A devotional to help military families stay connected during deployments

Small Groups on the Front

Written by Linda. Filed Under Spiritual Training

Excellent or Praiseworthy is posted on Monday and Thursday nights.

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. — 2 Timothy 3:16

I received an email from a friend today—deployed and with limited internet connectivity. She grabbed the cyber-opportunity to let me know how she was doing physically/mentally/spiritually and added: “ . . . went last night to my first women’s Bible study session here. It’s a small group that just got started a few weeks ago and we don’t have a formal study yet, but the fellowship will be invaluable.”

I cheered! The fellowship of believers in a small group is absolutely invaluable—priceless! To know that there is a core gathering of like-minded souls who will listen, pray for her, encourage her and whom she can encourage, understand and extend grace, teach and counsel, and hold her accountable—well, it warmed my heart. She’s living in 125 degree heat, but my heart was equally warmed by her news.

This was a good time for me to review some of the principles of small group study found in the classic The Ultimate Road Trip: A Guide to Leading Small Groups. Granted, we don’t know who will be leading my friend’s group, but the value of their gathering brings to mind that there are experiences on the battle front and on the home front which may cause a small group to have to be uniquely flexible (understatement).

So here are a few elements, just for reminders:

God never intended us to live the Christian life alone. . . God created us to use our strengths and abilities to build each other up. In small groups, different members of the body of Christ work together to encourage each other and build up the entire body of Christ. (p. 20)

People are God’s ultimate concern. . . When God became man, He said His purpose was to “seek and save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10). He was talking about people. (p. 30)

All small group leaders need to be in the process of developing certain qualities: godly character, compassion, competence, and commitment. (p. 25)

On the Front (battle or home), the one who is the leader, or facilitator, of a small group may vary from week to week. Some weeks your group may be led to just share and pray. . . .other weeks you may have the opportunity to delve into Scripture for an extended time. Some weeks you may not even be able to meet, but you (somehow) want to stay “connected” and intentional about checking up on each other.

These four leadership qualities: godly character, compassion, competence, and commitment are spelled out in Scripture for us. None of us is perfect, nor is the leader required to be. But we are to learn and grow together. Stepping out in faith and spending time together learning about the Lord and growing in His grace is what this small group adventure is all about.

I. Godly Character—found in Colossians 3:1-17:

Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. Here there is no Greek or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.

Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

The need to be in the Bible, to confess your sins, and to seek to honor God in and through your life are steps to growth in godly character.

II. Compassion—found in Matthew 9:35-38:

Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”

Loving concern for those in your group will grow as you meet together and share needs, challenges, and victories.

III. Competence—found in 2 Corinthians 3:4-6:

Such confidence as this is ours through Christ before God. Not that we are competent to claim anything for ourselves, but our competence comes from God. He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant—not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.

Humility and faithfulness are two qualities which group leaders and members appreciate in each other. As you depend on the Lord, He will develop your abilities.

IV. Commitment—found in I Corinthians 15:58:

Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.

Trust in the Lord to grow your group spiritually in His ways and in His time.

“My brethren. . .let us plainly and freely tell one another what God has done for our souls. To this end you would do well, as others have done, to form yourselves into little companies of four or five each and meet once a week to tell each other what is in your hearts that you may pray for and comfort one another as need may require. None but they who have experienced it can tell the unspeakable advantage of such communion of souls. None, I think, that truly loves his own soul and his brethren as himself will be shy of opening his heart in order to have their advice, reproof, admonition and prayer as occasions require. A sincere person will esteem it one of the greatest blessings.” (p. 5) from George Whitefield, 18th century evangelist in America

Work Cited:

Campus Crusade for Christ authors, The Ultimate Road Trip: A Guide to Leading Small Groups (Orlando: CruPress, Third Edition/2008).

Questions to Share:

1. Is there an opportunity for you to join a small group of Christians in prayer or Bible study during this deployment? If not, would you consider starting such a group?
2. How would you like to see God grow you spiritually during this deployment? (in trust? in prayer? in Scripture memory? in sharing your faith?)  How would being part of a small group help to make that happen?

Excellent or Praiseworthy is posted on Monday and Thursday nights.

I can do everything through Him who gives me strength. —  Philippians 4:13

I learned a lot during this deployment. It changed me. Let me share:

1.        I learned that I am stronger than I think.

No military wife is ever ready for deployment. From what I hear from other wives none of us really feel that we are strong enough to go through a deployment. But at the end when we look back, we are shocked at how much we came through and how strong we really are.

That is how it’s been with me. I look back and I think, “Wow, how did I do that?”  The answer?  I did it with God’s help, and also by taking it one day at a time. There were a lot of days that I look back on when I felt I couldn’t go on, but I didn’t have a choice in the matter so I kept on going. Those are the days that I believe make a person stronger—when you realize you don’t have a choice but to keep on going and so you do. And when you finally look back you realize how strong you really were, and how much of a stronger person you are now.

2.        I learned that trusting God is my only option.

It’s sad that it had to come down to a deployment to make me realize this. So many times I try to do things on my own and I don’t think about trusting God or having faith in Him to do what He needs to do. I wrote about trust the beginning of 2012 on my blog. I had picked the word “trust” as something to work on throughout the year. It’s funny because when you actively ask God to help you learn how to trust, then He is definitely going to put things in your life to help you learn how to trust. And those things aren’t always going to be what we think they are!

It was those times when I was at the end of my rope, when I felt like there just had to be something else I could do—that was when I heard God’s soft and still quiet voice that said, “Just trust.”  And that is what I learned:  at the end of it all and even at the beginning, our only option is to trust. Because if we don’t trust Him for the little things, then how can we trust Him for the big things in our lives?

