Moments with You Couples Devotional 8/31



Dousing an Old Flame

There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear. 1 JOHN 4:18

Before you were married, was there someone else?

If so, you need to realize it's not abnormal for your spouse to feel insecure about an old flame. Even one that went out years ago.

Barbara and I were cleaning up around the house not long ago, and we came across a box of pictures we hadn't opened since early in our marriage. It was just a bunch of loose photographs, mostly from our college years. A good many of the pictures were of me and other girls I'd dated. (I had 16 blind dates in one month!)

I told Barbara, "Let's pitch it." I didn't really want these snapshots handed down for our children to sort through.

There was nothing inappropriate in the pictures; I just wanted Barbara and my children to know that I am a one-woman man. She is all that matters to me. And I don't want any temptation around that could entice me to look back and linger and wonder.

Have you seen or heard from an old flame recently? Been tempted to search the Internet for an old flicker? Do you still have a box of letters or memorabilia from relationships of long ago? There's only enough room in marriage for two.

The best thing to do with an old flame that suddenly reappears is to put it out. And if your spouse struggles with jealousy, the best way to cast out fear in the spirit of the biblical command at the top of this page is to cut off every ounce of oxygen from your mate's insecurities, until he or she feels totally safe in your love. Leave nothing behind to feed the fears or fan the flames of an extramarital affair.


Do you still wonder about any feelings your spouse may have for an old flame? Have you dealt with yours, as well? Be honest with one another.


The God who loves us jealously knows how to help us forsake all others. Ask Him to help both of you guard your relationship from old or new flickers and flames.  

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Moments with You Couples Devotional 8/30



Missing Something?

But we also exult in our tribulations. ROMANS 5:3

Gary Smalley told me one day about being in a Kansas City church where he'd been leading a weekend conference. When the final session was over and he went to retrieve his bag to leave, it was gone.

You know how it feels when something like this happens? After the mad scramble to search and check and double-check to see if you might have laid it down somewhere, you feel that sharp, gnawing regret and anger. "Why didn't I—? What was I thinking? Who wouldn't have known to—?"

On-site surveillance cameras recorded video of a tall kid in a striped shirt walking out the door with Gary's bag, but nobody knew who he was. There was no chance of finding it.

Gone were Gary's laptop with all his lecture notes, as well as hard copies he had printed out to read on the plane to Chicago for his next seminar. Add to that the loss of a ruby ring and necklace he had bought for his wife to celebrate their fortieth wedding anniversary.

Gary was nauseated. But then, the Holy Spirit convicted him. And Gary started thinking, Wait a minute, the Scriptures are clear: We're supposed to rejoice in our tribulations, "knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance" (Romans 5:3).

The Lord tells me to "boast about my weaknesses"—even the weakness of being a little absent-minded—"so that the power of Christ may dwell in me" (2 Corinthians 12:9).

Not immediately, but before the day was out, Gary had found his peace again . . . in the replenishing power of God's truth.

Truly, the Scriptures have the power to realign our thinking with the heart of God, showing us how to act, respond and live—even in the pressure-packed, disappointing moments of life.


Which Scripture verses above seem to speak the clearest in regard to one of your present circumstances?


Ask the Spirit to continually bring His Word to mind, just when you need it most.  


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Moments with You Couples Devotional 8/29



Love at Sublevel

Love one another, even as I have loved you. JOHN 13:34

Danny Akin, a seminary president with the bold audacity to write a book on sexual intimacy, shares this true, touching story:

A woman had been diagnosed with breast cancer so severe that the doctors had no choice but to do a radical mastectomy. And like most any woman who awakes from this unsettling surgery, the blow to her self-esteem was deep and profound. Not only was she dealing with the loss of her breast, but she could see in the mirror how her hair was matted and her face swollen from reaction to the antibiotics. One day during her hospital stay, when her husband entered the room, she burst into tears. "Look at what I look like!" she moaned through her sobs.

