Tag Archives: God

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

  

  

 

How Do You Relate to God? Four Points, Part 1

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Salad or Stew

How Do You Relate to God – As a Judge or Father

“How you think of God, determines how you relate to God,” said Pastor, Craig McLaughlin of Marysville Church of the Nazarene. Indeed, “family is the primary way God relates to us.” That is certainly true for me. All my major turning points in my life were through relationships with my family, and how God manipulated those family circumstances that moved me along His path for my life. God thinks in terms of family, too. “See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and that is what we are” (1 John 3:1). This verse is evidence of the concept of ‘family’ used in Scripture. God is the parent and we are His children. But the crux of the matter is this: How you think of God, determines how you interact with Him.

If you were brought up with the understanding that God is a detached being, uninvolved in your life, you may also see Him as a distant ruler that you can’t relate to. If this has been your perception of God growing up, then that perception will influence how you relate to Him later in life.

God As A Judge

When John Calvin arrived on the scene in the 1500’s his view of God wasn’t so much a distant king or a ruler, but as a judge–a righteous judge. As a result, many people of his time viewed God in the same way. This mindset believes God is always ready to condemn us. It’s the inner belief that if I fail in any one area, or break some rule, He will judge me harshly.1 This view of God fosters an unhealthy manner in which we relate to Him.

God As A Father

Then, in the 1700’s along came John Wesley. His view of God was more in line with how we believe God wants us to view Him–that as Father. He is our heavenly Father and we are His children, not just in eternity, but right now.2 And just like we would be available for our own children, God is also available to us. Like parents, God also wants His children to seek Him for meeting all our needs–the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual needs. God isn’t some remote king uninterested in our lives. Quite the opposite, He created family and this means family matters to Him.

Have you seen the television commercial of the daughter who is backing up in her car and she hits the lamp post at the end of the driveway? She turns around to see her father coming towards her with a serious look on his face, but then her father’s countenance suddenly changes to a gentle grace-filled smile. This is not the face of a parent coming to judge her for backing over the lamp post, but to come alongside her and teach her how to use care and caution in backing out of the driveway.

God is Grace as Expressed in the Flesh

When our children break a house rule and they need discipline, that discipline isn’t all about punishment, but in showing grace (to extend kindness to a person who doesn’t deserve it or can never earn it). True, grace corrects, but always with accepting the person, not with dismissing remarks such as “you can’t do anything right,” or “you never use your head or think.” These are shaming statements and it breaks down a person’s sense of worth.

The Creator Knows His Created

The first thing God deemed not good was Adam being alone in the garden. Adam needed family, so God created Eve. Ever since, we have the ‘essence’ of family wired into us; It was put there by God. “All that is good in life is connected to family whether directly or indirectly.3 Since family matters to Him, it also means our heavenly Father is a relatable God.

Next Post: Part 2, Is Your Family Like A Salad or A Stew?

Tweet: How do you relate to God? http://www.LisaNixonPhillips.com/blog.

Blessings,

Lisa

Notes:

1 Pastor Craig McLaughlin, “What Matters to God?” (accessed 4/3/16).

2 Ibid.

3 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

Tweet/Post: One of the benefits of penned prayers is the legacy of faith you leave your children and grandchildren.#PenPaperAndPrayers@lisanixonphillips.com/blog

To order a copy of my book, just click on the blue “Order Today” button beneath the book cover.

 


 

Three Subtle Attacks on Military Marriages

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A sailor kissing his new wife.

Use your marital struggles to grow together not further apart.

In 1987 I was a new Navy wife–straight from the land of Oz. And I didn’t know the first thing about the Navy lifestyle; There are no warships in Kansas! So, when I moved to California and met and later married my husband, Ray, I became a member of the larger military family and Uncle Sam became my father-in-law. Thanks to my friend, Vernel, a Navy wife I met at my new job upon arriving in California, she offered a quick lesson one Saturday afternoon on Navy life 101. I learned to expect occasional squalls between my husband and I brought on by rotational deployments with following seas of emotional anxieties. I realized there would be repeated adjustments, unique challenges unlike traditional marriage, intermittent miscommunication, with large doses of trust a certain requirement. On the up side, moments of well-deserved joy at homecomings would be the pinnacle of pride and honor in our beloved military member, all to say this lifestyle is worth it. Either way, I embraced my new role as a supportive Navy wife, determined not to throw up the white surrender flag when the stormy seas crashed in.

