Tag Archives: Waiting

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

 

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.

Is Someone Telling Lies About You?

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Are you hurt because of someone's lies?

Are you hurt because of someone’s lies?

When my kids were small I began reading, The Power of A Praying Parent by Stormie Omartian. I was particularly interested in the chapter on lying. I wanted to know how to handle lying with a godly approach.  I found what was needed to help my son understand why God hates lying. Stormie says, “Every time you lie you give Satan a piece of your heart.” Ouch! Those twelve words was all it took for my son to grasp the magnitude of lying and the unattractive consequences. Even I had never thought of lying in that way.

 In Psalm 120, the writer is the recipient of lies and untruth. “In my distress I cry to the LORD, that he may answer me: ‘Deliver me, O LORD, from lying lips, from a deceitful tongue…A warrior’s sharp arrows, with glowing coals of the broom tree!” (verses 2-4). Lying lips and a deceitful tongue is compared to sharp arrows. A deceitful tongue, like arrows, cuts deeply leaving behind a lingering sting. Now, consider the second part of verse 4: “with glowing coals of the broom tree!” The broom tree is a large desert shrub that adapts to dry conditions. Like hot coals glowing from a long burning campfire, the broom tree holds its heat. If you accidently get burned by an ember there’s instant pain, leaving behind a sting. It is the same with slanderous words.

 While living in 1940’s transient military housing that was considered sub-standard living quarters, gossip and lies spread like an uncontrolled wildfire. Perhaps the shoddy and inadequate temporary accommodations stirred up inferior feelings that provoked residents into this unattractive behavior. Often this is the underlying reason for unjust criticism; there may be some sort of pain or suffering going on within the offender. In this case, you can’t go wrong with praying for this person.

 So, what is the Christian service member or military family to do when a victim of slanderous talk or unjust criticism? Even though you may want to seek retaliation, resist that urge. It’s unbecoming of a military member or his/her family. And revenge isn’t God’s method for us anyway. The psalmist in verse 7 of Psalm 120 steers us in the direction to seek peace. He says, “I am for peace; but when I speak, they are for war.” More often than not, our egos get in the way and giving the situation more attention just sparks more controversy and incites a verbal war.

 Instead, be smart by first taking your complaint to God in prayer. If you’re serious about hearing from God, pray earnestly and consistently for Him to bring justice and rebuild your reputation and integrity. Just be on the watch for His hand to direct. Because God hates sin not all of His justice will be postponed into the future. He also rescues and vindicates His children in this life as well. So trust Him to reestablish you.

 I also like what First Peter 2:23 has to say. “When he [Jesus] was abused, he did not return abuse; when he suffered, he did not threaten; but he entrusted himself to the one who judges justly.”

 As a Christ-follower, we gain comfort and strength from the knowledge that God is on our side because God is Truth. If we have done nothing wrong, then truth is on our side. If we are wrongly criticized or lied about, one aspect of God’s nature is to uphold you.  Joshua 23:10 says: “It is the LORD, your God who fights for you” and Psalm 124:2: “Though I walk in the midst of trouble, you preserve me against the wrath of my enemies; you stretched out your hand, and your right hand delivers me” (NRSV).  God will deliver you from those that seek to bring you down with lies and deceit. All truths come to the surface eventually, but meanwhile trust in God’s promises. God will deal justly with the one who has lied, deceived, or criticized you with an untrue assessment. The best action one can take in times when we’ve had more than enough disrespect is to settle our eyes upon Jesus and seek His guidance. He will make straight what is crooked either now or later. Pray and trust Him. This isn’t idle behavior, but exercising discipline and faithfulness to the One who will uphold you and truth.

 Blessings,

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

Hello, I Am…Waiting For Better Times

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  O LORD, in the morning you hear my voice; [my prayers] in the morning I plead my case to you, and watch [wait]. Psalm 5:3 NRSV

What has the military life put on hold for you?

What has the military life put on hold for you?

