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Lessons From the Wayward Nephew – Lot

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The first recorded war was between 4 kings and money, but it also included a search and rescue mission.

The first recorded war was between 4 kings and money, but it also included a search and rescue mission.

While writing Faith Steps for Military Families, I learned about the Bible’s first recorded war. It’s found in Genesis 14. During Abram’s (later called Abraham) life, wars and rivalries among kings routinely happened, but the first recorded war in God’s Word was between four eastern kings most of us have not heard of before, except for possibly one, King Chedorlaomer (of modern Iran) and five southern kings, that included the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah.

Who was King Chedorlaomer?

Not much is known about him, except that he was quite powerful. It was customary in those days that a city that was conquered paid tribute (money) to the king that overthrew that city.1 Five cities, including Sodom and Gomorrah paid tribute to King Chedorlaomer for twelve years. This is a testament to the might of King Chedorlaomer’s army.

“In the thirteenth year [those five cities paying tribute] rebelled” (Gen. 14:4).They joined forces and rebelled against King Chedorlaomer. They withheld the tribute owed to him. This kind of rebellion infuriated King Chedorlaomer. By refusing to pay the tribute, they predicted it would have a devastating effect to the territory known as the “way of the kings” which was the corridor of commerce between Egypt and the four eastern kingdoms.2 Whoever controlled this land bridge maintained a monopoly on international trade.3

In retaliation, King Chedorlaomer wasted no time and swiftly conquered this quick-forming alliance. When King Chedorlaomer overtook Sodom, he captured Lot, his family, and his possessions. Recall that Lot was Abram’s nephew. Being a prisoner of King Chedorlaomer meant torture, slavery, or death.2

“When Abram [later called Abraham] heard that his nephew had been taken captive, he led forth his trained men, born in his house, three hundred eighteen of them, and went in pursuit as far as Dan. He divided his forces against them by night, he and his servants, and routed them and pursued them to Hobah, north of Damascus. Then he brought back all the goods, and also brought back his nephew Lot with his goods, and the women and the people.” Genesis 14:14-16

It’s plausible that Chedorlaomer underestimated the warrior inside Abraham as he defeated King Chedorlaomer in Damascus, even with a measly 318 fighting men. But God showed His favor on Abram. But how did Lot get himself in trouble with Chedorlaomer in the first place?

Lot – the Drifter

Lot had a character flaw that we see in many younger men and women today. Having no firm goals or sense of purpose, he drifted through life.4 Lacking a father (his father died when Lot was a young boy) to act as a compass for his life, probably contributed to his hunger for the sinful lifestyle in the city of Sodom. Coupled with his greedy desire for rich goods, Lot lived for the moment. As a result, he didn’t contemplate the consequences of his short-sightedness. By seeking after the sinful and greedy lifestyle of Sodom, he eventually blended in with the other citizens in this doomed city. This choice cost Lot everything, including his freedom when King Chedorlaomer overtook the town to punish it for withholding the tribute. Wise ole Uncle Abram had to do the dirty work and go to war with King Chedorlaomer to retrieve Lot.

Why Is This Important?

This may have been an incident that crossed several kingdoms–Abram caught in the middle between Lot’s greed and sinful lifestyle and a scandal between kings. It reveals God in control of earthly situations between secular kings and His warriors. God’s men numbered just 318 compared to the armies of the four kings!5

In the midst of a power struggle to control the cash cow of the trade routes, at the center of this scuttle is the story between two related men. Abram knew the foolishness of his nephew’s decisions. He could have taken the approach that Lot got what he deserved and refused to go to war to get him back. After all, living foolishly eventually breeds trouble.

Abram, however, took the perspective of grace. Grace says, “to extend kindness to a person who doesn’t deserve it.” Even God extended grace to Lot by giving favor to Abram to conquer the armies of the four kings in order to retrieve Lot. 

We Were Like Lot Once

Before the Lord reigned in our hearts, we were a Lot, too.6 Prior to giving our hearts over to the Lord, we were lured by the world’s goods and sinful offerings without thinking of the long-range consequences. We allowed our selfish desires to seek and obtain what didn’t satisfy. Sometimes we got away with a sinful lifestyle, but maybe for some of us it led us down the road of trouble. Was there an Abram in your life to go to bat for you? As Lot was carried off by King Chedorlaomer, considered part of the plundered loot, I wonder if he questioned where his lifestyle choices led him.