3.        I learned that letting others help me is necessary and that’s ok.

If there is one thing I hear from military wives most, it’s that they are afraid to let others help them during deployment. Either they are too proud to ask or they don’t want others to think they are not strong enough to make it through the deployment on their own. For me it was a little of both.

Many events happened to our family during this past deployment over the span of 6 and a half months. It was pretty much impossible for me to get through a lot of it without asking for at least a little help. And that’s ok. It’s ok to ask for help. In fact I encourage you to do so if you are going through a deployment. Don’t be afraid!  A lot of military spouses see each other as family, and wouldn’t you want to ask your family for help if you needed it?  It took a wonderful woman at the beginning of this deployment forcing me to let her in my life and let her help to get me to see this. I am so glad I did.

4.        I learned that deployment can be a time for personal growth.

I feel like I learned so much about myself during this deployment. I feel like I grew as a person. I learned more about who I am, what I want, and a little about what makes me tick. If you are currently going through a deployment, let me encourage you to use this time to learn about yourself and to better yourself. See what things in your life you can work on improving before your spouse gets home. It will be amazing to see the results at the end of the deployment!

5.        I learned that deployment can make your marriage stronger.

At the beginning of this deployment I was absolutely terrified of what this might do to our marriage. Would we change?  Would our marriage change?  Would we even know each other at the end of all this?  Sure deployment is scary, and I think every deployment is different when it comes to your marriage. It depends on what place you are at in your marriage when the deployment takes place. It also depends on what you make it. Are you going to be an understanding wife?  Are you going to pray your way through?  Are you going to have a positive outlook even when you both may not feel like it or when you are both having a bad day?  Sure there will be times you are going to argue, or be short with one another, but, more than that, I found we were able to communicate our needs better.

We didn’t have any real face-to-face conversations. We emailed. And when you email, you have a response time in-between. It gives each of you time to think through a response. It also gives you a chance to write down your thoughts and feelings without getting interrupted. At times I felt frustrated that the communication was slow. But there were so many other times when I was able to really communicate how I felt about something through email, which gave him time to think about it and then give me a response—instead of us interrupting each other or arguing about it. Deployment CAN make a marriage stronger. You just have to find a way to do it. Don’t let it get you down. Find ways to encourage and strengthen each other.

And, by and through His grace, this deployment is over!

Questions to Share:

1. Make a list of things that God is teaching you through this deployment.

2. What do you believe God is teaching your spouse through this deployment?

Kathryn is a military wife who blogs on www.singingthroughtherain.net.

Excellent or Praiseworthy is posted on Monday and Thursday nights.

“Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. You will seek Me and find Me when you seek Me with all your heart.”Jeremiah 29:12,13

On the battlefields of the Civil War, one hundred and fifty-one years ago, the troops of the Army of Northern Virginia (Confederacy) experienced an event called for by their president, Jefferson Davis. On August 21, 1863, they observed a “day of prayer and fasting.” General Robert E. Lee issued this order in response to President Davis’ request:

“The President of the Confederate States has, in the name of the people, appointed the 21st day of August as a day of fasting, humiliation and prayer. A strict observance of the day is enjoined upon the officers and soldiers of this army. All military duties, except such as are absolutely necessary, will be suspended. . . . Soldiers! We have sinned against Almighty God. We have forgotten His signal mercies, and have cultivated a revengeful, haughty, and boastful spirit. We have not remembered that the defenders of a just cause should be pure in His eyes; that ‘our times are in His hands;’ and we have relied too much on our own arms for the achievement of our independence. God is our only refuge and our strength. Let us humble ourselves before Him. Let us confess our many sins, and beseech Him to give us a higher courage, a purer patriotism, and more determined will; that He will convert the hearts of our enemies,; that He will hasten the time when war, with its sorrows and sufferings, shall cease, and that He will give us a name and place among the nations of the earth.” Christ in the Camp, p. 56

Revivals were becoming more common in the camps of the Confederacy, so much so that when the War ended and the soldiers headed home (some with new-found faith), their spiritual fervency was instrumental in creating what we now call “the Bible Belt.” Christ in the Camp is a beautiful compilation of letters and reports from the field—chronicling what God brought about between chaplains, missionaries, and pastors and the soldiers and families whom they served during the Civil War. First published in 1887 by Chaplain J. William Jones, the book is over six hundred pages of actual accounts and correspondence which can only reinforce what was true then and now—our only hope is in Christ Jesus.

The introduction to the book is written by Chaplain J. C. Granberry, and includes this description of the military soldier:

“The martial imagery of which Paul (in the New Testament) was fond shows an analogy between the life of the soldier and the life of the saint. The centurion of Capernaum and the centurion of Cesarea were patterns of faith and of a devout spirit. The soldier’s habits of unquestioning obedience to orders, of trust in superior officers, and of freedom from anxiety about things for which he is not responsible, fit into the life of faith. . . . . I have nowhere witnessed more complete, symmetrical and beautiful examples of Christian character than in the army. . . Not recklessly, but with thoughtful and prayerful solemnity, they went into fierce battle; yet the peace of God which passeth all understanding kept their hearts against alarm. . . . To God be all the glory!” (p. 15-16)

The Northern counterpart to Christ in the Camp is the fascinating book entitled From the Flag to the Cross, published in 1872. Story after story of soldiers making decisions to follow Christ—both before battle and after battle, sometimes in the hospital and sometimes in prison—fills the pages of this book by Chaplain A. S. Billingsley. The book also tells of the contribution that the U.S. Christian Commission made to the spiritual life of the U.S. Army: “The efficiency and success of the Commission were wonderful. Beginning with eighteen members in 1861, before the close of the war it had engaged nearly five thousand delegates laboring for the temporal and spiritual wants of the men. Talking Christ to them, preaching to and praying for and with them, was the principal business of a great part of the delegates. In all, they preached to them over 58,000 sermons, and held with them over 77,000 prayer-meetings, and gave them 1,466,748 Bibles and parts of Bibles, 18,000,000 religious newspapers, 1,370,000 hymn-books, over 8,000,000 knapsack-books, and 39,000,000 pages of tracts, and wrote for them 92,000 letters. The total value of the whole amount contributed in four years was $6,291,107.68. With zealous hearts these noble brethren ‘went about doing good,’ relieving and comforting the officer, soldier, and sailor wherever they found them.’” (p. 333) Among the members of the U.S. Christian Commission, who served side-by-side with chaplains, was pastor and evangelist Dwight L. Moody.