In our waiting for God to usher in better times, it can seem like God has forgotten us. We know in our heart it’s not true, but that doesn’t always remove the ache of waiting. Even the ancient Israelites wondered if God had forgotten them at times. But then, God did something so incredibly wonderful that it seemed too good to be true. Have you ever experienced something like that? The author of Psalm 126 wrote about an event that was truly wonderful that it seemed like a dream. “When the LORD restored the fortunes of Zion, we were like those who dream” (Psalm 126:1).
The Crockpot of Waiting
Because the Israelites had been taken into captivity by the Babylonians, their lives took a drastic downturn. Due to their exiled status, their lives and better times were on hold-indefinitely. Commentator James Limburg describes this period of waiting perfectly. “Psalm 126 comes from a people who are living between the times, between a good time remembered and another good time hoped for.”

What about you? Do you find yourself living between the times-between a time filled with fond memories and another time waiting for good times to return again? I have. I recall as a Navy wife in which circumstances were less than desirable and for a span of five years it seemed like life in the military would never yield better times. I frequently wrote in my prayer journal “how long, Lord? When will these discouraging times end?” But God is not concerned about our discomfort so much as He is concerned with molding and shaping us into mighty vessels for His kingdom work as a result of those dry, and disappointing times. It’s as if that period of feeling stuck between the times is God putting us into the crockpot of life and keeping us at the “simmer” setting. We have to patiently bear the wait as the obstacles of our dry circumstances grow and shape our faith, saturating us with the aroma of God’s spirit permeating our lives.

Active Waiting Brings Discernment

Our fast-paced culture desires quick fixes. We want the easy 5-steps for bringing happy times back into our lives or homes. God, however, operates in a totally different fashion. He ordains our days and the circumstances in our lives for our good and His glory. And when we find our lives on hold this is our cue to soak our minds in God’s Word. Doing so enlarges our spiritual perception to better discern our circumstances. “But those who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength, they shall walk and not faint” (Isaiah 40:31). By anticipating God’s promise of strength, we grow in hopeful expectation that God will move in our less-than-desirable circumstances and usher in better times. The results are worth the wait.

Those Israelites taken into captivity by Babylon were carried away in tears, but their tears of sorrow became the seeds for a future harvest. God did the extraordinary. Seventy years later He used King Cyrus to end their captivity. And this is why it seemed like a dream to them. Something this wonderful had to be from God’s hand.

God still desires to bless His children with events that astonish us-and move us to the other side of James Limburg’s quote to “another time hoped for.” God’s great harvest will come and with it His joy for our parched hearts.

Go and Delight in the Lord today!

Lisa

If you’ve experienced something so astonishing that it could only have been from God’s hand, I’d love to hear from you. Please use the “reply” button at the bottom of this page to share your story. Come visit me at www.Facebook.com/FaithStepsForMilitaryFamilies and ‘like’ my page.

 

 

5 Habits to Do While Waiting on God

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What unanswered prayer are you waiting on God to answer?

Still got unanswered prayer? Try these 5 habits while waiting for God to answer them.

Like you, I have unanswered prayers. And it is from a place of deep longing to see those prayers answered that I write this post.  Waiting on God is just plain hard. And sometimes we wonder why it takes so long to see the hand of God move in our circumstances or in people’s lives.  I’ve been a Christian for forty years now, but twenty-eight of those years there’s been one prayer request in particular that I’ve been waiting for God to answer.  Sometimes the waiting just overwhelms me. My heart is torn and I’ve written in my journal the words, “How long, O Lord? How long before You answer?” (Taken from Psalm 13:1) (nrsv)  It’s not that God doesn’t want to answer my prayer request, but there may be some serious behind the scenes work that must take place first. And it seems like it takes longer for people to change then it does for circumstances.

Do you have a prayer request that has gone unanswered for many years? Are you praying that your next PCS move will be to the place you want or need? Are you a military spouse who is praying for a certain job to come through? Are you praying that a possible deployment won’t take place so your husband or wife can be home during a critical time in one of your children’s lives? Do you or a loved one need a healing? When praying,  do you wonder what He wants you to be doing while waiting? I’ve asked myself that question, too. Here are 5 habits worthy of doing while God is working on your requests:

1). Recollect God’s Faithfulness. When we become restless over unanswered prayer it has the potential to turn our attention inward and to focus on ourselves. This mindset might even lead us to accentuate other things we perceive to be wrong in our life.  As soon as you notice you are doing this, turn your heart and mind back on God. Focus on what remarkable things God has done for you in the past. I often start my journal with a psalm that reminds me of God’s faithfulness. For example, Psalm 40:5:

 “O Lord my God, many and many a time you have done great miracles for us, and we are ever in your thoughts. Who else can do such glorious things? No one else can be compared with you. There isn’t time to tell of all your wonderful deeds.”

