Moments with You Couples Devotional 10/31

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Prayer at Its Simplest

It is He who sits above the circle of the earth, . . . who stretches out the heavens like a curtain. ISAIAH 40:22

Ask almost any gathering of Christians to name one thing they wish they knew more about and prayer would be near the top of every list. I understand that. Yet perhaps in longing for those far-off secrets of spiritual success, we overlook prayer's simplicity and beauty. Perhaps in searching for answers, we forget that prayer in its simplest form is a reverent conversation with God.

One of my favorite places to go on our little piece of property in the woods is the picnic table down by our fire pit. I often find myself there, not on the bench, but sitting on the table itself—looking out at the sky, the treetops, the hills in the distance. Usually within the first minute or two of leaning back on my open palms, I find myself reflecting upon God, His greatness and the beauty of His creation. It's easy to see from my picnic table: "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth" (Genesis 1:1). We are His. We are here only because . . . He is.

It's so simple, isn't it? The perspective from my picnic table says that it is.

Perhaps it's because all we see sometimes are sidewalks and skyscrapers.

Shopping centers and new construction. Office walls and commuter traffic.

In the midst of a noisy, hectic life, we don't notice the pinks and purples of a morning sunrise. Our prayer life takes the staccato form of our non-stop lifestyle, with all the depth of a coffee-break conversation.

But what if you knew that all it took to kick-start your prayer experience with God was to locate one of His billowy clouds floating effortlessly across a city skyline . . . and begin to remember who made it . . . and who made you . . . and who has the affairs of your marriage and family safely in the grasp of His loving, caring arms?


Do you make prayer harder than it is? What helps remind you most often that God is there?


Pray simply but deeply. Yes, you can do both at the same time, you know.  


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Moments with You Couples Devotional 10/30

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Show Up, Lord

Ah Lord GOD! . . . Nothing is too difficult for You. JEREMIAH 32:17

How many times have you prayed for God to "show up"—that He would reveal His purpose and power and presence in an unmistakable way?

Some people might say, "Aw, that's just the way Christians talk. No one really expects God to ‘show up' or do anything." Well, it's not just talk if God can actually do it. Look at the context for today's verse:

Ah Lord GOD! Behold, You have made the heavens and the earth by Your great power and by Your outstretched arm! Nothing is too difficult for You, who shows lovingkindness to thousands, but repays the iniquity of fathers into the bosom of their children after them, O great and mighty God. The LORD of hosts is His name; great in counsel and mighty in deed, whose eyes are open to all the ways of the sons of men, giving to everyone according to his ways and according to the fruit of his deeds (Jeremiah 32:17-19).

This passage tells me that God can break through the most desperate situations in your lives and transform them into trophies of His grace. He can intervene in the lives of your friends and family members—even those who are running hard from Him right now—and turn their whole world around.

Sometimes we grow weary of praying for God to act. When an answer to prayer doesn't immediately come, we can become impatient. We're tempted to quit after a while. But never misjudge God's silence as inactivity. He is working and waiting for the right time to show up, to leave no doubt that He's the One who makes all the difference (see also Isaiah 64:4).

Persevere in prayer.


In what areas do you need God to intervene in your life? Who in your family needs God to show up?


Pray for God to show up in your life and in the lives of the people you're praying for—that He would make His presence real in your lives.  


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Moments with You Couples Devotional 10/29

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Soccer-Mom Syndrome
by Barbara Rainey

O LORD, You have searched me and known me. . . . [You] are intimately acquainted with all my ways. PSALM 139:1-3

Over the years, Dennis and I have attended hundreds of events involving our children. Baseball games. Volleyball matches. Cheerleading events. Gymnastics competitions. Evangelistic outreaches. Music recitals. Sometimes they all seemed like a blur! But there is one trap we worked hard to avoid: the Soccer-Mom Syndrome—the belief that attending your children's activities automatically means you're involved in their lives.

In reality, involvement means much more. It means crawling inside the head and heart of each of your kids. Finding out what he or she is thinking and feeling. Diving into the often turbulent waves caused by uncertain emotions.

This can be scary and uncomfortable at times. That's why so many parents run from real heart-and-soul involvement with their children and withdraw to much safer territory.

