Tag Archives: military families

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

  

  

 

Joy – It Isn’t What You Think

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Joy - It Isn't What You Think.

Joy – It Isn’t What You Think.

 Did you know that the words “joy” and “happiness” aren’t even related? Perhaps the reason why we partner the two together has more to do with the English language, namely, a poor translation of the word “joy” in the English language that misses the target of the original Greek definition. Indeed, joy and happiness are opposites. A right understanding of the Greek word “joy” will not only illuminate the difference between the two words, but we’ll discover another English word that is compatible for “joy”, and it offers another meaning to ponder on this Christmas.

Joy and Happiness are Not Compatible

 Have you ever considered why the word “happiness” is an imposter for the word “joy?” In addition to the two words not being related, consider their opposite meanings. In our materialistic culture, we married joy and happiness together. Our “happiness meter” fluctuates up and down depending on what is happening in our lives.

If we are getting what we want out of life and our circumstances are favorable, we consider ourselves happy, or joyful. And if our circumstances take a negative turn, likewise, we consider ourselves unhappy, or less joyful. The flaw with this understanding is that happiness is tied to emotions.

Word searches for “joy” produces words that describe feelings, or emotions-blissful, thrilled, elated, delighted, pleasant, gladness, and happiness. Therefore, emotions come and go and cannot be relied upon for experiencing genuine joy. In a nutshell, happiness has to do with getting, while joy is about giving. Did you get that? Joy has to do with giving….Interestingly, the word “joy” shares a root word with another important Christian word – grace.1

Christ-followers know that the definition of grace is the unmerited favor from our Lord Jesus Christ. Born with a sin nature, we can never earn grace, but out of God’s immense love for us, He has given Christians unmerited favor. This is because grace should prompt our hearts to respond with joy. Joy, then, is deep grace. And what are Christians called to do? They are to give grace to others. My family’s pastor Craig Laughlin of Marysville Church of the Nazarene explained it this way:

Joy is that fleeting moment as you witness small children opening presents on Christmas morning. This is a picture of unmerited favor. You, as parents, have purchased for them, or put something into their lives that they couldn’t possibly put into their own lives. They cannot earn it on their own.2

 Other examples of joy are: a child’s first step, an “A” on a child’s test, witnessing a troubled teen turn from a life of sin, serving meals to the homeless, stocking a food bank, using a spiritual gift to benefit someone else, and a restored relationship. Joy isn’t about what we get, but what we give away to others. Thus, joy is giving away grace.

Grace is in the parents who guide and encourage their baby to take her first step. Grace is the many hours parents pour into their children to do well in school. Grace is the parents guiding, directing, encouraging, training, and praying­‑pouring their energy into a troubled teen who decides to live God’s way. It’s that “something” we know they can’t possibly do for themselves. Grace (unmerited favor) was given and joy (grace) is the giver’s response. Joy is our response from what we experience when we give away grace. Christ wired us to give to others. Likewise, He also wired us to respond with joy. Consider the words the angel spoke to the shepherds in Luke 2:10: “But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.”(niv).

 Because of shorter life spans, the shepherds of those early days in all likelihood didn’t live to see Jesus grow up and start His ministry. The shepherds were told of the good news-that the Messiah had come, however, the joy they experienced wasn’t so much for themselves as it was for the benefit of their children and the generations that came after them. For these shepherds who had seen the Christ-child, they realized this baby would change the lifestyle of their descendants. They responded in grace – deep joy in giving away the life-changing announcement for all time. And their joy lasted all their days. Deep in their hearts, these shepherds knew the world would never be the same again.3

 If we, as parents, receive joy as the giver of gifts to our children, who cannot obtain these gifts for themselves, think of the joy God has over His gift of Jesus to us. What He gave to us is meaningful beyond measure­‑something we cannot put into our own lives or obtain for ourselves. The only appropriate response is joy.

Blessings,

Lisa

Notes:

1Pastor Craig Laughlin, “Joy-It’s Not What You Think,” www.MarysvilleNaz.org. (Accessed 20 Dec. 2014).

2Ibid.

3 Ibid.

 

Prayer for Protection Against Enemies

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Lord,

Lord, protect their feet from slipping (Psalm 121:3).

Lord, protect their feet from slipping (Psalm 121:3).