 All through the Old Testament are accounts of God’s faithfulness to the Israelites. So often they were the targets of oppression and persecution by their enemies, but many times over God intervened on their behalf.  God was for the ancient Israelites, and He is still for us today.

Remember, if God could be trusted in the past, He can be trusted also for our tomorrows. We have hope as the anchor for our souls. Since God’s Word is unfailing, it’s also true that God does not fail either. He will answer your prayer requests, but it may not be exactly as you expect.

If you keep a journal, record those times where God came through for you. That way when you grow weary in waiting, go back and read those accounts when He proved His faithfulness. It will refresh your soul and restore your confidence in God.

 2). Allow God to Do a Character Make-Over. One of the truths about God is that He doesn’t want to leave us in our current spiritual state. His goal is to mold our character and grow us into the mind of Christ. But, for this to happen, we have to allow God’s Word to do a make-over in our minds. As this process takes place, we become more Christ-like.  His character is manifested in our life. What I’ve also found to be true is that while I waited for God to answer a prayer request, He was also working on some aspect of my own character. Instead of resenting this process, take God up on the challenge and ask Him, “What aspects of my character do you want to change?” Ask Him to show you, then when He does record it in your journal.  You’ll discover new ways to react to circumstances.

 3). Safeguard your heart from A Complaining Spirit.  If like me, you’ve been waiting for many years for God to answer a prayer request, the years of longing can take their toll. It’s easy to grow impatient. When we become impatient we tend to complain. Complaining comes out of a sense of dissatisfaction. The Israelites found themselves in the complaint department while on their journey to the Promised Land.  They had become dissatisfied and stopped trusting God. In doing so, they became rebellious (Numbers 14).  Their rebellion led them to complain about their present circumstances. What’s worse, when they succumbed to the emotion of the people, they lost their perspective on God’s nature. They forgot about God’s faithfulness.

 While waiting for God to answer our prayers, reframe from complaining, verbally or in our thought life. Instead, cultivate a habit of thankfulness.  It will safeguard your heart from becoming rebellious which leads to stepping away from the Lord. Psalm 37:34 gives us clear instruction:

 “Don’t be impatient for the Lord to act! Keep traveling steadily along his pathway and in due season he will honor you with every blessing…” And God’s blessings are worth the wait.

 4). Seek Godly Discernment. Sometimes God’s answers don’t come in the way or in the time we expect. Then there are times when we don’t even understand what He’s doing at all. It just doesn’t make sense or we can’t figure out the reason why a situation went this way or that way. While waiting for God to answer, seek His face for understanding. He is a generous God and wants us to know we can come to Him for clarity on our prayer requests.

 Psalm 119:27 says, “Make me understand the way of your precepts, and I will meditate on your wondrous works” (nrsv) When we make seeking His face for understanding a habit, it helps us to assess what course of action is needed. It will give us insight into people and circumstances that we might not otherwise have.  Discernment is one of those habits that will serve us well all our lives.

 “For the Lord gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding; he stores up sound wisdom for the upright…” (nrsv).

Did you catch that last part? God stores up wisdom and understanding for those whose hearts are His. How marvelous is that! Our job is to ask Him for it, and He will gladly supply it. This will help us to know how to pray for a situation or person. At the same time, be still and wait. This is called, “active waiting.” We are not throwing up our hands and saying, “oh well, I’ll just let the chips fall where they may.” Instead, we pray for discernment, so that when God supplies it, we will know how and for what to pray for.

 Psalm 119:169, “Let my cry come before you, O lord; give me understanding according to your word” (nrsv).

