Tag Archives: Faith

Tattoos – Are They Sinful?

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What Does the Bible Really Say About Christians Getting Tattoos?

What Does the Bible Really Say About Christians Getting Tattoos?

The Air Force recently announced a change in their tattoo policy for service members. This new policy which takes effect February 1, 2017 will now allow both arm and leg sleeves. In addition, the Air Force is doing away with the “25 percent rule.” This rule stated that no more than 25% of a visible body part, say an arm or leg, could be tattooed. However, what hasn’t changed is having tattoos with inappropriate messages, whether wording or images and including racist or sexist tattoos. The regulation continues to forbid tattoos on head, neck, face, tongue, lips or scalp, according to LT. Gen. Gina Grosso, deputy Chief of Staff for the Air Force Manpower, Personnel and Services.1

For Christian service members, is it sinful to get a tattoo? What does the Bible tell us about tattoos and whether or not it is wrong? The most popular Scripture verse that addresses this concern is Leviticus 19:28:

“You shall not make any cuts in your body for the dead nor make any tattoo marks on yourselves: I am the Lord.”

Get the Whole Picture

If we take Leviticus 19:28 literally without taking into consideration the rest of this passage, without understanding the culture of that time, we would say that tattoos for Christian service members is not allowed. But is this what Leviticus 19:28 really teaches? First, here is the complete passage that includes the references to tattoos.

26“You shall not eat any flesh with the blood in it. You shall not interpret omens or tell fortunes. 27You shall not round off the hair on your temples or mar the edges of your beard. 28You shall not make any cuts on your body for the dead or tattoo yourselves: I am the Lord. 29Do not profane your daughter by making her a prostitute, lest the land fall into prostitution and the land become full of depravity. 30You shall keep my Sabbaths and reverence my sanctuary: I am the Lord.’”

In the above passage, God is addressing the people of Israel. These practices mentioned were habits of the Canaanites. Since the Israelites were God’s beloved people this command was specifically directed to the Israelites to protect them from being corrupted by the habits or customs of the Canaanites. God knew it would lead them towards the false gods of the Canaanites and ultimately draw them into sin. As you can see, tattooing is included in this pagan religion.  

When taken as a whole, this passage is referring to the practices of heathen people groups. The word ‘heathen’ refers to those people who didn’t acknowledge the one true God. The above practices referring to hair and beards go back to what the ancient Egyptians did. The Israelites while in Egypt were exposed to these cultural norms. God required His people to be separate from them, or to be set apart.

Pagan Customs

Verse 28 referring to making cuts on their body for the dead or getting tattoos is another pagan custom. The marking of bodies with tattoos or cuts was a custom done in respect for the dead, however, again, this was a custom the Israelites witnessed during their time in Egypt. So, with that basic understanding, what does this passage say about Christ-followers today? Do we conclude, like the Israelites did, that getting tattoos is sinful? Not so fast…

Christ Freed Us from Old Testament Law

New Testament Christians are not bound to Old Testament laws in order to have salvation in Christ. If we were then we’d also have to be bound to other laws of the Old Testament such as how we wear our hair, the clothes we wear, the food we eat, etc. This, however, doesn’t give us the license to now disregard the Ten Commandments because there are verses in the New Testament that speak to them.

“And he [Jesus] said to him, “Why do you ask me about what is good? There is only one who is good. If you would enter life, keep the commandments.”’ Matthew 19:17

Additionally, we are still held accountable for moral laws such as lying, stealing, adultery, and cheating. Sabbath-keeping is the only commandment of the Ten Commandments that is not referenced in the New Testament.

According to Matt Slick, President and Founder of the Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry, “We see no New Testament commands that tell us to keep the sacrificial system, forbid work on the Sabbath, forbid the shaving of beards, or forbid tattoos, etc. Since we have died to the law and all things are lawful (except sin, of course), then the Christian is not under obligation to keep the Old Testament command not to get tattooed.” Remember, if tattooing is sin, then so are the other elements of this passage. (shaving of beards, working on the Sabbath, etc.),

Freedom in Christ Comes With A Warning

Because Christians are ‘free from the OT Law in Christ’ we don’t have to be unnecessarily worried about any ‘pagan association.’ However, Paul does give us one warning that we do have to observe. We shouldn’t exercise our freedom at the cost of hurting a Christian brother or sister. We must be sensitive to others spiritual and physical needs. Nothing we do should cause another believer to stumble. Simply, what we practice in this life must be for promoting His glory.

