that there is life after death.”
We don’t always see these extremes in such close proximity. But the truth remains that in God’s economy, life follows death. Hope follows loss. Whatever you’ve endured, God has heard “the sound of your cry.” Await new life.

DISCUSS
What is the truth about God that would enable you to change your attitude and believe God for a dream reborn, for pain to be replaced with promise?

PRAY
Pray that you will believe the truth about God and experience hope, even when you can’t yet see it. 
 

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Moments with You Couples Devotional 2/24

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FEBRUARY 24

All-Out Parenting

The goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.
1 TIMOTHY 1:5

I suppose I’m hopelessly tied to my upbringing in the ’60s and ’70s, when there were a lot of radical movements in America. Today I find myself calling for radical parents who hold radical beliefs, who have radical purpose and who are committed to raising a radical generation that follows Jesus Christ wholeheartedly.

I’m challenging parents to embrace things like the following:

•Radical selflessness—It’s time for every Christian parent to prayerfully ask, Am I dying to self so that I can be the parent God wants me to be in raising the next generation?

•Radical objectives—Far too many parents are more concerned with their children’s IQ than their CQ—their character quotient. I’m convinced that the primary reason children depart from the faith of their parents is that many dads and moms don’t have this as their objective: to raise children who have a godly desire to love others and to live holy lives.

•Radical modeling—Children are like tiny radar units. They lock on. They track. They observe. And they imitate. You cannot lie and then demand the truth from your kids. You cannot cheat and then discipline a cheater.

•Radical involvement—This means getting down on the floor, hugging them, reading to them, affirming them. It also means initiating discussions with them about some of life’s most challenging subjects—human sexuality, modesty, temptations, relating to the opposite sex.

•Radical expectations—Are you praying that your kids will grow up to become mature soldiers for Christ, godly men and women equipped for a Kingdom assignment? Are you challenging them with the Great Commandment (see Matthew 22:36-39) and the Great Commission (see Matthew 28:19-20)?

If you’re going to raise children who live radically for Christ, you need a radical way of thinking, living and believing.

DISCUSS
On a 1- to 10-point scale (1 being poor and 10 being outstanding), rate yourselves as parents in each of the areas above. Discuss where you are winning and what you need to do to win.

PRAY
Ask God to make you radical parents and radical followers of Christ. 
 

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Moments with You Couples Devotional 2/23

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FEBRUARY 23

Short End of the Stick

Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but desire fulfilled is a tree of life. PROVERBS 13:12

We all come into marriage with a full yardstick of expectations—what love looks like, what our roles will be, what we’ll do on weekends, where we’ll go for Christmas. But over the years, that yardstick starts getting snapped off an inch or two at a time, until we’re left holding something a whole lot shorter than what we brought with us.

This leads to what I call the Unmet Expectation Syndrome. And every time it happens, the natural reaction is to go from disappointment to hurt to anger and finally to punishment—making your spouse pay for not living up to your expectations.

Here are four better ways to deal with these unmet expectations:

1. Love and forgive. Because you vowed before God to remain committed to each other, you must both own up to your failures and responsibilities. Your marriage will never outgrow its need for massive doses of forgiveness.

2. Communicate and seek to understand each other. Expectations must be managed, and the best way to do that is to keep the communication lines open. Clarify your needs and expectations. Don’t leave each other guessing.

3. Develop God’s perspective. Your spouse will never be able to meet the needs in your life that can only be met by God alone. Let Him be your sufficiency.

4. Don’t throw away the yardstick. Don’t give up on your dreams. Even though expectations sometimes tend to be out of step with reality, God doesn’t want you to live with just a few inches of the yardstick. Keep high hopes and expectations in your marriage, work toward them in a healthy way, and give thanks to God as He fulfills your true and deepest desires . . .both through Him and through each other.

DISCUSS
Share one or two examples of expectations you brought into marriage—and how your spouse has exceeded them.

PRAY
Pray for clear enough vision to see what each other truly needs and desires, and for the will to meet the ones you can with joy and selflessness.  

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Moments with You Couples Devotional 2/22

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FEBRUARY 22

Peer Problems

He who walks with wise men will be wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm. PROVERBS 13:20

Barbara and I often prayed that the Lord would supply healthy friends to come alongside our kids at school and at church—friends who could be good, steady influences on them. But we also learned four critical unvarnished observations about peers:

1. Don’t assume your children’s peers have the same values as your family. Even if they go to the same church and youth group. Even if they seem to be like your children in most respects, don’t automatically consider them good friends for your kids to be around. Exercise discernment.