 5). Praise and Honor Belongs to Him – The Book of Psalms is a treasure trove for how to praise God. One of my favorites is Psalm 118. Praise is acknowledging God’s greatness, His power, His forgiveness, His authority, His sovereignty, His faithfulness, and other attributes. When we feel powerless to change our circumstances or people’s hearts, our praise catches God’s attention. Authentic praise helps to drive out doubt, and in particular, discouragement over unanswered prayer.

When I take the time to write out a psalm of praise in my prayer journal my hope in God is restored. Complaining focuses on the problem, but praise focuses on God who has the solution. Praise changes my outlook and I can trust God with my personal concerns and requests. And praise quiets my restless heart. And this gives me the endurance to keep praying for that one prayer request I still desire to see to fruition. If what you’re praying for is in alignment to His will, You can be confident God will answer. You have His Word on that.

 Delight in the Lord today,

Lisa

In A Little While

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“In a little while.” These four important words can change our perspective on waiting.

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Jesus said, “In a little while you will see me no more, and then after a little while you will see me” (John 16:16)

In the verse above, Jesus was referring to his death and then His resurrection three days later. The disciples were saddened about Jesus’ impending death. But they didn’t understand the language Jesus used to explain that after He died they would see him again. To clarify, Jesus used the metaphor of a woman about to give birth. She experiences severe labor pains, and the hour has come for the baby to enter the world. “…you will weep and mourn, but the world will rejoice; you will have pain, but your pain will turn into joy” (John 1:20, nrsv).  After the birth of her baby, the mother no longer dwells on the pain because of the joy of finally seeing her new baby.

I cried at my grandmother’s bedside the night she took her final breath.  It was Mother’s Day 1986. When the doctors discovered she was full of cancer it was too late for treatment. She was sent home to live out her final days. Twelve days later she went home to Jesus.  While caressing her soft but lifeless hand in mind, my heart was conflicted. I was relieved that her suffering from an aggressive form of cancer was over, but at the same time, my heart ached. I wasn’t ready to let her go. Her unexpected illness and sudden death seemed surreal. She and I had always been close.

As a teen, I occasionally spent my Saturday afternoons visiting her. She always baked a fresh loaf of bread and brewed our favorite flavor of tea. We spent the afternoon talking about the things on our hearts, how school was going for me, my friends, college plans, spiritual things, stories about my grandparent’s early days, and family history.  As we sipped hot tea from her best china tea cups and enjoyed the warm bread, Cat Stevens, Simon and Garfunkel, the Carpenters, Elton John and Fleetwood Mac played in the background. My grandmother had a sense of humor, too. And it always floated to the surface of her stories sending us into long spells of deep belly laughs with tears rolling down our cheeks.

Not only did her passing away leave a huge hole in my heart, but I was troubled over God’s timing. I wondered, Didn’t God know that I still needed her?  Nine months earlier, my husband (at the time) had left for work one morning and never come back. Heartbroken from his rejection, I couldn’t see past the hurt. However, in hindsight, it was my grandmother whom I believe God used to help discern my situation. My husband had literally abandoned me and broke our marriage covenant. 

For the next nine months, my grandmother was like Jesus with skin on. Living four hours away, she wrote letters every week professing her unconditional love and support, as well as Scripture verses to encourage and strengthen my faith.  More than anything, she wrote about God’s compassion towards those abandoned, rejected and crushed in spirit.

Like it did for the disciples, John 16:16 brings hope to Christian’s today. Twenty–nine years have passed since my grandmother went to be with Jesus. His words “in a little while” still apply and continue to bring hope. With the passing of the years, sadness has been replaced with joyful anticipation.  Faith says to wait on God because “in a little while” I’ll not only see my grandmother, but Jesus as well.

Who or What is Your “In A Little While?”

Are you waiting for your spouse to return home from deployment? When he or she left your heart ached, but take comfort in Jesus’ words “in a little while.” In a little while, you’ll rejoice at his or her homecoming. Are you praying while waiting on a situation to be resolved? Remember, there is an invisible hand working behind the scenes and “in a little while” He will make straight what is crooked. Trust Him to do what’s best. Do you feel agitated, pray, and “ in a little while” God will provide the calm. In cases in which you don’t understand something, pray and maintain obedience and “in a little while” God will bring clarity to the situation. As the days of deployment drag on and you feel discouraged–draw close to–and put your faith in the Lord, (James 4:8) and “in a little while” He will be the “lifter of your head” (Psalm 3:3). Those four words are significant. They were for the disciples when Jesus spoke them. When there’s a longing of the heart involved, “in a little while” becomes alive with new meaning and fresh hope.

