Only Begotten Son

For YOU (Good Friday Bonus)
JUST SHARING (from the “
Couple’s Devotional Bible”)
This article’s author: Nate Adams
Bible Passage: John 3:16-21

Key Verse: John 3:16

Jesus said: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

I was shaving when I heard a crash in the bedroom. The full-length mirror that was leaning against our bedroom wall must have fallen. Then I heard Caleb’s scream.

I flew around the corner to see a zillion pieces of broken mirror on the floor – and Caleb, my 19-month-old, lying in the middle of it. Then I saw the blood.

The sight of my son’s blood overwhelmed me. I snatched him up and scanned his body. Though the glass had been scattered all around him, the only mark was a small scratch on the inside of his left ear. Only a trickle of blood flowed, so it was apparently more fear than injury that was forcing his tears.

The interesting thing about this little crisis is now I can’t read, hear or even think of John 3:16 without remembering Caleb lying in the middle of that broken glass. That most familiar Bible verse had become much too familiar, even trite to me. But now when I hear it I get a lump in my throat, thinking about what kind of determined, redemptive love could be strong enough to let an only Son cry out in pain on a cross.

A few months after Caleb’s accident, our second son was born. I no longer had an “only begotten son.” But as I experienced the joy of a new life and an expanded family, I realized in a fresh way that it was Jesus’ death that made it possible for the Only Begotten Son to have many brothers and sisters.

MARRIAGE BUILDERS

How does having children, of your own affect your perception of God’s sacrifice of his only begotten son?

How has sacrifice been part of love in your marriage relationship?

Additional Scripture Readings: Romans 5:8-9; Hebrews 9:20-28

Published in: on 21 March 2008 at 3:00 am  Comments (5)  
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Worthwhile Sacrifices

For Husband and Wife ( Day 18 of 18 )
JUST SHARING (from the “
Couple’s Devotional Bible”)
This article’s author: Sally Conway
Bible Passage: Ecclesiastes 4:9-12

Key Verse: Ecclesiastes 4:9-10

“Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work: If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up!”

Marriages go through periods when the strong partner needs to carry the weaker one. And then later on, the roles will shift. Years ago, when Jim was struggling through a mid-life crisis, I did what I could to carry him. More recently, as I battled breast cancer, Jim carried me.

Not only was he with me through the biopsy and the surgery and the immediate days afterward; but when I began chemotherapy and really lost my power and my dignity, he stood by me emotionally and physically. He served me as if he had been hired to wait on my every need. I had an infection begin in my incision, and a large gaping hole developed. That had to be drained and dressed every day. My dear Jim would bend over me with his tender eyes. He cared for that infection every day for nearly ten months.

In times like that, you just hang on to each other. Jim went above and beyond the call of duty in seeing that I could recover. He let me be a miserable mess and helped me get through it. He said, “I’m here to help you get well.”

MARRIAGE BUILDERS

• Describe a time when you were struggling and your spouse was there for you.

• What are some of the strengths that make the two of you a good team?

Additional Scripture Readings: Isaiah 35:1-10; Hebrews 12:12

Day 18 is not yet over…

Published in: on 21 March 2008 at 12:20 am  Leave a Comment  
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The Long Haul

For Husband and Wife (Day 17 — Maundy Thursday Bonus)
JUST SHARING (from the “
Couple’s Devotional Bible”)
This article’s authors: Jim and Sally Conway
Bible Passage: Romans 2:1-16

Key Verse: Romans 2:7-8

“To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life. But for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger.”

When a man and woman first marry, they usually start out quite happy. But according to statistics, they hit their lowest level of marital satisfaction by age thirty-five. And it tends to remain low until about age fifty, when it starts to rise again.

The couples who have long-term, happy marriages are the ones who make sure they have “togetherness time” on a regular basis. If careers and parenting responsibilities crowd their evening hours, they need to make time for each other in the mornings. Schedule a breakfast appointment at a restaurant, for example, where you can get caught up with each other’s lives.

If your marriage has become stale, there’s no better time than now to start doing romantic things – and establishing stronger emotional connectedness that will make your relationship more satisfying. It’s important that you do this, because over a period of years you’re going to go through several crises together. Things will happen with your children that will either be disappointments or tragedies. Your parents are aging, and it’s likely that at least one of them will die sooner than you expected them to. And there’s always the mid-life re-evaluation, which can be traumatic.