Marriage is hard in the 21st century, but a military marriage is not for those with one-sided expectations or a casual commitment. Like a warship undergoing sea trials to test the limits of the workings and maneuverability to determine its seaworthiness, there are also difficult hardships inherent in  military marriages. These challenges will test a military marriage to see whether or not it is seaworthy. Three of the top concerns for today’s military marriages are outlined below.

Selfishness. Last year while driving to work one morning I heard that selfishness is the number one destroyer of relationships. John Paul II said, “The great danger for family life, in the midst of any society whose idols are pleasure, comfort, and independence, lies in the fact that people close their hearts and become selfish.” In any marriage, selfishness is a deterrent to a lasting relationship, but in a military marriage, its tolerance is short-lived, potentially sinking your military marriage soon after it departs the pier. Other than infidelity, selfishness left unaddressed, is the fastest channel to sabotaging your marriage, deeming it unworthy for a sea-faring relationship.

There is a new viewpoint out there in our marital culture. Dr. Brad Wilcox, the director of the National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia, has written about this new perspective of marriage and its enemy, selfishness. “In the new psychological approach to marriage, one’s primary obligation was not to one’s family but to one’s self; hence, marital success was defined not by successfully meeting obligations to one’s spouse and children but by a strong sense of subjective happiness in marriage–usually to be found in and through an intense, emotional relationship with one’s spouse.1

This new view, contrary to the Christian belief of marital love, which highlights Christ’s love for the church, involves freely giving of one’s self to his or her spouse, is short on roots of generosity but deep in self-serving motives and entitlement. One way to stop or prevent selfishness is to focus on spiritual readiness. Instead of asking, “what will make me happy and fulfilled in my military marriage?” ask, “what will make us blessed and fulfilled in our military marriage?”

Unwarranted Expectations. Like selfishness, having idealistic expectations will send tempests into your marriage. Young military marriages in particular will benefit from recognizing that your military spouse has a job unlike most civilian jobs. Even on shore duty, he or she can’t be expected to always be available for wedding anniversaries, children’s birthdays, or even funerals for in-laws. Although the military understands the importance and value of these milestones and events, they can’t appease every request, nor can they be expected to. They must continually balance the needs of the military with military morale and sensitivity to family. I recall halfway into my husband’s military career, he was underway three consecutive wedding anniversaries. I was disappointed, but when I reflect back, was there really anything he could do about it? Try the following to increase the sea-worthiness of your military marriage:

  • Focus on the purpose and value of faith and discuss together whether or not your expectations are warranted and fit the example of faith Christ modeled.
  • Resist the urge to punish your spouse for what he or she can’t change or control.
  • Refuse the impulse to blame your spouse for being in the military.
  • Comparing your military marriage and family’s rhythm and schedule to that of civilian marriages only creates discontentment and plants negative thought patterns that the military lifestyle isn’t honorable service. Even in the civilian sector, there are unattractive job requirements. Albert Einstein once said, “There are two ways to live; you can live as if nothing is a miracle; you can live as if everything is a miracle.”

Deception and Distrust. These two undesirable traits are linked. If there’s deception, distrust soon follows. In  military marriages, getting to the first base of trust between you and your spouse is a must. Trust is a raw material that has to be cultivated. Trust is the cornerstone of marriage. It is what binds and links the other walls–unconditional love, commitment, transparency, communication, and honesty together. Conflict is inevitable in marriage. And our jobs as marriage partners is to navigate through trust issues, with sound resolutions, not around them, believing they will fade away on their own. Otherwise, the same storm returns over and over again, threatening to shipwreck your marriage. For trust issues related to infidelity, a couple can’t go wrong with biblical counseling. It may be a needed first step. Doing so will take hard work. There are no easy fixes, but if you’re committed it can lead to necessary discovery and growth. Pastor Chip Ingram, author, and radio host of Living on the Edge said about marriage, “conflict is an opportunity to grow.” Other ways to build trust are:

  •  Be transparent – While on deployment or even short underway periods, be emotionally responsible with your spouse to maintain trust. Share your day, the good and the bad. If you’re the spouse at home, tell your husband or wife what you did that day or week, where you went, people you met with, the money you spent, the bills you paid as well as those you forgot to pay. If you’re the spouse underway, do the same. If on a port call, share the places you went to, venture out in groups with the same sex, how much money you spent, and interesting events you encountered.
  •  Forget being right or wrong. We’ve all been there, but there comes a time when this mindset has to end if what is truly wanted is a healthy and working marriage. Strive for solutions that steer you in the direction of unity.
  •  Reconfirm your commitment to your spouse throughout the deployment. Think of ways that honestly convey emotional trust. Start with “I appreciate that you ________________ (fill in the blank).
  •  When failure happens, don’t give up. If trust was breached, it’s normal to feel hurt and want to shut the offending spouse out. However, if you’re willing, let your spouse know he or she can earn your trust back, but genuine changes that bear results must happen. Put accountability steps in play, but be realistic about time frames. Seek out a counselor trained in dealing with military marriages. Rebuilding trust takes time on the part of both spouses.

 Unfortunately, in a military marriage there are no sea-trials to determine if your marriage will be seaworthy. Once married, the marriage must depart from the pier and the challenges and complexities of this military lifestyle will prove its readiness. But with the support of Family Readiness Groups (FRG), churches that offer a military ministry, and keeping your military marriage as a high priority will help ensure it is lasting and fulfilling.

Blessings,

Lisa

Lisa Nixon Phillips is a retired Navy wife and author of Faith Steps for Military Families – Spiritual Readiness Through the Psalms of Ascent. Visit Lisa at www.LisaNixonPhillips.com and check out her blog page for additional articles on the military lifestyle.

You can also find me on facebook at www.facebook.com/faithstepsformilitaryfamilies.

 Notes:

1 Richard P. Fitzgibbons, “The Selfish Spouse/Relative, www.maritalhealing.com/conflicts/selfishspouse.php (accessed 17 June 17, 2014).

 

He is Who He Says He Is

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Do You Say He is Who He Says He Is?

Do You Say He is Who He Says He Is?

Exodus 3:14 says: “God says to Moses, ‘I AM WHO I AM.’”  Simply stated, He [God] is who He says He is. We live in a time period in which society embraces relative thinking. Basically, that means if someone doesn’t believe in an idea, concept, premise, or in someone, or something, then it doesn’t exist. They may even go so far as to say, “Well, it may be true for you, but it isn’t for me.”

 As Christians we must never forget that when we celebrate Christmas, we are saying to the world that not only is Christ our Savior and God’s Son, but that God also exists.  We acknowledge that we are also celebrating the God who made human beings, the world, and heaven. But wait! There’s more! God’s Word also says that He put eternity in our hearts–meaning that we sense that life goes on beyond this present existence.1 We find that truth in Ecclesiastes 3:11. “He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man’s heart…”

Even though there will always be people who will take the modern “relative” viewpoint–that God doesn’t exist, it doesn’t change the position God has. He is who He says He is. And He will always remain that way. God is permanent. God is sovereign–an absolute.  And He is holy. “…for he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name” (Luke 1:49).

 Jesus is our Lord and Savior whether He is recognized as such or not. But what God is concerned about is whether or not we are placing Him as the Lord over our lives. The key point here is that if we fail to give Him first place in our hearts, the circumstances of our lives and in our homes, we are in jeopardy of missing out on the blessings He desires to bestow upon us.

Blessings to you this Christmas season,

Lisa

 Notes:

1 Bible Note for Ecclesiastes 3:11, English Standard Version Study Bible (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2008).

God – Our Master Builder

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Unless the LORD builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. Psalm 127:1

There is a spiritual bond like no other when parents bring the Lord into their home.