Blessings,

Lisa

If you would like to order a signed-copy of my new book, “Faith Steps for Military Families” send me an email at info@lisanixonphillips.com. Ordering through me, the book is just $10.00 and $2.69 for shipping.

Also, come visit me on Facebook, www.Facebook.com/FaithStepsForMilitaryFamilies, and also on Twitter @lisanixonphilli

 

 

Ask God First

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Who do you go to first in making a decision?

Who do you go to first in making a decision?

 

Who do you go to when you need help with making an important decision? Do you ask God first? Or do you usually talk to your spouse, family, friends, even coworkers first? Or do you seek out your pastor as a last resort if you’re still unclear of what to do? Jeremiah 33:3 says:

 “Call to me and I will answer you, and will tell you great and hidden things that you have not known” (NRSV).

 Don’t Rely on Guesswork

Jeremiah was a prophet–God’s spokesman to Judah. God tasked him with confronting the people of Judah about their sin. The basic message God ask Jeremiah to do was, “repent and turn to God.” As Babylon, Egypt, and Assyria struggled for world dominance, Judah found itself in the middle of this triangle.1 Even though Jeremiah prophesied for 40 years declaring God’s messages of doom, nobody listened. And Judah was eventually destroyed and the people were carried off to Babylon. They failed to heed to Jeremiah’s warnings.

God spoke to Jeremiah many times over many years, but Jeremiah’s job was to determine what God wanted him to do each day.2 It is the same with us. We have God’s Word and it is filled with His messages to us. When we have to make an important decision, like which orders should I take (if there’s a choice), should I reenlist or take that civilian job opportunity, buy that house my husband and I really love, or wait? And even should I ask my girlfriend to marry me?

 Rely on the Lord

Instead of going to our friends, coworkers, or family with our dilemma, we are to go to God first. That’s what Jeremiah did and he was found to be faithful. We can ask, “God, what do You want me to do?” Then explain your situation. He already knows what is best and He is faithful to answer.

King Jehoshaphat also went to God first. His kingdom was on the verge of being invaded. The armies of the Moabites and the Ammonites were coming against Jehoshaphat for battle. Deeply distraught, he alerted his people to seek God’s help. In not knowing what to do, Jehoshaphat sought God first. “We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you”3

 (2 Chronicles 20:12). God heard this king’s humble prayer and God destroyed their enemies.

Call to Action

Instead of fretting about a pending decision, seek the Lord through His Word and in prayer. It’s entirely possible that after going to Him first, He may use others to direct your steps. Ask Him what your next step may be. He may not give you the entire picture, but He will give you your next step. Take that step of faith, trusting Him for the rest. Don’t make the mistake and decide your course of action first, then ask God for His blessing. Just ask, “Lord, what is it that You want me to do? This is the best course of action because His plans already have His blessings. Like King Jehoshaphat, when we follow God’s plan, we’ll have victory.

 Blessings,

Lisa

 

Notes:

1 Bible Note for Jeremiah 1.2,2, The Life Application Bible (Iowa Falls, IA: World Bible Publisher, Inc. 1989).

2 Ibid.

3 Lisa Nixon Phillips, Faith Steps for Military Families–Spiritual Readiness Through the Psalms of Ascent   (New York, NY: Morgan James Publishing, 2014), 19.

Did You Miss the Parental Blessing? Part 2

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father and son

The blessing involves five key components

 Then he [Esau] said, “Have you not reserved a blessing for me?” Gen. 27:36

My heart can’t help but feel sorry for Esau, who was tricked out of the family blessing from his father, Isaac. Not because of sibling rivalry, but more so because it reveals a family as a whole that didn’t always get along.  Not only was there conflict and disunity between the two twin brothers, Esau and Jacob, but also between husband and wife (Isaac and Rebekah). It’s also a story of a mother who favored her younger son and of a father who favored the eldest son. No doubt, this created a troubling struggle in that family. Not much has changed. Favoritism is still a problem in many families today, but what is it about the blessing that created such an uproar in Esau’s family?

