Moments with You Couples Devotional 1/31

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Boiled Over

But everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger; for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God.
JAMES 1:19-20

I believe anger is one of the most dangerous and least talked about emotions. Anger can destroy marriages. It can devastate families. It can crush young people who grow up in homes where they are treated with disrespect and contempt. There are many people who seemingly never have a problem with their tempers in public but are more volatile than you'd ever imagine in their own homes and families.

A friend of mine, Dan Allender, is a man who has helped many people sort through deep-seated issues of worth, forgiveness and abuse through his wise counsel, writings and speaking. He is indeed a good, godly man. But he'd be the first to tell you that anger has been a tough nut for him to crack. One day Dan and his wife, Becky, were lost in downtown Denver, and he was boiling over about the poor directions she had given him. Things got so bad that Becky abruptly left the car and began walking away at a brisk pace.

"Where do you think you're going?" Dan blurted out through the rolled-down window. Becky shot back, "I am not going to sit in the same car with you and give you the right to continue to sin against me." Then she snapped open her cell phone and called Dan's best friend to come pick her up. Oh, the humility of the moment! You likely have a similar story or two you could tell. We do.

Take another look at the verse for today. If anger is an issue in your marriage, I suggest that you memorize it. And if you've allowed anger at your spouse to spill over into your family, I encourage you to ask for forgiveness from your spouse and your children.

Anger in your marriage and family—how often is it expressed? What impact does it have on your family? Talk about one step of action you'll take to address this emotion in your lives, marriage and family.

Pray, pray, pray for slowness to anger.  

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Moments with You Couples Devotional 1/30

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Adopting God's Heart

Vindicate the weak and fatherless; do justice to the afflicted and destitute. PSALM 82:3

In his book Fields of the Fatherless, C. Thomas Davis writes, "If you searched the Bible from front to back, you'd find many issues close to God's heart. But you'd also notice three groups of people coming up again and again. They appear so many times, in fact, you have to conclude that God mentions them purposely to make sure they are at the top of our priority list."

They are orphans, widows and aliens (or strangers). God demonstrated His care and provision for these three groups through His instructions to the Israelite farmers in Deuteronomy 24:19: "When you are harvesting in your field and you overlook a sheaf, do not go back to get it. Leave it for the alien, the fatherless and the widow, so that the LORD your God may bless you in all the work of your hands" (NIV).

Similarly, if we want our Christianity to be its purest, we too must actively exercise our concern for the left-out and the abandoned: "Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world" (James 1:27-28).

Caring for the fatherless is not simply a compassionate act. Adoption is not merely an additional means of growing our families to the desired size. Caring for orphans is about obedience and expressing the heart of God. Perhaps God is calling you to the redemptive task of adoption, as He has Barbara and me. If not, each of us can be part of supporting, praying for and encouraging those who are in the midst of adoption, those who are seeking to acquire God's heart for the fatherless.

Discuss how you can express the heart of God in caring for orphans. Also ask yourselves, Is there a reason why adopting a child would not be a possibility?

Promise the Father that you will pursue His heart for the fatherless and orphaned, in whatever way He directs you to do so—orphan care, foster care, adoption or mission work.  

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Moments with You Couples Devotional 1/29

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Can You Dish It Out?

And He was saying to them all, "If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me."
LUKE 9:23

Did you know there are four ways for a man to load a dishwasher?

1. The way he's been trained by his mother.
2. The way his wife likes it done.
3. The way he does it at his mother-in-law's house.
4. The way he does it when no one's looking.

Now, is one of these methods right and all the others wrong? Can't a man just cram in as many pots and pans and bowls and plates as possible, in whatever arrangement it takes to get the door closed? Can any woman prove me wrong on this with absolute certainty? Sure, the proper dishwasher loading method is not a big marriage deal. But it's an example of those little tastes and preferences we have, those minor points of difference that can often fester into major arguments and problems.