Is there a Lot in your family? Don’t give up on her or him. Instead, we can be an Abram in that person’s life and pray. James 5:16 says, “The prayer of a righteous (godly and upright) person has great power as it is working” (ESV). Your prayers, prayed in faith, will change things. There is power praying in Jesus’ name and that power will change the course of someone’s life, circumstances, and choices. While praying for the Lot in your life, your own faith will be strengthened as you see God move. We can trust God because He is sovereign over all our circumstances. One of my favorite Scripture verses is 2 Chronicles 16:9. “For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the entire earth, to strengthen those whose heart is true to him” (NRSV). God is looking for faithful hearts to be prayer warriors for the Lots in our lives.

Blessings,

Lisa

Notes:

1 Bible Note for Genesis 14:4-16, Life Application Bible (Iowa Falls, IA: World Bible Publishers, Inc. 1989).

2 Officers’ Christian Fellowship, “Abram Goes to War,” http//www.ocfusa.org.  (accessed 29 May 2014).

3 Ibid.

4 Bible Profile on Lot, Life Application Bible.

5 Officers’ Christian Fellowship, “Abram Goes to War,” http//www.ocfusa.org.  (accessed 29 May 2014).

6 Ibid.

Did You Miss the Parental Blessing? (Discipline-for Their Best Interests)

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Is this how you remember being disciplined?

Is this how you remember being disciplined?

Part 12

John Trent and Gary Smalley tell us in The Blessing: “We bless our children by providing them with the appropriate discipline.”1 Recall in the last post that “He [Jacob] blessed them, every one with the blessing appropriate to him” (NASB). However, Trent and Smalley point out one son, Reuben, who was the oldest, in which his father, Jacob, pronounced a blessing, but seems like punishment as well.

 Reuben, you are my firstborn, my might and the first fruits of my vigor, excelling in rank and excelling in power, {a blessing]. Unstable as water, you shall no longer excel because you went up onto your father’s bed; then you defiled it–you went up onto my couch! Genesis 49:3-4

 As we have read in previous posts on this series, the oldest son was supposed to get a double portion of his father’s inheritance, but Reuben had lost this special blessing because in his younger days he did a foolish thing. He slept with one of his father’s concubines (having concubines was a practice that was accepted as part of their culture). As a result, the birthright blessing that Reuben was born with was withheld due to his dishonorable act.

 If we look at the above verses closely, you’ll see that it is broken up fairly evenly with blessing and discipline. Jacob first gives words of praise about Reuben, his firstborn. He attributes his own might, vigor, and power to Reuben. Reuben was his strength. He clearly expresses his praise and words of high value to his son. But then we see that praise balanced with the scales of just discipline in light of his unrestrained passions.

Today, we might equate this to reaping the consequences of our actions. However, as Trent and Smalley explain, “It should not surprise us that blessing and discipline go hand in hand. If we genuinely love someone, we will not allow that person to stray into sin or be hurt in some way without trying to correct him or her.”2 God is the same way.

 God is a loving parent, and just like our parents were to us, we care about the behavior of our children. We guide and instruct to shape their thinking, develop godly perspectives, their ability to make sound judgments and wise decisions with the goal to forming them into mature adults. By doing this, we hope they live a life that honors God, thereby securing His blessings. If that is the desire of our hearts, then we can’t ignore the behavior of our children. But that is exactly what Eli, the high priest did in 1 Samuel 2. He failed as a father and his sons, Hophni and Phinehas, were a terrible disgrace to his father and to God. “Now the sons of Eli were scoundrels; they had no regard for the Lord or for the duties of the priests to the people” (1Sam.2:12-13).

