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Excellent or Praiseworthy | A devotional to help military families stay connected during deployments

A devotional to help military families stay connected during deployments

Is God Trustworthy?

Written by Jocelyn. Filed Under Spiritual Training

Excellent or Praiseworthy is posted on Monday and Thursday nights.

Editor’s Note:  A year ago, my husband and I attended a briefing given by a high-ranking Navy chaplain to a group of local pastors. He told them, “The best thing you can do for a military family attending your church is to preach the truth of God—especially the sovereignty of God.” Jocelyn Green has given us permission to post this devotional, from her book Faith Deployed, on the sovereignty of God. We pray that it will be an encouragement to you.

“For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,” declares the LORD.  —  Isaiah 55:8

On September 11,2001, Navy wife Deshua Joyce tried to think positively when she heard the news that a plane had crashed into the Pentagon, where her husband worked. She thought, “What are the chances that his office was hit?” Still, her heart was heavy with concern for her husband Tom and all others at the Pentagon.

In fact, the plane crashed through the building directly under his floor, completely destroying Tom’s office. Miraculously, he escaped unscathed and was able to notify Deshua of his safety within an hour. Deshua’s gratitude for Tom’s escape was tempered with grief for those who did not. “I remember thinking at the end of the day, ‘People’s lives are changed forever,’” she says. “I was devastated for the loved ones of those who never made it out.”

When Tom reunited with his family after the attack, he read Psalm 91 with his family, which seemed to be written just for him. His oldest son asked, “What are you going to do with the rest of your life that God spared today?” After Tom retired from the military, he became a pastor.

While many lives that could have been lost on that fateful day were preserved, we know the rest of the story. We remember the news broadcasts and the newspaper headlines. If you walked through Ground Zero, you saw all the photos pinned up by friends and family. Ready or not, 2,973 souls were sent to eternity that day.

On that day, and every day, how does God choose which lives to safeguard and which to call into the next life? I don’t know the answer. I’m sure no one does. The larger question is this: Is God trustworthy? Can we trust Him to be in control of every moment in every part of the globe? If we say yes, we admit that He presides over tragedy. If we say we cannot trust Him in all things, we cannot trust Him at all. If He is not all-powerful, He is not God.

God refers to Himself as “Sovereign Lord” 303 times in the Bible. Jerry Bridges notes in Trusting God:

The sovereignty of God is asserted, either expressly or implicitly, on almost every page of the Bible. . .  Rather than being offended over the Bible’s assertion of God’s sovereignty in both good and calamity, believers should be comforted by it. Whatever our particular calamity or adversity may be, we may be sure that our Father has a loving purpose in it. As King Hezekiah said, “Surely it was for my benefit that I suffered such anguish” (Isaiah 38:17). God does not exercise His sovereignty capriciously, but only in such a way as His infinite love deems best for us. . .

God’s sovereignty is also exercised in infinite wisdom, far beyond our ability to comprehend. . . God’s plan and His ways of working out His plan are frequently beyond our ability to fathom and understand. We must learn to trust when we don’t understand. (pages 18-20)

When we can’t figure out God’s plan for our lives or for those around us, we must rest in His sovereignty instead.

Pray: Lord, When I am tempted to believe that You are only a good God if Your plan matches up with mine, remind me that Your thoughts, Your ways, are higher than mine. When I don’t understand what You are doing, help me dwell instead on who You are. Help me to lean not on my own understanding but to trust You with all my heart (Proverbs 3:5,6). In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Work Cited:

Bridges, Jerry, Trusting God: Even When Life Hurts (Colorado Springs: NavPress, 1988).

Questions to Share:

1. Does your belief in God’s sovereignty rely on your circumstances or on what the Bible tells of God’s character?

2. Share an example with each other of something that happened in your life which you did not understand at the time but later you could see how God used it in your life for good.

Jocelyn Green is an award-winning freelance writer and author of Faith Deployed: Daily Encouragement for Military Wives (http://www.faithdeployed.com/), from which this devotional was reposted with permission from Moody Publishers. She is also the co-author of Battlefields & Blessings: Stories of Faith and Courage from the War in Iraq & Afghanistan. She and her husband Rob live with their two children in Cedar Falls, Iowa.