If you are going to keep the little things your spouse does from becoming real irritants and obstacles in your relationship, you need to deny yourself, like Jesus said in today's verse. Rather than insisting that your way is right in matters of minor importance, let some stuff go. Rather than nagging and nitpicking—which is like being nibbled to death by a duck—express your dislikes in ways that don't rankle and threaten and lead to even bigger blowups.

Throughout your marriage, you'll have hundreds, perhaps thousands, of opportunities like these to either die to yourself or rise up in your own defense. Remember that there are a lot worse things in life than rewashing the cereal bowls. And yes, I do know how to load a dishwasher now—since 1972, Barbara has been training me!

What is something your spouse does that drives you crazy? Can you cover it with grace?

Thank the Lord Jesus for setting us an everyday example of patience in His dealings with us. 

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Moments with You Couples Devotional 1/28

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Down but Not Out

We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing. 2 CORINTHIANS 4:8

Have you been through a period of life when everything looked bleak? When it seemed everything around you was coming unraveled? When you hoped the phone wouldn't ring for fear it would be more bad news? During seasons like that, I'm often reminded of this story: Karl, a Norwegian fisherman, had taken his two teenage sons out for a day of fishing. The morning had been beautiful when they started out, but the afternoon turned nasty—in a hurry—catching them too far at sea to beat the incoming storm to shore.

The wind-whipped ocean began to work into a frenzy, until he and his sons were battling for their lives. As darkness fell on their frantic efforts, even the steady beacon of the seaside lighthouse was suddenly extinguished by a terrific bolt of lightning. Hope seemed lost. But things were actually worse than Karl knew. Lightning had also struck his home and the structure quickly erupted into a fireball. So when Karl and his sons finally staggered ashore, exhausted, he was met by his wife with the bad news.

Strangely, Karl seemed unfazed, much to his wife's frustration. As he stroked her tear-lined face with his tough, leathery hands, he said, "Don't you understand, sweetheart? When the lighthouse went out, the glow on the horizon became my compass. The fire that destroyed our house guided us home." Barbara and I and our family have certainly gone through times when there were "fires" burning. But we've also discovered that during these times, these crises have guided us "home," because they've forced us to hunker down in faith, crying out in absolute dependence upon God. "Lord God, You know what You are doing! We don't know what You are up to, but we trust in You."

What is an example of a trial you've experienced that turned out to have a good consequence from an eternal perspective?

Pray that you will face the fires together and that your faith in Christ will grow stronger as you go through them. 

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Moments with You Couples Devotional 1/27

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We Can Do Better

Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, "Amend your ways and your deeds, and I will let you dwell in this place."

I keep asking questions like:

•Why is the divorce rate inside the Church nearly identical to the divorce rate outside the Church?

•Why do so many Christian men perform aggressively at work yet remain disengaged and passive at home?

•Why do so many Christians say their secular job is their ministry but then show so little fruit for their efforts?

•Why do Christians talk about family values while their lifestyles are virtually identical to the average non-Christian?

•Why do so few Christians possess confidence that they are on a divine mission?

•Why do less than 10 percent of all Christians regularly tell others about God's forgiveness through Christ?

•If Jesus really changes lives, why do 50 million Americans claiming to be born again have such a marginal impact on society?

The prophet Jeremiah asked similar questions about the "church" of his day. He observed that many people pursued "emptiness" (Jeremiah 2:5) out of the "stubbornness of their evil heart" (3:17), yet they didn't have the good sense even "to be ashamed" (3:3) about it. "They did not even know how to blush" (6:15). Those deceived, distracted "believers" sat comfortably in the house of God—just as they do in our generation, week after week—listening to the teaching of the Scriptures but refusing to let the truth become a matter of obedience, a manner of life.

Which of these questions do you need to deal with?

Pick one of these questions—or one of your own—and think about what you could do to help your church advance a change of direction.

Pray that "judgment" will "begin with the household of God" (1 Peter 4:17) and that we will pay attention when it does. 