 Because of their pride, Eli’s two sons misused their positions as priests, mistreated people, and disregarded worship.3 Eli was aware of the unacceptable behavior of his sons but failed to discipline them.4 He had a very common problem we see today. He poured his efforts into his job as a high priest, but neglected to be the kind of parent his son’s needed.5 Because God cares about behavior, He dealt harshly with Eli’s two sons. “See, a time is coming when I will cut off your strength and the strength of your ancestor’s family, so that no one in your family will live to old age” (v.31). And as for Eli’s two sons? “…both of them shall die on the same day” (v.34). Wow! That was harsh, but when we understand that Eli was guilty of honoring his sons above God (v.29) and since sin was involved, God instituted deadly consequences.6

 There is something else rather interesting in God’s response to Eli. Recall that Reuben was Jacob’s firstborn, therefore Jacob referred to him as his strength. Those words represent one part of the element of the blessing–words of high value. Then, in the story of Eli, God referred to Eli’s crooked sons as Eli’s strength and that strength was cut off. Because of their poor choices that involved sin, they both died on the same day–no longer to be Eli’s strength. Although this real example may seem cruel, this judgment also sheds light of how deep is His love, and how much deeper it is than even our love for our children.

 My child, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, or lose heart when you are punished by him; for the Lord disciplines those whom he loves, and chastises every child whom he accepts. Moreover, we had human parents to discipline us, and we respected them. For they disciplined us for a short time as seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share his holiness. (Hebrews 12:5-6, 9-10)

 We mustn’t be like Eli who was unwilling to risk disciplining his sons. According to Trent and Smalley, “Discipline is an important way of actively committing ourselves to a child’s best interest.”7

 Next, we’ll look at the fourth way to demonstrate a genuine commitment to our children. This is a concept of loving (in action) what your children do (skills or professions) in life. This is a subtle observation that pulls a powerful emotional response from your children. You won’t want to miss what this is. It will leave an indelible mark on their lives.

 A wonderful resource for godly parenting is Focus on the Family at www.focusonthefamily.com. Click on the tab labeled “Parenting.” Great resource.

I’ve been getting lots of wonderful responses to this blog series and thanks to all of you who have commented. “Pleasant words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body” (Prov. 16:24). If you have a topic area you’d like me to post about after this series is over, please let me know. I want to know what my readers want. Thank you!

Blessings,

Lisa

 Notes

1 John Trent and Gary Smalley. The Blessing (Nashville, TN., Thomas Nelson, Inc., 1993), 141.

2 Ibid.142

3 Lisa Nixon Phillips. Faith Steps for Military Families (New York, NY., Morgan James Publishing, LLC., 2014) 141.

4 Ibid.

5 Ibid.

6 Ibid.

7 John Trent and Gary Smalley. The Blessing (Nashville, TN., Thomas Nelson, Inc., 1993), 143.

Did You Miss the Parental Blessing? Hugs Anyone?

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Did you miss the parental blessing?Part 5

“Then his father Isaac said to him, “Come near and kiss me, my son” (Genesis 27:26 NRSV).

Growing up with divorced parents, I saw my dad just a couple of times a year. I lived in Kansas and he lived in California. However, the distance between us would make one think that we weren’t that close. But actually, we were. I think the reason for that was two-fold: we both enjoyed great conversation when we visited and he was affectionate. My dad understood the value of a hug and words that conveyed approval. He often put his hands on my shoulders when standing in line, posing together for a picture, or when introducing me to his friends or coworkers. And I always got a big embrace when he met me at the airport or when he was sending me back home. Even though my parents were divorced, his appropriate and meaningful touch is one of my best reflections as a child of divorce.

In this on-going series about the blessing, we’ll learn the first of five elements that make up the blessing. Today, we will look at the first one: Meaningful and Appropriate Touch.

 The bible says in Genesis 27:26 “Then his father Isaac said to him, “Come near and kiss me, my son” (NRSV). The act of physically touching someone to bestow the family blessing was common and a vital aspect of the ancient Hebrew culture.

 God didn’t give us hands just for working, but to also show meaningful approval, acceptance and love to our children. Jesus knew the importance of touch. He used His touch to heal people. And He also knew who needed His touch the most–the outcasts of society. They were deprived of touch. Moved by compassion, Jesus sought out these untouchables and did the unthinkable. He reached out his hands and touched them. Just ponder on that for a moment. Think about how long it may have been for some of the lepers to feel someone’s touch, let alone the touch of Jesus. Just think how it made them feel to know that someone cared, accepted and approved of them– simply from Jesus’ loving touch.

 Then there was the children…children were often treated as second-class citizens in Jesus’ day, but Jesus didn’t view them with that perspective. “Then he took a little child and put it among them; and taking it in his arms, he said to them, ‘Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes not me but the one who sent me’”(Mark 9:36-37 NRSV).

