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Healthy Insights for a God-Centered Marriage

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The Couple's Devotional Bible Reading Plan offers 21 readings that will help couples overcome some of the common struggles that they face in today's world. These passages address communication, forgiveness, and how to have a God-centered marriage, and they refer to Bible verses that offer instruction in how to have healthy relationship.

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Healthy Insights for a God-Centered Marriage

  1. 1. God-Centered Healthy Insights for a Marriage 21 Day Reading Plan
  2. 2. The Couple's Devotional Bible Reading Plan offers 21 readings that will help couples overcome some of the common struggles that they face in today's world. These passages address communication, forgiveness, and how to have a God-centered marriage, and they refer to Bible verses that offer instruction in how to have healthy relationship.
  3. 3. . Draw Near to Me Table of Contents Day 1: The Need for Respect Day 2: Finding Forgiveness Day 3: Comingto Terms with the Past Day 4: For Better,for Worse, Forgive Day 5: ForgivingAgain Day 6: GivingForgiveness a Chance Day 7: Restoringan Errant Spouse Day 8: Making Peace with Each Other Day 9: ‘FessingUp Day 10: The Best Way to Ask Day 11: Anger Management Day 12: GoingOut of Our Way Day 13: HoldYour Tongue Day 14: Elementsof a Good Fight Day 15: Planning a Marriage Day 16: Keeping Each Other Accountable Day 17: AppreciatingEach Other Day 18: Hope in Hard Times Day 19: What the Mirror Shows Day 20: Tending Our Marriage Day 21: Bloomsof Love
  4. 4. Say you are my sister,so that I willbe treatedwell for your sake and my life willbe spared because of you.” Genesis 12:13 Day 1 Scripture
  5. 5. . Draw Near to Me Life can present a married couple with tough choices. Do you take the promotion at work if it means traveling with business associates who have no scruples? Do you keep having lunches with your friend of the opposite sex if it makes your spouse uncomfortable? The list goes on. So it was with Abram and Sarai. Famine in the land put them into crisis: move or die of starvation. So the couple relocated to Egypt to find food. But Abram made some poor choices there. Sarai was so beautiful that she was sure to attract the attention of Egyptian rulers who wouldn’t hesitate to kill Abram to get his wife. So Abram told his wife to say she was his sister. After all, it was partly true; Sarai was his half sister (see Genesis 20:12). And Abram did need to survive for the covenant promises of God to come true, right? According to the prevailing pattern for women in that era, Sarai had no say about the arrangement. But how do you think she felt about a husband who feared more for his own skin than for hers? Could you trust your spouse after being misrepresented as someone you’re not? That kind of betrayal can drive a wedge between a couple that only widens over time. In the movie Love Story, Oliver tells his girlfriend, Jennifer, “Love means never having to say you’re sorry.” Maybe that’s what Abram thought after telling a lie about his wife. Sure enough, the Egyptians praised her to Pharaoh, and Sarai was taken into Pharaoh’s palace. But God rescued Sarai out of that difficult situation by afflicting Pharaoh and his family with such serious diseases that Sarai was sent back to her husband—and Abram even got to keep the livestock and servants he had acquired in the process. One problem with never saying you’re sorry after wronging your spouse is that you are then inclined to repeat your behavior. That’s exactly what happened. Some years later, Abram once more passed off his wife as his sister, this time to Abimelek, the king of Gerar (see Genesis 20). And years after that, Abram and Sarai’s son, Isaac, did the same thing with his wife, Rebekah (see Genesis 26). So one wrong left unresolved between a couple only succeeded in perpetuating the abuse, threatening the very calling of Abram to be the father of many nations. The poor choices that Abram made affected his marriage and his future. A Christian married couple can learn from Abram’s life that choices have long-lasting ramifications. To deal with poor choices, own up to any misuse or disrespect of each other. Deal openly and quickly with the sin; come clean with each other and the Lord, and ask each other and God for forgiveness. Then resolve not to repeat the offense. —John R. Throop Day 1 Devotion: The Need for Respect
  6. 6. The sons of Reuben the firstbornof Israel(he was the firstborn,but when he defiled his father’s marriage bed, his rights as firstbornwere given to the sons of Joseph son of Israel;so he could not be listedin the genealogical record in accordance withhis birthright, 2 and though Judah was the strongest of his brothersand a ruler came from him, the rights of the firstbornbelonged to Joseph) 1 Chronicles5:1-2 Day 2 Scripture
  7. 7. . Draw Near to Me In the midst of Israel’s genealogy, the important detail about Reuben sleeping with his father’s concubine Bilhah is mentioned almost in passing. The incident is first reported in Genesis 35:22. But Scripture is never redundant. Inherent in the repetition is a lesson about how sin’s consequences keep cropping up. We have a bit of a conundrum regarding the consequences of sin. If we repent of sin, we are truly, wholly forgiven by God. Our scarlet souls are washed as clean as the whitest snow. Yet sinful actions can cast a shadow for years. Sometimes we overemphasize the effects of sin and forget about forgiveness. Other times we distort the importance of forgiveness, concluding that since we’re forgiven, we can keep indulging in sinful behavior. That conundrum is criticallyimportant in marriage. None of us is a perfect spouse. We do wrongs, sometimes grave wrongs, against each other. We withhold the truth or tell each other lies. We let small resentments build and fester. We use sex as a weapon. We focus on our jobs or our kids at the expense of our marriage. Of course, these wrongs give us an opportunity to repent and be forgiven. And when our spouse wrongs us, we can speak God’s forgiveness to our beloved. But in marriage, we also see, as Reuben saw, that our sinful behaviors have consequences that sometimes last for years— if not a lifetime. For example, early in her marriage, Joan had an affair. She broke it off and in the presence of a minister told her husband, Henry, about her betrayal. Henry could have divorced his wife. Instead, his forgiveness came in small cupfuls—not all at once; but it was forgiveness. Today, they have an admirable marriage. Yet Joan’s infidelitywas not without consequences. For a year or two after her affair, Henry didn’t want to have sex with her. And years later, in the heat of anger, he couldn’t help but lash out at her by raking through the coals of her affair. But the most lasting consequence, Joan said, is inside herself. “I live with the awareness that I’m capable of this terrible sin. Henry trusts me, but I don’t trust myself.” Henry also lives with the consequences. However, through grace, he’s learning how to love beyond the loss. While shopping for a gift for their tenth wedding anniversary, Henry said, “Joan and I both wish we could go back and undo not just her affair but countless smaller ways we’ve sinned against each other. Yet we also recognize that God has used even our most grievous mistakes to draw us closer to one another and to him. “We have the marriage we have because God has brought us through trials. And though I regret the trials, I wouldn’t want a different marriage.” Those words, Joan said, were the very best anniversary present ever. —Lauren Winner Day 2 Devotion: Finding Forgiveness
  8. 8. “‘Nevertheless,I willbring health and healing to it; I willheal my people and willlet them enjoy abundant peace and security. Jeremiah33:6 Day 3 Scripture