I particularly enjoy the vignettes of interviews held by chaplains with soldiers in From the Flag to the Cross. One such visit between a hospital chaplain and a soldier yielded this exchange:

“While it has often been said by the thoughtless and careless, ‘We can’t live out religion in the army;’ and although it is often said by a certain class of professors, ‘the army is a hard place to be a Christian, and live it out,’ yet at our first interview with James H. Finney, 1st N.Y. Engineers, we found him entertaining a very different view, and being fully conscious of the enjoyments and consolations of the Christian religion, he says, ‘It would be hard to live in the army without it.’ Opposed, as we are, by the combined powers of the world, the flesh, and the devil, life at best is a warfare from the cradle to the grave. And although the temptations are greater and the restraints weaker some places than others, yet, since God’s grace is sufficient at all times and under all circumstances to guide, guard, and sustain the believer, he can, if he will, at all times walk worthy of his vocation, and so live and act that his life will be an embodiment of the great doctrines of the cross of Christ. And it is impugning the wisdom, mercy, powers, and grace of God to say that he cannot.” (p. 139-140)

So we have begun with a call to prayer on the battlefield and ended with a call to faithfulness from a wounded soldier to his chaplain. Perhaps some things in military life have changed, but the charge given above from 2 Corinthians 12:9 will never change: “But He (the Lord) said to me (the apostle Paul), ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

Are you feeling weak today? Remember that “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” ( Hebrews 13:8)  He is the same Christ who ministered to soldiers in the Civil War, and He can minister to you today. Call to Him—He will answer. He loves you!

Work Cited:

Jones, J. William, Christ in the Camp (Harrisonburg: Sprinkle Publications, 1986. Originally published by B. F. Johnson & Co. in 1887)

Billingsley, Amos S. From the Flag to the Cross (Birmingham: Solid Ground Christian Books, 2006. Originally published by New World Publishing Co. of Philadelphia in 1872)

Questions to Share:

1. Chaplain Granberry refers to Philippians 4:7. Look that up in a Bible, and then read verses 8 and 9 which follow. How does Paul say that the God of peace can be with you?

2. In what ways does studying what was demanded of soldiers in the past inspire you to fulfill your mission today?

Evening Prayers With Chaps

Written by Chaps. Filed Under Prayer, Spiritual Training

Excellent or Praiseworthy is posted on Monday and Thursday nights.

Editor’s Note: We have the privilege of reading four days’ worth of evening prayers from a Navy chaplain. What he shared with others on his ship is encouragement to all of us.

Sing to the LORD a new song; sing to the LORD, all the earth. Sing to the LORD, praise His name, proclaim His salvation day after day. Declare His glory among the nations, His marvelous deeds among all peoples. — Psalm 96:1-3

Day One—The Best Ship in the Navy

I wanted to thank you personally because, though we are logging long hours, we are having a good turn at the wheel and we are building our team one cat shot and trap after another. Looking deeper within the skin of the ship, the CIC, Galley, Engine Rooms, Admin Spaces and more are all turning out what keeps us moving and keeps us safe.

Together we are answering the question, “What is the best ship in the Navy?” I see it one shipmate at a time. I see it in Leadership, Ownership, Stewardship, Partnership, Relationship, Fellowship, Kinship and all leading up to today in Worship. When we have all these, the best ship in the Navy is a by-product. “Whatever you do, whether you eat or drink, do it all for God’s glory” (I Cor 10:31).

Let us Pray: Wondrous God, as we pause during our busy schedule of flight ops and simulations, we invite Your presence. Where our journey is long and across many waters, we recognize that in the beginning Your Spirit moved across these waters and You gave life to all that followed. Today, as we follow Your Spirit and as He continues to move among the waters we sail upon, may Your breath fill us with new life and offer rest into the deck plates of our ship. Amen.

Day Two—The Rally Point of Our Flag

While observing Ft. Sumter under fire, Francis Scott Key wrote what became our National Anthem. During the bombardment, he saw bombs bursting in air and the rockets red glare from the shells of mortar attacks.

However, he did not stop at the awe of the rockets and bomb bursting. His focus was on the flag. “And the flag was still there.” His flag was more than just a symbol . . . It was a rally point that stood for something larger than someone just leaving the light on. As long as it stood, the U.S. troops still prevailed and the devices of the enemy were still thwarted.

Just as important were the principles of freedom that remained and the sacrifices it took by each soldier–the sacrifices and will to sustain that freedom under adversity. The soldiers stood for something, rather than fall for anything.

Tonight we rest easy, not because of our own efforts. We stand upon the shoulders of others and continue to stand upon the principles of freedom and You as its source.

Let us Pray: Lord, where our daily trials challenge us and the winds and waves have buffeted our bows, help us to be mindful within the battles we wage. As Francis Scott Key discovered, may we also discover that our flag and You as our rally point are still there. May we not fail and our hearts prevail upon the freedoms found with Your sacrifices that others may live. Amen.

Day Three—The Impact of Small Things

The small details of our life offer a huge impact on our mission. We have been conditioned to identify things that would otherwise be missed:

The conditioning of our faith also makes a difference. In the mustard seed of faith parable, a tiny seed settles into a small crack and makes a huge impact.