 We all need meaningful touch in our lives and when we don’t get it, we suffer. Children with parents who show very little affection through meaningful and appropriate touch are at a much greater risk of going through life longing for that embrace.

 Are you giving this vital component to your children? Did you receive appropriate and meaningful touch in your early life? If not, in what way did it impact your life? As always, I’m eager to hear your story in the comment section below.

 Here’s what I’ve got for you on Monday. We’ll take a look at the second element of the blessing. Anyone want to guess what it is? Don’t forget to download my bonus item. My 15-Day Devotional that lets you follow along in my book chapter by chapter. Just enter your name and email in the box at the top right.

Is an Ungodly Fear Keeping You from Moving Forward?

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Man jumping in Sun Rays

What fear did God help you overcome?

“…do not fear, for I am with you; do not be afraid, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my victorious right hand” (Isaiah 41:10).

Have you ever been charged with a task that seemed beyond your capabilities? My daughter, Megan, recently began a new job and at first this job seemed a bit over her head, but as the weeks tick off, she is attaining new skills, growth, and confidence in her abilities.

In my last blog post, we read about how Joshua took his anxiety and apprehension over leading two million people into the promise land to God. And God comforted and assured Joshua that He would go with him. “As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will not fail you or forsake you” (Joshua 1:5).

I wish I had known of Joshua’s story of courage and trust in God when I was at a fork in the road in my own life. It was 1982, and I had just graduated with my two-year degree in elementary education and I would soon transfer to a four year university to complete my coursework. But when it came to do my student teaching, paralysis stopped me in my tracks. This wasn’t a brief moment of anxiety, but a core fear that laid dormant for years until the reality of my fear rose to the surface and I had to confront it. Even though I was a daughter of the Most High King, I certainly didn’t possess or reflect His empowerment to reject this fear and move forward trusting God. I learned later–years later, that this fear was an ungodly fear and it comes from our enemy, the devil.

See, I had left a home filled with a spirit of fear and mired in deep conflict. This home atmosphere dominated my thoughts and became critical, serious, and unforgiving. My daily responsibilities around our country home, and how I did them were under constant scrutiny – and the one mantra I heard over and over was, “You don’t think! You don’t use your head!” Those words reverberated in my head over and over for many years. By the time I was eighteen, I had a dreadful complex of a fear of failing, but I never disclosed the degree to which this fear had a hold on me. Not even to my grandmother, who did pray for me. It was my own exclusive torment.

The unspoken truth buried deep inside my heart was that I didn’t believe I was capable or good enough to pass the student teaching portion of my schooling. Truth was, any constructive criticism about my student teaching made by seasoned teachers would have crushed me. I knew their purpose was to help me succeed, but I didn’t believe I would succeed. I didn’t possess God’s affirmation of me then.  I couldn’t risk failing and being rejected because it would reveal how unworthy or incompetent I truly believed I was.  Sadly, I bailed from the teaching program altogether.

FEAR–it is a strong motivator either for good or for bad. If there’s one thing I’ve learned in my journey of faith in the years since, it’s that when you’ve surrendered to God’s will He never leaves you in your present state. If you’ll allow Him, He’ll take you far from where He found you. His grace sees everything–all our weaknesses, flaws, and hang ups, even hang ups caused by the words and actions of others. One of the first places God began working in me was my sense of worth. It’s ironic because this fear-of-failing theme that evolved into a fear of being rejected surfaced many times in my early 20’s. I noticed this pattern and determined that God wasn’t done with me; He was still chiseling out a new creation.

In growing in Him, I came to learn about the entanglements of harboring ungodly fear. Each time I applied for a certain job or when I finally returned to college and completed my accounting degree, I had to confront those negative messages and pray to God like Joshua did. I soaked up God’s Word about how He’s present in all my fearful situations and that I needed to call on Him to empower me to reject any ungodly fear. He began with these powerful words. “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9). In those times when I did fall short, I was secure in God’s acceptance.

Ungodly fear begins with doubt. When we doubt we become worried and this opens the door to fear. You may be familiar with Philippians 4:6-7, “Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” But have you ever noticed the four short words at the end of verse 5?  The Lord is near. When Paul wrote those words he was sitting in prision and contemplating possible death, but yet he said he was content (Phil.4:11). This is because he knew Jesus was with him there in that prison. And He is also with us in our fearful situations.