  9. 9. . Draw Near to Me A pastor friend told the story of a couple who had come to him for counseling. The couple had been married 40 or so years, and they were both plagued with guilt. They hadn’t become Christians until their later years, and, prior to that, they had both lived sexually immoral lives. Although they had been faithful to each other during their marriage, their past dips into immorality were now making them feel guilty for enjoying sex with each other. The pastor thought for a moment, then asked the couple to name their favorite hymn. They both said at the same time, “It Is Well With My Soul.” So the pastor told them to go home and either listen to or sing the hymn every night before they went to bed. A week later the couple returned to the pastor’s office. They told him that they had felt foolish at first, but they had sung their favorite hymn together each night. The wife blushed and the husband got teary eyed as he told the pastor, “When we got to the part that says, ‘My sin, oh the bliss of this glorious thought! My sin not in part but the whole, is nailed to the cross and I bear it no more. Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O, my soul!’ well . . . after all these years we feel fresh and squeaky clean and new all over again.” Throughout the Bible, God’s relationship with Israel was tested over and over by Israel’s sin. The book of Jeremiah talks about the horrible result of that sin. When the prophet received the prophecy recorded in chapter 33, Jerusalem was under siege from the invading Babylonians. Soon God would allow his people to be carried away from their land into captivity and their land to be destroyed. Like the couple who wrestled with memories of past sins, the Israelites would live with heartrending images of how their unfaithfulness to God had resulted in the burning and pillaging of their land. Their city would be filled with dead bodies. But the story doesn’t end there. The prophet went on to say that because of God’s immense love, God would heal Israel’s pain, cleanse the people from their sin, and restore them to abundant peace and security. “Then this city will bring me renown, joy, praise and honor before all nations on earth that hear of all the good things I do for it,” God said (Jeremiah 33:9). . . . So too is the promise for our marriages, which so often bend under the load of sins, both past and present. We must be honest with ourselves, with the Lord and with each other about memories or habits or activities that may be eroding our relationship and then deal with them. But we can do so in the joy of knowing that in Christ we can find forgiveness, restoration and a new start. —Nancy Kennedy Day 3 Devotion: Coming to Terms With the Past
  10. 10. 22 Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassionsnever fail. 23 They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. Lamentations3:22-23 Day 4 Scripture
  11. 11. . Draw Near to Me When we married, we vowed to stay together “for better or for worse.” But how many of us actually knew what that meant when we said our vows? We imagined the “better” as romantic walks on moonlit nights, sharing a bowl of popcorn and a movie, kissing in the kitchen. Those things were fun to think about. But what about the “worse”? Did we imagine online affairs, secret addictions, blatant animosity? What if your spouse says, “I don’t want to go to church anymore. I only went with you while we were dating because I didn’t want to lose you”? That’s hard to think about, yet sadly it’s something that many people deal with. In Boundaries in Marriage, Dr. Henry Cloud says that the realityof every marriage is that the person you love the most and have committed your life to is an imperfect being, guaranteed to hurt and fail you in many ways, sometimes seriously. The question is, What do you do about it? Do you kick your spouse to the curb? Issue threats and ultimatums? Drag your spouse onto the stage of a daytime talk show? Throughout Scripture, Israel is depicted as God’s wayward bride, always wandering, always committing adultery with other gods. Yet God never completely severed the relationship. He stood by while Israel suffered the consequences of her sin, but he continued to love her and continued in his willingness to forgive. He pleaded with her to return to him—“Return, faithless Israel . . . I will frown on you no longer, for I am faithful” (Jeremiah 3:12) and “Return, faithless people, . . . for I am your husband” (Jeremiah 3:14). Here in Lamentations 3:22–23, the prophet Jeremiah (likely the writer of Lamentations) looked to the Lord’s great love, compassion and faithfulness even in the aftermath of the destruction of his nation. When things go from better to worse in marriage, Cloud says that nothing has to permanently destroy a relationship. “No failure is larger than grace,” he writes. No hurt exists that is beyond forgiveness or that “love cannot heal.” He says that hardness of heart, much more than failure, is the true relationship killer. When things go wrong in marriage, we are called to forgive as the Lord has forgiven us (see Colossians 3:13). We can do this by remembering that no sin (besides blaspheming against the Holy Spirit) is beyond God’s forgiveness, and thus no sin is beyond our forgiveness (see Mark 3:28–29). When failure enters a marriage, it’s better to choose to heal the relationship than to satisfy the need to be right or get even. Because of God’s great love and faithfulness, we can do whatever it takes to work through even the “worse” that comes our way. —Nancy Kennedy Day 4 Devotion: For Better, for Worse, Forgive
  12. 12. The Lord said to me, “Go, show your love to your wife again, though she is loved by another man and is an adulteress. Love her as the Lord loves the Israelites,though they turn to other gods and love the sacred raisin cakes.” 2 So I bought her for fifteen shekels of silver and about a homer and a lethek of barley. 3 Then I told her, “You are to livewith me many days; you must not be a prostituteor be intimatewith any man, and I will behave the same way toward you.” 4 For the Israeliteswill live many days without king or prince, without sacrifice or sacred stones, without ephod or household gods. 5 Afterward the Israeliteswill return and seek the Lord their God and David their king. They will come tremblingto the Lord and to his blessingsin the lastdays. Hosea 3:1-5 Day 5 Scripture
  13. 13. . Draw Near to MeBryan Chapell wrote about a woman with an emotional problem who periodically stole from her own family and gambled away the money. Every time she emptied her husband’s savings, he forgave her and took her back. Even when she gave up and tried to kill herself, he refused to let her go. “I asked this husband once why he didn’t end this marriage, in spite of pressure from many friends and family to do so,” Chapell wrote. “His words were courageous and simple: ‘She is a good mother most of the time, and my children need her. But more than that, they need to know the love of their God. How can they know of a Father in heaven who forgives them if their own father won’t forgive their mother?’” That husband was like Hosea. We’ve already seen in the book of Hosea how God told Hosea to marry Gomer, a promiscuous woman who was certain to be unfaithful to him. Hosea 3 tells us what happened next. One of the cornerstones of marriage is trust and faithfulness. When that is gone, a marriage covenant is deeply injured. Likewise, we who have put our faith in Christ have entered into a covenant with the Lord. He is our husband and we, the church, are his bride. It was the same with Israel in the Old Testament. But over the generations, God’s chosen people abandoned him and gave themselves to other gods. Here in Hosea God wooed his profoundly unfaithful people back to his love. He wanted them, even though they had not wanted him. In this amazing story, we marvel at the intensity of God’s love for us, his people. In Hosea’s day, God’s people, like Gomer, were practically worthless (15 shekels of silver is half the price of a slave), yet God would buy his people back—and us as well—at enormous cost. Romans 5:8 tells us that Jesus (who was betrayed for 30 pieces of silver) gave up his life for us while we were still sinners. Like the husband with the gambling-addicted wife and like Hosea with the adulteress wife, many married people know the pain caused by a spouse who has violated their trust or compromised their love. When trust is damaged badly enough, and when sinful acts pile up, there is a sense in which a sinning spouse’s “value” goes down. Such people demean and diminish themselves when they sin and are unfaithful. But when we forgive our spouse, whether the offense is small or great, we add value back to them. When we “pay” something precious from withinourselves to receive them back with no strings attached, and when we love and adore them regardless, we follow the example of God, our Bridegroom. Sometimes even relatively small offenses can be very hard to forgive, but, whether the offense is great or small, grace—undeserved and unreserved—and forgiveness are how we show the character of our Father in heaven. —Lee Eclov Day 5 Devotion: Forgiving Again