So, is it ok then for a Christian to get a tattoo? Yes and No. It boils down to the believer’s motives and opinions. Since tattooing is a permanent marking AND it comes with a particular social stigma, he or she needs to really consider if this is a right thing to do. The Christian needs to determine whether or not getting a tattoo will glorify God and be a good witness to non-Christians. Does the tattoo represent who you are in Christ or does the selection of tattoos merely represent self- expression or body art? Tattoos that glorify our Lord and Savior can be a powerful witness, prompting faith questions or sharing their life testimony, thus giving God the glory. For example, if a Christian is a retired military Chaplain and works with youth in his local church, his tattoos could be a starting point for powerful faith conversations.

One Final Thought…

And finally, those Christians that tattoo their bodies (or pierce their bodies or any other body modification) do not fall from a right standing before God. Since we are no longer under the law– we are in good standing with God. This is because we placed our trust in Jesus and accepted His death on the cross to pay for our sins.

“Therefore the law was our disciplinarian until Christ came, so that we might be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer subject to a disciplinarian for in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith.” Galatians 3:24-25 (New Revised Standard Version)

If you’re considering getting a tattoo, come back and read part 2 of this article. A great deal of thought should go into the decision before getting a tattoo. Remember that there are Christians who feel strongly one way or the other about tattoos. Leave room in your heart for grace. 

Notes:

1 Oriana Pawlyk, “Air Force Relaxes Tattoo Policy, Allows Sleeves.” http://www.military.com/daily-news/2017/01/10/air-force-relaxes-tattoo-policy-allows-sleeves.html, (accessed 1/10/17).

If you would like to order a copy of my book, Faith Steps for Military Families here.

If you’d like a signed copy of my book, email me at info@lisanixonphillips.com and we can connect via email. Thank you. Books are $10.00 each and this includes shipping. When you order a book, I will also include a set of my colorful prayer cards that also make excellent bookmarks. Makes a great gift idea!

 

 

 

 

10 Prayers for Military Families

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Did you get the blessing?

Did you get the blessing?

The greatest thing you can do for today’s military families is to pray for them.

Prayer activates God’s manifestation and presence into that which we are praying for.

One key area to pray for is spiritual resilience. Spiritual resilience is the fruit, or the by-products of an abiding relationship with Jesus. It means the difference between simply reacting to adverse circumstances as opposed to working through them with God’s involvement.  When spiritual resiliency is present in military families faith makes a genuine difference in their lives and circumstances. Spiritual resilience positions the military family to rebound. Here are 10 prayers for military families:

Spiritual Growth

Having a weak spiritual foundation leaves a military family vulnerable to adverse circumstances. Pray that Christ’s power, His love, and His presence would be manifested in their lives. Pray for God to give them a hunger for the Lord. Ask the Lord to establish a stable and godly foundation in their home.  “Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain” (Psalm 127:1).

Maintaining a Spirit of Praise

God’s Word shows us that there is great power in praise. Ask the Lord to give military families a praising tongue even when life is hard and things aren’t going well. “I will praise You, Lord, my God, with all my heart; I will glorify Your name forever” (Psalm 86:12). Ask God to remind them that when they pray, even in the most challenging circumstances, God’s power transforms them, their attitudes, and even their circumstances. Pray that God will show them that in giving God all praise the Holy Spirit moves in and brings new insights and a fresh anointing of inspiration and a greater awareness of God’s involvement in their daily lives.

God Provision for Strength

Pray that in times of weariness that God would be their Source of strength. Second Chronicles 16:9 says, “For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the entire earth, to strengthen those whose heart is true to him…” Ask God for His Word to revive their hearts and refresh their spirits for renewed strength. Pray that God’s power would be sufficient to face each day in His strength and confidence. Ask God to add a measure of endurance during trials. “May you be made strong with all the strength that comes from his glorious power, and may you be prepared to endure everything with patience” (Colossians 1:11).