It’s important that you have your marriage relationship working well so you can make it through these tough times.

MARRIAGE BUILDERS

• How would you rate your marital satisfaction right now? Is it higher or lower than you expected at this time in your lives?

• When in the past week have you found spare moments for “togetherness time”?

Additional Scripture Readings: Job 23:10; James 1:12; Isaiah 48:10

It’s nice to hang around with YOU…

Published in: on 20 March 2008 at 12:08 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Emotional Connections

For Husband and Wife ( Day 17 of 18 )
JUST SHARING (from the “
Couple’s Devotional Bible”)
This article’s authors: Jim and Sally Conway
Bible Passage: Acts 2:25-28

Key Verse: Acts 2:28

“You have made known to me the paths of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence.”

When a man enters his mid-life years, he often feels that his wife is mothering him. But instead of a mother, he wants his wife to be a “girlfriend.” By mid-life a man usually begins to concentrate more on his marriage. But in the meantime his wife has become a mother to their children, and in a sense her husband has become just one of the children.

For a woman to become a girlfriend to her husband, she needs to develop more spontaneity. It might mean assuming a younger outlook on life, or a younger approach to the relationship. She should think in terms of how a younger woman would act around her husband. She should show admiration and affirmation, and act more flirtatious.

More than anything it’s an attitude. No matter how old you are, you can always regain a more light-hearted approach to marriage. Other things in life aren’t as urgent as they seem. They can wait. It’s time to give your spouse your time and attention.

MARRIAGE BUILDERS

What were some of the most enjoyable aspects of your courtship?

How could some of those “dating” behaviors fit back into your life together today?

Additional Scripture Readings: Proverbs 5:18; Ephesians 5:33

Published in: on 20 March 2008 at 12:20 am  Leave a Comment  
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No Greener Grass

For Husband and Wife ( Day 16 of 18 )
JUST SHARING (from the “
Couple’s Devotional Bible”)
This article’s author: Jim Smith
Bible Passage: Malachi 2:10-16

Key Verse: Malachi 2:15-16

“Has not the Lord made them one? In flesh and spirit they are his. … do not break faith with the wife of your youth. ‘I hate divorce,’ says the Lord God of Israel…”

Divorce can happen to anyone. But rather than fear divorce, we should learn valuable lessons from the divorces of others and then use those lessons to strengthen our own marriages. Good marriages take work. You can’t just coast, and you can’t take each other for granted.

When you’re tempted to consider divorce as an alternative, you need to realize that the grass isn’t greener on the other side. Every marriage has problems, and exchanging the marriage you have now for another relationship is almost always a losing move.

It also helps to deal with your unrealistic fantasy images of marriage. Marriages cycle from enchantment to disenchantment when the fantasy dissolves and you hit reality. At that point, people either end their marriage or they get to work on some hard issues and gain some maturity. We need to work toward the goal of maturity in our marriages.

Finally, we need to watch out for societal lies about happiness. Our cultural norm is “whatever makes you happy is good.” But the truth is, anyone who seeks happiness as a prime object is setting himself up for an enormous disappointment. Happiness is never obtained when that is your prime object.

MARRIAGE BUILDERS

Why is it impossible to obtain true happiness when you make it your prime goal?

How have you worked toward the goal of maturity in your marriage?

Additional Scripture Readings: Matthew 19:3-9; 1 Corinthians 7:10-11

Published in: on 19 March 2008 at 12:40 am  Leave a Comment  
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Parenting Teens

For Husband and Wife ( Day 15 of 18 )
JUST SHARING (from the “
Couple’s Devotional Bible”)
This article’s author: Dawson McAllister
Bible Passage: Job 5:17-27

Key Verse: Job 5:17

“Blessed is the man whom God corrects; so do not despise the discipline of the Almighty.”

Kids are searching for direction, for meaning and for someone who loves them. Their parents should be the source of these things, but too often that isn’t the case. That’s one reason teenagers get caught up in drugs, promiscuous sex and, in some cases, the occult. They aren’t getting the love, attention and support they need from their parents, so they resort to these damaging things that welcome them with open arms.

Parental permissiveness is a widespread problem. Most teenagers won’t come up to their parents and say, “Hey Dad and Mom, I need you to buckle down and enforce a strict curfew on me. I also need for you to do a better job of monitoring my friendships. And while you’re at it, why not ground me for a week or two whenever I blow off my school work?” Kids are never going to say that, of course, but they’re feeling it. And let’s face it, they shouldn’t have to say those things. Parents are the people God made responsible for the welfare of their children.