Immediately, he left the room and returned soon thereafter with a cart of shampoo, creams, and lotions. He picked her up in his arms, carried her to the sink, and set her down on his lap. Then leaning her head back over the basin, he washed her hair. He combed it out. He blew it dry. Then with unsteady hand, he applied her makeup the best he could—blush, lipstick, mascara.

She looked at herself in the same mirror that had earlier sent her into convulsions of vanity, and saw someone she recognized: herself. She was back again. All because her man had loved her well through those crucial moments when her world had been crumbling around her.

Today, even though this woman's experience with breast cancer qualifies as perhaps the lowest point in her life, one of her favorite moments from all of her marriage has become those few precious moments in her hospital room—when her husband loved her in a way any woman would have understood.

"Husbands . . . , live with your wives in an understanding way" (1 Peter 3:7).


Tell each other about a time when your spouse's love spoke volumes to you.


Pray that God will always keep you sensitive to the exact expressions of love your mate needs from you—at any individual moment.  


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Moments with You Couples Devotional 8/28



What in the World?

My soul is greatly dismayed; but You, O LORD—how long? PSALM 6:3

Barbara shared yesterday about some events that occurred during one of the most challenging seasons of our marriage. On top of the crises she mentioned, our one-year-old son, Benjamin, had to be rushed into emergency surgery; we were cheated out of a substantial amount of money on a home we had just bought; and after returning to southwest Missouri to temporarily run my deceased father's propane business, I had a medical episode of my own.

I remember lying down on the very bed my dad had died in only months before, feeling my heart beginning to race at a frightening level. It turned out to be a panic attack. Dangerous only to my ego.

Two nights later I found myself on top of a tank car at 2 A.M., pumping propane and battling subzero temperatures. I had never been more confused in my whole life.

It was pitch black except for the twinkling stars on that brutally cold night. There I was, totally confused about what was going on in my life. Exhausted from the strain. I remember raising my fist and face heavenward against that winter sky and crying out loud to God, "What in the world are You doing?"

That's a fair question sometimes, isn't it? Have you ever been confused and cried out to God in a similar way? Are you in a situation right now where the only thing you know to say or think is, "What in the world are You doing, God?" These are never times for pat answers or spiritual clichés. But every now and then, it is good to be in a situation where you are forced to throw your full weight of dependence back onto the only shoulders strong enough to carry you. In crying out to God, you find out in time how good, how redemptive He really is.

He is there. And He cares.


If not you, think of someone you know who's enduring a season like this. Determine how you can be an encouragement to him or her.


Thank God for being there, for hearing our desperate cries, for always caring about us.  


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Moments with You Couples Devotional 8/27



The Perfect Setting (Part Two)
by Barbara Rainey

My beloved is mine, and I am his. SONG OF SOLOMON 2:16

So how did we resolve our differing needs on that perfect night for love in Mazatlan?

We had a fight!

Not right away, of course. Dennis tried to talk to me. He tried to love me. I wanted to talk, but I didn't know what to say. I knew he wanted to make love and he needed me, but I just couldn't respond in that moment.

I felt guilty—I hated myself for being so complicated. Dennis was frustrated over his inability to love me enough to make me forget my fears.

Finally the tension became too much, and Dennis grabbed a bottle of hand lotion on the side of the bed and threw it across the room. Instead of hitting the wall, the bottle broke a small pane of glass in the window!

The room became very still. I began to cry. I loved my husband and didn't want to hurt him.

Then Dennis said something that I never expected to hear. Something that became a milestone in our marriage. He tenderly cupped my face in his hands and said from his heart, "Barbara, I want you to know that I love you, and I am committed to you. I will love you for the rest of your life, even if we never, ever make love again."

Then he kissed me on the forehead and gathered me into a warm embrace with no strings attached, and we eventually fell asleep in each other's arms. No gift of any price could have meant more.

That evening in Mazatlan was a make-it-or-break-it moment in our marriage. We learned that sacrifice is the language of romance, and selfishness is the language of isolation and rejection. Commitment inspires one to sacrifice, and sacrifice makes commitment a rare jewel to be cherished.

PS. My husband's sincere proclamation of love made me want to be with him physically more than ever the next day!


Turn to each other right now and make your own statement of forever love.


