Moments with You Couples Devotional 3/30

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MARCH 30

Still Standing

He who tends the fig tree will eat its fruit, and he who cares for his master will be honored.
PROVERBS 27:18

We see a lot of advertising slogans today. Companies are always looking for newer, snazzier ways to position their products and services. But one positive feature that can never be dreamed up in a brainstorming session is a statement such as “Serving You for More than 50 Years” or “Celebrating 75 Years of Excellence.”

Statements like these can’t be bought from an ad agency. They can only be earned over time. The same thing holds true in your life as a Christian. Even though all of God’s promises were yours from the beginning of your walk with Christ, the awesome experience of bearing fruit over a lifetime can only be seen through the lens of many years. And when those years have been fully invested in the Lord rather than routinely squandered on foolish alternatives, the return is sure to be bountiful beyond measure. Today’s verse from Proverbs is a good reminder of this truth. Solomon was saying that our years of faithfulness will be rewarded. An orchard that is faithfully tended for many years will enjoy a much more productive yield than a
new one. The more it matures, the more fruitful it becomes.

If you’re still fairly young, I hope you realize that your choices now do matter. If you’re not quite so young anymore, don’t rest on the past. Keep growing a life whose fruit bears the seeds of eternity and reflects the greatness of the Gardener. Every year in His orchard is another opportunity to be used by Him in achieving His purposes in this generation. Perhaps the “slogan” you can hope to hear on that day when you stand
accountable to Him in eternity is “Well done, good and faithful servant. Enter into the joy of your Master” (see Matthew 25:21).

DISCUSS
What evidences of Christ’s character in your life today were simply not true of you 5 or 10 years ago?

PRAY
Ask that you will run the race that He has set before you and that you will run well, side by side, all the way to the finish line. Pray that you will finish strong!

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Moments with You Couples Devotional 3/29

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MARCH 29

Discipling at a Distance

The LORD longs to be gracious to you, and therefore He waits on high to have compassion on you.
ISAIAH 30:18

You should always consider your children your primary “disciples”—the main ones you’re responsible in leading to faith in Christ and keeping infused with biblical truth and spiritual guidance. But this can become a very difficult task, especially through the teenage years, when simply keeping up a conversation can present a challenge. Many teenagers—boys especially—just don’t seem to want to talk.

Don’t give up. Continue to pursue them. Be prepared for that moment when the mood shifts and the words finally come out of their mouths, when the opportunity to make a connection opens up right in front of you. We’ll never forget the struggle we had when one of our teenage sons didn’t want to talk to us. It was a constant challenge to initiate a relationship with him. He felt he could do just fine without us. Over and over again, Barbara and I reminded ourselves that we were the adults and he was the child, that what he needed from us was mature, adult love—not immature rejection.

It’s easy in such situations to feel hurt and to withdraw, to quit caring what God wants them to learn. But that’s the exact opposite of what your teen needs. When we continued to pursue a relationship with our son, time revealed the benefit he received from having two parents who never stopped loving and believing in him. Believing in your child is one of your child’s greatest needs.

Our model in pursuing our children is Jesus Himself: “Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him, and he with Me” (Revelation 3:20). He knows better than anyone the kind of work and patience it takes to make disciples.

DISCUSS
What are the main causes of distance and separation between you and your children? Which are normal and need to be overlooked, and which ones are trouble spots that you need to pay attention to?

PRAY
Pray for persistent, active patience in developing a relationship with your kids.

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Moments with You Couples Devotional 3/28

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MARCH 28

With Friends Like That . . .

It has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for him. PHILIPPIANS 1:29, NIV

As Bob Lepine, my cohost on FamilyLife Today, was leaving for work one morning, he put his arm around his wife and prayed, “Lord, I ask that You would stretch Mary Ann today, that You would challenge her spiritually and cause her to grow in the image of Christ.” And when he “amen”-ed his way to a close, Mary Ann looked back at him and said, “Would you mind just praying that I’d have a nice day and that the kids would behave?”

Even though I can certainly sympathize with Mary Ann, I also recognize how important it is to pray for my wife to grow spiritually—even if it requires asking for a little “stretching” to occur. The key is to know her and to be tuned in to her truest, deepest needs. There are clearly times when you should pray that your wife has a good day filled with all the things that give her joy—or for your husband to be blessed with success and a sense of God’s favor on his work. But there are also times when it’s appropriate to pray that the Lord will deepen your wife’s faith or expand her view of God. There are times to pray that the only way your husband will taste the thrill of victory is when he allows Jesus Christ to work in and through him to conquer a particular challenge in his life.

Prayer is so much more than a wish list at a candy store. Communicating and relating to God on behalf of each other means understanding that what your husband or wife wants may be the last thing he or she needs. Be willing to pray bold, farsighted prayers. And be willing to have them prayed over you. The secret of spiritual fitness is often found in the stretching.

DISCUSS
Share with one another a couple of things that you could use prayer for—challenges you are facing.

PRAY
Ask God to continue to grow your spouse’s faith and dependence upon Him.