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Moments with You Couples Devotional 1/26

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The Importance of a Dad

He will restore the hearts of the fathers to their children. MALACHI 4:6

When I gaze at the family snapshots on my desk, a lump forms in my throat. Where are the grinning little boys proudly holding stringers of fish? When did they grow up to become fathers with their own little boys? Where are the little girls in pigtails? When were they transformed into stunning brides? Time does not stand still, nor does the life of a family. But there is one thing that doesn't change: the importance of a dad. A boy needs the heart of his father and the fellowship of men. He needs at least one man who pays attention to him, spends time with him, admires him and teaches him how to become a man himself.

A boy needs a role model. From experience, I can tell you how easy it is for dads to be selfish. When our children were younger, I struggled with placing my children's needs above my own desires. I realized that I had a choice to make every day. If I had gone home from work and retreated into my own world, I would have squandered my responsibility to build into my kids. It requires perseverance, not perfection, to be the father that your children need. You will not be flawless. But you can learn how to reserve energy so that
you don't come home from work so emotionally exhausted that you have nothing left for our kids. You can choose not to bend to selfishness but instead to say yes to investing in the next generation.

When our children were little, it occurred to me one day that I needed to save some energy for home. On a card I wrote, "Save Some for Home." I clipped that card to the shade of my lamp on my desk and for more than a decade, it reminded me of my children's needs for a daddy. Dads, do you have an extra paper clip?

On a 1- to 10-point scale (1 being poor and 10 being outstanding), grade yourself as a father. How involved are you in your children's lives emotionally, relationally and spiritually?

Pray that you will be there for your children. 

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Moments with You Couples Devotional 1/25

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Through a Glass, Darkly

Once he has looked at himself and gone away, he has immediately forgotten what kind of person he was.
JAMES 1:24

"I'm writing this letter to tell you about someone I used to know."

In her letter, the woman described a man she greatly admired as she grew up. She had worked as a babysitter for this man's three sons. She was treated like a member of the family, often going with them on trips and vacations. This husband and father became her model of the type of man she wanted to marry. "During college, I dreamed of meeting and falling in love with someone like him—smart, generous, fun to be with, committed to helping others, a true godly man. By some miracle, God gave me just what I was looking for."

Now she was dismayed, because this man she had admired was about to walk away from his marriage and his children. "I'm trying to figure out what happened to this person I used to know," she wrote. "I can only hope he realizes that he's about to make the biggest mistake of his life." As you might guess, she sent this letter to the man she was describing. But it didn't work. He left his family and married another woman, and only while he was on his honeymoon did he stop to reflect on what he had done. And he wept as he realized what had become of this man that had once been so influential in a young girl's life.

Sometimes we lose our way. We forget who we really are. And thank God, He inspires some of the people around us to hold up a mirror and let us see who we've become.

If or when this ever happens to you, promise you'll look carefully at the reflection they offer. It might just save your life.

What can keep us from stepping into the lives of those we love and speaking the truth to them? Is God leading you to hold up a mirror to someone you care about?

Pray for the courage to speak the truth in love, while at the same time having the humility to embrace the truth about yourself. 

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Moments with You Couples Devotional 1/24

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Worst Day of the Year

I will rejoice in the God of my salvation. HABAKKUK 3:18

If you woke up feeling especially blah this morning, you're in good company. January 24 is now officially "the most depressing day of the year." Those are the findings of Dr. Cliff Arnall, an English psychologist who specializes in seasonal disorders at the University of Cardiff in Wales. His formula for analyzing such things includes seven variables—the weather, personal debt, monthly salary and even the amount of time since Christmas, among other things—that determine people's feelings of happiness.

He figures January 24 is when credit-card bills start rolling in, reminding us how we got carried away again with our holiday spending. By now many of our New Year's resolutions have fallen by the wayside or at least been riddled with pockets of compromise.

Maybe he's right. Maybe you really are feeling it today. But what Dr. Arnall may not understand is that our joy and contentment doesn't have to be taken away by the bleak clouds of winter or the long wait until our next vacation. As followers of Christ, a settled sense of well-being and belonging can be ours no matter what our set of circumstances.