Today, I am nothing like that fearful twenty-year-old. I live in the truth that I’m affirmed by Jesus’ sacrifice for me, which proves His love and acceptance. Somewhere in this journey I realized a shift happened. My heart is content in the joy of living in God’s acceptance more than striving after other people’s approval. I do my best, but I try to leave the results to God. As my devotion to Jesus grew, His acceptance of me blotted out my ungodly fear-of-rejection complex. His approval of me is empowering, enabling me to be effective for Him.

If you haven’t shared your story of how fear became a barrier, please do. I would enjoy connecting with you.

Blessing,

Lisa  

What Fear Have You Conquered?

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What fear have you conquered?

What fear have you conquered?

Be strong and bold; have no fear or dread of them, because it is the Lord your God who goes with you; he will not fail you or forsake you” (Deu. 31:6).

 Sometimes to find victory in our lives we have to push forward despite our fears. The Israelites had trouble with this concept when they failed to trust God to allow Moses to lead them into the promise land. Their fear and lack of trust stopped them in their tracks –for 40 years!

  As a result, God allowed them to wander in the wilderness until the older, disobedient generation died. As they waited out the years, the younger generation was taught to obey God’s laws, and by the time they were adults they understood that faith in God and submission to his commands brought victory. But the opposite proved true as well. Disbelief and disobedience brought misfortune and heartbreak.

  When the next generation became adults they were ready to move into the promise land. Moses had died and his successor was Joshua. We know that Joshua had complete trust in God, but even he had fears to confront when he led 2 million people to conquer their enemies and claim a new land.

  Most of us have confronted some kind of fear in our lives. And sometimes this fear is simply the fear of the unknown. This is especially true if we leave God out of our fearful situations. New challenges often bring apprehension; Joshua knew this feeling well. He was overwhelmed by the task God charged him with. After all, he had big shoes to fill. Moses had stood before the Pharaoh of Egypt and requested to free God’s people. Now that was brave and courageous!

 Fear also rises up within us when we harbor doubt about ourselves. It’s possible, Joshua even doubted his abilities to get God’s job done. But, God comforted Joshua. “As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will not fail you or forsake you. Be strong and courageous; for you shall put this people in possession of the land that I swore to their ancestors to give them…” (Joshua 1:5-6 NKJV). Joshua moved forward, trusting in faith.

  I think it’s still reasonable to still have some degree of fear even when moving in faith. Faith is believing that God will do what He says He will do.  He may not remove all fear, but God will comfort and reassure us, so in our humanity we don’t allow our fear to completely stop us. But faith is taking God at His Word, knowing that if He says He is with us, like He told Joshua, then He is with us, too, in all our fearful situations.

  Think back to one fearful situation you had. Did your fear prompt your heart to seek God for assurance and affirmation–to ask Him to go with you despite your fear? Without God our new challenges can be frightening, but with God they can lead us into a new journey that leads to victory.

 On Wednesday, I’ll share how fear and a lack of my understanding of God’s nature stopped me from taking the next step in a career path that left me with a season of regret.

Since my website and blog is new, I would really enjoy hearing about a fearful situation you experienced and how you pushed through to victory with God. Below is a from to submit your story ­–and I promise I will reply. Connecting with you is important to me. Thanks! 

  Blessings,

Lisa

Introduction – Psalms of Ascent

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Smaller size Bible on top of FlagIn Leviticus 23, God ordained seven national celebrations called “festivals” for the Israelites to observe. His purpose for these festivals was to establish worship and fellowship into Israel’s culture, and He commanded the Israelites to designate a time of coming together for spiritual renewal and thanksgiving for all God had accomplished on their behalf.