God’s Blessing Upon Their Home

Pray that God would be in the establishment of their home, as well as in the building of the “lives” of the home. Pray that the hearts of each military family would come to revere (respect, honor, and awe) the Lord. “Happy [blessed] is everyone who fears the Lord, who walks in his ways. You shall eat the fruit of the labor of your hands; you shall be happy [blessed], and it shall go well with you” (Psalm 128:1-2). Ask God for a lifetime attitude of reverence and awe of God to be genuine and evident. Pray that obedience to God’s Word would become a priority in their home, and that God would be an active participant in the life of the home, affecting circumstances to bring about His desire will. Pray for a spirit of unity and forgiveness to be present in their home.

Peace

Pray that military families would cast their cares and burdens upon Jesus. May they take these worries to Him in prayer.  Ask Him to protect their hearts from fear or dread. Pray that they will know that God is on their side. Ask God to encamp around their hearts when oppressed. “The Lord is a stronghold for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble” (Psalm 9:9).

Contentment

Pray for a quiet trust of God for all of life’s unknowables.  Our humility from the standpoint of Who He is produces trust and when we quietly trust He gives us contentment. His Word satisfies and ruts out discontentment. Pray that military families will always seek God in all their ways. Ask Him to protect their hearts from wandering from His Word. 

An Umbrella of Protection

–As the mountains surround Jerusalem, so the Lord surrounds his people” (Psalm 125:1-2). Pray that God’s protection will be like that of the ancient days in which our strong and mighty God surrounded Jerusalem–protecting her. Pray God would also surround and protect military families stationed in all parts of the world.  Protect them from injury, danger, acts of evil, diseases, or calamities. “You hem me in, behind and before, and lay your hand upon me” (Psalm 139:5). Ask God to also protect them by keeping their spiritual resolve strong. “…he will cover you with his pinions, [to restrain someone] and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness is a shield and buckler” [small shield worn on the forearm] (Psalm 91:4).

Military Marriages

Marriage is hard these days, but a military marriage is like no other with its multifaceted issues and concerns. Pray that military couples will walk in love seeking the good of the other, abandoning pride, anger, disrespect and self-seeking ways. Ask God to draw their heart’s close with a lasting commitment. Pray that they can walk in agreement with one another (Amos 3:3) whether home or deployed. Ask God to give them a heart that desires to honor their spouse. Ask God to maintain a loving attitude towards each other, sprinkled with grace and compassion. While there may be growth when apart, pray it is the kind of growth that adds life, blessing, and meaning to their union. And pray the Lord will maintain a strong spirit of unity within these marriages.

Maintaining a Positive Attitude

Pray that military families will embrace God as the One to place their hopes and expectations in. Ask God to strengthen them in their resolve and spirit to prevent bouts of doubt and lingering discouragement when lonely or insecure. Pray for the Holy Spirit to fill them with fresh hope and wash away any negative emotions. Ask the Lord to lift our military families from any pits of discouragement. “Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer” (Romans 12:12).

Being God-Minded

 Pray for times of quiet reflection and meditation so that they can hear God’s spirit directing their lives. Grow in them a love for God’s Word and ask for God’s spirit to govern their human spirit so that they seek after Him and not the things of the flesh. Pray for God’s spirit to lead them into Christ-likeness. May they not “lean on their own understanding” (Prov. 3:5) but trust in Your divine leading. Pray they will walk in the light of God’s Word, so the eyes of their understanding will be enlightened and gain wisdom for how to live a life that pleases God.

See also my article Praying For Our Military here

If you would like to order a copy of my book, Faith Steps for Military Families here.

If you’d like a signed copy of my book, email me at info@lisanixonphillips.com and we can connect via email. Thank you. Books are $10.00 each and this includes shipping. When you order a book, I will also include a set of my colorful prayer cards that also make excellent bookmarks. Makes a great gift idea!

Lisa

  

  

 

Are You Wearing God’s Helmet?

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Are You Being Protected by God's Helmet of Salvation?

Are You Being Protected by God’s Helmet of Salvation?

