Moments with You Couples Devotional 11/30

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Sexual Hypocrisy

Among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality . . . because these are improper for God's holy people. EPHESIANS 5:3, NIV

When Stacey avoids fatty foods, she's being health conscious. When she stays away from alcohol, she's being responsible and resisting her impulses. For all these she is endorsed for keeping long-term goals in mind instead of giving in to peer pressure and immediate gratification.

But if she makes a conscious decision to delay sexual activity, she's described as being "not sexually active"—and given no praise or endorsement.

These startlingly honest words are from the author of Unprotected: A Campus Psychiatrist Reveals How Political Correctness in Her Profession Endangers Every Student, a book ascribed to an anonymous campus physician proclaiming truth in all its common-sense starkness. The author is simply asking why a medical world so concerned about bicycle safety and tanning-bed exposure and regular exercise has so little interest in discouraging a behavior whose participants are three times more likely to be depressed or attempt suicide than those who abstain. Not until sexual activity has resulted in a sexually transmitted disease or an unwanted pregnancy, the author writes, does the university medical establishment get involved—usually by scheduling an abortion or beginning an antibiotic regimen.

It's outrageous. It's absurd. But honest accounts like this are helpful in reminding us that our world is indeed sexually deceived. Satan has strung together one victory after another in creating a culture with the lowest standards of purity. By devaluing marriage and family, he is deadening the hearts of a generation, turning their attentions entirely on themselves . . . and away from God and His design.

It's past time for parents to reject passivity in this area and get actively involved in helping their preteens and teenagers stay as far away from danger as possible. The stakes are too high to sit quietly on the sidelines and say nothing. With prayer and God's guidance and grace, this is a winnable war.


Sex education is more about character than human reproduction. How do you intend to teach your children about self-control and godly obedience?


While sinking God's Word deep into the hearts of your children, pray hard for their protection.  

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Moments with You Couples Devotional 11/29

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Pride, Prodigals and Holy Scars

For we all stumble in many ways. JAMES 3:2

When two parents set out to raise their children, it's easy to begin with the thought, We can do a better job at this than everybody else. Despite our inexperience, we believe that by mixing in ample amounts of prayer, Scripture memory, family devotions, worldview teaching and church attendance, we can almost guarantee our children will turn out the way we want them to. Put the right stuff in, we'll get the right stuff out.

There's a term for this kind of attitude, however: "spiritual pride." I know, because Barbara and I felt the same way when we started out on our parenting journey.

But we learned one thing really quickly about children: If you want a guarantee, buy a new set of tires or a car battery . . . because children don't come with any guarantees. Being a parent may be the greatest risk we take in our lifetimes.

Ask those who've had a prodigal child come through their home. Ask us. We'll tell you.

But we can also tell you something else: God is sovereign. He is more than able to turn your children's lives around. As you release your children to make their own decisions, you may worry that their wounds will leave a permanent mark, disfiguring their lives forever. Yes, sin does have consequences. But as my friend Dan Jarrell says, "God delights in taking those wounds and turning them into holy scars that are useful for His purposes."

After all, the perfect Father, God, had a couple of children Himself who didn't fare too well in the Garden. He's had a lot of others along the way who've messed up pretty badly, as well. So don't lose heart. God can heal wounds and turn them into "holy scars" that declare God's grace, mercy and purposes.


Think of a prodigal that God has rescued for His purposes. What can you learn from this person's story?


Pray for the prodigals you know . . . that God will restore them in His time. Pray, too, that your children will learn to trust God without having to become a prodigal.  


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Moments with You Couples Devotional 11/28

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Keeping Covenant

A cord of three strands is not quickly torn apart. ECCLESIASTES 4:12

Modern society is still suffering from the sickness of the "Me Generation," which has contaminated the covenant of marriage. The selfish Me-Gen person says in effect, "When marriage serves my purpose, I'm on board. But when it ceases to make me happy, when it's too much effort, when the unexpected shows up and creates additional pressure, I'm outta here." Some leave physically; others leave emotionally and withdraw.

But those who do have forgotten three basic truths about their commitment to each other:

1. Marriage is a covenant between three, not two. On our wedding day, I entered into a covenant both with Barbara and with God. Our marriage is not a contract but a sacred cord of three strands that will not be easily broken.