Excellent or Praiseworthy is posted on Monday and Thursday nights.

If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ.  – I Peter 4:11

You will see Vietnam Vets still serving in so many ways:

You will see them as senators, congressmen, and elected officials—making the nation greater.

You will see them as corporate and community leaders–continuing to lead well.

You will see them escorting older WWII vets to the Washington memorial on Honor Flights—honoring those who served before them.

You will see them at the airports welcoming troops home from combat—demonstrating extreme gratitude.

You will see them riding motorcycles in the Patriot Guard—protecting those grieving families during their most tender and vulnerable moments.

You will see them building houses for our wounded warriors—making a difference in lives of those whose lives will never be the same.

You will see them sharing their stories in public settings—reminding our country of the demands placed on our nations’ sons and daughters.

You will see them volunteering at the V.A.—spending time with those whose days are brightened with their presence.

You will see them holding private conversations with men and women in uniform—encouraging them in a way only a veteran understands.

Being the wife of a Vietnam Vet, I served during those years on the home front. I served proudly, alongside the best, including many POW wives. Many of us volunteer now with today’s military spouses—helping with our own brand of training while observing, often up close and personal, a much more difficult war with its multiple deployments and unseen enemy.

I have heard it said that Vietnam vets serve so well now because they were so ill-treated back then—and they don’t want our current forces to experience that. Perhaps that’s some of it, but I don’t think that’s all of it—by any means.

I think they serve well because it’s the right thing to do.

Which brings me to this last thought . . . You will see Vietnam vets quietly serving in ministry—trying to share their faith as the real answer to life’s problems and war’s woundings. The Apostle Paul’s admonition in 2 Corinthians 1:3,4 is a reminder that there is purpose in our life experiences and trials—as a help and comfort to those who will have similar experiences and need the hand of God in their healing process:  “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.

Battlefields and Blessings-VietnamI am reminded of this truth from our Vietnam story in one of a series of favorite devotional books, Battlefields and Blessings, entitled Stories of Faith and Courage from The Vietnam War, by Vietnam Vet and author Larkin Spivey. These compilations of daily devotions has had other offerings—from reflections on the Revolutionary War to the Civil War, to World War II, to Iraq and Afghanistan . . . now the Vietnam War and soon to be published Stories of Faith and Courage from the Home Front.

Spivey includes an entry about John Blehm, a missionary with Cru Military.  John ministers to those with PTSD from his years of experience with this challenge and from his genuine faith which he and his wife share so openly.

Spivey introduces Blehm’s words with these: “After years of broken marriages, mood swings, medication, and counseling, John Blehm began to turn back to the one Source of help he had avoided most of his life. He found a church and a Bible and began seeking a better understanding of God . . . ‘I have learned that the more time I spend with God learning His Word and ways, the better life goes for me . . . Don’t give up; don’t think your life is over because of what you’ve experienced . . . If you’ll go to God and ask for peace and restoration he will give it to you and you will know when it happens because you will feel like the whole world has just been lifted off your shoulders. Ask God what he has for you to do and you will be surprised at the doors that will open to help you do God’s will and perhaps what you have been through and survived will be your tool to help others before something bad happens to them.” (p. 209)

Obviously there are many in our dear nation who serve sacrificially, including First Responders. But veterans are in a unique position to help our current generation of military members in creative ways which God can use.  When we read of those whose heart is to demonstrate God’s grace, love, and redemptive power . . . we can only stand back in awe and acknowledge His presence in our lives. We can together say “thank you” to those whom Mr. Spivey wrote about . . . and the many thousands of others from the Vietnam era who have continued their service to our country and our Lord.

Work Cited:

Spivey, Larkin, Battlefields & Blessings: Stories of Faith and Courage from the Vietnam War (Chattanooga: AMG Publishers, 2011).

Questions to Share:

1. Do you know a Vietnam vet who has continued to help others because of his or her war experience?

2. What could you share with others from your deployment experience that would be helpful in their lives?

Excellent or Praiseworthy is posted on Monday and Thursday nights.