We are now ready for the fifth piece of God’s armor as explained in Ephesians 6:10-17–the Helmet of Salvation. For the previous article on the Armor of God, click here.  The most obvious purpose of the Roman’s helmet was to protect the head. Most of the helmets were constructed of metal and sometimes included two additional pieces: a protective plate for the cheeks and a metal piece to cover the back of the neck.

But how is the helmet linked to salvation? First of all, we need to acknowledge that our minds are modern day battlefields. How well we perform at renewing our minds with God’s Word will determine whether we are wearing the helmet or not. First Thessalonians 5:8-9 offers insight:

But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, and put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation.

You probably have noticed when watching biblical movies depicting brutal war scenes that the last piece of armor to put on was the helmet–only then was the soldier considered ready for battle. Not wearing the helmet would of been a fatal mistake.

Like the helmet, our salvation is supposed to be impenetrable, but only when we put it on. Think of salvation as an ongoing state of being, rather than one event in time. The connection between the helmet and salvation reveals to us that Satan’s blows are meant to destroy the Christian’s confidence and security in Christ. Like a helmet that continually protects, we must also continually protect our brains from worldly influences. Philippians 2:12 says,

“Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, enabling you both to will and to work for his good pleasure.”

Hope. Sacrifice. Salvation

In the spiritual realm, we must be continually cultivating our faith. This ‘working out’ our salvation  shields the mind from attacks of confusion that would cause a Christian to remain in a state of doubt and deception.  When we’re working out our faith, God will reward such faith. The helmet also offers hope – hope that originates from our heavenly Father doesn’t break or decay. God’s form of hope is permanent, unlike worldly hope that is fleeting– His promise of salvation is also permanent– made possible only by the sacrifice that Jesus made. Lastly, Jesus’ sacrifice also is permanent. It will never become irrelevant or obsolete. Hope, Sacrifice and Salvation are three sure treasures that won’t disappoint. Put your faith into what is the only sure thing, because He is the way, the Truth, and the Light.

Faith Helmets

However,  we run the risk, when not wearing our faith helmets to be blindsided by discouragement and doubt. One way Satan does this is by bringing to the surface all that is wrong or negative in our lives. This has the potential to cause us to lose our confident (trust) in our heavenly Father. Wearing our spiritual helmets is vital for protecting our brains, which is the control center for our bodies. By wearing the Helmet of Salvation we are better protected to survive, and spiritually speaking, to be victorious against Satan’s attacks. God will enable us to reject doubts that arise in the circumstances of our lives and will reward our faith with more faith.

Salvation as a Treasure

An aspect of our helmet of salvation is that when we perceive our salvation as a treasure, we more often tend to live a life pleasing to the Lord. This zeal for the Lord extinguishes many of Satan’s fiery darts. But how can we keep our zeal without working out our salvation? When we’ve programed our minds to think on God’s Word and simultaneously work out our salvation on a daily basis, we deliberately choose to wear our helmets–and this honors Christ. (Philippians 4:8).

Pray this prayer for the Helmet of Salvation and as you pray, visually picture yourself putting God’s Helmet of Salvation on your head.

 Lord Jesus Christ

Protect me from those who plan evil against me.

Your Word says in Psalm 140:7: “O LORD, my Lord, my strong deliverer, you have covered my head in the day of battle. I trust that You will stand by me. Help me to take every “proud obstacle raised up against the knowledge of God” captive to obey Christ” (2 Cor. 10:5). Help me to fix my thoughts on You and to the honorable task of working out my faith. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

 

Does Your Shield of Faith Have A Door Knob? – Armor of God Series

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Ancient Roman soldier with his shield

There are three purposes of the Shield of Faith.

Today, we will take a look at the fourth piece of armor that Paul encourages us to put on–the shield of faith. My last three blog posts have dealt with items we wear: the belt, the breastplate, and the shoes. Click on the links to check those articles out.

Instead of the typical shield that we see depicted on movie screens, the shield the Roman soldiers carried were actually a slightly curved rectangular shape between three and three and a half feet tall, and equally as wide. And centered in the middle of the shield was a large metal knob. This knob was called a boss.1 The size of the Roman shield afforded the soldier a great deal of protection. Because of its curved nature, it could deflect attacks from the side. With the added metal knob, the soldier had an edge to knock down his opponent. So, what does the Roman shield have to do with faith?