My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth. He will not let your foot be moved; he who keeps you will not slumber. He who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. The LORD is your keeper; the LORD is your shade at your right hand…the Lord will keep you from all evil; he will keep your life. The Lord will keep your going out and your coming in” (Psalm 121:2-5, 7-8).

Lord,

Thank you for every member of our armed forces. Each one serves from the heart with a strong sense of duty for his or her country. Each one has voluntarily given up certain freedoms in order to answer to a higher calling. Lord, may their sacrifices be appreciated by the citizens of this country. Bring a revival in the hearts of the people of America to pray for our military so that under God we remain the strongest military force. May each military operation be just and carried out with a clear and honorable vision.

The challenges are many, Lord, and I pray for daily strength as they march into unknown dangers. Arm them with courage, shield each one from evil intentions, injustice, deceptive tactics, and reveal every unknown threat that would undermine their safety and the mission. Protect their feet from slipping (Psalm 121:3), no matter where they are, no matter the circumstances. In the light of day or the darkness of night, shield them with Your protection. When exhausted, be their Source of strength. I boldly come before You and ask that You would protect them against our enemies.

 Lord, like You did for the pilgrims traveling to Jerusalem, be the Keeper of our men and women in uniform (Psalm 121:5). Protect our military against all enemies. Should any return home wounded, physically or from the effects of posttraumatic stress syndrome, I pray that immediate help would be theirs for a complete healing and for the return of a sound mind. For those who have already given the ultimate sacrifice, comfort their families by encamping around their hurting hearts.

Faithful Father, the steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning” (Lamentations 3:22). May the mercy You provide be experienced by my loved one and all our troops. Let Your compassion be theirs and give them opportunities to see Your faithfulness daily. Psalm 25:21 says: “May integrity and uprightness preserve me.” May our military leadership be men and women who value Your vital role in the affairs of our country. May our military commanders call on You for guidance, and give them understanding of things they don’t know (Jeremiah 33:3). In doing so, may Your name be exalted. In addition to physical readiness, may our government and military leaders be dedicated and speak out for preparing our service members with spiritual readiness, so faith can make a difference. In the mighty name of Jesus, I ask these things,

Amen.

Tweet: Protect the feet of our U.S. military. Shield each one. www.LisaNixonPhillips.com/blog

To order a copy of my book, Faith Steps for Military Families, click on the blue button beneath the book’s cover.

 

 

Where Did All the Good Go?

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“The graveyard of history testifies that God rejects nations that reject Him and His Word. Is God getting ready to reject us once and for all?” -Dr. Mike Evans

In the World, but Outside of Its Influence

We are told in John 17:16: “They are not part of this world any more than I [Jesus] am” [emphasis mine]. Just think for a moment what it may have seemed like to Jesus. He left heaven, a perfect and glorious home, to live on earth, fallen and weighed down by sin. Even though he came to the world as an infant and adjusted to the culture of the world, He knew He wasn’t a permanent resident. Even though he didn’t tolerate lying, murder, profanity, sexual sin, deception, rebellion, false teachers, pride, covetousness, adultery, stealing, etc., Jesus lived in a world of sin but remained outside of its influence.

It’s no surprise that our culture is moving further away from God, and His Son, Jesus Christ. There’s a prevailing style of thinking in the world today that says, “I can get by in life without God,” and an over-indulgence for pleasure is the new god of our land. Our country has adopted a new set of values for good and evil. Isaiah 5:20 explains:

“Ah, you who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter! Ah, you who are wise in your own eyes, and shrewd in your own sight!”

Evil Is Good and Good Is Evil

As the line of distinction between good and evil and bitter and sweet becomes blurred, a catastrophic breakdown has been set in motion.

It used to be good to pray in school. It used to be good to say the Pledge of Allegiance before class began. It used to be good to take a stand for biblical beliefs without fearing reprisal. It used to be good to love your neighbor as yourself. It used to be good to close stores for Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays, putting God, faith, and family first. It used to be good having nativity scenes set up on public grounds to demonstrate Who the Light of our faith and nation is. It used o be good to apologize when needed. It used to be good to offer your seat to an elderly person. It used to be good to say thank-you. It used to be good to earn something worth working hard for. It used to be good to respect authority. It used to be good to respect our elders. It used to be good to respect and honor God and His son Jesus Christ.

What used to be good is now unpopular and in fact, intolerable, wrong, offending, or even criminal. This is because it is now good and pleasing for people to base their actions on the relativity-thinking model, meaning what may be right for one person may not be for another, dismissing the truth that consequences aren’t removed for rejecting God.