2. Marriage vows require us to forgive each other. No marriage is a perpetual walk through the daisies. There will be unmet expectations, unwise decisions, troubles with schedules and finances, and other unexpected pressures that will rattle our relationship until we think it's about to fall apart. But when hurt and disappointment come, our vows demand that we forgive one another. This is not an optional accessory. It is the
life and breath of our marriage.

3. Marriage vows are enduring. When the pressure becomes relentless and intense—when the cultural voices around us entice us to look out only for ourselves and quit—our vows shout, "DON'T!" (Or, as my kids say, "Deal with it.")

Quitting on your marriage may temporarily reduce the pressure you feel, but I promise you that a broken marriage and family will add truckloads of new pressures over a lifetime. It takes courage to do what you know is right.

Remaining devoted to your spouse becomes your living testimony to the faithfulness of God and the strength of your marriage covenant.


Think of the marriages you've seen fail. To what extent did selfishness play a part in the breakup of those relationships?


Pray that you will always love as God loves, forgive as He forgives and endure as He endures.  


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Moments with You Couples Devotional 11/27

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Rut Busters

Come, my beloved, let us go out into the country. . . . There I will give you my love. SONG OF SOLOMON 7:11-12

I don't know what "routine" means to you, but this was ours when the kids were still at home:

Up before sunrise, have a few words together, maybe enjoy a little breakfast or a cup of coffee, exchange a kiss on the cheek and it's goodbye for the day.

I take kids to school and then drive on to the office, while Barbara stays home to get busy with her own work. She deals with endless issues involving the children—school, laundry, chores, errands, doctors and conflicts.

Meanwhile, I juggle budgets and meetings and problem solving all day long. Our paths cross again around 6 P.M., after both of us have emptied about 90 percent of our tanks. We take a glance at the news, eat dinner, flip through the mail, pay some bills, clean up the dishes, help with school work. Then an hour of getting the kids to bed. Barbara tries to get in some reading before sleep overtakes her.

That's the drill.

But there is no imagination in that. I'm not saying that a typical day can routinely accommodate wild swings of adventure, but I'll tell you this (if you haven't noticed already): A routine is just a few letters away from being shortened to a rut. A rut you will never escape unless you make a deliberate effort to do so. And I guarantee that your "rut" will never be on the same page as "romance" in your marital dictionary.

When the TV show Desperate Housewives first began its iconic rise into our national awareness, Newsweek did a feature article on the phenomenon. I remember one of the women who was interviewed lamenting, "Don't you remember the time when he kissed you with a kiss that launched a thousand kisses?"

Is there ever room for that in the middle of your routine?


Ready to spice up the routine? How would you do it if you could? (You can, you know.)


Ask the Creator for a delightful dose of His creativity to give you a break from the routine.  


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Moments with You Couples Devotional 11/26

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That Lovin' Feeling

May he kiss me with the kisses of his mouth! For your love is better than wine. SONG OF SOLOMON 1:2

When Barbara and I were working on our book Rekindling the Romance, I went online and typed "romance" in the Google search engine. Guess how many of the top 10 sites listed were for married couples? One!

Makes you wonder if romance has become an endangered experience after marriage. Is it like the way the late comedian Minnie Pearl put it? "Gettin' married's a lot like gettin' into a tub of hot water," she said. "After you get used to it, it ain't so hot."

Believe me, it doesn't have to be that way. Sure, there are a lot of barriers to romance in your marriage—primarily the hectic pace of your lives. But you married each other to become intimate partners, not traffic controllers, and that requires time just being together.

Barbara and I certainly felt the tug in our own lives when our schedules got crowded and the kids started adding up. With six children constantly chirping with needs, we found that we had to plan regular date nights just to get away by ourselves. Frankly, if we hadn't had this touch point in our lives, our marriage could have easily dissolved into two high-performance people doing their own thing. Existing individually without really sharing life.

When our children were little, we would either get a babysitter or we'd plan a fun date at home after the kids had gone to bed. Sometimes we'd create our own restaurant atmosphere, complete with candlelight and a gourmet meal we'd prepared together. When we finally sat down to eat, we'd just focus on one another.

Don't let the romance slip out of your life. It isn't dependent on the newness of your marriage but only on the freshness of your heart, the tenacious desire not to let the crush of life keep you from having a crush on each other.


How could a weekly date night become a reality for you and your spouse?