The sobering truth is that you can be in the same house or the same gym with your children but be clueless about what's really going on in their lives.

Yet connecting can be something as simple as walking into each child's bedroom, sitting down and asking a few questions. It can be a quick outing for a milkshake or a hamburger. It can be stepping out on the porch together on a Sunday afternoon, just to check his or her plans for the week or ask if he or she needs to talk, to let your child know you're there to listen.

When you pursue this kind of heart-to-heart relationship with your children, you're actually following God's example. Wouldn't it be wonderful (someday) if your kids could say of you, "My parents have ‘searched me and known me.' They know not just ‘when I sit down and when I rise up,' but they also ‘understand my thought' and are ‘intimately acquainted' with who I am and what I'm like"? That's the definition of an involved parent. Not just watching how well they turn a somersault.


Ask yourselves this question: "Are we just going and doing, or are we living and listening?"


Pray for ways not just to get there, but also to be there for your kids.  


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Moments with You Couples Devotional 10/28

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Dollars to Doughnuts

If we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it. ROMANS 8:25

Not long after I graduated from the University of Arkansas, a female friend came to me for counsel. She was dating a young man who happened to be my best friend. And though she wanted to marry him, he was uncertain about committing to her.

I had doubts, too, about whether they should marry. So I told her a parable I had recently heard, about a boy who'd been playing in his front yard when his uncle stopped by to visit. After talking for a bit, the man sprung a philosophical question on his five-year-old nephew: "If I gave you the choice, would you like a dime today or a dollar next week?"

The boy stood and thought. A dollar could buy him that rubber ball he'd seen at the corner store, but a "dime today" could mean a package of potato chips for his hungry late-afternoon stomach. So he took the dime, bought his snack and went home happy.

But about a week later, a buddy passed his house bouncing a new rubber ball. The boy then thought about his uncle's offer. The chips were a distant memory, along with the dime that had seemed so valuable at the moment.

If only he'd been willing to wait for that rubber ball later on.

There's a lot of truth to that story, you know. Sometimes we're so glamorized by the glint and gleam of the one thing we want right now that we're not willing to wait and trust God for the something better He planned for us down the line.

I should know. Because just over a year later, this female friend of mine decided to marry someone else—my best friend's best friend.

And even though there's been a lot of inflation since then, Barbara says she got her dollar!


Does the parable of the "dime now or a dollar later" seem relevant to any decisions you are facing right now? Decisions that you need to trust that God knows what He's doing?


Ask for God's wisdom and discernment to help you rightly value each new opportunity. 

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Moments with You Couples Devotional 10/27

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Don't Walk On By

All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness. 2 TIMOTHY 3:16

General Norman Schwarzkopf, the commander of operations for Desert Shield and Desert Storm in the early 1990s, exercised this simple premise of authority: A leader never walks by a mistake.

I think he's got a point, not only in how to lead a military unit, but also in how we raise our children. Barbara and I have often talked about how much easier it would be to ignore our children's shortcomings. We naturally wish to avoid the discomfort of confronting and correcting their selfish, sinful ways.

Some parents default to a soft, indulgent love, thinking their kids will grow up fine on an exclusive, pain-free diet of praise and permission. But the concept of "reproof " that Paul used in the above certainly suggests pain.

"Reproof " means pointing out a wrong, bringing someone to a place where he or she can admit what he or she has done. And there's nearly always an element of pain involved in doing that.

Yet as writer James Litter has said, "One thought driven home is better than three left on base." That's really your assignment as parents: Drive home the key issues that need to be laid bare and exposed if your children are going to finish growing up. You must help them embrace these lessons while they're young so that they won't have to learn them in a much more painful way later on as adults.

Our culture today is rushed and weary. You may have so much going on that it's difficult to slow down and address a defect in your child's character. But if you've taken on the mantle of parenthood, you've also taken on the responsibility of bringing occasional pain into the life of each of your children—even as painful as it can be on you as a parent.


Of course, you can't discipline for everything. But be honest: Are there some issues in your children's lives that you may be deliberately overlooking? Evaluate one another as parents in this area.