There were three festivals that required them to travel to Jerusalem: Passover, Pentecost, and the Festival of Tabernacles. It is here that the Psalms of Ascent come into play. They are a group of fifteen hymns from Psalms 120-134 which the Israelites (also referred to as pilgrims) would sing as they made the difficult journey by foot to Jerusalem. Written by various authors–including king’s Hezekiah, David, and Solomon–each psalm communicates a theme or a concern common in their day. Behind such themes as fear, danger, hostility protection, trust, contentment, joy, sorrow, harassment, and honor are genuine accounts of real people who experienced life in raw form. They’re honest testimonies sung with deep emotion. Centuries old, yet the topics in the Psalms of Ascent are of great concern or interest to military service members and their families today. Tucked within the themes are rich and distinctive metaphors, which expand our understanding of the psalms and amplifies their relevance to the culture and faith of the ancient Israelites. As the pilgrims traveled, they recited the psalms, each one a step in their trek to Jerusalem. The overarching premise of the Psalms of Ascent is that their faith made a difference in the outcome of their lives.

The psalms are timely in light of America’s recent war campaigns. Military families can draw vital spiritual lessons that can contribute to their spiritual readiness levels as they answer the call of their commander-in-chief to support and defend America’s moral values, its Judeo-Christian faith and her freedoms.

The title “Psalms of Ascent” originated from several suggested meanings. The most widely known one is that the fifteen psalms relate to the fifteen steps going from the Court of Women to the Court of Israel in the temple in Jerusalem. (If you have a study Bible, check in the Topical Index for “temple” to see if a temple diagram is provided.) Another suggested view is the relationship between Mount Zion and the location of the temple in Jerusalem. Seemingly, the pilgrims continued to sing these psalms as they ascended Mount Zion to reach the temple. It is also worth noting that because these psalms were sung, they’re also referred to as the “Songs of Ascent” and also as the “Pilgrim’s Songs.”

I’ve also seen the Psalms of Ascent referred to as “Songs of Degrees,” a view presented by John Lightfoot and E. Thirtle.1 This view makes a correlation between King Hezekiah and the degrees on his father’s, King Ahaz’s, sundial. Sundials in this period were sometimes made in the form of miniature staircases so that the shadows moved up and down the steps.2 Second Kings 20 gives the story of Hezekiah’s brush with death. Because he came down ill and wasn’t expected to recover, the prophet Isaiah told him to put his affairs in order. In great distress, Hezekiah prayed to God, calling attention to his faithfulness to God as a king (v. 3). Moved by the king’s prayer, God healed him and gave the king an additional fifteen years of life. Because there was some doubt on the part of the king that God would do as He promised, the king asked for a sign.3 Isaiah told Hezekiah that God would turn the shadow on the steps back by ten degrees. “The prophet Isaiah cried to the Lord; and he brought the shadow back the ten intervals, by which the sun had declined on the dial of Ahaz” (v. 11). Because there are ten Psalms of Ascent in which the authors are not identified, the suggestion is they were written by King Hezekiah matching the ten degrees that the sundial retreated,4 with the remaining five authored by the others already mentioned. In 2 Kings 20:5 is an interesting association. God instructed King Hezekiah, upon his healing to go up to the temple on the third day.5

Some scholars treat the fifteen psalms as the five stages (three psalms each), a believer experiences on his or her journey to maturity in Christ. Others group them according to the tone and intended purposes. For example, Psalm 127 and 128 deal with the home and family and therefore are placed next to each other. In my research, there doesn’t appear to be one exact interpretation of the meaning of each psalm. However, there does seem to be similar interpretations between authors. My presentation of the Psalms of Ascent in this book reflect commonly held views for a practical approach for understanding and applying the spiritual principles of each psalm to experiences common to the military lifestyle.

For the greatest benefit, read the Psalm of Ascent that precedes each chapter and contemplate the significance of its meaning, considering tone and emotion. Also consider what application the psalm would serve for your life and circumstances now. If you’re comfortable with writing in your Bible, consider keeping it next to you when reading each chapter, making notes in the margins.

Have you always wanted to know more about the lives of the ancient Israelites, their culture, faith, trials, triumphs, traditions, and also learn about God’s nature in ways that will lead to a deeper worship experience? It is my hope that as you take this journey with me through the Psalms of Ascent, you will find new aspects of God’s nature and biblical truths and principles to apply to your military marriage, family, and personal journey of faith.

May God bless you from Zion.

Military Parents: Have You Deployed Your Arrows Yet?