Ask the Lord to help you both for the creativity and for the perseverance to keep the home fires burning.  


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Moments with You Couples Devotional 11/25

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Although He was a Son, He learned obedience from the things which He suffered. HEBREWS 5:8

It's easy to focus on the struggles in our lives and not recognize what God may be doing. I've always thought this historical summary I read from Ted Engstrom, who headed Youth for Christ and World Vision in his fruitful lifetime, was encouraging:

Cripple a man, and you have Sir Walter Scott. Lock him in a prison cell, and you have John Bunyan. Bury him in the snows of Valley Forge, and you have George Washington. Raise him in abject poverty, and you have Abraham Lincoln.

Strike him down with infantile paralysis, and he becomes Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Burn him so severely in a schoolhouse fire that doctors
say he'll never walk again, and you have Glenn Cunningham, who set the world record in 1934 by running a mile in four minutes and six seconds.

Call him a slow learner, retarded, write him off as unable to be educated, and you have Albert Einstein. Have him or her born black in a society filled with racial discrimination, and you have Booker T. Washington, Harriet Tubman, Marian Anderson, George Washington Carver, and Martin Luther King.

We could add many others to that list. People like Corrie ten Boom, Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, whose incarceration in a concentration camp or prison cell became their classroom. Or Joni Eareckson Tada, whose wheelchair has become her platform for amazing ministry. I could tell of others whose names you wouldn't know, just as you could add names from your own life. Each is proof of what Charles Spurgeon said: "The Lord gets His best soldiers out of the highlands of affliction."

Could it be that even now—on the front lines of your current ordeal—God is making you more battle-worthy than ever before?


In what ways has God used trials and adversity to make you stronger, wiser and more usable? Or have you allowed hardship to merely harden you into stubbornness and bitterness?


Ask God to use the "highlands of affliction" in your life to mold you into a good soldier. And ask Him to do the same with your children.  


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Moments with You Couples Devotional 11/24

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Stepping on Toes

His father had never crossed him at any time by asking, "Why have you done so?" 1 KINGS 1:6

Maybe he was too busy. Maybe he didn't feel like his own sinful past gave him the right to enforce morality. For whatever reason, the verse above tells us that David didn't train his son Adonijah to become a man. He didn't correct him but instead spoiled him. And it cost them both dearly.

Barbara and I learned a lot of lessons with our own six kids. These action points will serve you well along the way:

1. Ask questions. Ask who they've been talking to on the phone. Find out who their friends are. When they are teenagers, make them tell you
where they went on their dates and who they hung out with. Don't be bashful about checking up on them.

2. Avoid isolation. As children grow older, they start wanting more space, which is fine within limits. But they'll push you away altogether if you let them. What they need is not distance but a relationship with wise counselors—their parents.

3. Believe in them. The teenage years are especially clouded with self-doubt and insecurities, and the social pecking order in junior high and high school can be brutal. Express your belief and confidence in your children as often as you can.

4. Establish boundaries. Determine where they can go. When they need to be home. What movies they can watch. What they can wear. God has given you the assignment of drawing lines and boxes—and to inspect what you expect.

5. Confront sin. Kids need parents who will restrain them from evil, loving them enough to watch carefully and discipline faithfully.

David lost his son because he refused to make him face the consequences of his choices. Don't let it happen in your house.


In your family, which of the five action points is a strength? A weakness? Talk about how you are going to team up to do a better job as a couple.


Ask for the courage to keep pressing in, even when your kids push back. Pray for consistency to correct and train, even when they don't appear to be listening.  

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Moments with You Couples Devotional 11/23

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Thanksgiving Day after Day
by Barbara Rainey

He who offers a sacrifice of thanksgiving honors Me. PSALM 50:23

Has it ever seemed surprising to you that God made the Israelites wander in the wilderness for 40 years just for grumbling and complaining? My kids may have spent 30 minutes in their rooms for griping, but 40 years? That's some severe discipline!

One thing is crystal clear from this biblical account: God is obviously not pleased with grumbling, ungrateful hearts. And we should not tolerate grumbling either—in ourselves or in our children.

Being grateful is a choice that we readily and ritually express on Thanksgiving Day. But what do we do on other days of the year when the mood is less festive or the atmosphere is more ordinary?