  14. 14. Jesus said to his disciples: “Things that cause people to stumble are boundto come, but woe to anyonethrough whomthey come. 2 It would be better for them to be throwninto the sea with a millstone tied aroundtheir neck than to cause one of these little ones to stumble. 3 So watch yourselves. “If your brother or sister sins against you,rebuke them; and if they repent, forgive them. 4 Even if they sin against youseven times in a day and seven times come back to yousaying ‘I repent,’ youmust forgive them.” 5 The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!” 6 He replied, “If youhave faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprootedand planted in the sea,’ and it will obeyyou. 7 “Suppose one of you has a servant plowingor looking after the sheep. Will he say to the servant whenhe comes in from the field, ‘Come along nowand sit downto eat’? 8 Won’t he rather say, ‘Prepare my supper, get yourself ready and wait on me while I eat and drink; after that you may eat and drink’? 9 Will he thank the servant because he did what he was told to do? 10 So youalso, whenyou have done everything youwere told to do,should say, ‘We are unworthyservants; we have only done our duty.’” Luke 17:1-10 Day 6 Scripture
  15. 15. . Draw Near to Me My friend and her husband look through their wedding album together each year on their anniversary. My friend dreads the review because there, amid the pictures of happiness, is the visual reminder of an incident she still finds hard to forgive. What brings back the anger and embarrassment of that day is the picture of my friend’s husband smearing wedding cake over her face. He thought it was funny; she thought it was tacky and mean. They bickered each time they saw that picture until my friend finally decided to accept her husband’s apology and forgive him. “It doesn’t mean what he did was right,” she said. “Smearing cake in my face humiliated me in front of my friends and family. But I’m tired of carrying that anger around.” In Luke 17:4, Jesus tells us to forgive over and over again—time after time. Is he instructingus to be doormats and let others run over us? Or does he know something about forgiveness that will free us? As we ponder our attitude toward forgiveness, we might say, “Easier said than done.” A husband and wife can inflict pain on each other that scars their relationship for the rest of their lives. At the very least, a spouse can persist in causing annoyances and frustrations that make the other spouse blow up. Jesus is not telling us that we need to condone behavior that hurts us. In fact, in Matthew 18:15–17, he gives instruction on confronting others withtheir sin. He doesn’t expect us to say to the offender, “Hey, it’s nothing; forget about it!” Nor is he tellingus to forgive only those people who ask for forgiveness. Jesus’ own words on the cross asking the Father to pardon his executioners make that clear (see Luke 23:34). Finally, Jesus is not telling us to ignore repeated sinful behavior by our spouse. Afterall, repeatedly forgiving wrong without confronting the reasons for it will ultimately kill trust in any relationship. What Jesus is telling us is that denying forgiveness to the offender will ultimately hurt us more than it hurts them. For when we lug around a load of self-pityand bitterness and an attitude of martyrdom, we put a big roadblock of resentment between ourselves and the people who have hurt us. A future relationship with someone we refuse to forgive may become lost forever. Still, it’s difficult to forgive. That’s why the disciples’ response to Jesus—“Increase our faith!”—resounds with truth. It takes faith and trust to extend forgiveness to a spouse. And it takes faith and trust to accept that forgiveness and vow to work on the problems that caused the situation in the first place. Only when we look at the One who forgives us of our sins can we put human forgiveness into perspective. —Valerie Van Kooten Day 6 Devotion: Giving Forgiveness a Chance
  16. 16. 6 The punishment inflictedon him by the majorityis sufficient.7 Now instead,you ought to forgive and comfort him, so that he willnot be overwhelmedby excessive sorrow. 2 Corinthians2:6-7 Day 7 Scripture
  17. 17. . Draw Near to Me One Christian leaves her husband for another man. Another embezzles money. Fellow believers stir up division in the church. The Bible makes clear that in extreme cases of persistent, unrepentant sin, the church must discipline the offender (see Matthew 18:15–20). In 1 Corinthians 5:1–5 Paul told the church in Corinth to deal with a sticky problem. A member of the church was having an affair with “his father’s wife” (verse 1), likely his stepmother, which was an offense even to the jaded unbelievers in pagan Corinth. Paul said the man should be put out of the church until he repented. Imagine the turmoil that created! Yet church discipline is a crucial matter. It’s possible that the man discussed in 1 Corinthians 5:1–5 was the person Paul was referring to in 2 Corinthians 2:5–11. If so, the apostle had learned that the man had repented of his sin, and Paul was therefore guiding the church through the challenge of restoring the man to fellowship. Paul’s advice is useful for us today as we deal with Christians who have repented of sin. What situations in your marriage have required forgiveness and restoration? Have you suffered when a spouse lied to you or cheated on you? How did you react when your spouse repented? Restoration is difficult. The sins of believers profoundly affect us (see what Paul said in 2 Corinthians 2:5 about grief). We are angry as we struggle with the pain of violated trust. And the situation is especially difficult when it is our spouse who has deeply hurt us. The first step toward restoration begins when we reaffirm our love for the offender by extending forgiveness and comfort (see verses 7–8). No one can ever be sorry enough or do enough to pay off their sin. Forgiveness is all about grace. We do not extend love for our own sake; we do it in Jesus’ name and for his sake. And we extend forgiveness and grace so the repentant sinner is not “overwhelmed by excessive sorrow” (verse 7). . . . Extending grace strengthens believers, marriages and churches. One pastor wrote about the painful process of disciplining a man who was committing adultery and the equally painful process of helping the man’s betrayed wife. After a long time, the man repented. The pastor wrote, “What a joy to announce to the church that discipline against this man had been lifted, and he was now restored to fellowship! People broke into applause at the wonder of God’s work in restoring the man and his marriage.” —Lee Eclov Day 7 Devotion: Restoring an Errant Spouse
  18. 18. 24 At a lodging place on the way, the Lord met Moses and was about to kill him. 25 But Zipporah took a flintknife, cut off her son’s foreskin and touched Moses’ feet with it.“Surely you are a bridegroom of blood to me,” she said. 26 So the Lord let him alone. (At that time she said “bridegroom of blood,” referringto circumcision.) Exodus 4:24-26 Day 8 Scripture
  19. 19. . Draw Near to Me Zipporah performed hasty surgery on her son when she realized God was about to kill her husband, Moses. While it isn’t stated, evidently God was about to destroy Moses because he had failed to circumcise his son. Zipporah took the situation into her own hands, completing the act of obedience Moses had neglected to do. But there seems to be an air of resentment in her abrupt actions. Perhaps she was angry at her husband for shirking his fatherly duties. Or maybe Zipporah resented having to perform a spiritual rite she herself didn’t believe in. Whatever the details of a disagreement, resulting feelings can drive a wedge between spouses. Resentment can lead to barbed words, sarcastic comments and actions that undercut one another. For example, children came early in our marriage. I used to get so angry when Dan would nudge me to get out of bed in the middle of the night because the baby was crying. Both Dan and I desperately needed sleep, but I resented the assumption that it was my responsibility to get up with the baby. Lack of sleep, combined with my expectation that Dan share in the 3:00 a.m. feedings, fueled resentment in me. In a huff, I would perform my motherly duties, seething silently as Dan snored and I rocked a cranky baby. It didn’t take too many sleepless nights like that before we had built walls of anger between us. When