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“Sons are indeed a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward” (Psalm 127:3).Group of elementary school children

 Have you and your husband deployed your arrows yet? I’m talking about children, that is, not actual arrows released from a bow. However, I love the fact that Psalm 127 uses the metaphor of “arrows” to describe our children. This psalm, written by King Solomon, is a about the building of our homes and the gift of children.  He says, “Sons are indeed a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward” (verse 3). Children are a reward, a blessing. For my sisters in Christ, even though verse 3 refers to sons, daughters are included in this blessing.

 As parents, it’s our responsibility in preparing our children for life outside of our home. This includes skill building for how to manage on their own, but it also includes training them up in God’s Word so they can add godly living to their lives, too. Indeed, God has tasked you and me with the job of aiming our children towards a relationship with Christ. But there’s more to this than simply raising godly children. There’s also a purpose behind this crucial responsibility.  Our children will become the next generation of salt and light dispensers in our dark and warped world. They become Christ’s agents as they live out their lives. While they are still with us in our homes, it’s important to ask ourselves, “Am I aiming my children in the right direction so they will hit their target for God?

 As I write this, my son, Lawrence, is just a couple of months away from his high school graduation. He has his eyes set on enlisting in the U.S. Navy, as his father did. Our influence as parents will never be as strong as it is right now, while he is still home where we can shape his mind with godly principles, desires, goals, and choices. When we release him into the world, to navigate his way through life, will he draw from his faith and relationship with Christ, or slowly mold into the culture of our world? This is where the rubber hits the road for me. As his mother, did I carry out my responsibility to my fullest potential in steering both of my children towards a faith in Jesus? Did I incorporate into their lives good building materials that leads them to develop their own unique relationship with Jesus–a foundation that equips them with a stout faith and of God’s Word? In other words, did my faith make an imprint on their lives to such a degree that I leave them a legacy of faith?

 Fortunately, just because our children will leave the security of our homes doesn’t mean our influence as parents comes to an end. In reality, parenting doesn’t ever end. It just changes. Our daughter, while in college, often called us for our opinions, or our thoughts on something. This was my confirmation that her father and I must of done something right because she values our responses, whether they are spiritual in nature, or just wise in practical living.  Everything else they encounter in life once released from our charge is entrusted into God’s hands and prayed over.

If you have a story or comment about this article, please share! I want to connect with you.

Military Familiy: Changes and Challenges

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Military Family with Moving Boxes     The other day while I was organizing my bookshelves in my office, I found my journal from 1993. It was in bad shape. The pages inside had already come apart from the spine and the cover was loosely attached. I flipped it open and there on the inside of the cover was my synopsis of that year. I had written, ‘The Year of Change.’

 I remember that year well. Right out of the gate, the first couple of weeks of the new year our lives were suddenly turned upside down.  My husband, Ray, was newly stationed aboard the U.S.S. Carl Vinson in Bremerton, Washington. It was finishing up a nearly three year ship overhaul, but was scheduled to return to its homeport in Alameda, California later that year. This meant that we would have to rent out our home we purchased three years earlier and move into base housing in California.

Like many military families, we decided to make the move early in the year in order to get our name on the housing waiting list. Suddenly, we went into a frenzy pulling up our shallow roots and initiating moving plans. We had to advertise our home for rent, interview prospective tenants, finish the painting project we had started, and the worst chore of all – the packing. However, as soon as we made the decision to do a DITY (Do It Yourself) move, the challenges began.

While packing one day, I got a call from my mother. My grandfather had passed away. He was my last grandparent, but unfortunately it wasn’t possible to fly back to Kansas to attend his funeral. We had found tenants for our home and we had to be out the following week. I felt trapped – between what my heart wanted to do and what my military life required of me. To make matters worse, the morning we picked up our moving truck the whole western part of Washington State had been hit by a bad wind and rain storm during the night. We woke up with no power. Trying to make the best of it, we packed as fast as we could while we had the winter daylight, and used candles and a flashlight when darkness fell.

As luck would have it, that same night my husband remembered something. He missed taking the Chief’s exam that morning. Thanks to the wicked storm the night before and how it had complicated our efforts to pack and get our long list of “to-do’s”  done,  it escaped both our minds. To top it off, while he was supposed to be taking the Chief’s exam, I was to head down to Seattle for my last doctor’s appointment with my infertility specialist. That didn’t happen either. Nothing about this move had gone well.