. . . . . and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever. — Psalm 23:6

It was the very last word that my Mother said—“forever.” Every night after her stroke my husband and I would recite with her, as best she could, the Lord’s Prayer, the 23rd Psalm, and then end our nightly time with singing “Jesus Loves Me.” We did that for two months until the Lord took her home with Him. She was a devout Christ-follower and loved her Lord, so the thought of being with Him “forever” was fresh on her mind as she slowly slipped away from life on this earth.

On the other side of the world, our friend from church—a soldier serving downrange—was spending his nights on patrol. Before he would head out with his unit searching for IEDs, he would recite the 23rd Psalm. He never knew what the night would bring, so he wanted truth from Scripture to be fresh on his mind in case he or one of his buddies quickly slipped away from life on this earth.

Perhaps you are familiar with the 23rd Psalm:

The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures;
He leads me beside the still waters.
He restores my soul;
He leads me in paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil;
For You are with me;
Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;
You anoint my head with oil,
My cup runs over.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
All the days of my life;
And I will dwell in the house of the LORD
Forever. — Psalm 23 (NKJV)

But what if that’s just not the way you look at life, or death? Perhaps you do not know the goodness and saving grace of Jesus Christ? Dr. David Powlison writes, “From Jesus’ point of view, there are two fundamentally different ways of doing life. One way, you’re connected to a God who’s involved in your life. . . . The other way, you’re pretty much on your own and disconnected. Let’s call this the ‘antipsalm 23’:

‘I’m on my own.
No one looks out for me or protects me.
I experience a continual sense of need. Nothing’s quite right.
I’m always restless. I’m easily frustrated and often disappointed.
It’s a jungle—I feel overwhelmed. It’s a desert—I’m thirsty.
My soul feels broken, twisted, and stuck. I can’t fix myself.
I stumble down some dark paths.
Still, I insist: I want to do what I want, when I want, how I want.
But life’s confusing. Why don’t things ever really work out?
I’m haunted by emptiness and futility—shadows of death.
I fear the big hurt and final loss.
Death is waiting for me at the end of every road,
but I’d rather not think about that.
I spend my life protecting myself. Bad things can happen.
I find no lasting comfort.
I’m alone. . . . facing everything that could hurt me.
Are my friends really friends?
Other people use me for their own ends.
I can’t really trust anyone. No one has my back.
No one is really for me—except me.
And I’m so much all about ME, sometimes it’s sickening.
I belong to no one except myself.
My cup is never quite full enough. I’m left empty.
Disappointment follows me all the days of my life.
Will I just be obliterated into nothingness?
Will I be alone forever, homeless, free-falling into void?
Sartre said, “Hell is other people.”
I have to add, “Hell is also myself.”
It’s a living death, . . . .
and then I die.’”—
Powlison, Sane Faith, Part 1

Please read these two carefully—the psalm and the antipsalm. There is peace in one, and anguish from the lies of self-talk in the other. The latter occurs when you don’t abide in Christ.

There are two different ways of “doing life.” This reminds me of the plaque which says, “No Jesus, No Peace. Know Jesus, Know Peace.” Which will you choose?

Work Cited:

Powlison, David, Boundless.Org

Questions to Share:

1. Do you trust in the truth of Psalm 23, or is your thinking more like that of the antipsalm?

2. Would you like to have the peace of confessed sin, forgiveness, and the promise of the fullness of life with Jesus? Then go to GodLife.com to find that peace.

Be Still and Know

Written by Sherry. Filed Under Spiritual Training

Excellent or Praiseworthy is posted on Monday and Thursday nights.

Editor’s Note:  Scott and Sherry Jennings are the managing editors of the website “Intentionally Yours”.  You can find it at www.intentionallyyours.org.  We thank them for this teaching.

Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth. —  Psalm 46:10

What if, in the midst of whatever size storm you are in, God is calling you to be still and know He is God?