Where is your seed of faith placed?

Let us Pray: Father, as we replay the events of the day in our mind and prepare to rest, we ask that You help our faith grow where we find rocks in our path. We ask that Your faith would become ours so that we may be found faithful in all we do. Amen.

Day Four—Knowing He is God

Knowing and understanding are oceans or worlds apart.

As Navy professionals, we strive to be proficient in our roles and rates. This proficiency makes us the best Navy in the world and lets us project influence that has no equal. As a global force for good, we can turn the neck of tyrants and the tides of battles.

How does God turn our heads and the tide of our battles? By knowing Him. We can either grow through our battles or go through them.

How then do we move past a knowledge of God toward an understanding of God?

God’s answer arrives with two commands in one breath. “Be still and know He is God” (Psalm 46:10). In order to know He is God, we must be willing to be still. Still enough at times to hear His still small voice.

Let us Pray: Lord, as we pause for this brief stillness of prayer and listen within the battle rhythm of our planes, turning of our screws and visions within our scopes . . .May we hear Your standing orders. As You speak, may we know more of You and less of us. May we embrace You as our source of strength and the life that comes from You. In our purposes, may we find Your presence. May we rest this night and be still, so that we can know You are God. Amen.

Questions to Share:

1. How difficult is it for you to be still for a moment during the day, so that you can hear from God? Share with each other your efforts to make this possible.

2. How have you seen your faith grow during this deployment? How have you been able to encourage spiritual growth in your spouse during this deployment?

Beautiful Lessons in a Bad Day

Written by Bekah. Filed Under Spiritual Training

Excellent or Praiseworthy is posted on Monday and Thursday nights.

But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. — Matthew 6:33-34a

On the worst day of last week I walked into the garage to find a female cardinal had trapped herself above my open garage door and broken her neck. She was flailing around on the cement and I couldn’t do anything for her. I didn’t know how to kill her mercifully and was too afraid to try to comfort her in a towel. I was helpless and utterly useless. The only thing I could do was talk to her. So I didand then I sang her an old hymn, His Eye is on the Sparrow.

Life has been very difficult here lately. My husband is deployed, my five-year-old is struggling with ADHDso I’m struggling, and I’m fighting a currently un-winnable battle with secondary infertility. It’s overwhelming and I often feel I’m drowning in my own swamp of worry.

Like the bird, don’t we sometimes feel so helpless in this world? There are so many bad things going on and so little we can really do to make any changes. But we can know and serve the One who can change anythingthe Creator of all things. God knew we had these tendencies and He addressed them in the Bible in Matthew 6:25-34. Through the writer Matthew, God tells us not to worry six times in just nine versesHe knows I need repetition!

Civilla Martin’s words capture the essence of these words of Scripturewhether or not she planned it. Do you know the hymn?

Why should I feel discouraged? Why should the shadows come?
Why should my heart be lonely, and long for heaven and home,
When Jesus is my portion? My constant friend is He:
His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me.”

I know it’s ridiculous to sing to a dying bird. So you’ll think me even crazier in saying that she quieted down and seemed to listen to me sing it. It’s a little far-fetched, but what if she knew the truth of the song? What if birds somehow know their value and are content in it? They were made to live and work and glorify God and that’s what they do. They don’t seem to struggle against God’s will for their lives. They build their nests, hunt for food and raise their young. And when they suffer or even when their lives are over, it is a total surprise, because they were simply living. “Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? —Matthew 6:26

The next verse of the hymn says:

Let not your heart be troubled,’ His tender word I hear,
And resting on His goodness, I lose my doubts and fears;
Though by the path He leadeth, but one step I may see;
His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me.”

Worries and fears can sink us—they exhaust our energy by consuming our thoughts. But, why?

Questions to Share:

1. God has promised to take those and provide for our needs. Have you forgotten about the daily business of living for Him?

2. Are God’s promises things you know or are they things you live?

How Not to Help

Written by Linda. Filed Under Marriage & Family, Prayer

Excellent or Praiseworthy is posted on Monday and Thursday nights.

Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God.” Mark 10:27

I am always on the lookout for good marital “helps”—especially concerning military marriages. The challenges of military life are so many and the stresses so high we need to be on high alert concerning the state of our own marriage and those of our friends.

I especially appreciate articles which give advice to help friends help friends. You know—you want to help others with troubled marriages but just don’t know how . . . and are especially fearful of “making things worse.” It’s rare to find such help.

But I recently found one such article on Crosswalk.com entitled, “How to Help A Troubled Marriage”, by Joe Beam.

The five points he listed under the heading, “Do Not Do These Things”, were particularly helpful.  I have quoted them below and added my own assessments:

1. “First, do not listen to one side of the story and think that you understand the situation.”  I’ve done this before, and perhaps you have, too . . . only to find out that you didn’t get all of the facts and almost acted from a biased assessment of what was happening in your friends’ marriage. And you certainly didn’t get enough perspective to be able to help! Proverbs 18:17 says it this way: “The first to present his case seems right, till another comes forward and questions him.” A wise friend knows that there are always two sides to these situations. Be especially careful to avoid listening to marital problems from a friend of the opposite sex without your spouse or trusted help present. Even if you think you can listen and help in these situations, they can lead to misunderstandings and worse—new relationships.

2. “Second, do not believe everything either spouse says.”  Closely related to the first point, this warning is clear. Perspectives can be skewed when hurt, anger, disillusionment, fear, etc., are involved. One spouse may put the spotlight on the other because of their own guilt over something. It’s best to listen but not form any prejudices.