Hear again the words of a man who knew what to do with a January 24 kind of feeling: "Though the fig tree should not blossom and there be no fruit on the vines, though the yield of the olive should fail and the fields produce no food, though the flock should be cut off from the fold and there be no cattle in the stalls, yet I will exult in the LORD, I will rejoice in the God of my salvation.

The Lord GOD is my strength" (Habakkuk 3:17-19). God is there with you every day of the year.

Maybe this would be a good time to get a jump on Thanksgiving. Talk about everything there is to rejoice in, make a list of things you are thankful for, even on a day that may be blah.

Take turns giving thanks to God. Praise is one of the most important elements of worship and in experiencing God in our lives.  

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Moments with You Couples Devotional 1/23

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Money Troubles

The rich rules over the poor, and the borrower becomes the lender's slave. PROVERBS 22:7

Larry Burkett once told me that of all the couples who divorce in America, between 85 and 90 percent would say the number one problem in their marriage is money. They are unable to agree on how to handle it, save it, spend it, give it, budget it, account for it and keep from arguing about it. In many cases, it's the heavy debt and the pressure of watching it compound ever higher—with no easy
solution for bringing it down—that causes a marriage to fall apart.

A number of years ago, I was mentoring a young married man who admitted he was carrying more than $35,000 worth of high-interest credit-card debt. He asked me what he should do about it. I responded, "The same way you'd eat an elephant—one bite at a time. But in order to keep the elephant from growing, I'd strongly encourage you to set all your cards on a cookie sheet, put them in the oven at 400 degrees for 15 minutes and melt them down." Easy credit is not just a mammoth monster. It's a marriage eater.

If you're in the beginning years of marriage, you need to have frequent and honest conversations about managing your money and specifically your attitude toward debt as a couple. Learn to deny immediate gratification of your wants, until you can actually afford them. Better yet, learn to resist the desire to accumulate stuff for stuff 's sake, even if you can afford it. Discuss your spending tendencies with each other. As a couple, fiercely avoid buying things on credit. Create a budget and hold each other accountable for how you manage what God has entrusted to you (see Psalm 24:1).

The bottom line? Debt kills marriages. How you manage money as a couple will have an impact on your marriage, your family and your legacy.

What financial example was set before you growing up? How has that affected your attitude toward money? How are you and your spouse similar to one another? Different?

Offer it all back to God today, to help you be disciplined in using His money His way. 

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Moments with You Couples Devotional 1/22

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The Bland Illusion

I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly. JOHN 10:10

Bill Bright used to tell the story of a man who carefully saved his money until he was finally able to travel on a beautiful cruise ship. It was all he could do just to save enough to buy his ticket. Thinking he wouldn't have enough money to buy meals in the ship's fine dining room, he decided to take along some cheese and crackers for food.

For several days he sat in his cabin, watching the stewards go by with carts full of luscious lobster, prime rib, fresh fruits and vegetables. Finally, he couldn't stand it any longer. He reached out and grabbed one of the stewards by the arm and begged him for a plate of food. "Please, help me. I'll go to work, I'll scrub the deck. I'll do anything to get something to eat. My cheese and crackers are turning stale, and I'm starving to death."

"But, sir," the steward replied, "don't you know? Your food comes with your ticket."

Many Christians live the way this passenger did on the cruise ship. They are "cheese and crackers" believers, living off rations when they could be dining on steak and baked potatoes. They don't allow the Holy Spirit to take control of their lives and produce the luscious fruit of the Spirit—love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

Instead they live in spiritual poverty. I've been a "cheese and crackers" Christian on more than one occasion. I've been satisfied at times with the bare bones of salvation, figuring that is all I should really expect. But my spiritual hunger finally got the best of me, and I surrendered my life to Jesus Christ. Nothing can satisfy like Him.

How well are you feasting on the abundant life that Jesus Christ came to give you?

Pray and surrender your life totally to Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior.  

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