you notice resentment creeping in or a disagreement escalating in your relationship, admit your anger and call an immediate cease-fire. Take some advice from marriage counselor Scott M. Stanley (Marriage Partnership, Fall 1995). Agree on a specific time when you can talk. Then sit down together and use a small object, such as a pen, to indicate who has the floor. The person holding the pen is the speaker. When the pen changes hands, the roles change. The speaker’s job is to get his or her point across. The listener’s job is to absorb information and give feedback by paraphrasing what the other has just said. While this approach feels somewhat artificial, it greatly enhances communication by slowing things down and emphasizing listening and working together. It helps you, as James 1:19 says, to be “quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.” It’s a great tool for aiding interaction and understanding. And it helps to ensure that resentments don’t fester or turn into full-blown arguments. When you sense resentment growing within you, ask yourself what expectations you have of your spouse, particularly in a situation that’s brewing trouble between you. Very often, resentment grows from unmet expectations. Zipporah expected something from Moses. I expected something of Dan. Recognizing what your expectations are is the first step toward resolving resentment. —Marian V. Liautaud Day 8 Devotion: Making Peace With Each Other
  20. 20. Now Adonijah,whose mother was Haggith,put himselfforward and said, “I willbe king.” So he got chariotsand horses ready, with fiftymen to run ahead of him. 1 Kings 1:5 Day 9 Scripture
  21. 21. . Draw Near to Me When David was close to death, his son Adonijah made his move to take over the kingdom. Although this was a pivotal moment in the relationship of David and Adonijah, and in the story of Israel, the two failed to communicate about what was really transpiring. Isn’t that usually the way we handle life? We can talk with the people close to us—our kids, our spouse, our friends—about politics, the weather, vacation plans, the TV show to which we’re addicted. But in the midst of major transitions, we sometimes fail to talk things through with the people who matter most to us. It’s like Brian, who came home from work one day and told his wife he had made the final cut for a new, exciting job. Great news! Except that Brian had been in conversation with a headhunter for months but never mentioned it to his wife. Or like Heather and Chris, who turned up at Thanksgiving dinner with two adopted children to introduce to their parents, siblings and cousins. Heather and Chris hadn’t shared their struggles with infertility with their families, so the children were a shock. I was once in a Bible study that opened with 45 minutes of Scripture study and then moved into an hour of share-and-prayer time. What we usually talked about was whose prize camellias had been attacked by vicious beetles. Or whose neighbor’s daughter’s best friend’s boyfriend was struggling with depression. There was something off about our discussions, but what? One day, near the end of share-and-prayer time, Lizzie announced that she and her family would be moving across the country. It was a decision she and her husband had been wrestling with for about six months, and they wanted to let us know what they’d decided. Flash! I could finally express that vague dissatisfaction about prayer-and-share time that had been rattling my insides. We had spent six months praying for camellias. But we hadn’t prayed for Lizzie’s discernment because we had no idea there was anything to discern. “Come to think of it,” another friend said to me later that day, “Lizzie seemed a bit preoccupied, don’t you think?” But not one of us had made any inquiries. It’s easy to avoid conversations about important things. But when we neglect to share our pivotal points in life with others, especially our spouse, we are really saying, “I am keeping this for myself. I am not willing to give you my whole self. Not the parts that really matter.” It’s like refusing to bring our pivotal points to God. We may say we love him, and we may be doing our best to obey his commands. But when we withhold some of the things we are struggling with, what we are really saying is, “You can have everything else, but not this. Here, where it really matters, I’ll find my own way and do as I please.” —Lauren Winner Day 9 Devotion: ‘Fessing Up
  22. 22. 7 Esther replied,“My petitionand my request is this:8 If the king regards me with favor and if it pleases the king to grant my petitionand fulfillmy request, let the king and Haman come tomorrow to the banquet I willprepare for them. Then I willanswer the king’s question.” Esther 5:7-8 Day 10 Scripture
  23. 23. . Draw Near to Me My friend is an amazing cook who can make the toughest piece of meat melt like butter in your mouth. Her best dish, however, is what I call her grace sandwich. When they were first married, my friend’s husband started going out for drinks with the guys after work. Sometimes he didn’t come home until after midnight. This upset my friend terribly, but she didn’t know what to do about it. As a new Christian, she thought that being Christlike and submissive meant not speaking her mind to her spouse. For the most part her husband was responsible and hard working; he treated her kindly and always paid their bills on time. He didn’t go out drinking every night, but still, she worried about the situation. A few months went by before my friend decided that she had to speak up, so she prepared her husband’s favorite Italian food and left a note in his lunch box to come home early after work. He did, and they had a great feast, but she didn’t say anything to him. She cooked another great meal a week later and then again several days after that. That’s when she delivered her message. As they sat on the front porch together after dinner, she handed her husband a “grace sandwich.” She said, “I love you and I’m glad you’re my husband. When you’re out drinking, especially when you’re out late, I worry about you. I miss you and want you here.” She didn’t hammer him over the head. She didn’t nag, whine or issue an ultimatum. Instead, she sandwiched her message “I don’t want you out drinking” between “I love you” and “I miss you,” which he readily received. After that front-porch conversation, he came right home every night after work. My friend said that she followed the example of Esther, who was also married to an unbeliever, the king of Persia. Esther, too, wanted to speak to her husband about a sensitive subject: reversing his edict to annihilate the Jews. To speak to the king without being invited was to risk death, but Esther took her chances and invited her husband to a feast—twice, in fact. Wisely and respectfully, she appealed to her husband’s appetites, it would seem, and she won his favor, which eventually helped save the lives of her people. “I prayed, I cooked, and then I spoke,” my friend said. “I didn’t save an entire nation, but I may have saved my marriage. I know I could’ve destroyed it if I had hit him with a frying pan instead!” —Nancy Kennedy Day 10 Devotion: The Best Way to Ask
  24. 24. 1 Do not fret because of those who are evil or be envious of those who do wrong; 2 for like the grass they will soon wither, like green plants they will soon die away. 3 Trust in the Lord and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture. 4 Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart. 5 Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him and he will do this: 6 He will make your righteous reward shine like the dawn, your vindication like the noonday sun. 7 Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him; do not fret when people succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes. 8 Refrain from anger and turn from wrath; do not fret—it leads only to evil. 9 For those who are evil will be destroyed, but those who hope in the Lord will inherit the land. Psalm 37:1-9 Day 11 Scripture