3. “Third, do not help anyone do wrong.”  Helping to conspire in a manipulation or scheme that you might think “helps” is risky—and possibly deceptive. Sometimes friends ask for “cover” in order to do something immoral. Be careful—“The LORD detests lying lips, but he delights in men who are truthful.”  (Proverbs 12:22)

4. “Fourth, do not believe that a couple should divorce because their problems seem hopeless.”  We have all known couples who have split up because their friends agreed they should . . . not truly understanding that God is in the redemption business—“All things are possible with God.”  There is so much help available—in good Christian counselors, wise pastors and chaplains, weekend marriage conferences, small group Bible studies focused on marriage, mentoring with older couples, great books . . . there is much hope! Possibly the best gift you can give a hurting couple is hope! Certainly boundaries are necessary when there is physical or emotional danger—but for most couples there are answers to their deepest problems!

5. “Fifth, do not hesitate to ask for assistance to help a marriage in crisis.” My husband and I know Christian counselors to call—if that seems to be the help a couple needs. Pastoral help through churches and chapels is valuable. We have weekend getaways to recommend (FamilyLife’s Weekend to Remember is the best!). We use Dr. Emerson Eggerichs’ Love and Respect book, Art of Marriage DVD seminars, The Five Love Languages by Dr. Gary Chapman, HomeBuilder small group Bible studies, etc.—many resources in our “tool box” ready to use when necessary.

The best friend you can have is one who is a friend to your marriage. And the best thing you CAN do for a marriage is to pray for it. Dr. George Kenworthy’s excellent book, Before the Last Resort, includes an appendix with clear steps to take to help your friends’ marriage—and also to pray for their relationship, however troubled it might be. Certainly this book is a great resource to refer to and to give away.

God’s blueprints for marriage apply to all marriages—including military marriages. They are found in Genesis 2:24: “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.” In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus concludes that truth with: “So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate.” (Matthew 19:6)

You can help friends with their marriage . . . with some definite “don’ts” and some definite “dos.” But start in prayer . . . “For nothing is impossible with God.” (Luke 1:37)

Questions to Share:

1. How could you prepare to help a friend whose marriage is in distress?

2. Ask your spouse how you can pray for them today. Pray also for your friends’ marriages, for them to be strengthened with the challenges of military life.

Excellent or Praiseworthy is posted on Monday and Thursday nights.

Call upon Me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you and you shall glorify Me. — Psalm 50:15

Living the Christian life. Living the Christian life in the military. Living the Christian life in the military during deployment. It’s all difficult, right? Some would say impossible, but we know better. On a scale of one to God, nothing is impossible.

As Christians who know God’s abundance and how He gives graciously and mercifully to us in every circumstance, we can still struggle with expressing to others exactly what “living the Christian life” means.

Theologian John Piper has for many years spoken on “what it means to live the Christian life” with three biblical phrases:  1) Living by Faith in the Son of God (Galatians 2:20); 2) Walking by the Spirit (Galatians 5:16); and 3) Serving in the Strength That God Supplies (I Peter 4:11).

But Piper goes on to explain what those phrases mean in everyday terms—by using an acronym, A.P.T.A.T. As Piper says, “It (the acronym) doesn’t mean anything. I just find it easy to remember.” The simple acronym summarizes in five distinct steps “the practical biblical meaning of living by faith, or walking by the Spirit, or serving in the strength God supplies.” Why? “So that Christ gets trusted, you get helped, people get served, and God gets the glory.” http://www.desiringgod.org/sermons/practical-help-for-praying-for-help

Here are John Piper’s five APTAT steps:

A – I acknowledge that without Christ I can do nothing. “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5)

P – I pray that God would make me love as Jesus loves, and work in me all that is pleasing to him. “May the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.” (Hebrews 13:21)

T – I trust the promise of God’s help and strength and guidance. “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” (Isaiah 41:10)

A – I act in obedience to God’s word. Doug Heil asked me last Sunday if Philippians 2:12 fit my acronym: “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling”? I said yes, because look at the ground clause which follows: “for it is God who works in you to will and to do his good pleasure.” Yes! Yes! We act. We obey! But what keeps this action from being a “work of law” is that we have acknowledged our helplessness, prayed for enablement, and trusted that precisely in and under our working and willing it is God who does the work! Therefore our act is a fruit of the Spirit not a work of the flesh. “Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.” (Philippians 2:12)

T – I thank God for whatever good comes. I give him the glory. “If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God. If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.” (I Peters 4:11)

Since Piper states he has practiced APTAT consistently for the last thirty years, we would do well to examine exactly how this applies to Christian life in the military—specifically to deployment. If Piper is right, and his acronym APTAT is an aid to focus on making wise choices, facing obstacles, maintaining Christian integrity, and experiencing joy in spite of struggles, then we can ask, “What does APTAT look like in deployment?” Because if it is true, then it is true for deployment.

In deployment, “A” would mean—Admit that without Christ you are helpless in this deployment.

Christian military couples are competent and confident . . . always covered by the humility of knowing their strength comes only from their sovereign Lord.

“P” would mean—Pray for God’s help for this deployment.

Pray before, during, and after deployment. Pray for God’s leading, His protection, His peace. Pray for your family. And every time you communicate with your spouse, ask “How can I pray for you?” Then do it—and later ask, “Remember how you asked me to pray for _____. How did God answer my prayer?”

“T” would mean—Trust in a promise of God suited to your need in this deployment.

Write down your favorite Bible promises (Piper’s favorites are Isaiah 41:10, Romans 8:32, Matthew 28:18, 20). Keep these in your pocket or wallet, on your mirror, placed everywhere you need to keep them “front and center” in your life—as much as possible.

“A” would mean—Act with humble confidence in God’s help during this deployment.

Perhaps God will lead you to help someone else in their Christian life. Take the faith that you have to serve others—and to speak to them of the peace that you experience.

“T” would mean—Thank God for the good that comes from this deployment.