Pray that God will bring conviction for any areas where you are allowing fear, laziness or indifference to determine your parenting style. Ask for strength.  


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Moments with You Couples Devotional 10/26

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Full Steam Ahead

Commit your works to the LORD and your plans will be established. PROVERBS 16:3

When young William Borden—heir to the Borden dairy fortune—graduated from high school more than 100 years ago, his father gave him three things for his graduation gift: enough money for a trip around the world, a servant to accompany him and a brand-new Bible. So at just 16 years of age, William traveled throughout Africa, Asia and the Middle East, experiencing a mix of cultures and people.

But the combination of seeing human suffering while simultaneously acquainting himself with the Scriptures caused William's heart to be stirred with a calling from God. He committed his life to prepare for the mission field, and he wrote two words in the back of his Bible: "No reserve."

Returning home, he enrolled at Yale University, where his spiritual devotion and his ministry to the poor and destitute became well known among the students, faculty and community in New Haven. And though he was courted by both Wall Street and the family business upon graduation, he stayed firm in his desire to serve God overseas. During this time he wrote two additional words in the back of his Bible: "No retreat."

While traveling through Egypt on his way to a mission in China, William contracted a form of spinal meningitis. Within a month, he died. He was only 25. Weeks later, as his father was going through William's things, he came across the Bible he had given his son as a high-school graduation present. The list of short handwritten statements in the back now included a third: "No regrets."

No reserve. No retreat. No regrets. Those six words should challenge all of us to be radical followers of Christ. We should live purposefully in our marriages and families, investing ourselves wholeheartedly in the primary people God has given us to love and to lead. Always forward. Always faithful. No going back.


What areas of your life and marriage are crying out for these words (and actions) of resolve right now?


Pray that you will both be radical followers of Christ, who don't hold back, don't go back and don't look back with any regrets.  


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Moments with You Couples Devotional 10/25

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Fifteen Ways to Please Your Wife

How beautiful you are, my darling, how beautiful you are! SONG OF SOLOMON 1:15 

Not to be outdone by Barbara's choice selection of husband-pleasers from yesterday's reading, here are some ideas from the man's side of the equation.

See what you both think about these:

1. Hug and kiss her every morning before leaving the house.
2. Go to bed at the same time she does.
3. Brush her hair while complimenting her eyes and appearance.
4. When she's studying herself in the mirror, tell her, "You are so beautiful."
5. Evict late-night television from your bedroom.
6. During mid-afternoon, call or send her an email to ask how her day's going.
7. Try your hand at making breakfast on Saturday morning.
8. Put gas in her car, vacuum the floor mats, and clean the windows.
9. Write her a short love letter. List several ways she has blessed you this year.
10. Resurrect common courtesies: Hold the car door open. Offer her your arm.
11. Put the toilet seat down.
12. If you hear her engaged in a tough situation, compliment the way she handled it.
13. When you're together in a crowd, find a way to brag on her.
14. Help her put the kids to bed.
15. Pray with her every day. Every day!

If this sounds like a lot of work or if it's out of character for the kind of guy you are, do it anyway. You'll get better at it. And I guarantee your wife will love you for it.


Wives, what is something your husband has done to please you lately? Why was it so encouraging?


Husbands, expect God to give you creativity and sensitivity as you focus your affection and attention on your wife.  


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Moments with You Couples Devotional 10/24

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Fifteen Ways to Please Your Husband
by Barbara Rainey

Each of us is to please his neighbor for his good, to his edification. ROMANS 15:2

Who is your closest neighbor? Your husband. And how can you edify (build or improve) your husband and thereby enhance his self-worth, the way the verse above instructs? By discovering—and doing—what pleases him. Here are a few ideas:

1. Write him a letter and send it to his office, or put a love note in his lunch box or his briefcase.
2. Prepare his favorite meal.
3. Arrange an evening out for just the two of you.
4. Wear his favorite dress with your hair done the way he likes it.
5. Purchase something small and frivolous for him that he won't buy himself.
6. Give him a nicely framed picture of yourself, or of you and the children, for his office.
7. Surprise him with a trip to do something he likes.
8. Put the children to bed early and prepare a candlelight dinner.
9. Do something that especially pleased him back when you were dating.
10. Pray and read the Scriptures with him daily.
11. Take walks together.
12. Keep your junk out of the garage.
13. Greet your husband warmly after work.
14. Wear his favorite negligee, or buy a new nightgown to add sizzle to your evening attire.
15. Clean out the car for him.