  25. 25. . Draw Near to Me Husbands and wives become angry at each other for many reasons, ranging from nitpicky differences that can annoy to major issues that can destroy. One key adjustment for any married couple going through a difficult time is learning how to deal with feelings, such as anger, and learning how to work together toward a solution that is mutually beneficial. In the Bible, there are many instances in which people who loved one another became angry with each other. Think of Moses being furious with the people of Israel for making a golden calf, for example, or Paul being angry with John Mark for deserting him on their missionary journey. Anger is part of being human. Yet we often feel the need to place the cause of those feelings on other people: “What you did was so awful” or “You make me so mad.” Understanding how to handle anger is a key aspect of marital communication. One way to initiate conversation about a situation that has resulted in angry feelings is to simply talk about how you feel without blaming each other. I can gain more by saying, “I’m angry because I’ve been hurt by something like this before” or “I’m miffed because I miss our after- work talks” than by accusing my wife of wounding me or by purposely avoiding conversation about the problem. The Bible stresses the importance of dealing with anger as clearly, quickly and lovingly as possible. Yet so often we can explode with heated words or seethe with cold silence, withdrawal or indifference. Unexpressed anger or poorly expressed anger can lead us to sin in word or deed. We may say things in anger that we might regret later or do things to cause emotional damage or even physical harm. How do we prevent sin, pain and hurt from a sudden outburst of anger? Early in our marriage when we got mad at each other, Cindy and I would blurt out things that were hurtful, thoughtless or ill timed. Eventually we learned how destructive that could be. We learned to follow the Biblical advice to search our hearts and become silent until our anger subsided. Now if we get angry at each other, we take a two-minute time-out before discussing a difficult issue. We take time to cool down, pray through the matter individually, and seek God’s guidance. Then we come back to each other and find a way to say important and necessary things without causing emotional upheaval. We are learning how to be angry without sinning against each other (see Ephesians 4:26). It’s tough to take a time-out when we’re mad—but if we do, and use that time in a prayerful way, we can work things through without sinning. —John R. Throop Day 11 Devotion: Anger Management
  26. 26. Woe to you who are complacent in Zion, and to you who feel secure on Mount Samaria, you notable men of the foremost nation, to whom the people of Israel come! 2 Go to Kalneh and look at it;go from there to great Hamath, and then go down to Gath in Philistia. Are they better off than your two kingdoms? Is their land larger than yours? 3 You put off the day of disaster and bring near a reign of terror. 4 You lie on beds adorned with ivory and lounge on your couches. You dine on choice lambs and fattened calves. 5 You strum away on your harps like David and improvise on musicalinstruments. 6 You drink wine by the bowlful and use the finest lotions,but you do not grieve over the ruin of Joseph. 7 Therefore you will be among the first to go into exile; your feastingand lounging will end. Amos 6:1-7 Day 12 Scripture
  27. 27. . Draw Near to Me One day when David was out of town, I backed the car out of the drive and ran over some nails. The roof on our house had recently been replaced, and the roofers had thrown old shingles and nails onto the driveway and failed to clean up all the nails. Two of the tires were flat. Two flats plus only one spare minus one husband plus a house full of small children equaled a real mess. But then something beautiful happened. When I called my neighbor for a ride, her self-employed husband dropped everything he was doing. He and his son put two spares (ours and theirs) on our van and took it away to have both tires replaced. They were back in a few hours and refused to let me pay for the new tires. Can you imagine such thoughtfulness? My van came back ready to drive with two new tires. My neighbors showed the kind of love and compassion that was lacking in the people of Israel in Amos’s day. In fact, God said that the people were the very opposite of helpful and kind; they were self-centered, complacent and lazy. God warned them that they would suffer divine justice for their lack of faithfulness to God and consideration for others. It’s important to God that we, his people, look after each other. Sometimes I find it’s easy to be kind or extend a favor if it fits into my schedule or if it’s something that doesn’t cost me time, money, mess or bother. But how much love do those favors really require? . . . My personal challenge is learning to welcome interruptions. With four kids, a busy schedule and a self-employed, at-home husband, my time is at a premium. I wake up each morning with a lengthy to-do list for the day imprinted on my mind. Sometimes it’s hard for me to let that list go so that I can give my attention and time to someone—a visitor, a telephone caller, one of the kids—whose need shakes up my agenda. In the book of Amos, the prophet called the people to account and deliberately reminded them of their selfishness. As a result, they, and we, are left with a strong reminder of how important it is to love and serve others. My neighbors pleased God and deeply blessed me by taking care of my disabled van. . . . Being bothered for Christ’s sake is ultimately more worthy than protecting a personal agenda. —Annette LaPlaca Day 12 Devotion: Going Out of Our Way
  28. 28. Sin is not ended by multiplyingwords, but the prudent hold their tongues. Proverbs 10:19 Day 13 Scripture
  29. 29. . Draw Near to Me Some married friends of ours pick at each other all the time. Every point of conversation between them becomes a sparring match. For example, Melissa told me one day, “We just painted our kitchen a honey-gold color.” “No, Melissa, it’s not honey-gold; it’s ocher,” said Eric, butting into our conversation. “What’s ocher anyway? A crayon color maybe, but not the color of our kitchen,” Melissa responded. “What, are you color-blind? Everyone knows what ocher is, and ocher is definitely the color of our kitchen!” Stuck in the middle of too many “discussions” like this, you wish you could just reach over and turn off the spigot of useless words that flow from these friends. Granted, their disputes don’t qualify as verbal abuse, but, over time, these petty disagreements appear to be fraying the fabric of their marriage. Proverbs 10:19 warns us that using too many words can be an indication that sin is lurking. We may talk too much to cover our fear that our spouse is becoming too independent and doesn’t need our advice. Maybe we’ve done something wrong and are diverting attention by sniping at our mate. Regardless, a marriage can become threadbare from too many petty arguments that lead to demeaning remarks. Another couple I know, Todd and Kimberly, argue so much that their marriage has unraveled. Todd is particularly vicious in verbally attacking his wife. One particularlydamaging comment—“You are so dumb”—cut Kimberly so deep that she walked away stunned. She may have had some choice words picked out in her mind, but she used great discretion in not speaking them aloud. Why is holding our tongue so hard to do? Matthew 12:34 tells us that the mouth speaks from the overflow of our heart. If this is true, then what do most of the words we say indicate about our love— or lack of love—for our spouse? Open, straightforward communication is vitally important to a thriving marriage, but sometimes it’s better to stay silent until you’ve calmed down emotionally, thought through an issue, and prayed for God’s guidance before discussing it with your spouse. The next time you find yourself about to enter into a verbal match with your mate, check the condition of your heart. Is it brimming over with love, patience, gentleness and the other qualities that comprise the fruit of the Spirit (see Galatians 5:22–23), or is it boiling over withanger, resentment and hurt? What, then, will your words be like—willthey be loving and affirming, or toxic and poisonous? Until you know, it’s best to heed the advice of Proverbs 10:19: Be wise and hold your tongue. —Marian V. Liautaud Day 13 Devotion: Hold Your Tongue
  30. 30. 25 At that time Jesus said, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to littlechildren. 26 Yes, Father, for this is what you were pleased to do. 27 “All thingshave been committedto me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. 28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:25-30 Day 14 Scripture