What Is Faith?

To understand the link between the Roman shield and our faith, let’s understand first Hebrews 11:1:

Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (NRSV).

When we are hoping for something to materialize it means we haven’t seen it yet. When we do see it materialize, it becomes tangible or it becomes a reality. Faith then is the confidence in God that we already have what we are hoping for. It is the belief, or the confidence, that because of God’s faithfulness, He will fulfill His promises to us. This conviction is based on trust. We trust in God’s character, meaning we believe who He says He is, and we believe in His promises-that He will do what He says He will do. From the perspective of trust, we then have assurance and conviction and we will demonstrate our faith in that we will have what we hope for.

How Are the Shield and Faith Connected?

First, the shield guards. The shield of faith also guards us spiritually when we’re in the trenches of physical hardships. Remember Shadrach, Meshack and Abed-Nego? They were physically in a burning furnace – a real physical crisis. These three teenagers had an unwavering faith, supported by their obedience to God’s commands. As a result, God empowered them to hold onto their faith with the boldness to tell the king they wouldn’t bow to worship the golden image. Thus, God protected them physically, even though these boys didn’t know if God would actually deliver them from certain death.

If our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire and out of your hand, O king, let him deliver us. But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods and we will not worship the golden statue that you have set up (Daniel 3:17-18).

Shield of Faith Averts

Since the ancient Romans used shields that were slightly curved around the edges, it had the ability to repel hits from their enemies. We have an enemy today-Satan. And he often pursues us by shooting his fiery darts of worry, doubt, and fear. These are some of his weapons to pull us off our game and to get us to doubt God’s faithfulness or that God isn’t in control of all that touches our lives. If we let our shield of faith down, then we are exposed and we are vulnerable to Satan’s attacks.

Shield of Faith Fends Off

Remember that boss- the doorknob? That doorknob-like structure has a purpose. It can be used by the soldier to shove back or repel his enemy. It can literally knock his foe to the ground, thereby incapacitating him for that final attack. What would we use as a modern day boss? The doorknob in our faith today would be our obedience to God’s will and His ways, and in our works of service. These actions build our faith, they repel attacks from Satan and help us to live a resilient life.

Shields Work As A Wall

I’m sure you’ve seen it–when enemies sent arrows up into the sky, soldiers closed ranks. Soldiers on the outside used their shields to form a wall around the perimeter. Then those in the middle raised their shields over their heads to protect everyone from free-falling arrows and other projectiles. This technique is called the “tortoise,” formation.2

The Call-to-Action

If Christians today use their faith to build up one another, we too, can become a strong soldier in God’s army.

Blessings,

Lisa

Notes:

1 The Great Teachings of the Bible and What They Mean for You: The Armor of God, Lesson 5: The Shield of Faith, www.freebiblestudyguides.org/bible-teaching/armor-of-god-shield-of-faith.htm, accessed 9-1-16.

2 Ibid.

 

Godly Wisdom vs. Human Wisdom

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Godly wisdom protects us on the road of life.

If any of you is lacking in wisdom, ask God, who gives to all generously and ungrudgingly, and it will be given you” (James 1:5 nrsv)

The definition of wisdom according to the eleventh edition of the Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary is the ability to “discern inner qualities and relationships through insight, good sense, judgment, a generally accepted belief, a wise attitude, or course of action.”

For the most part we would agree the above definition is accurate, but there are two flaws in it that I see. First, it lacks wisdom (understanding and insight) gained from the spiritual element, and second, a generally accepted belief doesn’t automatically qualify as wise living and decision making. Only seeking human solutions is operating in self-confidence. It isn’t sin to use human means to solve our problems, but it is sin to trust them more than God, to think they are better than God’s guidance, or to leave God completely out of the decision making process.1

 School of Hard Knocks

It’s true that we make sensible decisions and judgments from two sources: accumulated knowledge and experience. Worldly experience, whether good or bad is a prudent and intelligent teacher, and God can use our life experience as a rutter to steer us in a particular direction, but how do we make good decisions for difficult circumstances if we lack knowledge, and/or experience? We need the Holy Spirit for that. Providing wisdom is one of the Holy Spirit’s role.