Keep your eyes and heart open for how God is growing you spiritually during these months of deployment. And thank Him for how He alone is working in your life.

Piper closes his 1988 teaching on APTAT with a reminder on prayer: “The first two (steps) and the last are acts of prayer. So let us enter this (week) with a deep awareness that prayer is not a mere devotional interlude in the real business of living; it is the pathway of faith and obedience. There is no other.”

I pray that your prayer life during deployment will grow as you use APTAT steps, or however God leads, to come to Him regularly with what concerns you during this deployment.

Work Cited:

Hear and read John Piper’s entire sermon on APTAT at:

http://www.desiringgod.org/sermons/practical-help-for-praying-for-help

Questions to Share:

1. In what ways can you apply these five steps to your daily life as a Christian in the military?

2. What unique spiritual challenges are you facing now that you can share with your spouse?

Excellent or Praiseworthy is posted on Monday and Thursday nights.

Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone. – Colossians 4:6

I’ve made a list of things people hate to hear when their spouse is deployed. Perhaps you could add to this list, but these are the statements about which I’ve heard complaints:

“I’m sorry.”
“I know how you feel. I was a single mom.”
“I know how you feel. My husband was away on business last month.”
“I don’t know how you do it!”
“Stay busy—it’ll go quickly.”
“You knew what you were in for when you married into the military.”
“At least he’s not in Afghanistan” or “At least he’s not in Iraq.”
“I watch ‘Army Wives’, so I know what you are going through.”
“At least it’s only six months and not fifteen months, like I went through.”
“At least you don’t have any kids (or have a job or fill in the blank) and have all that extra work.”

Honestly, and I think you would agree, most folks are just trying to “connect” with you. They don’t know what to say, so they feel the need to say something—and it just comes out wrong. We’ve all done it and lived to regret what we’ve said when the tables were turned–and we knew better.

So what do we say when we’re wanting to encourage someone whose spouse is far away in service to our country? What would be gracious—not seeking to assume or compare what that person is going through? I’ve “collected” ten ideas from which to choose and modify—and of course will be willing to add more, if you will make suggestions. Here they are:

“Thank you for your service to our country, and to our Lord.”
“How can I pray for you?”
“I admire your courage and sacrifice. You have my deepest respect and appreciation.”
“What can I do to help you in a practical way?”
“The world is a better place because of what your family is doing.”
“You represent what is good in our country.”
“Your children are also serving, and we appreciate that.”
“It is because of your bravery that we are able to live in freedom and security.”
“Thank you for your commitment to bring freedom to nations who desperately need it.”
“Your sacrifice and service is not in vain. We will remember what you did.”

Perhaps you think these responses are “too wordy”, and a sincere “thank you” would warm your heart if your spouse was deployed. But other ExcellentOrPraiseworthy readers might ponder them in order to be prepared for a good response when faced with the opportunity to encourage.

But let’s consider this from the flip-side . . . what do we graciously say to someone after they have said something which could have hurt our feelings? Don’t we want to be mature in our attitudes, understanding that others could not possibly understand what we are going through?

Let me include two wonderful quotes from two military wives whom I admire—to help in this effort. Sara Horn writes in “With a Little Help from My Friends” from Military Spouse magazine (June 2010):

“Civilian was ‘they’ and military was ‘me.’ ‘They’ actually tried equating their husbands’ business trips to my husband’s trip to the sandbox: so not the same thing. I was a military wife. Well, suddenly-military wife would be a more accurate term. Guard and Reserve spouses are suddenly thrown into a military existence when their service members deploy. And suddenly-military wives can be prone to seeing everything through one filter: the ‘My Life Has Changed Forever and No One Has a Clue” filter . . . . But hindsight, they say, is 20/20 . . . . I finally realized I had placed a whole bunch of expectations on them—standards and beliefs that weren’t necessarily fair . . . .” (p. 62)

Another perspective—because we need perspective in handling deployments with grace—is from my all-time favorite military-wife-book Footsteps of the Faithful by Denise McColl when she was a young mother of five, and wife of a submariner. She wrote:

“ ‘I don’t know how you do this with five young children. . .’ people often say. And each time my response can either be a trite and nonchalant, ‘Well, it isn’t all that bad . . .’ or a spiteful ‘I don’t know how I do this either! He’s sure going to make up for this when he gets home!’ Or it could be (and this takes both boldness and humility), ‘Well, I’m only doing this by God’s grace, as Jesus does a good work through me. When I don’t listen to Him and obey, I can say for certain that I don’t do a very good job at this at all . . .’” (p. 137)

The truth is that there is only one who can truly understand what we are going through—one who has experienced all pain and loneliness—Jesus Christ. It is to Him we must run when we have our feelings hurt, when we are overwhelmed, or misunderstood. Running to anyone or anything else . . . . will eventually disappoint, or worse—ruin.

Respected Bible teacher, Jill Briscoe, commented on this foundational truth when her husband, Stuart, was traveling for an extended period of time: “Years ago I stopped looking to anyone but God to satisfy me. There is no man that can love me enough. No child that can need me enough. No job that can pay me enough. And no experience that can satisfy me enough. Only Jesus.”

In conclusion, I like what Oswald Chambers, the author of My Utmost for His Highest, had to say about this subject.  He was a chaplain in World War I, serving in the camps near the front lines in Egypt.  In his writings on Job 8:7-10 he says, “Over and over again during this war men have turned to prayer. . . . The biggest thing you can do for those who are suffering is not to talk platitudes, not to ask questions, but to get into contact with God, and the ‘greater works’ will be done by prayer (see John 14:12-13).  Job’s friends never once prayed for him . . . .”

Pray for each other.  Pray for yourself.  Pray for those who want to help, and say the right thing, but just don’t know how.  Pray to grow close to Jesus.