  31. 31. . Draw Near to Me Accordingto a recentarticlein PsychologyToday,theaveragemarriedcouplehas oneseriousfighta month andinnumerablesquabbles. If that’s the average,then Andrew andMonicawere overachievers.This Christiancouplespenteveryeveningof their honeymoonfighting.Theycouldn’tsee eyeto eye on anything,andboth passionatelydefendedtheir pointof view, certainthattheotherwas wrong.No matterthattheywere in a tropicalparadise—this was not the restful, romanticgetaway they’dbeenanticipating. Canyoucountthe numberof fights you and yourspousehavehad?In those fights,haveyoueverbeenwrong?Of coursenot! How many times in the heat of the moment haveyouwished thatGod would play backthe tapefor yourspouse so thatyouwould bevindicatedin plainsight, andyourpartnerwould haveno choicebut to beg for yourforgiveness? Self-righteousnessfeels good—untilthatgut-sinkingmomentwhen youfindthemissing sockin yourdrawer anddiscoverthatyou havewrongly accusedyour spouse of losingit. In such moments,we facethe awful truth of how desperatelywe needto takeup Christ’s invitationto “learnfrom me, for I am gentleand humblein heart” (Matthew 11:29).Jesushighlightedtwo main principlesin Matthew 11:28–30. Gentleness:We see gentlenessillustratedin Jesus’ welcomingdemeanor,in his touchof blessingas he interactedwith small children(see Matthew19:13–15),in his deep caringandempathytoward a paralyzedman (see Matthew 9:2), andin his compassionateinteractionwith a woman caughtin adultery(see John 8:1–11).With Jesus as ourmodel, we can treateachotherwith gentleness—offeringa warm andaffirmingtouchor hug,empathizingwith eachother’sfeelings,choosingto speak calmlyand tenderlyto eachother—evenwhen we disagree. Humility: When we’re havinga disagreementwith ourspouse,humility doesn’tmeantryingto actlikewe’re wrong eventhough deepdown we believewe’re right. It meansdeterminingnot to valueour “rightness”so highly,understandingthatour spouseis far moreimportantthanprovingour point.Ultimately,we haveJesus’ example to follow: Jesus,who was more “right”than any otherpersonin history, went to the cross for oursakes. Andrew andMonicacalledtheirpastorto ask for counselingafterjust oneweek of marriage.Thoughtheystill havedisagreements,they’relearninghow to handle conflictdifferently.And now, far away from the palmtreesof their disastroushoneymoon,they’refinallyexperiencingtrue “rest” as theylearn from Jesus together. —David andKelli Trujillo Day 14 Devotion: Elements of a Good Fight
  32. 32. 50 On the plainsof Moab by the Jordan across from Jericho the Lord said to Moses, 51 “Speak to the Israelitesand say to them: ‘When you cross the Jordan into Canaan, 52 drive out all the inhabitantsof the land before you. Destroy all their carved images and their cast idols, and demolish all their high places. 53 Take possessionof the land and settlein it, for I have given you the land to possess. 54 Distributethe land by lot, according to your clans. To a larger group give a larger inheritance,and to a smaller group a smaller one. Whatever falls to them by lot will be theirs. Distributeit according to your ancestraltribes. 55 “‘But if you do not drive out the inhabitantsof the land, those you allow to remain will become barbs in your eyes and thorns in your sides.They will give you trouble in the land where you will live. 56 And then I will do to you what I plan to do to them.’” Numbers 33:50-56 Day 15 Scripture
  33. 33. . Draw Near to Me In themonths,weeks anddays leadinguptoourwedding,we were blownaway bythe amountof workit tooktopulloffthat singledayof celebration.Butwe also rememberthe ironythat struckus whenwe first startedto settle intoournewlife together:besidesa halfdozensessionsof pre-maritalcounseling,we haddoneverylittleplanningforourlife beyondourfirst week together. Now imaginefor a momentthe excitement of theIsraelites who,after a 40-yearjourney,were finallypreparingtoenter the land longpromisedtothem byGod.Godhadled themthroughthe wilderness,and noweverythingwas culminatingin thisfinalconquest. On theeve ofthis momentousinvasioncame a soberingmessage from God(see Numbers33:50–54).Godsaid thatwhenhis peopletookpossessionofthe land,theywere to runoffthe inhabitantsofthe landanddestroytheir religioussymbols. WhywouldGodutter suchharshwords andfollowthem upwithsucha harshwarning(see verses 55–56)in the middleof all the joyandexcitement?Theanswer is simple:TheIsraelites’ emotionalexcitementaboutmovingintothe promisedlandhadmade them nearsighted.Theyweren’tthinkingaboutensuringtheirlongevityandblessingsin thebeautifulland—theyweren’t thinkingthatfar ahead. Godremainedfarsighted,however.And what he saw made him warn hischildrenaboutthe dangersthat couldhavedevastatingeffects ontheirdevotiontohim.Goddidn’tadvisethe Israelites tojust politelyaddressthe issue;he commandedthem to dealwithit violentlyanddramatically. Godis similarly farsightedonourbehalfwhenit comes tomarriage. Whenwe joinGodin takingthe longviewof ourmarriage,we begintosee that amidstthe excitement andjoyofwedding festivities,we havea seriouscalling.We mustaddress maritalstumblingblockssuch as bitterness overpast hurts,dysfunctionalrelationshipswithourparents,critical attitudes,memoriesof sexualsins,or unhealthyhabitsandaddictions.. . . One nightourfriendSarah calledus in tears. She hadjust foundoutthather husband,Michael,was addictedto Internetpornography.At first Sarah seriouslyconsideredseparatingfromher husband.But overthe next few weeks, she watchedas Michael changedfrom a guilty,defeated,self-proclaimedloser intoa warrior.Withgreat courage,Michael tookdramaticsteps to fight his battlewithpornography.. . . A few monthslater, Sarah againcalled us intears, butthistime was different.“I loveMichael somuch morenowthanI ever didbefore,”she said. “Seeinghis courageand hispassiontofight hardfor ourmarriagehas made us so muchcloser. I knowthissoundscorny,butI mean it: Now he trulyis my knightin shiningarmor.” —Davidand KelliTrujillo Day 15 Devotion: Planning a Marriage
  34. 34. Gather together, gather yourselves together,you shameful nation, 2 before the decree takes effect and that day passes likewindblown chaff, before the Lord’s fierce anger comes upon you, before the day of the Lord’s wrathcomes upon you. 3 Seek the Lord, all you humble of the land, you who do what he commands. Seek righteousness, seek humility;perhaps you willbe sheltered on the day of the Lord’s anger. Zephaniah 2:1-3 Day 16 Scripture
  35. 35. . Draw Near to Me According to the Bible, God created the universe as an act of love and enthusiasm. Earth, among the planets and stars, was to be home to creatures who reflected the characteristics of God and interacted with God in dynamic ways. Sin marred that relationship, but in love and forgiveness, God continued to reach out to his creatures. In the early years, this relationship took the form of a covenant between God and Abraham’s descendants. If the people were true to God, all nations would see that and be drawn into a restorative relationship with him. The cancer of sin could be cured. During the reigns of King David and King Solomon, the nation of Israel experienced times of great prosperity, and the blessings of the covenant were dispersed among the nations. People like the queen of Sheba (see 1 Kings 10) came looking for the secret that made Israel special. In later years, however, Israel became as infected by evil as the nations around her. The accountability clauses in the covenant between God and Israel at Mount Sinai included blessings for keeping the covenant and curses for not keeping it (see Leviticus 26). Throughout Israel’s history, God urged his people to be faithful, warning them against breaking faith with him. Prophets such as Zephaniah sounded the alarm of imminent destruction, since recurring disobedience triggered the covenant’s penalty clause. First Israel and then Judah were assaulted and carried off by unspeakably cruel nations. There, in a foreign land, the Israelites lost their distinctiveness as the people of God. Most of them were absorbed into the nations around them. Though a remnant of Judah would be spared, never again would Israel return to the promised land. Marriages too are covenant relationships with accountability clauses. Good marriages in which partners keep faith with each other and the Lord usually blossom with blessings that overflow to others, such as children and neighbors and church members. Conversely, bad marriages in which covenants are broken and trust is destroyed bring pain into countless lives. Some couples are riding the crest of blessing right now. Others are suffering the painful consequences of foolish and unfaithful acts. Regardless of the circumstances, every married couple may have confidence in this: God is gracious. As Zephaniah reminds us, if we truly repent of our sin and humble ourselves before God, we will receive forgiveness, hope, reconciliation and healing. As we move toward restoration of our marriage commitments, we can be certain that God will walk with us, encouraging us all the way. —Wayne Brouwer Day 16 Devotion: Keeping Each Other Accountable