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Moments with You Couples Devotional 3/27

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MARCH 27

Lures and Waders

Give preference to one another in honor. ROMANS 12:10

For more than 50 years I have enjoyed fishing. And ever since our honeymoon, when we went fishing together, I’ve been inviting Barbara to get into the sport with me. Finally she agreed to give it a try on a vacation out West. I bought her a fly rod and hired a guide to teach her, and finally there we were floating down the majestic Snake River near Jackson Hole, Wyoming. Finally, I thought, she’s fishing with me, enjoying the experience. It was just perfect!

At one point during our float, the guide who was with us began to instruct Barbara in the techniques of fly fishing. Now, one thing you never want to do is stand to the right side of a right-handed fly fisherman; the whipping motion of that line going back and forth can sail wide fairly easily and the fly can snag you. But when I saw the guide had Barbara positioned in the boat to his right, I figured he was the pro and knew what he was doing. That proved to be a wrong assumption. As he was lofting the fly back and forth the wind began to gust. I thought, This really isn’t a good idea for Barbara to be standing to his right. At that very moment, the guide flung his hook smack-dab in the middle of her forehead. I will never forget that moment. It was a ghastly sight. An imitation Caddisfly on a size 6 hook stuck in my beautiful wife’s face! Drops of blood ran down her nose. It wasn’t as bad as it sounds. It didn’t even leave a mark. I was reminded of what a great wife God had given me to be willing to get outside her comfort zone and join me in something I enjoy. When was the last time you stepped outside your comfort zone for your spouse?

And yes, Barbara has been back fly fishing with me since then. But she doesn’t stand to my right.

DISCUSS
What would you love for your spouse to try with you just once?

PRAY
Pray that you two will have fun together and be adventuresome.

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Moments with You Couples Devotional 3/26

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MARCH 26

International Flavor

BY BARBARA RAINEY

Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. MATTHEW 28:19

From early on, Dennis and I let our children know that God had a special mission for their lives. We explained that He had gifted them with abilities, personality and other qualities that were tailor-made to help them accomplish His plan. We also taught them that the Great Commission—found in Matthew 28:19-20—applied not just to grown-ups but also to children.

Granted, there are many local opportunities available to put these principles into practice. Church outreaches. Homeless shelters. Nursing-home visitation. Foster care. But to really cement this calling in an iron-clad, unforgettable way, nothing beats the value of a short-term mission trip. It moves them out of their comfort zones—us, too!—and shows them the real need that others have for Christ. I remember taking our three youngest daughters on a two-week mission to Russia. We joined a group of 400 men, women and children who gathered in Moscow to minister to the spiritual and physical needs of children there.

We went by the busload to schools, orphanages and family centers, distributing boxes of food, medicine, clothing and books. Our girls were able to hand out Bibles and good-news bracelets everywhere we went. Two of them gave a gospel presentation through an interpreter. Children born and bred in the heart of Arkansas developed a love for people a world away, putting names and faces and hugs and handshakes onto what was once just another dot on a map. Whatever the risk, whatever the cost, these are eternal investments in the lives of your children, helping them taste both the sacrifice and the joy of being a missionary. They will never forget it.

DISCUSS
If there’s an opportunity like this available to you, what would keep you from taking advantage of it?

PRAY
Ask God to give you a heart like His for the world and that if you decide to go, He will provide.

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Moments with You Couples Devotional 3/25

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MARCH 25

The Real Need
(Part Two)

For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus. ROMANS 3:23-24

As my flying companion (from the story I began yesterday) and I began to talk, I asked about his relationship with God. He told me about a near-fatal accident he had once experienced. After rolling his truck several times, he was pronounced dead at the scene of the accident. A few minutes later, he was resuscitated. He said that while he was “dead,” he saw a hand come out of the light and push him back toward his earthly life.

I asked him if he believed God has a reason, or purpose, for his life. When he nodded yes, I took the next 10 minutes to explain the gospel to him. You would think that someone who had been through such an experience would be spiritually receptive to the gospel. He wasn’t. Like many, he was determined to reach heaven on his terms, not God’s. My new acquaintance thought that Jesus Christ might be the way for me but not for him. My conversation that day was a fresh reminder that the real need of people is to acknowledge their need for the one true God, to admit their sinfulness and to experience by faith His love and forgiveness. If we don’t understand our own sinfulness and the judgment and penalty it demands, then there seems to
be no need for the Savior.

Jesus Christ died for our sins and was raised so that, if we humble ourselves and receive Him as our Lord and Savior, we can be forgiven—despite any mess that we’ve made of our lives. No, this man did not make a commitment to Christ. My responsibility before God was to be faithful to share Jesus Christ and give him the opportunity to surrender to Christ. I hope he won’t forget our conversation. I certainly won’t. I’m still praying for him.

DISCUSS
What is your understanding of your sinfulness? Why do you need the Savior?

PRAY
Spend time praying for people you know, including your children, who need to understand why they need Christ.

