Tag Archives: military wives

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.

 

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

 

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

 

 

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.

 

5 Ways Our Military Families Are Extraordinary

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Pray for the home front spouse, pray for their marriages, pray for their children, pray for their safety- because America needs them.

Did you know that November is Military Family Appreciation Month? It was started in 1993 by the Armed Services YMCA. This organization was responsible for officially making it an annual proclamation. It’s purpose was and continues to be for recognizing the contributions and sacrifices made by the families of service members. In honor of their dedicated support, I’ve listed 5 qualities that make our military families worthy of our nation’s support.

Passionately Patriotic – One of the reasons I embraced the military lifestyle was the patriotic response I saw all around me as a young and newly married military wife. I had never seen such patriotism until I stood pier side among thousands of other family members for the great homecomings of the warships my husband served on. Military families care deeply about their nation. Deep down they know they are part of something honorable, even though they wear no uniform. They “serve” behind the scenes. When a service member retires or leaves military service, their patriotism, and Americanism lives on. They become the beacon of light to those that follow them in military service.

Military Families are Natural Volunteers – Oftentimes you will find military families volunteering in their commands, communities, schools, and for worthy causes. They are used to the idea of sacrificial service as they live it every day, For many military families volunteering is just part of the military lifestyle.

Military Families are Sacrificial-Even though they don’t wear a uniform, they, too, serve this country. They forfeit holidays, birthdays, wedding anniversaries, and major milestones without their beloved service member. Even when times get downright hard, they endure, knowing this time of extreme difficulty will pass. Deep down there is the belief that their sacrifice matters and contributes, however small, to lasting freedom and the upholding of the core values of this nation. They realize their military member’s service is honorable and worthy of their dedication and commitment. The military family’s commitment and faithful support becomes part of the mosaic of the faithful support of all those that came before them.

Spouses of Military Members – The military spouse who becomes the ‘home-keeper’ has an important role to fill. The spouse’s support is vital to the overall success of his or her service member’s job. If the home is not stable or unified, this has the potential to affect not only the service member’s performance, but also his or her command readiness level. For this reason, military spouses need support and prayer. Although there are Family Readiness Programs , military spouses carry a heavy burden in which circumstances constantly change, adding anxiety and stress.

I knew that marrying a military man would mean frequent moves, but more importantly, I knew it also meant that there would be occasions in my future in which I would have to give up a good job or forfeit that much needed promotion in order to go where the military sent my husband. I chose to look at the positives, such as, the opportunity to live overseas and experience a different culture, which led to wonderful opportunities to write about and share with others. Moving frequently allowed me to further develop my viewpoints about our world, adapt to changes, meet interesting people, experience new things, and grow in confidence.

Extended Family Members – In our case, we were never stationed near family. However, those military families who are blessed with family living near by, we can’t forget their service. Often, grandparents become vital in the lives of military kids. Grandparents are often called on to open their homes to care for grandkids because both parents are deployed or the military spouse needs the additional help. When I returned to school to get my accounting degree I had a seven year old and a newborn. My husband was deployed. After working a full day, I went to class at night. We had two civilian families that came alongside me and watched my kids so I could attend my night class. These families were instrumental in not only helping me with school but also in lifting my spirits when feeling burned out.

Bless Them With A Thank You and A Prayer

When you run into or meet a military spouse or family, bless them with a ‘thank you.’ That ‘thank you’ might just be the encouraging word an overwhelmed military spouse needs to hear to keep enduring a difficult time. Our military families are indispensable. It takes a military family to support the member. Without them, our country has no backbone to support military members. Prayer is the best thing you can do for these military families. Pray for the home front spouse, pray for their marriages, pray for their children, pray for their safety, and pray for our country to remain militarily strong.

Blessings,

Lisa

Post/tweet: November is Military Family Appreciation Month. Learn 5 Ways to Honor Our Military Families. www.LisaNixonPhillips.com/blog

To order a copy of my book, “Faith Steps for Military Families” click on the ‘Order Today’ link just below the book’s cover.

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

Standing Alone

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As a military wife, do you ever feel you're not in sync with the rest of the world?

As a military wife, do you ever feel you’re standing alone in the military lifestyle?

“The Lord, your God, is in your midst…” Zephaniah 3:17

As military wives, we’re accustomed to standing alone, either physically or symbolically in our unique circumstances. We stand alone on the pier watching the ship pull away, then once out of sight we make that lonesome and uncomfortable walk back to the car. We stand alone as the weeks turn into months. We stand alone when we tuck our children into bed at night, say our prayers for daddy, then crawl into our own bed, longing for intimacy and pillow talk. We stand alone as we continue on with our routine because what is familiar and routine brings comfort. We stand alone on holidays, birthdays, wedding anniversaries, and even the birth of our children. We stand alone on the good days as well as the dark days.

And if you’ve had some particularly hard deployments in the past, you simply don’t want to stand alone anymore. And perhaps you can identify with Jonah. Perhaps you’ve decided that your Ninevah may be somewhere else rather than in the military community. Maybe you’ve had the urge to run from this pilgrim sort of life – a lifestyle that often leaves you in a state of longing. Not just for your husband to return home, but for feeling connected, to be a family again, to make family plans, to start a family, or to simply take your finger off the pause button of life. While the rest of the world tends to live according to the seasons of winter, spring, summer, and fall, we military families live according to the seasons associated with command schedules. We’re not in sync with the rest of the world so this exacerbates the feeling that we’re standing alone.

Even though you are alone physically, remember you’re really not. God is standing beside you. He is everywhere you are. And He goes before you. As a child of His, it isn’t possible to be outside of His reach. I used to remind myself of that when there were long stretches of time with no word from my husband, friends or family.

When my husband would call home from the ship, just hearing him say, “You keep me going at this,” gave me an extra dose of motivation to finish the journey. He was counting on me. But there were also days when inevitably I’d contemplate what life without the military would be like and how my life would be different. But as soon as I pondered on that notion there was another thought that quickly bubbled up to the surface. This thought had a voice to it.

“If he must obey, so can you,” came His deep penetrating voice. “Remember, just like your husband who is counting on you, so am I.”

Our husbands took an oath; they pledged to defend all enemies foreign and domestic and obey all orders of the President of the United States. If it is important for them to obey the President of the United States, how much more important is it for you and I to follow His will. Fulfilling His will for us is paramount in order for our husbands to fulfill theirs, whether inside the military or not.

Yes, you may feel you’re standing alone, but feelings don’t make it so. Our feelings do not change anything about what we know of God. Feelings, I learned, are neither right or wrong, they just are. Joshua 1:5 says, “As I was with Moses, so I will be with you…” And Matthew 28:20 also says, “And remember, I am with you always…” And lastly, Zephaniah 3:17 says, “The Lord, your God, is in your midst, a warrior who gives victory.”

The military lifestyle is a challenge, but you are the apple of His eye and when you commit your loneliness and solitude to Him, it will be taken care of. Trust Him on this; He’s had lots of practice and He has a good victory record.

Blessings,

Lisa

For a copy of Lisa’s book, “Faith Steps for Military Families,” you can order it here.

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).