  36. 36. Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight. Luke 24:31 Day 17 Scripture
  37. 37. . Draw Near to Me My friendand her husbandhadbeenmarried fora few years,andthoughshe still lovedhimdearly,the humdrumof day-to-daylivinghadlulledher intotakinghimfor granted.Sure, he was loving,steadyanddependable,buttheromance was gone. Thenat a yearlyawards banquetat her husband’scompany,my friendwas shockedandpleasantlysurprisedbythe accoladesheapedonher husband.Superiorsspokeof himin glowingterms. Coworkersgushedabout what a great guyhe was. Eventhe custodianmade a pointoftellingher what a likableman her husband was. My friendfoundherself swellingwithpride—anda littleshame—wonderingwhyshe hadn’tnoticedthis sideof her husband.Didhe act differentlyat work,orwas she justnotseeingwhat hadbeen therethe wholetime? Cleopasand his friend,whowere walkingto Emmaustwo daysafter Jesus was crucifiedandburied,hada bitof the same problem.To be sure,theywere depressed,tiredanddrainedfrom what hadhappenedin Jerusalem.A great teacher whohadpromisedso muchhad beenarrested,beaten,crucifiedandburied.Now his bodywas missing.Certainlytheywere notexpectingthat the man whojoinedthemonthe roadwas thatveryman—Jesus. Theydidn’tacknowledgeJesus as Messiah either—likelybecausetheywere disillusionedthatthe onetheyhadexpectedtodeliver theirnationfrom Romanrule was nowdead.“He was a prophet,powerfulinwordanddeed beforeGodandall the people,”theysaid ofJesus (Luke24:19).Buttheydidn’thave a cluethat he was Savior ofthe world. As we read this,we want to cryout,“How couldyounotsee Jesus as Messiah after all the wonderfulthingshe did?Andhowcouldyounotrecognizehim as he explainedthe Scripturesto youand yourheartsburnedwithinyou?”(see verse32).ButuntiltheybrokebreadwithJesus andthe Spiritof Godopenedtheireyes, these men were blindto Jesus’true identity. Isn’tthat thecase withmany ofus today,in bothmarriageand ourwalkwithChrist?Seeing Jesus as a living,vibrantpresence inourlivescomes beforeanythingelse, of course.Onlywhen oureyes are focusedonhim as ourSaviorcan we begintotrulyappreciatea spousewhoalso believesinChrist.Whenwe studythe graciousattitudesandactionsthatChristpoursoutonhis church—loving,caring,cherishing,submittingevento death—weask ourselves,“How doesmy spouseshowthese same attributesto me and toothers?Have I shownappreciationforthose Christ like qualitiesbeing livedoutin him?Am I being Christ like tohim?”. . . Let’s prayforopeneyes beforesickness,loss,separation—oraccoladesfrom others—forceus to payattention. —Valerie Van Kooten Day 17 Devotion: Appreciating Each Other
  38. 38. 18 God did thisso that, by two unchangeable thingsin which it is impossiblefor God to lie,we who have fled to take hold of the hope set before us may be greatlyencouraged. 19 We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain, Hebrews 6:18-19 Day 18 Scripture
  39. 39. . Draw Near to Me I supposetherehasneverbeena marriagebetweentwo honest,self-examiningpeoplethatat some timehas notreacheda seemingly irredeemablelow point.Therehave beenmoments in my own marriagewhen the wall betweenmy wife andme seemedtoohighto hurdle,toothickto break.We found it hard to muster hope.It was not easy to be confidentthat somehow the barriers blockingour onenesscouldbe removed. Beforethe responsibilitiesof marriagewill be regardedas invitingopportunitiesratherthanpointlessduties,thecore of a person’sattitudemust shift from despairto hope.To effectthis shift requiresthatwe provideadequateanswers to the toughquestions.. . . ToomanyunhappyspousesclaimpromisesthatGod nevermadeas their foundationof hope.Theytrust thatif theydo all they can,God will changetheir spousesinto the lovingChristiansthey shouldbe.But a reasonto live neverconsistsof a guaranteethat“Thingswill getbetter”or that“God will save your husbandand helphim stop drinking.”Thehope of the Christianis far deeperthana mere changein someoneelse.Thehopeof the Christianis inescapablyboundup in the graceof God. It would be easyto quotea few versesfrom Hebrews (especially6:18–19),andspeakglowinglyaboutthesure hopein Christ that servesas an anchorfor our souls. But if youare plaguedby chronicdespairthatresults in a “Why bother”attitude,thenprayerfullyconsiderthe following. TheLord has notpromisedto put yourmarriagetogetherfor you.Thehopeof theChristianis notthatone’s spousewill changeor that one’s healthwill improveor that one’s financialsituationwill becomegood.God does not promise or rearrangeour worlds to suit ourlongings.He doespromiseto permit only those eventsthat will furtherhis purposein our lives.Our responsibilityis to respondto life’s eventsin a mannerthatpleasesthe Lord,notto changeour spouses into what we want. Even if we respondbiblically,we haveno guaranteethatour spouseswill respondin kind.Thoughtheyfile for divorceor continueto drink or nagall the more, there is reason for us to perseverein obedience.. . . In God’s presence,thereis nevercausefor despair.Our spousesmay notdo what theyshouldto restore ourmarriageto happy,fulfillingrelationships.But if we remain faithfulto God, pouringoutour emotionsbeforehim, renewingourcommitmentto seekhim, trustinghim toguideus in ourresponses,thenhe will sustainus through ourtrials andproviderich fellowship with him. Thereis reasonto goon.There is hope.God’s graceis sufficient. —Dr. Larry Crabb Day 18 Devotion: Hope in Hard Times
  40. 40. 6 If we claim to have fellowshipwith him and yet walkin the darkness, we lieand do not live out the truth. 7 But if we walkin the light,as he is in the light, we have fellowshipwith one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifiesus from all sin. 1 John 1:6-7 Day 19 Scripture
  41. 41. . Draw Near to Me A man came down from the Carolina mountains one day. He was all dressed up and carrying his Bible. A friend saw him and asked, “Elias, what’s happening? Where are you going all dressed up like that?” “I’m heading for New Orleans,” Elias said. “I’ve heard there’s a lot of liquor and gamblin’ and other interestin’ trouble there.” The friend looked him over and said, “But Elias, why are you carrying your Bible under your arm?” Elias answered, “Well, if it’s as good as they say it is, I might just stay over until Sunday.” In 1 John 1:6–7, John was attacking the belief that our fellowship with God is not related to how we behave. So what if I lose my temper? So what if I mistreat my family and others? I’m spiritual. I pray. I go to church. I know my Bible. That’s all that matters. p>John’s verdict is that those who think this way “lie and do not live out the truth.” Truth isn’t just something you believe; it is something you do. Christians do truth. The hypocrisy of not doing the truth is especially evident in our marriages and families. Before a professional dance troupe appears on stage, they spend many hours rehearsing in a brightly lit room with a mirrored wall. Seeing themselves in action eliminates self-deception about their performance. Likewise, for God’s people to face the truth and shape their lives accordingly, they must live their days in the light and before the mirror of Scripture and the Holy Spirit. First John 1:7 says there are benefits that come when we walk in the light. The first is: “We have fellowship with one another.” The primary casualties of Christian hypocrisy are our relationships in the church and home, which begin to disintegrate as we lie to ourselves and God about what we’re doing. . . . But when we allow God’s bright light to shine into our lives, we stop bruising each other because our actions are under God’s control. We stop fighting over where to go because God’s light reveals clearly how we’re to follow. The second great benefit of living truthfully is: “The blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.” We began this walk of light when Jesus cleansed us from our sin. But the ongoing benefit of continuing to respond to the truth of God’s Word and God’s verdict about our day-to-day sins is that Jesus’ blood continues to purify us from sin. . . . That’s what the blood of Jesus does; it cleanses us. The godliness of marriage is measured not by how spiritual we are but by how well we walk in the light. A man and woman who are close to God will be humble, kind, faithful, gentle, joyful, loving and, above all, honest. They will glory in walking in the light of God’s presence together. —Lee Eclov Day 19 Devotion: What the Mirror Shows