Work cited:

Chambers, Oswald, The Complete Works of Oswald Chambers (Grand Rapids: Discovery House Publishers, 2000), p. 56.

Horn, Sara, “With a Little Help From My Friends,” Military Spouse, June, 2010, p. 62.

McColl, Denise, Footsteps of the Faithful (Orlando: Campus Crusade for Christ, 1994), p. 137.

Jill Briscoe quoted from Alistair Begg’s Truth for Life broadcast “Contentment or Corruption, Part Two, B”, August 11, 2010.

Questions to Share:

1. What has someone said to you when your spouse was deployed that really encouraged you?  Why was that particularly helpful?

2. How can you best encourage each other as a couple while you are geographically separated during deployment?

Excellent or Praiseworthy is posted on Monday and Thursday nights.

Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure . . . — Hebrews 13:4a

Paul David Tripp’s 2010 book What Did You Expect?? has become a classic in the library of books on marriage. Tripp is well known for getting to the real heart of the matter—whether the topic is marriage, parenting, aging, pastoral life, counseling, or discipleship. It is this work on marriage that has couples and marriage counseling professionals pondering the deep things of God in regards to “Redeeming the Realities of Marriage”—the subtitle of the book.

In the last pages of What Did You Expect?? Tripp summarizes his writing with this: “What has this book been about? It has been a detailed description of the daily work of love that must be done with commitment and joy when a flawed person is married to a flawed person and they are living in a fallen world. Your marriage won’t just magically become a relationship of unity, understanding, and love. You must work to develop those things. Your marriage won’t magically grow to be more loving, understanding, and unified. You will have to work so that those things become deep and strong. And these things won’t be maintained magically. You will have to commit to making sure that busyness and selfishness don’t drive them away.” P. 282

Did you catch that—“Daily work . . . You must work . . . You will have to work”??!!

Fortunately, for those of us who are slow to understand what “work at marriage” means, Tripp lists twenty-eight points which will steer us from “the sin of laziness” in regards to marriage towards “being committed to the hard work that makes a marriage beautiful”. P. 280

Whether you’ve been married ten years—or ten months—these points are valid. But just so we make it clear that they also apply when geographically separated by military duty, I have added some thoughts after each of his points. The purpose of these additional thoughts is to get you to thinking that “working on your marriage” is not just something you can do when together with your spouse . . . but can also apply to deployment or TDY. Working on your marriage is something we all must do—always—if we want to finish deployment, or finish life, well with our marriages flourishing.

So the italicized bullet points—what you will be willing to do to work at your marriage—are from Paul David Tripp. The extra thoughts are mine.

During deployment, losing sleep in order to communicate is not exactly a new idea. Differing time zones often mean you have to be awake during strange hours in order to connect with your spouse at home. Military folks know how to handle this one.

During deployment, times to listen might come at a premium. But they are important. Warning—don’t force each other to listen by posting something negative on Facebook!

During deployment, the best way to communicate to your spouse that you care is by asking two simple questions: “What can I do to help?”and “How can I pray for you today/or this week?” Those questions, when said with sincerity, communicate much when options to help are limited.

During deployment, “tone of voice” conveying patience and kindness is something we must be extra careful to work at. Choose words carefully.

During deployment, don’t forget to hand write letters to each other. Encourage with words like “I’m so proud of you” and “thank you for what you are doing”. Simple words of respect go a long ways to encourage.

During deployment this is so important! The operative word is grace.

During deployment, marital teamwork is vital to keeping a family intact. You are both performing important roles—and one is not more important than the other. Don’t compare—encourage. And here’s an idea—instead of saying, “Thank you for serving” . . . say “Thank you for your heart for serving”. It’s not just about the job of military duty . . . or work at home . . . it’s about the virtue behind the work.

During deployment it is obvious that physical intimacy is not possible. But growing your friendship is very possible. Remind each other of sweet memories of times together. Tell each other what it was that attracted you in the first place. Be creative.

During deployment, the best thing you can do for your spouse is to pray for them. On the right sidebar of Excellent or Praiseworthy you will find the category “Prayer”. Click on that for ideas. Listen—understand—express appreciation—and pray.

Before deployment, hopefully you made some plans for maintaining your home. During deployment, trust the at-home spouse to do what is necessary to keep things running smoothly.

During deployment, remind your spouse that your first thought of the day was of them—and your last thought at night. Romance only belongs to your spouse—never flirt with anyone else. Beware of the temptations to build “friendships” with those of the opposite sex when you are apart from your spouse.

During deployment, there will be problems. There will be misunderstandings. Be willing to listen. Extend grace to cover problems created by miles and time apart.

During deployment, the best way to stay spiritually connected is to be intentional about your devotional time. Read the Bible together. Pray together. Read books together. Read devotionals together. And discuss what you are learning—on email or letters or over the phone if you are so fortunate to be able to talk together.

During deployment you may not be able to communicate daily. But establishing a cadence of grace is essential.

Deployment helps to prioritize what is really important in life. Military folks have the maturity to perform this one well.

During deployment, “speak” might mean email, text, letter, Skype. Let your words be sweet, however they are given.

During deployment there are often opportunities to develop a new skill, study, hobby, or interest. Some take course work—some memorize Scripture—some learn to play guitar. Ask good questions—and support each other in this.

If anyone understands sacrifices, it’s military families. We’ve got this. And when you are back together, take some time away to get re-connected. We recommend going to a FamilyLife Weekend to Remember.

Communicating your love over the miles and the months is so important. Take every opportunity to make your spouse know that you love them.

During deployment this may not always be possible, but try. Time constraints due to duty demands may limit your conversations. But sharing thoughts and feelings in a letter can go a long way to explain what you can’t finish . . . please be patient with each other.