Parents need to show consistency, enforce moral standards and foster a sense of order, discipline and trust. A teenager wants to know that his parents love him enough to be involved in his life. He wants his parents to show interest in his friendships, to be concerned about his school work and to love him enough to correct him when he shows signs of getting involved in self-destructive behavior.

MARRIAGE BUILDERS

What are some of the limits children need but are unable to ask for themselves?

Why is a home atmosphere of loving acceptance so crucial for preventing a young person from latching onto destructive habits?

Additional Scripture Readings: Proverbs 4:1-3; Hebrews 12:4-11

Published in: on 18 March 2008 at 12:20 am  Comments (1)  
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Nice Kids Finish First

For Husband and Wife ( Day 14 of 18 )
JUST SHARING (from the “
Couple’s Devotional Bible”)
This article’s author: Dolores Curran
Bible Passage: 2 Kings 22:1-20

Key Verse: 2 Kings 22:1-2

“Josiah was eight years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem thirty-one years… He did what was right in the eyes of the Lord and walked in all the ways of his father David, not turning aside to the right or to the left.”

I was leading a workshop on affirming and supporting children when a mother voiced a rather common problem. “What do you do when you have one child who is first in everything and another who is mediocre? If I praise Tom on his good grades, I know it hurts Dan. But there’s nothing to praise Dan for.”

I suggested that she could affirm Dan’s strengths. But before I could go on, she interjected, “But he never wins at anything.” I tried to get her to name Dan’s good qualities, not his “successes,” but she looked at me blankly. Finally I said, “If Dan should die, what would you and your family miss?”

“Oh,” she said, “we’d miss his gentleness and fun. He always tries to make the rest of us feel better if we’re down. And he’s the peacemaker in the family.”

Suddenly she realized her problem: She could affirm visible achievement, but not those virtues that make people “good” in a world that needs them more than it needs Olympic stars.

What we need today are more Dans than Toms. To be sure, the Toms will invent more technology, reach CEO status, become high-ranking military officers and run Wall Street. But the Dans will foster a kinder nation. We need all the Dans we can nurture.

MARRIAGE BUILDERS

What are some of your spouse’s visible achievements? each of your children’s?

What are some of the less obvious character traits you can affirm in them?

Additional Scripture Readings: Psalm 119:9-11; 1 Timothy 4:12

Published in: on 17 March 2008 at 12:20 am  Comments (2)  
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Be a Forgiver

For Husband and Wife (Day 13 — Palm Sunday Bonus)
JUST SHARING (from the “
Couple’s Devotional Bible”)
This article’s author: Lewis Smedes
Bible Passage: Matthew 18:21-35

Key Verse: Matthew 18:21

“Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, ‘Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?’”

Jesus said, “Forgive seventy-seven times,” but he didn’t mean to count. What he meant was, “Be the kind of person who doesn’t ask the question, ‘How many times should I forgive?’ Just be a forgiving person.”

The proper question is not, “How often?” but rather, “Under what circumstances can I forgive?” One consideration is this: Repeated forgiving should not be confused with toleration of what’s going on. We must be intolerant of evil, whether it happens to us or anyone else.

You can forgive me almost anything, but if you tolerate everything I do you will make matters between us worse. Sometimes there comes a time when one spouse will say to the other, “I cannot forgive you while this continues. It must stop or I must get out, so that I can begin to forgive.”

MARRIAGE BUILDERS

What is something you know your spouse has had to forgive you for more than once?

Describe the essential difference between forgiveness and tolerance.

Additional Scripture Readings: Luke 17:3-4; 1 Corinthians 13:5

Published in: on 16 March 2008 at 12:40 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Dangerous Fantasies

For Husband and Wife ( Day 13 of 18 )
JUST SHARING (from the “
Couple’s Devotional Bible”)
This article’s author: Douglas B. DeMerchant
Bible Passage: Matthew 5:27-32

Key Verse: Matthew 5:27-28

Jesus said: “You have heard that it was said, ‘Do not commit adultery.’ But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”

Marriage doesn’t kill an active imagination any more than it dampens our appreciation for members of the opposite sex. And yet, just as marriage calls us to redirect our passions exclusively toward our partners, so too it calls us to redirect our mental passions.