  42. 42. I will sing for the one I love a song about his vineyard: My loved one had a vineyard on a fertile hillside. 2 He dugit up and cleared it of stones and planted it with the choicest vines. He built a watchtower in it and cut out a winepress as well. Then he looked for a crop of good grapes, but it yielded only bad fruit. 3 “Nowyou dwellers in Jerusalem and people of Judah, judge between me and my vineyard. 4 What more could have been donefor my vineyard than I have donefor it? When I looked for good grapes,why did it yield only bad? 5 NowI will tell youwhat I am goingto doto my vineyard: I will take away its hedge, and it will be destroyed; I will break downits wall, and it will be trampled. 6 I will make it a wasteland, neither prunednor cultivated, and briers and thorns will grow there. I will command the clouds not to rain on it.” 7 The vineyard of the Lord Almighty is the nation of Israel, and the people of Judah are the vines he delighted in. Andhe looked for justice, butsaw bloodshed;for righteousness, but heard cries of distress. Isaiah 5:1-7 Day 20 Scripture
  43. 43. . Draw Near to Me When I was young, I attended the wedding of an extended family member. I don’t remember much about the ceremony, dancing or food. But I do remember the terrible fight at the reception. In front of all the guests, a woman screamed at her husband, broke down in tears and hid in a corner while her friends consoled her. The man yelled back, threatened to hit her, then stormed out of the building with his friends. He did not return that night. It might shock you to learn that I’m describing the bride and groom. But it probably will not surprise you to learn that their marriage lasted less than a month. In Isaiah 5, God addressed the people of Israel and described himself as the owner of a vineyard and Israel as the vineyard. He had chosen a prime location for his grapevines, nurtured the soil and protected the land from harm. But in the end, the crop of grapes was no good. So he asked, “What more could have been done for my vineyard than I have done for it?” The farmer had done everything right; there was no reason why the crop should not have flourished. But the painful message soon became clear: Israel had failed despite God’s efforts to ensure her success. Though the people kept up elaborate rituals of worship, those were meaningless to God because the people neglected to do what he truly valued: caring for orphans, widows and the poor. As a result, they managed to spoil the harvest that God had nurtured. God offers this same nurturing care today for your marriage. Even before you met your spouse, God was preparing the soil, removing the stones and building a watchtower. God placed you in a cultivated land, ready to produce good fruit. But in this vineyard, the Farmer doesn’t do all the work; you must also do your part. . . . In the end, a marriage will be judged not by the strength of its passion or by its ceremonial promises, but by the fruit it produces. The Farmer is there to weed, water and cultivate. But we must also take practical steps that will help our marriage reflect authentic devotion to each other and a true love for God and his values. We can choose to forgive quickly and resist resentment. We can serve each other in purposeful ways throughout the day. We can encourage each other with words of love and by praying for each other. We can invite strong Christian couples to mentor us in spiritual growth. We can minister to others in need. By authentically reflecting God’s values in our relationship, we can do our part to nourish our marriage vineyard and produce a harvest of good fruit. —David and Kelli Trujillo Day 20 Devotion: Tending Our Marriage
  44. 44. In that day, the Lord will punish with his sword—his fierce, great and powerful sword— Leviathan the glidingserpent, Leviathan the coiling serpent; he will slay the monster of the sea. 2 In that day—“Sing about a fruitful vineyard: 3 I, the Lord, watch over it; I water it continually. I guard it day and night so that no one may harm it. 4 I am not angry. If only there were briers and thorns confronting me! I would march against them in battle;I would set them all on fire. 5 Or else let them come to me for refuge; let them make peace with me, yes, let them make peace with me.” 6 In days to come Jacob will take root, Israel will bud and blossom and fill all the world with fruit. Isaiah 27:1-6 Day 21 Scripture
  45. 45. . Draw Near to Me My husband makes our yard look good. Both of his thumbs must be green, because we have an explosion of color around our house. I have flowers in the house virtually the whole year round. In the late winter David forces early daffodils and tulips in our little greenhouse. That’s followed by a constant parade of garden flowers—irises, peonies, poppies, roses, dahlias, asters and the like—until the first freeze in late fall. Gardening takes a lot of work. David regularly waters our flowers. Sometimes he takes a minute or two to quickly yank up a pile of weeds. Other times he’ll set aside a whole morning or afternoon for yard work and for making a mysterious concoction of fish guts, mouthwash and dish soap that he sprays over his plants so that the bugs and bunnies will leave them alone. His blooms look good enough for the county fair. It’s a blessing for me that my husband cares as much for cultivating the fruitfulness of our marriage as he cares for cultivating the fruitfulness of our garden. Some of this cultivation takes place in a couple of minutes of “pulling weeds,” making sure we’re on the same page on financial decisions or parenting issues. We build our relationship in daily courtesies, affection, attention and joint prayer. Sometimes we give a whole evening (date night!) to marriage cultivation. In Isaiah 27, God talks about cultivating the fruitful garden that is his chosen people. He keeps an eye on that garden. He waters it. He makes sure that nothing can harm it. His intention to go beyond protection and provision to fruitfulness is evident. David and I like to share our garden blooms. This year flowers from our garden helped make a glorious, enormous Easter cross of flowers for our church sanctuary. Flowers from our garden end up on coworkers’ desks, neighbors’ kitchen counters and sickroom bedside tables. People walking their dogs wander up our driveway to get a glimpse into the backyard. We don’t want to be stingy with the fruit of our marriage either. The point of cultivating our marriage goes beyond simply protecting ourselves and our togetherness. We want our marriage to bear fruit. Some of the fruit it’s now bearing is the secure, God-directed home environment that we’re creating for our children. But our marriage bears fruit in our careers too; neither of us would have the creativity and energy required for work if we were emotionally drained by a damaged marital relationship. Our marriage also bears fruit in our church family life, as we live a testimony of faithfulness before others and as our support for each other enables us to serve in various ways. David and I are determined to take time, whether it’s five minutes or five evenings, to cultivate a marriage that keeps bearing fruit. —Annette LaPlaca Day 21 Devotion: Blooms of Love
  46. 46. eBook 20% off Coupon Code: READ20 $34.99 $49.99 Hardcover ItalianDuo-Tone™ www.Zondervan.com *Discount Valid for Print Products Only* eBook $12.99
  47. 47. . Draw Near to Me If you enjoyed reading this plan check out…  Finding Hope in Christby Focusing on His Promises - 7 Day ReadingPlan  TrustingGod in All Circumstances- 7 Day Reading Plan  Streamsin the Desert - 21 Day Reading Plan  Find Encouragement and Perspective for Life’sEveryday Moments – Women’s 14 Day Reading Plan  Men’s Devotional Bible – 14 Day Reading Plan by Men for Men  Just for Dad’s: Be a positiveChristianrole model – 21 Day Reading Plan
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The Couple's Devotional Bible Reading Plan offers 21 readings that will help couples overcome some of the common struggles that they face in today's world. These passages address communication, forgiveness, and how to have a God-centered marriage, and they refer to Bible verses that offer instruction in how to have healthy relationship.

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