2. Don’t assume your children’s peers are good choosers of friends themselves. Just because a boy or girl comes from a good home, you don’t know the kind of friends they have. You don’t know who’s likely to be hanging around at their house when your children are there.

3. Don’t believe everything your children’s peers say. Trust me, even good teens can be deceitful. Our children had friends who lied right to our faces. They lied behind our backs. They were “good” kids by most standards, but they needed to be held accountable and checked up on.

4. Don’t assume your children’s peers will speak the truth to your children. More than any of the other three items in this list, this one snuck up and bit us. Our daughters had friends who were from great families but who literally tried to undermine what Barbara and I were attempting to teach.

It takes energy, foresight and thick skin to monitor your children’s friendships. But whatever the cost in tension, embarrassment and involvement, it’s a bargain compared to the bill some friends can run up in your children’s lives. I’m not encouraging you to give in to fear and raise loners. I’m not telling you that your kids are too good to be around others. I’m just saying that friends bear watching. Getting to know them well is a good investment of your time.

DISCUSS
What do you really know about your children’s friends? How could you find out more?

PRAY
Earnestly ask God to bring godly friends into your children’s lives. 
 

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Moments with You Couples Devotional 2/21

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FEBRUARY 21

Are You Worthy of Imitating?

His delight is in the law of the LORD, and in His law he meditates day and night. PSALM 1:2

I was talking with a businessman recently who is involved in a Bible study with about a half-dozen men. These guys are all “well oiled,” financially speaking. But as I listened to him describe these men, I wondered what kind of Christianity they were modeling to their children.

As parents, we need to think about the priorities we are teaching our children by our words and our actions. Ask yourself, If I could pass on my relationship with God to my kids, would they be satisfied with what they receive? If my children could never experience anything more than what I have today, would they be given enough to chart themselves successfully through life? Would they experience God? Would they know enough of Christ to long for more—a deeper and deeper fellowship with Jesus Christ?

One thing we often say in our conferences and on radio is that your children will listen to what you say, and they will do what you tell them, but they will become who you are. If your daily experience with Christ is less than you want your children to possess, they probably won’t ever have it either. Your model should be the man in Psalm 1—the one whose “delight” is in spending time with God and His Word (verse 2). The one who “meditates” on the things of God through the ins and outs of the day. The one who keeps him-
or herself “firmly planted” by those “streams of water” (verse 3).

Only then will you be the model your children need to emulate.

DISCUSS
Share honestly those things that are distracting you right now from your relationship with Christ. How are you showing your children the reality of truly walking with Jesus Christ?

PRAY
Perhaps you should consider using this prayer time separate from one another and consider surrendering your will to His will. Ask Him to make you worthy of being imitated.  

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Moments with You Couples Devotional 2/20

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FEBRUARY 20

Life in the Fast-Food Lane

BY BARBARA RAINEY

Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. EXODUS 20:8

When Truett Cathy opened his Dwarf House restaurant in the Atlanta suburb of Hapeville, Georgia, in 1946, he made a decision never to deal with money on the Lord’s Day. The Dwarf House was always closed on Sundays. Perhaps this policy didn’t seem extremely revolutionary to his post-World War II American patrons. But that small restaurant was the first franchise for Chick-fil-A®—and by the organization’s sixtieth anniversary, it had multiplied into over 1,200 restaurant locations. As Chick-fil-A continues to grow, it also continues to close its operations on Sunday, traditionally one of the biggest days for food service.

Being closed on Sunday is a reflection of Truett’s purpose statement for his company. It’s an investment in the spiritual lives of his employees and a witness to both the watching world and the restaurant industry. He still refers to his closed-on-Sunday policy as “the best business decision I ever made.” In fact, Chick-fil-A restaurants often generate more money in six days than other comparable restaurants do in seven. Being closed on Sunday is also a reflection of one of my core values: Sabbath rest. I believe that when we yield control of our lives to the Father—when we reserve our Sundays to turn from our activity to rest and to abide more fully in Him—we receive strength for daily living throughout the coming week and live under the blessing of God.

The Sabbath is God’s invitation to draw near to Him, to rest in Him, and to linger by His still waters. It’s how He helps detoxify you from the pressures of life. It’s how He restores your soul. Perhaps it’s even how He makes Chick-fil-A sandwiches taste so good on Monday.
DISCUSS
How does your family practice Sabbath rest? How could you make God-honoring relaxation more of a deliberate effort?

PRAY
Ask the Lord to show you the value of keeping His Sabbath.  

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