Unless the LORD builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. Psalm 127:1

 King Solomon asserted that a life that is lived apart from God is a futile effort. In fact, a life that declares it doesn’t need God is an empty life. It means it is void of eternal meaning and purpose. Having God as the Master Builder of your military home ensures His blessings.

 The book of Ecclesiastes (Ecc. 1:2) says, “The words of the Teacher, the son of David, king in Jerusalem. ‘Vanity of vanities!’ All is vanity.’” The word vanity means “breath” or “vapor.”2 Solomon states that our lives are as fleeting as a spray of thin mist. The years swiftly pass by. If you are a parent, you can identify with this concept. When our children are small it seems like they will be small forever, or least for a long time. However, when they are grown we reflect on how those formative years zipped along.

 Psalm 127 is a psalm about family. Its wisdom states that unless God is in the life of our home, the Master Builder, all of life that goes on in our home is futile. Leaving God out of every aspect of life renders all that we do, achieve, or pursue, as pointless, void of eternal value. It is as if we’re trying to invest funds into our retirement accounts with counterfeit money. There is only one thing that is lasting–a life that pleases God. This type of life is based on 1 Corinthians 3:10. “According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and some else is building on it. Each builder must choose with care how to build on it. For no one can lay any foundation other than the one that has been laid; that foundation is Jesus Christ.”

 There is a spiritual bond that is like no other when parents bring the Lord into their homes. When a home has invited God to be an active participant in all areas of the home, those relationships are not only blessed, but God imparts meaning into each relationship, forging eternal perspectives and purposes. This isn’t to say that God doesn’t call out a life from a broken home and give him or her a spiritual purpose. He does. There are many examples in the Bible where God does just that (i.e. Rahab).

 Some years ago I heard this analogy about a home that is void of Jesus’ presence. His blessings are gifts to us. But when the Lord is vacant in the home, it is like a gift still under the tree, still wrapped up. It was never opened in order for its blessings to be experienced. Philosopher Soren Kierkegaard says, “Life must be lived forwards, but can only be understood backwards.” The beautiful thing about God is that He is full of compassion and gives us second chances. If we didn’t grow up in homes where God was present and welcomed, we can choose the Lord as adults and allow Jesus’ to establish our homes today, allowing Jesus’ life to be the source of its strength, joy, resiliency, unity, and purpose. God blesses a home that is moving towards Him.

 Blessings,

Lisa

The above devotional was an except from Faith Steps for Military Families. You can also find me at www.Facebook.com/FaithStepsForMilitaryFamilies and on twitter at www.Twitter.com/lisanixonphilli

 

A Prayer of Praise to God, Our Defender

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Facebook Template -This Weekend's prayer A Prayer of Praise to God

Lord,

As I grow to know You, the more I appreciate You. As the apple of Your eye (Psalm 17:8), You have kept me from being swallowed by the raging waters of overwhelming circumstances and from people who despise me. Out of immense care, You have made a way of escape, a way through to victory. You are my Defender. You did not leave me defenseless. People may leave me, but You will never quit on me. And Your protection is limitless; it has no boundaries. Thank You for being my Defender. Use any pain or suffering I endure to teach me spiritual lessons to that it makes me into a better servant for You. Let me be a praising person who never forgets what You have done, or will do, telling others so they will see Your mighty hand at work and praise Your name (Matt.5:16).

Lord, show me the areas I am vulnerable to attacks by Satan so I can arm myself with Your Word. Continue to develop my level of trust in You so I remain firmly rooted in my faith. With Your defensive help, I will prevail over my enemy-Satan. Like You did for the Israelites, keep Your eye upon me. Because You were on their side, I can trust that You are for me, too. Thank You for being my Defender. Amen.

-Prayer taken from Faith Steps for Military Families by Lisa Nixon Phillips. Click book cover to the right to order, or email me at info@lisanixonphillips. Each copy is just $13.00 and that includes shipping. Get free prayer cards for your service member and for military families. Thank you!

See Lisa also at www.Facebook.com/FaithStepsForMilitaryFamilies