 My frustration quickly melted into a heavy cloud of discouragement. See, 1993 was the start of our third year of infertility treatments. And since my husband had to return to the ship back in Washington State after moving us to California, we were looking at six to eight months of living apart. This was in addition to the eighteen months we had already been living apart since the ship was on the other side of the Puget Sound from where our home was located. Driving the four hour daily commute around the Sound wasn’t reasonable. In those days, there wasn’t a commuter van nor did the military reimburse us for ferry tickets. To cut costs, Ray stayed on the ship and only came home every other weekend. In my mind, 1993 was written off as another lost year for any hope of becoming pregnant. Everything about our life was either on hold or was suddenly changing for the worse.

 It’s a good thing that we don’t know how our lives will unfold ahead of time. If we did, there would be little need to trust God. Like me, you may have experienced a lingering spirit of discouragement while living out the military lifestyle. As military spouses, we have to be both a mother and a father, cope with sudden changes, and unexpected decisions made by military leaders we don’t even know. We must be able to handle emergencies, move around the world, give up good jobs, and have super-human patience. Above all else, we must be selfless, but at the same time swell with pride, endure the ache and loneliness of long separations, keep going when weary, but all the while say, ‘I still love you’ even when at times we question our love for the military life.

 After three more years of constant infertility treatments, carefully scheduled around the ship’s calendar, we decided to call it quits. We grew weary from the monthly emotional rollercoaster and the cocktail of infertility treatments over the years. The stress had taken its toll on our marriage by dictating every part of our lives. However, quitting didn’t mean that my heart was ok with our decision, nor did it mean that I was giving up. It meant that it was time for a different strategy. Even though my emotions were fragile and my spirit was broken, my heart conceded in giving the infertility battle up to God. Giving it really meant that I was giving it to the Lord to manage. 

It was a day by day decision. I still cried and I continued to pray for the blessing of a second child, but with God’s timing.

 As it turned out, it ended up being a total of seven years before giving birth to our son, Lawrence. And it only happened after we threw up the white surrender flag and giving up the battle to God.

 When circumstances seem to be going against us, it’s tempting to conclude that God is doing the same. But that couldn’t be further from the truth. When discouragement befalls us we need to watch out for our Adversary, Satan. He wants us to remain discouraged. To win that battle, run to God and soak in His Word. His Word has sustaining power and is life to our hearts and bodies. His Word is medicine to our souls. “It will be healing for your flesh and a refreshment for your body” (Proverbs 3:8).

It’s true, the military life can let us down, creating roadblocks to seeing our hopes and dreams to fruition. We should remember that God has not abandoned us. He is for us. Psalm 3:3 says, “But you, O Lord, are a shield around me, …and the one who lifts up my head.” God is on the side of those who pursue Him. By focusing our thoughts on God instead of our disheartening circumstances, He rebuilds our trust and faith in him. This is the lifting of our heads Psalm 3:3 describes.

Remember, there is nothing you and I can experience that first hasn’t passed through God’s hands. He always has a reason for why He allows a season of challenges to touch us. No matter what our situation is, His priority is to build our faith. By acknowledging God’s presence in our lives, we are encouraged to be attentive to God’s guiding hand. “As the eyes of servants look to the hand of their master…so our eyes look to the Lord our God…” (Psalm 123:2). Keep praying, but allow God the time to work.

 

 

 

 

 

The Anguished Man

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Vietnam3SoldiersHe was sitting there, his face appearing tired and worn; his clothes clean, but torn.

In his hand he held an old faded ball cap, and a small cat lay sleeping peacefully on his lap.

Lots of people were rushing by, but it was me who caught the strange man’s eye.

He smiled, then I smiled, but like all the others, I too quickly passed by.

“Mommy,” my daughter said to me, “What’s wrong with that man? Why does he sit out here all alone? And why does he look so sad?”

“I don’t know,” I guiltily replied. Curious, I stopped and glanced back. His head bent low as his hands were busy fingering shiny letters on his ball cap.

Instinctively I knew. It wasn’t hard to see. He was a  man of sacrifice and pain, now a misfit of society.

Then, carefully and meticulously, he placed his ball cap on his head, and then began to gently stroke the back of his beloved pet.

It was then I read the words of those shiny letters,

“Vietnam Vet.”

-Lisa N. Phillips