Ask God to help you put to death the demands of self and to help you find ways to serve one another.  


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Moments with You Couples Devotional 8/26



The Perfect Setting (Part One)
by Barbara Rainey

You husbands in the same way, live with your wives in an understanding way. 1 PETER 3:7

Our sixth year of marriage was a season of suffering. It included financial problems, the death of Dennis's father and a serious health scare of my own, followed by an unplanned pregnancy.

That summer, our friends Dr. Jim and Ann Arkins, seeing our struggles and exhaustion, invited us to join them for a four-day getaway to Mazatlan, Mexico. It seemed to be just what the doctor ordered.

After a wonderful dinner with our friends on that first full day, we returned to our room. A gentle breeze was blowing, and the moon was peeking around a thunderstorm on the horizon. As we lingered on the tiny balcony watching the last fading colors of the distant sunset, we were serenaded by the music from a nearby cabana.

While the setting was close to perfect, the two people were not. And we were about to find out how different our needs were.

Dennis began lighting some candles. He was making assumptions that seemed logical to him. There were no children to interrupt us . . . the room was warm and quiet . . . it was the perfect time for love.

I also had some assumptions. Even though we'd had a relaxing day, we hadn't had much time alone for the two of us to just talk. Since my health scare and pregnancy, I had become fearful, timid, confused and introspective.

I hardly knew what I was feeling or how to express it.

So on this perfect night in this perfect location, what I needed was not what my husband needed. I wasn't opposed to making love eventually, but first I needed him to help me sort through what I was feeling and reassure me that everything would be okay in my life.

How did we resolve our differing needs?

I'll finish my story tomorrow!


Can you relate to the story I've just told? What do you do when one of you is "in the mood" and the other is not?


Ask God to give each of you a discerning spirit so that you can know how to meet each other's needs regarding sex and intimacy.  


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Moments with You Couples Devotional 8/24


Join the Club

by Barbara Rainey

Encourage one another and build up one another, just as you also are doing. 1 THESSALONIANS 5:11

Soon after our youngest child left for college, I was invited to a baby shower for a young woman expecting her first baby. I anticipated this one to be just like the dozens of other showers I've attended over the years. Or so I thought. As I sat there listening to a roomful of conversations about babysitters and laundry and little ones getting sick in the night, I was suddenly struck with the realization—for the first time in my life—that I wasn't part of this club anymore.

It was a very strange feeling, one that for some reason caught me totally off guard. I sat there thinking, I want out of here. Only one other woman at the party was in my season of life. Unfortunately, she pretty much just whizzed in, dropped off her gift and departed.

That's when I remembered something I was told once by a woman about 10 years ahead of me in this empty-nest transition. She remarked how important it is for us to talk with one another, to get together often to share our common experiences, to remind ourselves that we're not alone in feeling like we do. In my baby-shower moment, I discovered she was right.

Maybe for you right now, your struggle is not about adjusting to life without children. Maybe you're up to your ears in them! (I know how that feels.)

But no matter where you are in the journey, don't hold your feelings in. Find a veteran mother who can share what you're dealing with. Together, you can cheer one another on.


What's some of the best advice or counsel you've heard about handling your current season of life? Identify a couple of women or couples that you could get together with for support now and in the season you'll soon face.


Husbands, pray for your wife. Wives, ask God for the discernment to know when you need help, when you need a listening ear. Each of you should pray for the humility required to be real, to admit loss, to share each other's pain.  

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Moments with You Couples Devotional 8/23



Ready for Prime Time?

Even when I am old and gray, O God, do not forsake me, until I declare Your strength to this generation. PSALM 71:18

All parents eventually face the empty-nest years. And many do not look forward to them. But I want to challenge you to think of the empty nest as a brief parenthesis—a chance to catch your breath, a time to seriously evaluate what the next fruit-producing years of your life will look like.

I like to call the next phase "prime time"—the season on the other side of the empty nest when you transition from childrearing to new goals that are equally as noble. It's a process of listening to God and to each other, trying to determine a sense of direction and affirming the priorities that will define the rest of your lives.