Sacred Out – Sin In

Today, what used to be evil is considered good. Evil doesn’t have to mean just wicked, but also malevolent, sinful, malicious, immoral, foul, revolting, and disgusting. We now have classrooms without prayer and the Pledge of Allegiance removed, creating a disconnect of pride and servitude to our country. Faith based family businesses are targeted or sued for being genuine to their faith because faith means living out God’s presence in all aspects of our lives, not just our private lives.

Today, our nation would rather ignore our neighbors, let alone love them. And the dollar bill drives our holiday seasons instead of family unity, leaving nothing sacred anymore. It is now evil in our culture to put a Christmas nativity scene, so the baby Jesus won’t be offensive. It is now evil to apologize. We’ll forsake restoring a relationship over correcting a wrong. Pride has gotten in the way and apologizing is viewed as a sign of a character flaw. And parents are far too busy to teach their children the godly value of saying thank-you.

A society can’t exist without structure, rules, boundaries, and principles. As church relevance drops in America, the churches influence also declines. Sadly, the torch the Statue of Liberty holds up to the heavens is dimming and she is losing her flavor.

The Torch of Freedom

The Bible offers structure for our lives, boundaries for protection, principles for living, basic rules for conduct, wisdom, and many other virtues. However, since the days of our founding fathers until present time, America has subtly estranged herself from its biblical roots and is now outside of the protection of the harbor. I recently read an article by Dr. Mike Evans inside the February 2016 issue of Friends of Zion magazine called, “Is America A Christian Nation?” he concludes his article with this sobering possibility:

“The graveyard of history testifies that God rejects nations that reject Him and His Word. Is God getting ready to reject us once and for all?”

Take Up the TorchLight

The Statue of Liberty’s torchlight is a symbol of freedom, showing its people the path of liberty. But the liberty that God intended for the citizens of America was for a different purpose. He gave us this beautiful nation, not for our own purposes and agendas, but for God’s. According to Galatians 5:13: “For you were called to freedom, brothers and sisters; only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for self-indulgence…”(nrsv).

This freedom we are blessed with isn’t for following our fallen natures or acting in opposition to God’s standards for living. That is no freedom at all. That is actually being slaves to our fallen nature. True freedom is living to do right by God’s Word because there is protection in that – God’s protection.

If those of us who are Christ’s remnant allow our light to dim because our values and beliefs are in direct opposition of the worlds, the darkness of this world continues to grow and its reach becomes broader.

I began this article with John 17:16, but the verse before it, verse 15 is Jesus’ prayer for His children, and today’s remnant.

Take Up the Battle Cry

We are Christ-followers are called to be His vessels – to be that torchlight to show true freedom is godly living. God has given us this land as a blessing. Bible-believing Americans, we need to wake up and make good on that blessing. We need to take up the battle cry against the evil that is sweeping across our nation. We need to pray “against the rulers, against the authorities [Satan’s evil army] against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil…” (ESV). As the remnant, we don’t have the strength to stand on our own; we must rely upon the Lord’s strength. We get that strength through prayer. And we need to heed the warning in Proverbs 29:18:

“Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keepeth the law, happy is he” (kjv).

There is a correlation and a consequence for a nation in this verse. It describes a nation in upheaval. That nation is America. A country that removes God is a country that is overrun with crime, sin, corruption, and turning good into evil and sweet into bitter. We have lost our vision – a vision that was once admired by other countries. This vision was once a model for other countries to aspire to. God has a consequence for such a nation. It perishes. America, don’t forget there are countries that would, in an instant, elevate their god in our country, in our government, in our schools and in our churches – in place of the one true God of the Bible.

Yes, we live in the world, but like Jesus, not of it. I urge you to stand up for the Lord Jesus Christ. Take Him off the dusty book shelf and exalt Him. For I am still hungry for God’s blessing upon our land. Are you?

Blessings,

Lisa

 

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.

Debilitating Disappointment or Divine Hope?

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Illustration depicting a green roadsign with a disappointment concept. Blue sky background.

Disappointment is a sure thing in life, but God has given us a plan to help us get through it.

Disappointment is nothing new. We’ve all been hurt by some form of disappointment. Maybe it was a broken commitment; a deployment extended by another month, your desired duty station didn’t come through, an un-kept promise, circumstances that didn’t work out, financial downturn, another miscarriage, infertility, or an unmet expectation. More often than not, we become disappointed with people. It’s important to work through our disappointments or we’ll be mired in this debilitating state.