Sometimes the smallest gesture can make the biggest difference. Pick out something you haven't tried before. Don't give complacency a foothold in your marriage relationship.


Husbands, share something your wife has done lately that has pleased you. Why was it so encouraging?


Wives, ask God to help you think of his needs, making you sensitive to find ways that truly encourage him and put wind beneath his wings.  


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Moments with You Couples Devotional 10/23

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Privileged Parents

I have no greater joy than this, to hear of my children walking in the truth. 3 JOHN 4

I didn't quite finish telling the story of what happened at the Promise Keepers event I mentioned yesterday. After we finished the demonstration with the traps, a large stream of boys (sons of the dads in attendance) began pouring into the stadium after listening to another speaker in a separate area. Their entrance was the only sound you could hear because I had asked the men to remain quiet as their sons filed in. Then these fathers began standing, baseball caps in hand, as they watched the next generation parade by in a mass of teenage energy and potential.

Once all the boys were inside, I said to the dads, "These young men are our sons, the leaders of the families of the future. Let them hear what you think of them!" I'll never forget the deafening roar that immediately erupted.

Clapping. Stomping. Yelling. The enthusiastic affection cascaded down the stadium aisles for several raucous minutes. Tears of unbridled pride and joy filled the eyes of fathers throughout the stadium.

It's too bad that rearing children can't always be as exhilarating as those moments were. On most days, parenting is rather lonely by comparison. There are few cheers, mostly challenges. It's hard work and long hours with no guarantees.

But there are plenty of rewards. Nothing can compare to the joy of seeing children grow up to walk in the truth. Nothing can match the fun of having them right here in our homes, letting us feed off their creative, spontaneous humor and their raw zest for life. And nothing is as exhilarating as watching our children bravely walk around and stay out of our culture's traps and snares, advancing the banner of Jesus Christ in their generation. It might be a good idea to give your teen a standing ovation for a choice he or she has made recently. Cheer them on.

Trust me. They need your cheers!


What have you been forgetting to celebrate lately about your children? Celebrate it now.


Thank God for the joy—and the journey—of parenthood.  


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Moments with You Couples Devotional 10/22

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Avoiding the Traps

You will pull me out of the net which they have secretly laid for me, for You are my strength. PSALM 31:4

Try to picture this scene: With 50,000 men watching intensely, a 15-year-old young man, Trent—blindfolded and barefoot—begins stepping cautiously across an outdoor stage. Before him are a dozen steel animal traps with their jaws wide open. Each is labeled with words like "peer pressure," "drugs and alcohol," "sexual immorality," "rebellion" and "pornography"—the "traps" that can
easily ensnare teenagers today.

Right beside me, on the opposite end of the platform and the traps, stands the boy's father, Tom, anticipating his son's every move. After two tentative steps, the boy's third step places him directly in the path of the biggest snare on the stage—a bear trap powerful enough to absolutely crush his leg. (It had taken three grown men just to set it.)

Before his son can raise another foot, Tom yells into the microphone, "Trent, stop! Don't take another step!" Circling the traps, he positions himself in between his son and the bear trap. After whispering some instructions, he turns his back to the boy. Trent eagerly places his hands on his father's shoulders. Then slowly, they begin navigating the trap field together.

When the two finally reached me and we took the blindfold off, father and son hugged each other. Applause at this Promise Keepers event swelled to a thunderous standing ovation across the stadium. Above the roar, I shouted through the sound system, "Men, that's what God has called us to as fathers—to be there and guide our children through the traps of adolescence!"

For Tom and Trent, the trap demonstration was a setup on a stage. But for you and your teen, the traps of adolescence are all too real and treacherous.

Don't allow your children to risk the journey on their own. Grab them by the hand, watch your step, and move out together. Let God guide you through.


What do you not know about the traps in your teenager's world? Make plans to find out.


Pray for God's ongoing protection over your children and for your ongoing vigilance as their parents.  


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