Ideally these priorities should hinge around two commands in Scripture:

1. The Great Commandment. Perhaps you've heard this phrase from the Westminster Catechism: "Man's chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever." You do this by being obedient to Christ's Great Commandment: Love the Lord with all your heart, and love your neighbor as yourself (see Matthew 22:36-39).

2. The Great Commission. This is the greatest job assignment ever given to man: "Go and make disciples of all nations" (Matthew 28:19, NIV). Jesus was saying that your life is about proclaiming and teaching the gospel of redemption and reconciliation to those who are lost, while also influencing and commissioning a new generation of believers to do the same (see also verse 20).

If your "prime-time mission" doesn't include these priorities, you will miss much of life as you move into your later years. Regardless of your season, now is the time for you two to enlist in the Great Commission army and engage in the greatest commandment ever given to man.


Whether you're nearing the empty nest or not, name one or two planned activities you could begin doing together to mirror these two biblical objectives.


Ask the Lord for courage to face periods of transition with hope and purpose. Ask for guidance and trust Him to reveal His will in His way, in His time.  

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Moments with You Couples Devotional 8/22



Empty Nesting
by Barbara Rainey

Do not cast me off in the time of old age; do not forsake me when my strength fails. PSALM 71:9

It was not easy for me when our youngest child, Laura, left our home for col-lege. There's a sense of importance that comes from your children being dependent on you. It becomes your identity. Motherhood defines who you are. And when that is taken away as children leave your home, a life-sized portion of your sense of importance, self-esteem and purpose goes with it.

When she left, I felt as if I had been fired from my job. Downsized and shown the door! Who was I now? What was my purpose?

Even though we had talked a great deal about this transition in advance, I discovered I needed my husband to help me evaluate this new season of life.

Even though the change was also drastic for him, for me it was much more. I had seen some women fly into anything just to stay busy. But when you ask your husband to listen and guide and process this new chapter together, it gives you the opportunity as a couple to face your future on purpose.

Walking this strange, unfamiliar road together can bring a new level of unity to the marriage.

When I was going through this process, I needed a lot of talk time with Dennis. One day I'd wake up feeling excited about my new freedom; then I'd find myself sad all over again at the loss. It was unpredictable. Few of our discussions ended with clear direction.

But there's no other way that God's purposes for you and God's purposes for your spouse can become God's purposes for us unless you're walking through this together. God has more planned for your lives beyond the years of raising children. And that can be exciting!


What do each of you see your life looking like once the children are grown and gone? How can you practically prepare for that?


Pray for the grace and patience to care for each other well in all the seasons of marriage.  


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Moments with You Couples Devotional 8/21


Are You My Mother?

Though my father and mother forsake me, the LORD will receive me. PSALM 27:10, NIV

Many of us have read the old P. D. Eastman book Are You My Mother? to our children. But not many of us have had to grow up asking that question over and over again, to one person after another, growing increasingly convinced that no one was . . . or at least no one wanted to be.

Yet that was life for Mattie. Born to a substance-abusing, unmarried teenager, she fell out of the nest at an early age after police stopped her mom's car and found drugs inside. Both Mattie and her sister were placed into state custody and deposited in foster care. When the last family decided they didn't want Mattie and her sister anymore, she finally decided—somewhere between eight and nine years old—that the mother she longed for was nowhere to be found.

That was before Jenifer came into her life. With a family already bustling with two sons and a daughter, it would have been easy to ignore the nudge she and her husband were feeling from the Lord to adopt. Life was complicated enough without adding a new dynamic and personality type to the fold, with all the potential baggage the child would likely be bringing with her.

But somewhere a little girl was toughening her heart against a question she had grown tired of asking—"Are you my mother?"—only to be told no every time.

Mattie's life is now filled with safety and stability and camping in the sum-mer, with an extended family gathered around to give love and support to a young girl and her sister who once had neither. "I thank God every day that I was adopted," she says, "because now I know who my mother is."


What could you and your church do to help orphans?


Pray for orphans in need . . . and for godly men and women who need to come to their aid.  


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