The place to begin is with the biblical injunction to think on things that are true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable (Philippians 4:8). This calls for discernment – the ability to sort out the wholesome from the unsavory, the godly from the evil, the lovely from the stained. We need to be aware of and alert to the influences and messages all around us that promote unhealthy fantasies.

To help combat the negative effects of such influences, open communication with your spouse is essential. For example, talk to your mate about your lovemaking. If it has become routine, discuss ways to liven things up. And to help heighten the pleasure of these physical times, focus your thoughts on your spouse exclusively. Fantasizing about his or her touch, intimate moments together and physical closeness provides new energy and a greater desire to be together.

Fantasy should only be focused on your mate. It should be used to heighten and enrich the sex life in your bed, not the sex life in your head.

MARRIAGE BUILDERS

What influences and messages around us promote unhealthy fantasies?

Talk with your spouse about your times of lovemaking. What would each of you like to be different?

Additional Scripture Readings: Philippians 4:8; 1 John 2:15-17

Published in: on 16 March 2008 at 12:20 am  Comments (1)  
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Marriage’s Fence

For Husband and Wife ( Day 12 of 18 )
JUST SHARING (from the “
Couple’s Devotional Bible”)
This article’s author: Tim Stafford
Bible Passage: 1 Corinthians 6:18-20

Key Verse: 1 Corinthians 6:18

“Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a man commits are outside his body, but he who sins sexually sins against his own body.”

God’s rule against adultery guarantees that two people who are drawn together to become “one flesh” should have no sexual competition or interference. The rule is like a fence, keeping the enemies of love outside, and so allowing the freedom to “make love” within its protective boundaries.

So partners ask, even if silently, for guarantees: “You will never leave me, will you? There cannot be someone else?” Marriage, you might say, is an instinctive institution.

Exclusivity and permanence are reflexes of love.

MARRIAGE BUILDERS

What led you to commit yourself in marriage to your spouse?

What attitudes and actions should you avoid because they would threaten the exclusivity and permanence of your marriage?

Additional Scripture Readings: Genesis 2:24; Matthew 5:27; Luke 16:18

Published in: on 15 March 2008 at 12:12 am  Comments (3)  
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Top Priority

For Husband and Wife ( Day 11 of 18 )
JUST SHARING (from the “
Couple’s Devotional Bible”)
This article’s author: Stephen Arterburn
Bible Passage: John 15:9-17

Key Verse: John 15:12

Jesus said: “My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.”

Many parenting problems are actually marriage problems in disguise. Too many couples overinvest in their children at the expense of their marriage, and their children suffer as a result.

If a child gets the sense that Dad loves her more than he loves Mom, it puts a tremendous weight on the child. She may love her father’s attention, but deep inside she wonders, “Will Mom and Dad stay together? Will they both be here to love me?” This leaves the child waiting for her parents’ relationship to fall apart.

Parents can’t help their child unless they first step back and get their marriage relationship right. Couples need to stop trying to meet every one of their child’s needs and start focusing on each other’s needs. They need to tell the child, “I’m not going to play with you right now. I’m going to spend thirty minutes with your mother because I love her and I want to be with her. After that all three of us can be together.” Initially, children will resist such a change because they won’t be getting the amount of attention they’re accustomed to. But soon you’ll see the healing begin.

Couples need to make their marriage the top priority, but it can’t be motivated by a desire to do what’s best for their children. You need to work on your marriage because it’s what God wants you to do.

MARRIAGE BUILDERS

What parenting issues might disappear as you grow closer as a couple?

How do your children respond when you make time to be together apart from them?

Additional Scripture Readings: Ephesians 5:21-25; Colossians 3:12-15

Published in: on 14 March 2008 at 12:18 am  Comments (2)  
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Being There

For Husband and Wife ( Day 10 of 18 )
JUST SHARING (from the “
Couple’s Devotional Bible”)
This article’s author: R. Kent Hughes
Bible Passage: Malachi 4:1-6

Key Verse: Malachi 4:6

“He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers….”

Parents need to be there for their children. The requirements of tenderness, discipline and instruction, taken together, demand one great thing, as a certain busy doctor came to realize. As he was preparing an article for a medical journal, his little son crept into the forbidden sanctuary of his father’s study.

“Daddy,” he appealed. The doctor handed the boy a box of candy.