 May God give you of the dew of heaven, and of the fatness of the earth, and plenty of grain and wine. Let peoples serve you, and nations bow down to you. Be lord over your brothers, and may your mother’s sons bow down to you. Cursed be everyone who curses you, and blessed be everyone that blesses you! (Genesis 27:28-29 NKJV).

 Before a father passed away, it was customary to perform a ceremony to formally give the blessing to the firstborn son.1 In fact, in Hebrew, “firstborn” is bekorah, whereas “blessing” is berakah. These two similar words, “firstborn” and “blessing” use a play on words to link their meanings together.2 Although Esau was the first born son, and according to the custom of the day was the assumed recipient of the blessing, a father could pass the blessing on to another son if he so chose. However, once the blessing was given, it was irrevocable. This is because in ancient times, a person’s word was binding, especially when it was a formal oath.3 

 The birthright of the first born son (in our story that is Esau) is different than receiving the blessing. Remember, Esau had sold his birthright for a pot of stew (Gen.25:29-33). But the blessing was an extension of the birthright and included some personal and heartfelt words along with a gesture from the father. When I think of the birthright I think mostly of the tangible things passed on to the eldest son. He received a double share of his father’s inheritance.  However, with the blessing it is far more personal and therefore more deeply felt. The blessing includes words from a father conveying worth, unconditional love, and acceptance to his son. Those are life-sustaining words. Like it did in Esau and Jacob’s day, the blessing can propel a child onto the path of God’s will for his or her life. Receiving the blessing can satisfy a deep longing of the heart. You can feel Esau’s pain in his words to his father as he begins to bitterly sob at the realization that his brother, Jacob, took the blessing deceitfully from him. “Not one blessing left for me? O my father, bless me too” (Gen.27:38 TLB).

It was not uncommon for fathers in Esau’s and Jacob’s day to wait until late in life to pronounce the blessing in case the first born son wasn’t deserving of it. This way the father could chose to give it to a more deserving son.4

Isaac did have words for Esau’s future, even though the blessing was not to be his. However, they were words probably hard to take in. Isaac says, “Yours will be no life of ease and luxury, but you shall hew your way with your sword. For a time you will serve your brother, [younger brother] but you will finally shake loose from him and be free” (Gen. 27:39-40 TLB). Being that Esau was Isaac’s favorite, perhaps knowing that he would no longer be struggling against his younger brother brought some comfort.

 It’s also worth noting that God had chosen Jacob over Esau to receive the blessing, however, his mother, Rebekah decided to manipulate the situation and hurry up God’s plan.

Today the blessing is still conveyed, but perhaps with less protocol than in Bible times, but the importance is still no less needed. In a couple of months, my son, Lawrence, will be graduating from high school. My husband, Ray, and I are working on the words we want to convey to him as we mark this milestone in his life.

 In The Blessing, written by John Trent and Gary Smalley, it describes the importance of the blessing: “The family blessing provides that much-needed sense of personal acceptance. The blessing also plays a part in protecting and even freeing people to develop intimate relationships. Perhaps most important, it lays the foundation for a genuine and fulfilling relationship with God that can survive even the rocky teen years, when many young people pull away from faith.”5

John Trent and Gary Smalley describe the five elements of the blessing of which we’ll explore in the next blog article. “The presence or absence of these elements can help us determine whether our home is–or our parents’ home was–a place of blessing.”6 The foundational truth to the blessing is that it is wrapped and sealed in Jesus’ unconditional love. His love is so profound, we can’t even take it all in. We see our flaws, weaknesses, screw-ups and hang-ups, but still, He sees His created children that He chooses to love–without exception.

Giving the blessing, according to John Trent and Gary Smalley is all about choosing–stepping towards someone.

On Thursday we’ll look at the concept of stepping towards our children. Again, if you have a story to share, or this blog article spoke to your heart, please reply in the section below. We grow by sharing.