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"The Real Need"

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MARCH 24

The Real Need
(Part One)

A fool does not delight in understanding, but only in revealing his own mind. PROVERBS 18:2

As I settled into my seat on the small regional jet, I noticed that the man next to me was embroiled in an intense cell-phone conversation. Although he was doing his best to control his anger and keep his voice down, his conversation was unavoidable for me—and all the passengers within two rows of him. He was talking to his former wife. Listening to him was like watching a sword fight where you can only see one of the competitors.

With his blade, he verbally sliced and pierced the woman on the other end of the phone. The conversation ended with a verbal decapitation when he declared, “And you are no longer my wife!” He demanded to talk with his daughter, and when she came on the phone, the sword fighter was instantly transformed into a puppy. He began by compassionately asking her questions, but at the end of the conversation he made
one last thrust of the sword, saying her mom was a “wimp.” After he hung up the phone, this noble warrior informed me, “Any man can be a father,” he said, “but being a parent takes a real commitment. Hard
work.” I wondered if he was using the same dictionary that I did.

He mentioned that he was living with a woman who was expecting his child. I asked if the baby’s birth might lead them to get married, and his response was, “Why spoil a good thing with a piece of paper?” As I sat there, God reminded me of something: What is this man’s real need? As a sinner myself, saved by grace, I recognized that this man’s real need was to know God’s love and forgiveness. The warrior had certainly made a mess of his life, but there was One who would forgive him and could help him clean it up.

DISCUSS
Who in your life needs to know Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior?

PRAY
Ask God to help you remember that you, too, are a sinner saved by grace and to help you freely share the hope of the gospel.

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Moments with You Couples Devotional 3/23

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MARCH 23

Children of Tears

Women received back their dead, raised to life again. HEBREWS 11:35, NIV

One thing we painfully learn throughout life, either by direct experience or observation, is that rebellious children can come from any type of home. But even as they run from God and from us, and even in our anguish and frustration, we must hold them before God in prayer, trusting Him to lead them home. One of the greatest examples of this is Monica, the mother of Saint Augustine. She watched him spend his teenage and young adult years rejecting her Christian faith while outdoing his friends in seeking sinful pleasures.

At one point she persuaded him to meet with an unnamed bishop from North Africa. The bishop refused to speak to Augustine because he considered him as yet unteachable. Even though the meeting proved unsuccessful, the bishop comforted Monica in her distress, saying, “It is impossible that the son of so many tears should perish” (from Confessions, St. Augustine). You may well know the rest of the story: The Lord God dramatically converted Augustine in his Roman garden, urging him to “take and read” the words of the Scriptures that would open his eyes to the wickedness of sin and the promises of Christ. Only the mother of a prodigal can quite understand the joy in Monica’s heart when she held her now-grown son in her arms, rescued by God’s grace and a mother’s prayerful tears.

She died nine days later—her purpose in living fulfilled. And Augustine went on to become one of the
most influential figures in Church history. Oh, how the grief that can well up inside of us when we watch a child push God away! Barbara and I have experienced the pain and sorrow that never seem to let up. But we’ve also found comfort as our concern and tears were routed to God through prayer, knowing that He never stops seeking their restless hearts.

DISCUSS
If you have a child who is breaking your heart, share with one another your concern, disappointment and sorrow.

PRAY
Beg the Lord to redeem His wayward children, by whatever means will get them back. And pray that you will have hearts whose hope is in God.

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Moments with You Couples Devotional 3/22

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MARCH 22

I’m Here for You

Bear one another’s burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ. GALATIANS 6:2

Barbara and I admit that we’ve never experienced depression in its rawest, deepest form. Yes, we’ve had seasons of intense discouragement. We’ve had our share of valleys, crying out to God in the agony of our souls. We know what it means to suffer. Still, there are ravages and depths of depression we don’t know
about firsthand. But if one of you suffers with depression’s telltale signs—low self-esteem, severe fatigue and sleeplessness, lack of concentration—we know it affects you both. And the strain of it has the potential to steadily increase the distance you may feel from one another.

So we encourage you today to love your husband or wife in ways that are intensely real, genuine and sacrificial. Instead of taking all of this personally, realize that the emotional darkness your mate is experiencing likely has little or nothing to do with anything you’ve done or not done. This is simply your chance to listen, to be patient, to go to him or her without accusations or piously offered “overly spiritual” answers. Rather than urging your mate to “snap out of it!” or flip a switch that allows you to get on with life, this may just be a time to crawl up in bed and hold each other. To pray, offer comfort and read the Scriptures. To remind each other of what’s true and eternal and longer lasting than any earthly suffering and hardship.
Do you want to be a hero to your wife? Do you want to be the gleam in your husband’s eye? Then be your mate’s most faithful encourager. Be his or her rock to lean on when everything seems dark and cold and purposeless. Don’t lay blame. Don’t become short-tempered. Don’t come down hard and
make demands. Just carry the burden . . . “and thereby fulfill the law of Christ.”

DISCUSS
Talk about what you need most from each other when you’re down or depressed.

PRAY
Ask Christ to shine His own love and comfort and patience and power through you.

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