Since we’re guaranteed to be disappointed in this life, its paramount we spiritually work through what or who disappointed us. This is because unprocessed disappointment will cause us to distance ourselves from God. Additionally, if left untouched by God’s hand, it will build up and cut us off from the Holy Spirit’s influence in our lives. What’s worse, disappointment will quench the Holy Spirit’s work in our hearts.

What’s the Take-Away

To spiritually process the feeling of being let down, start by going to the Lord. Ask Him to show you His perspective. Ask, “What is the take-away” that I can apply to this disappointing circumstance? What do I need to do or change in myself in order to move beyond daily disappointment? Ask the Holy Spirit to help you spiritually discern what He wants you to learn.. And finally ask, “How can I take my focus off the disappointment and seek His solutions?” By asking God to be a part of this process, you are allowing Him to be in the driver’s seat. He is in control and you become dependent on Him. This allows God to unearth the root cause of your disappointment that may have gone undetected. When we’re in this mindset, we position ourselves to hear from Him. We focus less on the subject of our disappointment and more on the Lord and seeking His solution. Additional things to think about when processing disappointment are

Acknowledge that Jesus cares for your disappointed soul. He experienced his own share of disappointment. For this reason, internalize the truth that Jesus will sustain you. David had many bouts of discouragement, but He also knew that God was the energy source to overcome discouragement.

Commit to daily seeking His grace to encourage your heart. I think of this as heart maintenance. The more you go before the Lord, seeking Him will become your first response. Satan would love nothing more than to get you to focus on yourself, your fear, your frustration, and your fatigue over the situation. Resist Satan by finding Scripture that encourages your heart. Some examples are: Amos 3:3, Psalm 55:22,

 Realize that the Lord may have a purpose behind the situation that has you discouraged. Immediately turn to God. Let Him know that on your own you don’t know what to do or how you’ll face it. Since you may also get respected and trusted advice from others, remember to ask God to make His will absolutely clear. God can use anything that touches us to bring us  closer to his purpose, reveal something new about His character, steer us in the right direction, or some other intended result.

 Pray for those who have disappointed you pleases the Lord. This can be hard to do. If not for the Lord’s help, it would be impossible. It may help if you view those who’ve disappointed you as human beings with their own flaws, knowing that “all fall short.” See them through eyes of grace. Praying for those who’ve disappointed us doesn’t mean they’ve gotten away with hurting us, but it does allow our hearts to be receptive to hearing from God. If our faith and devotion to Jesus is genuine, praying for those who’ve disappointed us will please God’s heart. And that is one of the purposes of the Christ-follower. If you don’t know how to do this, ask God to reveal it to you.

 Don’t shift your focus away from the Lord. Jesus came to restore our hearts from perpetual disappointment to divine hopefulness. This doesn’t mean an easy life, but it does mean a life of hopeful expectation from the Lord. But He does expect us to do our part. “To you I lift up my eyes, O you who are enthroned in the heavens! As the eyes of servants look to the hand of their master…so our eyes look to the Lord our God…” (Psalm 123:1-2).

Additionally, by overly focusing on ourselves, we are robbed of opportunities to bless others that cross our paths are discouraged. Since God mainly speaks to us through His Word, open your Bible and read the stories of God’s faithfulness to those who experienced discouragement and despair. Ask Him to speak to your heart in such a way that you will have guidance. King Jehoshaphat, upon learning that his enemies were on their way to attack his kingdom, he got on his knees and said to God and his people, “We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.” If you have never before read his story, it is an interesting one. See what God did on King Jehoshaphat’s behalf. It can be found in 2 Chronicles 20.

Memorize Scripture that encourages your downcast heart. Some examples are Romans 8:28

Remember to say thank you. God hears our prayers. When you speak, He’s listening and He will respond with help. We ultimately want to be able to say, “This was the Lord’s doing; it is marvelous in our eyes” (Psalm 118:23). Because of His lovingkindness and guidance, don’t forget to say thanks. The best way you can bless the heart of God is by using your life story of how God intervened in your discouraging situation to lift the spirits of another’s soul stricken with disappointment. By doing so, you acknowledge before God and people the Source of your help. And God gets all the glory.