God’s Rich Storehouse of Knowledge

The Holy Spirit will escort us into the knowledge we need. But we must do that intentionally. The key is to daily seek God to reveal His wisdom in all the areas of life we find challenging or in the opportunities we encounter. We need to seek His storehouse of wisdom deliberately and purposely – with hopeful expectation. When we do God will supply and He does so willingly or without reservation.

If you’re a Christ-follower, a generally accepted belief is not always the answer. There are numerous worldly perspectives that are in opposition to God’s Word and do not meet the criteria of ‘wise living.’ This is because God sees all the potential harm, whether physical or spiritual, such as temptation, or what is hidden from our understanding. Many of His precepts, those that are contrary to a worldly view, are there to protect us. If what we are trying to decide on is in direct disagreement to God’s Word, we can automatically rule that option out. The world will often adopt what is easy and convenient, but in my experience God doesn’t subscribe to just what’s convenient. It isn’t always convenient to obey God’s Word, but God blesses those who do.

Second Timothy 3: 16 says, “All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that everyone who belongs to God may be proficient, equipped for every good work” (nrsv).

The Bible is the standard for testing everything else that claims to be true.2 It is our safeguard against false instruction and our source of guidance for how we should live.3 It is one thing to know what to do when God gives us the guidance we need, but it’s another thing to actually do it. And if that’s the case, we also ask Him to equip us to carry it through. “All the paths of the lord are steadfast love and faithfulness, for those who keep his covenant and his decrees” (Psalm 25:10 nrsv).

Blessings,

Lisa

Notes:

1 Bible Note for 2 Chronicles 16:9, Life Application Bible (Iowa Falls, IA: World Bible Publisher, Inc., 1989).

2 Bible Note for 2 Timothy 3:16, Life Application Bible

3 Ibid.

To order my book, Faith Steps for Military Families, click here. If you’d like a set of prayer cards for our military members and military families, email me at info@lisanixonphillips.com. Be sure to leave your address for where to ship the prayer cards. Free shipping.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Psalm 134 – What Does It Mean to Bless the Lord?

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Did you know that word for to "bless" is related to the Hebrew word for "knee."

Did you know that word for to “bless” is related to the Hebrew word for “knee.”

“Come, bless the LORD, all you servants of the LORD, who stand by night in the house of the LORD! Lift up your hands to the holy place, and bless the LORD. May the LORD, maker of heaven and earth, bless you from Zion” (Psalm 134 NSRV).

Psalm 134 is a psalm of thanksgiving. Written by King David, it is three short verses with a powerful call to bless the Lord. But what does blessing the Lord mean?

The Great Overseer

First, the word blessed (barukh) is related to the Hebrew word for knee (berekh), as is the word for blessing, (b’rakha), thus implying an association between humbling ourselves, (i.e. kneeling before God in recognition of His blessedness) and receiving personal blessing from Him. Simply, to bless the Lord is to acknowledge God’s goodness He has bestowed on us, as well as His exalted status. In short, blessing the Lord is thanking Him for being the great Overseer of our lives. Psalm 103 is just one psalm among many that praise God for His greatness. Check out these reasons for why we should bless the Lord:

  • His forgiveness. “…who forgives all your iniquity…” (v.3 NRSV).
  • His healing. “…who heals all your diseases” (v.3).
  • His kindness. “…who redeems your life from the Pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy” (v.4).
  • His provision. “…who satisfies you with good as long as you live so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s” (v. 5).
  • His justice. “The LORD works vindication and justice for all who are oppressed” (v. 6).
  • His mercy and grace. “The LORD is merciful and gracious” (v.8).
  • His patience. “…slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love” (v.8).
  • His compassion. “As a father has compassion for his children, so the LORD has compassion for those who fear him” (v. 13).
  • His steadfast love. “But the steadfast love of the LORD is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear (revere, honor, in awe of him)” (v.17).