Blessings,

Lisa

 

 

 

 

Notes

1 Bible Note for Genesis 27:33-37, Life Application Bible (Iowa Falls, IA: World Bible Publishers, Inc., 1989).

2 Bible Note for Genesis 27:4, English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL.: Crossway, 2008).

3 Bible Note for Genesis 27:33, Life Application Bible

4 Bible Note for Genesis 27:33-37, Life Application Bible

5 John Trent and Gary Smalley, The Blessing (Nashville, TN.: Thomas Nelson, Inc. 1993), 27.

6 Ibid., 34.

Remembering Good Times But Waiting For More?

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Happy Couple

Are you waiting for better times to return?

“When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion, we were like those who dream.”

Psalm 126:1

While the ancient Israelites were in captivity by the Babylonians, they no doubt recollected on better times, but due to their exiled status, better times were on hold–indefinitely. However, God did a new thing for His chosen people. During the reign of King Cyrus, God turned the tide of the Israelites circumstances. He “stirred up the spirit of King Cyrus of Persia” (Ezra 1:1). Cyrus set free a group of Jewish exiles, allowing them to return home. Psalm 126 describes this period of great elation for these ancient Israelites. The author of this psalm rejoiced over a significant event that seemed too good to be true. In fact, the psalmist said it all seemed like a dream. “When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion, we were like those who dream” (Psalm 126:1).

Commentator James Limburg describes this time of waiting perfectly. “Psalm 126 comes from a people who are living between the times, between a good time remembered and another good time hoped for.”1 What about you? Are you in a period of dry, disappointing times? Do you feel that you’re living between two realms–between a time filled with fond memories, and another time waiting for good times to return again? While in this difficult season, have you taken your distress to the Lord in prayer? Have you asked God, “How long, Lord? How much longer until better times return?

We live in a fast-paced environment. The culture we live in believes in quick fixes, but God is never in a hurry. He ordains our days and the circumstances in our lives for our good and His glory. When burdened by a longing for better times, daily sow the seed of God’s Word into your circumstances. When our minds are soaked with His Word, God enlarges our spiritual perception to better discern our circumstances. Hebrews 4:14 says: “Indeed, the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword…it is able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” God’s Word is alive. And it has life-changing power. When we tap into His Word, it imparts power to our weary hearts. The Bible also says it is active; it gives us supernatural strength, to expectantly wait for God to work in our circumstances and see His promises fulfilled. “But those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint” (Isaiah 40:31). By anticipating God’s promise of strength, we grow in hopeful expectation that God will move in our circumstances and usher in better times.

Those taken into captivity in Babylon were carried away in tears, signaling the start of discouraging circumstances that had no relief for seventy years. Their tears of sorrow became the seeds for a future harvest of joy that would be theirs later. Verse 6 says: “May those who sow in tears reap with shouts of joy.” God did the extraordinary and ended their bondage, thereby ushering in a new season of joy.

“Restore our fortunes, O Lord, like the watercourses in the Negeb” (v. 4). If God can end a season of drought and provide a year of abundant crops on the dry bed of the region known as Negeb, He is fully able to fill our weary spirits with joy by doing something remarkable for us. Your tears, when prayerfully sowed, are the seeds for your future harvest. “Those who go out weeping, bearing the seed for sowing, shall come home with shouts of joy, carrying their sheaves” (v). Sheaves are bundles of wheat tied together. Bringing in the sheaves means bringing in the harvest. God still desires to bless His children with events that astonish us. Like the dry beds of the Negeb, previously barren and void of life, He is able to restore our lives and bring joy out of our most difficult seasons. And move you to the other side of James Limburg’s quote to “another time hoped for.”

Have you experienced something so astonishing that it could only have been from God’s hand? If that’s the case, you can now be like the watercourses of Negeb. You can bring refreshment and encouragement to those still waiting for God to move them into better times. However, if you’re still waiting for God to usher in a season of better times, He knows your longing. He hears your prayers for better days ahead. Lean on Him while trusting Him to do a “new thing” (Isaiah 43:19) in your circumstances. The same God who restored the circumstances of the ancient Israelites will restore your circumstances – in His timing and according to His will, which is always in our best interest.

Blessings,

Lisa

You can also find me on Facebook.com/FaithStepsForMilitaryFamilies and on Twitter.com/@lisanixonphillips