Therefore, cast your disappointment upon Christ so you can be freed of what has you disheartened and claim divine hope. Allow God’s grace (undeserved favor of God) to help you triumph over disappointment. The Bible says, “And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out His love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us” (Romans 5:5).

Blessings to you,

Lisa

To order a copy of my book, Faith Steps For Military Families, click here. Do you have a thought on this topic? Comment below. You can also follow me at http://www.Facebook.com/FaithStepsForMilitaryFamilies and on Twitter @lisanixonphilli

 

 

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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Are You Trusting God for That?

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A red "TRUST" and a gray "FEAR" sit on opposite ends of a gray board which is balanced on a white question mark. Isolated on white.

Our American culture fails in the area of patience. Yesterday I was in line at a grocery store. I had a few small things so I went to the self-check-out area. Every one of the do-it-yourself scanners were busy so I waited by the one that looked like it would be free the soonest. The gentleman at this scanner was wrapping up his purchase. He pulled a few dollar bills out of his front jean pocket began to feed them into the machine. To his frustration, the machine didn’t like the bills and it quickly rejected them.  Each time one of the bills was rejected, he took the bill and smoothed it across his knee and tried again, only to have the machine spit them out again. As I watched, the look on this man’s face was not only growing more impatient with the machine, but he also began to show signs of anxiety. He didn’t look at me directly, but he knew I was there waiting. I decided I was not going to add to his angst.

 “Don’t you hate it when that happens?” I said, trying to let him know I wasn’t getting uptight with him.

“I’m sorry this is taking so long,” he said, with an apologetic tone.

“That’s ok. I’ve had that happen to me a few times, too.”

A moment later, the last bill was finally received by the machine. A small smile of relief came over his face. He grabbed his receipt and bag of groceries and turned to me.

“Again, I’m sorry I kept you waiting.”

 Living in a country where everything is instantaneous, we have lost the timeless quality of patient waiting, and for believers today this includes answers to our prayers. As military wives and mothers, we have plenty to pray over: transfer orders, new duty stations, the upcoming deployment, spousal jobs, financial matters, getting out or staying in the military, children’s concerns, and other prayer needs.

 There have been times where I have been impatient with the Lord, frustrated that He’s taking too long with the important matters of my heart. And I’m guilty of influencing circumstances hoping it would hurry God along in bringing about the answer I desperately wanted. And if that wasn’t bad enough, I hoped He would welcome my efforts being the backseat driver. God’s lateness seemed like He didn’t appreciate my sense of urgency. However, it took awhile, but God eventually showed me that I was getting into my own way. I wasn’t trusting God for my prayer needs. I began to take a look at why I sometimes jumped ahead of God. It came down to one word: fear. I asked myself a series of questions regarding my prayer requests, and the resulting gut feeling was always fear. I was afraid God wouldn’t understand what I deeply needed. I feared I wouldn’t like the way He changed things, or I feared He’d never change things. But deep down, the number one fear was that I didn’t trust God in coming through for me. Not long after this realization, I read an article about what the Christian’s posture ought to be while waiting for answered prayer. While reading the article, I came upon the words something like this, “My dear child, why won’t you allow me to do my job of working it out and you do your job of trusting me?” Wow! those words stuck like Velcro on my heart. Now whenever I become impatient with God’s timing, I remind myself of who’s job it is to change things.

God created all things and that includes time. He numbered the days in a year, hours in a day, and the minutes and moments of our lives. The concept of time, when you think about it, influences every aspect of life. Because God controls time, we can’t assume He isn’t hard at work in the background. This is the nuts and bolts of what “walking by faith and not by sight” is all about. The problem with humanity is that we always want proof. We base everything on whether or not we can see it, touch it, or hear it. But when there isn’t anything evident yet, we start the doubting process. Doubt leads us to question God’s faithfulness. (See my 3-part article series: Doubt, Disillusionment, and discouragement here) To overcome this tendency, it’s imperative to keep our focus on God and His many attributes: loving, good, patient, Omni-present, omniscient, just, merciful, and faithful, among others. God’s faithfulness includes His guidance and answered prayer, but sometimes He waits for us to get out of the driver’s seat. There’s only one steering wheel for a reason.  Picture yourself sitting on the teeter-totter in the graphic above.  Which side are you leaning towards- the trust side in red, or the fear side in gray? Then ask yourself, “Am I trusting God for that?”

Blessings,

Lisa