We Are the Apple of His Eye

This psalm highlights God’s magnificent acts He will do on behalf of those who love Him with their lives as well as His inconceivable nature. Our list of blessing (thanking) the Lord ought to include His provision of health (v.3) even though He may not choose to heal every disease. Still, every healing does come from God. He is on the side of the helpless and extends justice for those oppressed. The Psalms of Ascent, which is what this psalm is, (Click here to learn about the Psalms of Ascent) record God’s miraculous feats of preserving the ancient Israelites from their enemies, as well as sin’s destructive nature. God is for us as well. We are highly prized. We are the apple of His eye (Zechariah 2:8). God is all-powerful, yet He is also patient, compassionate, and kind. This makes Him a perfect Father. He knows we are mere mortals; our lives are like grass “they flourish like a flower of the field; for the wind passé over it, and it is gone, and its place is no more” (vv. 15-16). Yet those who revere and obey Him, His love never ends. His nature and His ways can’t be compared with any other god. And His blessing remains upon those who are vigilant in their faith.

David’s list will encourage your heart and revitalize your appreciation of Him. It will also give you a fresh awareness of His presence in your life.  We are fragile children, but God’s care is mighty and eternal. He never takes His eye off of you.

Call to Action

As a Christ-follower, we are called to bless the Lord. Today, consider your life. Is it a reflection of His blessings? It’s important that we bless God back.

Blessings to You!

Lisa

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.

Have You Thanked God for Future Blessings?

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Have You Ever Thanked God for Future Blessings?

Have You Ever Thanked God for Future Blessings?

I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed. Genesis 12:2-3

Did you know there is a Thanksgiving Day story in the book of Genesis?1 It’s tucked in chapter 12 and very easy to miss. It reveals Abram thanking God for future blessings. The chapter opens with God promising Abram (later becomes Abraham) that He would make a great nation out of him. God’s promise:

In order for this promise to become a reality, God required something of Abram. Abram had to obey God and go where God instructed him. That meant leaving his home and moving to a new land, called Canaan. Abram complied and he and his wife, Sarai (who later becomes Sarah) took all that they owned and traveled to the land of Canaan.2

Upon their arrival in Canaan, “the LORD appeared to Abram, and said, ‘To your offspring I will give this land”’(v. 7). “From there he moved on to the hill country on the east of Bethel, and pitched his tent, with Bethel on the west and Ai on the east; and there he built an altar to the LORD and invoked [petitioned] the name of the LORD” So he [Abram] built there an altar to the LORD, who had appeared to him” (V.8).

Past

Many religions built altars for sacrifices, but with God’s people, building an altar was not just about sacrifices. The altars also represented communion with God, prayer, worship, memorializing special encounters with Him, and in Abram’s case, a visual reminder of God’s promise. For Abram, blessing God in return was giving thanks back to God.

Present

Today, we also give thanks to God for our blessings. We don’t build altars, but we do make a traditional meal, along with a thanksgiving prayer commemorating God’s blessings in our lives and relationships.  We give thanks for the blessings we’ve received.

Future

But have you ever considered giving thanks for future blessings? If you didn’t catch it, this is exactly what Abram did. He didn’t simply give thanks for blessings he already received, but also for the blessings that were to come in the future. How could he do this? Because God made a covenant (promise) with Abram. He promised certain things would take place and Abram knew he could trust God’s spoken word.

But there’s more. Not only did Abram give thanks for future blessings he hadn’t received yet, but he didn’t live long enough to see the future blessings God promised!3 Abram didn’t live to see the Promised Land that God assured Abram’s descendants. But Abram still gave thanks for those blessings anyway, because He knew His God always kept His promises.

Call to Action

Giving thanks to God should be a normal spiritual discipline for Christ-followers. Feeling a sense of gratitude is pleasing, but expressing it to our heavenly Father takes it up a notch. Telling God thank You is gratitude expressed.

This Thanksgiving, while you’re thanking God for the blessings you and your loved ones have received, why not also give thanks in advance for those blessings yet to be realized in the future, even if it means you might not be around to witness them.

Grace and Blessings to You this Thanksgiving,

Lisa

Notes:

1 Craig McLaughlin, Pastor of Marysville Church of the Nazarene, 2014

2 Ibid.

3 Ibid.

 

Faith Works Like a Horse and a Cart

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Vains, La Bond, Mont Saint-Michel

Does your faith work like a horse and cart?

What is faith? If someone stopped you on the street and asked you that question for a a survey, how would you answer? Would you tell them it is positive thinking? A sense of hope? Or following a list of spiritual disciplines?