During deployment, you are serving equally. Do not compare who has the harder job. Compliment each other on the jobs you are doing—and the heart to do the job well.

During deployment it helps to remind your spouse how much they are appreciated. Read the military version of “The Five Love Languages”—or go to that website—and communicate your love and appreciation for your spouse in their love language. It’s possible, even during deployment.

During deployment you may have a chance to dream of good days ahead with your family. Share those dreams with your spouse. Tell them how you want to make them happy when you are back together.

During deployment, the extra burdens of duty and home can choke a marriage. But military couples know what it takes to “fight the good fight”—commitment to the cause, training to know and fight the enemy, and perseverance to win.

During reintegration, focus on each other. Be thoughtful of their needs. Take the small steps towards reconnection . . . daily, and with patience.

Your marriage will need downtime, rest and retreat when you are back together. It is the priority—even more than children. Their security will come from your strength. Take the time—together.

“Work” means taking those steps of commitment to build—and sometimes restore—relationships . . . no matter what. Understanding that the work will be worth it goes a long ways to keeping you motivated.

And then keep working to maintain that beautiful union. Until your last breath.

Work Cited:

Tripp, Paul David, What Did You Expect?? Redeeming the Realities of Marriage (Wheaton: Crossway Publishing, 2010)

Questions to Share:

1. Which of the Paul David Tripp’s 28 points do you feel that you and your spouse do well?

2. Which of the 28 points do you feel that you and your spouse need to work at? What steps will you take to accomplish that purpose?

Watch! — Words to Live By

Written by Mike. Filed Under Spiritual Training

Excellent or Praiseworthy is posted Monday and Thursday nights.

“Watch, stand fast in the faith, be brave, be strong. Let all that you do be done with love.” —1 Corinthians 16:13-14

Have you wanted to memorize Scripture during deployment? And have you decided to memorize a verse(s) that would challenge and motivate you to live a pure life even under trying circumstances? Paul wrote such a message to the believers in Corinth, who were surrounded by immorality and corruption in their society—and even struggled with similar problems in their church. John MacArthur says that in these two verses we find five commands—the Corinthians were “to be alert, firm, mature, strong, and loving.” What follows is an examination of these commands and other verses to support them:

Watch:
It means “to be watchful, be on the alert, be on your guard, be vigilant, be awake.” (For military members it sounds like someone on guard duty, or prepared.)

Scriptural exhortations to be watchful:

We are to be watchful for the return of the Lord:

But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Take heed, watch and pray; for you do not know when the time is. It is like a man going to a far country, who left his house and gave authority to his servants, and to each his work, and commanded the doorkeeper to watch. Watch therefore, for you do not know when the master of the house is coming—in the evening, at midnight, at the crowing of the rooster, or in the morning—lest, coming suddenly, he find you sleeping. And what I say to you, I say to all: Watch! — Mark 13:32-37

We are to be watchful against the devil:

Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. — 1 Peter 5:8

We are to be watchful (alert) in prayer:

Continue earnestly in prayer, being vigilant in it with thanksgiving. — Colossians 4:2

We are to be watchful over our lips:

He who guards his mouth preserves his life, but he who opens wide his lips shall have destruction. — Proverbs 13:3

We are to be watchful over our lives and doctrine:

Take heed to yourself and to the doctrine. Continue in them, for in doing this you will save both yourself and those who hear you. — 1 Timothy 4:16 (Pay close attention to yourself and to your teaching . . . NASB, Watch your life and doctrine closely . . . NIV)

Stand fast in the faith:
It means “to stand firm, to persist, to persevere.”

Scriptural exhortations to stand fast:

We are to stand fast in one spirit:

Only let your conduct be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of your affairs, that you stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel. — Philippians 1:27

We are to stand fast in the work of the Lord:

Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord. — 1 Corinthians 15:58

We are to stand fast in our liberty in Christ:

Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage. — Galatians 5:1

We are to stand fast in the armor of God:

Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. — Ephesians 6:13

We are to stand fast in the word of God:

Therefore, brethren, stand fast and hold the traditions which you were taught, whether by word or our epistle. — 2 Thessalonians 2:15

Be brave, be strong:
It means “to make a man of, to show one’s self a man”, and “to strengthen, to make strong, to increase in strength.”

Scriptural exhortations to be brave and strong:

We are to be strong and courageous for God is with us:

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go. — Joshua 1:9

Be strong and of good courage, do not fear nor be afraid of them; for the LORD your God, He is the One who goes with you. He will not leave you nor forsake you. — Deuteronomy 31:6

We are to be strong in the Lord:

Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. — Ephesians 6:10

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. — Philippians 4:13

We are to wait on the Lord for strength:

But those who wait on 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

Wait on the LORD; be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart; wait, I say, on the LORD! — Psalm 27:14

Let all that you do be done with love:

Scriptural exhortations to act with love:

We are to love without hypocrisy:

Now the purpose of the commandment is love from a pure heart, from a good conscience, and from sincere faith. — 1 Timothy 1:5

We are to love fervently and forgivingly:

And above all things have fervent love for one another, for “love will cover a multitude of sins”. — 1 Peter 4:8

We are to love practically:

But whoever has this world’s goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him? My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth. — 1 John 3:17-18

We are to love in speaking the truth:

But, speaking the truth in love, (we) may grow up in all things into Him who is the head–Christ. — Ephesians 4:15

Do you feel enlightened? encouraged? convicted? strengthened? humbled? All of the above? My prayer is that you would spend time in God’s word, and then memorize 1 Corinthians 16:13-14 so that you can say, “I have hidden Your word in my heart that I might not sin against You.” — Psalm 119:11

Questions to Share:

  1. Which of the five commands is the most challenging for you and why?
  2. Within the exhortation of that particular command, which verse is particularly helpful to you? Consider memorizing that verse also.
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