A few moments later the boy again said, “Daddy,” and his father absentmindedly handed him a pencil. “Daddy,” the boy persisted.

Angered, the busy doctor swung around in his chair. “What is so important that you insist on interrupting me? I’ve given you candy and a pencil. What do you want?”

“Daddy, I want to be with you!”

Parenthood cannot be lived out by proxy. You need to participate in putting your little ones to bed and praying for and with them. You need to be at their plays, speeches, recitals and sporting events. You need to schedule regular time alone with each of your children.

We all go through periods when we have little time for our families – it’s part of the natural rhythm of life. But excessive “busyness” must not be by choice. We must beware of packing our schedules by saying “yes” to too many things that mean “no” to our families. Now is the time to become the parents God wants us to be.

MARRIAGE BUILDERS

When was the last time you had a spontaneous time of love and affection with your kids?

How have you seen the need “to be with you” at work in your marriage, as well as in your kids?

Additional Scripture Readings: Ephesians 6:4; Psalm 103:13; Proverbs 3:11-12

Published in: on 13 March 2008 at 12:40 am  Comments (3)  
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Working Too Hard

For Husband and Wife ( Day 9 of 18 )
JUST SHARING (from the “
Couple’s Devotional Bible”)
This article’s author: Archibald D. Hart, Ph.D.
Bible Passage: Acts 20:1-37

Key Verse: Acts 20:2

“He (St Paul) traveled through that area, speaking many words of encouragement to the people…”

How can you keep your work from becoming the primary focus of your life? And how can you keep job stress from having a negative effect on your marriage?

First, don’t let your marriage become a dumping ground for your work frustrations. If the only conversation that takes place between a husband and wife is about work, the marriage will eventually burn out. Intimacy can’t grow between two people who never explore any of the deeper issues in their lives.

Second, especially with dual-career couples, guard against emotional detachment. Each spouse gets wrapped up in his or her own career, and work becomes a gauge of their self-esteem, rather than the two of them nurturing each other and reminding the other of his or her value.

In contrast, if a couple develops a habit of showing appreciation for the things they value in each other, it will help each of them see his or her value apart from their work. You have to practice affirming your partner before it will become second nature to you. Too many spouses say, “Oh, she knows I like that about her,” or, “He knows I value that quality in him.” No, they don’t know. You need to tell your partner these things over and over.

MARRIAGE BUILDERS

What do you think is a good balance for what to share and what not to share about work?

What is the danger of looking to work successes as a gauge for your self-esteem?

Additional Scripture Readings: Romans 14:19; 1 Thessalonians 5:11

Published in: on 12 March 2008 at 12:20 am  Comments (2)  
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Sexual Differences

For Husband and Wife ( Day 8 of 18 )
JUST SHARING (from the “
Couple’s Devotional Bible”)
This article’s author: Jim Smith
Bible Passage: Song of Songs 7:1-13

Key Verse: Song of Songs 7:10

“I belong to my lover, and his desire is for me.”

Men and women bring two different sets of expectations to the way they view sex. Studies indicate that a woman’s libido rises and falls according to her twenty-eight-day ovulation cycle. The typical male, on the other hand, has sexual thoughts every few minutes. I tell couples, women especially, that sometimes they will need to offer the gift of availability to their spouse out of love and sensitivity to their partner’s needs (1 Corinthians 7:5).

Most women place a higher priority on romance and affection than men do. Not that men don’t want these things too, it’s just that they don’t usually rate them at the top of their needs list. And both approaches are valid. The senior pastor of our church used to describe sex like eating: Sometimes you sit down to a gourmet feast with candlelight, soft music, seven courses. Other times it’s a snack on the run. Neither would be healthy all the time.

Spouses need to be realistic about their sex life and willing to accommodate each other’s desires. Granted, not every sexual experience is going to be equally satisfying and fulfilling for both partners. But good communication helps ensure that you know what your spouse wants in bed. And it keeps sex from becoming mechanical.

MARRIAGE BUILDERS

How do your expectations about your sexual life seem to be different from those of your spouse?

The pastor uses the metaphor of eating for sex. Because of busy lifestyles, couples increasingly only have time for that “snack on the run.” When was the last time you and your spouse had a “gourmet feast”?

Additional Scripture Readings: 1 Corinthians 7:3-5; Proverbs 5:18-23

Published in: on 11 March 2008 at 12:40 am  Comments (5)  
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