In its most basic form, faith is a gift to us by God. “For my grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God” (Ephesians 2:8). This concept of a free gift makes me think of a scenario that we can slip into every so subtlety. It goes like this:

Let’s say you receive a birthday gift from a friend. Instead of thanking your friend for the lovely gift, instead you say, “I love it, now how much was it so I can pay you back?” That kind of a response neither feels right nor is the appropriate response. However, that is what we are doing when we think we have to work for God’s gift of faith. The right response to my birthday example is to either send her a thank you note or tell her thanks in person. However, in our humanity we can get our wires crossed and find ourselves slipping into the mindset that we have to prove ourselves worthy of such a gift. God, in His grace, gave us the gift of faith and the only right response is to simply accept it in joy and gratitude. Continue reading

Penned Prayers

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When was the last time you wrote your prayers down in a prayer journal?

Recording our prayers in a journal offers three benefits.

A journal is a place where we give expression to the fountain of our heart, where we can unreservedly pour out our passion before the Lord. -Donald S. Whitney

Ask yourself, when was the last time you wrote your prayers out using a prayer journal and a pen? If you’ve ever studied the book of Psalms, you’ve likely noticed many of them are penned prayers. You may have also noticed that many of them were written by King David at a time when he fled from his son, Absalom, who rallied up an army in an attempt to overthrow him.

“O God, you have declared me perfect in your eyes; you have always cared for me in my distress; now hear me as I call again. Have mercy on me. Hear my prayer…” (Psalm 4:1). Or Psalm 5:1-3, “O lord, hear  me praying; listen to my plea, O God my King, for I will never pray to anyone but you. Each morning I will look to you in heaven and lay my requests before you, praying earnestly.”

From these prayers we can sense the despair and anguish in David’s heartfelt petitions.

There have been times in my own life where my prayers have been a reflection of a desperate heart. Later, when that season had passed I re-read those prayers and gave God the praise for how He came through for me or gave me victory in a certain area. Often times, I see God’s answer in a whole new perspective.

Another prophet, Jonah, recorded his prayers on the written page, too.

“Then Jonah prayed to the Lord his God from inside the fish: ‘In my great trouble I cried to the Lord and he answered me; from the depths of death I called, and Lord, you heard me!’”(Jonah 2:1-2). I guess if I was in the belly of a large fish, I’d be praying too.

Benefits of Penned Prayers

I also find that journaling my prayers helps me to stay focused and achieve three goals:

  1. Recording my prayers forces me to clarify what my prayer needs actually are rather than just a vague generality.
  2. Recording my prayers allows me to write Pen-Point Prayers where I focus on the specifics of my petitions.
  3. Our lives are busy and we often just snack on God’s Word, reading a short devotional or grabbing a Bible verse and running out the door.  Writing out my prayers mean keeping an appointment with God. This slows my mind and body down so I can have an honest heart-to-heart connection with the Lord.

Legacy of Faith

One of the blessings that come from a life of penned prayers is the legacy of faith you leave your children and grandchildren. When my grandmother passed away, I received one of her journals. It’s a mixture of her daily reflections on life, family, faith, but also some very gut-wrenching prayers. I can say that it was her prayers that I most treasure. They allowed me to get a glimpse of her pained heart laid raw and hurting before God.  Underpinning her petitions to her heavenly Father was a heart of humility, recording her failings as a parent, her shortcomings, fears, sorrows, and even some regrets. But for all the grief that filled her life towards its end, she remarked how thankful that Jesus stood in the gap as well as the void, between what was all wrong and missing in her life, and the forgiveness and acceptance Jesus offers.  Her repentant heart reflected in the truth that she needed God – every day.

And there’s more, something I will always carry with me- her prayers for me and referring to me as a blessing in her life. Of course, she wrote letters to me often and expressed her love for me and offered affirmations, but to know that I was a blessing to her life impacted me when I was a young adult. She wasn’t perfect, but I know from her prayer journal that in all her weaknesses, she placed her confidence in God, and trusted in His love and forgiveness. Her prayer journal, in turn, was a double blessing back to me.

Blessings to you,

Lisa

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