I like the contented way the Pilgrims approached life. They did not allow their feelings or circumstances to determine whether or not they would exercise gratitude and thanksgiving. They believed that God was in control—"providence," they called it. Following this belief to its logical conclusion, they responded to challenges with a perspective that said, "God has allowed this for our good." They chose to believe—rightly so—that their dependence on a holy, faithful God was well placed and that even though much was against them, there was always much more for which to be grateful.

Developing a heart of gratitude is essential to growing a stronger faith. As John Piper stated in his book A Godward Life, "If we do not believe that we are deeply dependent on God for all we have or hope to have, the very spring of gratitude and faith runs dry."

Make the choice today to take your eyes off yourself and your circumstances, gratefully acknowledging who God is and what He is doing. Deny yourself the right to complain, embracing instead the deep-seated joy of thanksgiving . . . in all things.

A grateful heart pleases God.


How would a more thankful spirit alter your approach to the situations you're facing as a family? Make a list together of some things you need to be grateful for right now.


"Bless the LORD, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless His holy name" (Psalm 103:1).  


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Moments with You Couples Devotional 11/22

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Giving Thanks
by Barbara Rainey

It is good to give thanks to the LORD and to sing praises to Your name, O Most High. PSALM 92:1

As Psalm 92 tells us, "It is good to give thanks to the LORD . . . to declare Your lovingkindness in the morning and Your faithfulness by night." With a little effort, you can make Thanksgiving a cherished family time devoted to thanking God for what He has done in your lives.

One tradition we've kept for years is to have each family member write five things for which he or she is thankful. On our plates are five kernels of corn—a reminder of the Pilgrims' daily ration during one of their first difficult winters. Before we eat, we pass a basket around the table five times, and each person places one kernel of corn at a time into the basket and tells one thing he or she is thankful for.

Here are some of the things our children wrote one year:

•"I'm thankful for being able to have a family."
•"I'm thankful Ashley got to come home from college for Thanksgiving."
•"I'm thankful for God in my life."
•"I'm thankful for my ministry at my high school."
•"I'm thankful for my sisters and all they've taught me about relationships."
•"I'm thankful I got to shoot a deer!"
•"I'm thankful for a great brother."

Dennis and I were thrilled to hear the kids actually thank God for each other!

After so many years of sibling rivalry, they were finally beginning to show each other the affection we hoped would continue throughout their lives.

That year we also were touched by something our son Samuel wrote: "I'm thankful for my muscular dystrophy." He had been diagnosed with the disease earlier in the year, and we had been through some wrenching months.

Thanking God was a big step of faith for him. And it provided another sign that our children were learning the true spirit of Thanksgiving—a heart of gratitude that gives thanks in all things.


How has God worked in your lives this past year?


Spend time thanking God for His love, His provision and His work in your lives.  


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Moments with You Couples Devotional 11/21

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Seagoing Gratitude
by Barbara Rainey

Those who go down to the sea in ships, . . . they have seen the works of the LORD. PSALM 107:23-24

One song that really gets me in the mood for Thanksgiving—even though it's not really a Thanksgiving song—is the official U.S. Navy hymn: "Eternal Father, Strong to Save."

I didn't grow up hearing it (my father was in the Army, after all), but it has become one of those captivating songs that reminds me of God's protection in times of great stress and worry.

If you saw the film The Perfect Storm, you may remember hearing this song at the end of that movie. Its roots actually go back to the mid-1800s, when William Whiting wrote these words to encourage a student who was traveling by ship from Great Britain to America and was paralyzed with fear that the vessel would sink and that he would be drowned.

Eternal Father, strong to save
Whose arm hath bound the restless wave,
Who bid'st the mighty ocean deep
Its own appointed limits keep;
Oh hear us when we cry to Thee,
For those in peril on the sea!

Some years later, it seems, an American sailor heard this song while on duty in England and brought it back to the Naval Academy choir, where it's still sung today at the close of Sunday services.

I'm sure your year has had its share of "peril on the sea" in one form or another—health scares or job insecurities, money troubles or family tensions, close calls or lingering pressures. Like a stormy tempest on the ocean, some things are simply more powerful than we are. But whether sailor or not, we all need to know that nothing is more powerful than the One who measures our path and guards our way—the One who calms the seas—the One we praise in this season of Thanksgiving.


What peril has God brought you out of—or is even now seeing you through?


Thank God for His great and mighty power in the midst of our perfectly harrowing storms.  


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