In my prayer time back in 2004, just after I learned of my husband’s adultery, there were so many opportunities to make rash decisions. In many of our conversations, it seemed the easy and culturally acceptable course of action would be to say “I’m done” and file for divorce. I thank God for the women in my life who encouraged me with Psalm 46:10.

Be still and know that I am God… -Psalm 46:10

It’s half of one verse that stopped me in my tracks. In my prayer time, God showed me that He wanted me to be still for so many reasons.

Why be still?

TO REST: You live in a spiritual battle every minute of every day, whether you consciously decide to engage in it or not. Being in a battle is work, as you know. You know better than anyone that it involves strapping on armor—and in spiritual battle it involves putting on the armor of God daily, steeping in His Word, and being a prayer warrior. An important part of the spiritual battle is rest. To rest is to be calm, to cease striving, to relax, to not exert yourself, to be without anxiety and leave matters with God. God knows you need it. In Genesis He even chose to rest—to show you that you need to rest. What better place to rest than in the sovereignty of the One who created you and holds your future?

TO WAIT: “Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord!” (Psalm 27:14) Waiting is difficult, particularly in this fast-paced, get-it-done-now world. But God wants you to wait on Him, He has so many things He wants to do in you as you wait. He wants to build, shape, strengthen, fill, prepare, encourage you . . . and so much more. Know that as you wait on Him, He is moving heaven and earth on your behalf—for your good and His glory. As you wait, wait with expectation and anticipation of what He is doing. Remember, what you see or feel is NOT necessarily an indication of what God is doing!  This music, used mightily in the movie “Fireproof”, is a strong call to wait—on the Lord:

TO KNOW: And know that I am God. To know means to understand, have informed experience, fathom, feel certain, grasp, realize, appreciate, comprehend. God wants you to be still so you truly see Him and His hand, to give you a unique awareness of who He is and what He is doing. He’s saying “Take a moment, look at your life through My eyes. See in the things I have done the evidence that I am God. Know, understand the work being accomplished which none “but” God could effect.

As you be still and know He is God . . . as you rest, wait and know . . . you will learn to trust Him and His Word. Draw nearer to Him and seek His Word for whatever situation you are facing. When you take time to be still and know instead of responding immediately, you give God time and opportunity to shape you and those around you. While you are being still, pray for those around you to be still, too!

The second part of Psalm 46:10 is “I will be exalted among the nations! I will be exalted in the earth!” God WILL be exalted in your life, your marriage, your parenting, your relationships, your deployment, your career, your ministry…every aspect of your life. Don’t act rashly, let God shape you for His purpose, so that He will be exalted in all areas of your life!

When was the last time you chose to be still and know?

Questions to Share:

1. Is it natural for you to be still when you have been wronged?  Why or why not?

2. Is there a time you can remember when you wanted to react rashly—to lash out against someone—and yet you took time to spend with the Lord?  Share that time with each other.

Remember the Maintainers

Written by Linda. Filed Under Spiritual Training

Excellent or Praiseworthy is posted on Monday and Thursday nights.

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men. . . . — Colossians 3:23

I have always appreciated a good mechanic. Whether it was for our own vehicles or those vehicles used in the military—the fact that reliable maintenance is necessary to perform the mission was never lost on me.

So when my husband and I meet maintainers, we express our appreciation for their expertise and dedication. After all, nothing happens without them. While recently reading Battlefields and Blessings: Stories of Faith and Courage from the War in Iraq & Afghanistan, I found a statement from a military leader who agrees with the significance of those who keep the equipment working. He included these words in his “Top Ten Quotes on Leadership,” a devotional which draws from his experience as a commander of a National Guard unit when stationed in Iraq: “The center of gravity in peacetime is operations but the center of gravity in war is aviation maintenance.’ It takes ten to fifteen hours of maintenance to fly one hour in a Black Hawk. We put the emphasis in supporting our maintenance guys. They kept us flying. We were able to fly twice the missions with half the helicopters in the first six months than the active duty element flew the entire year before us.” — Colonel Bradley Macnealy, p. 385

Obviously very proud of his unit, we should all be very proud of any maintainers who serve in any capacity in the military. Recently we had a Christmas gathering of military members in our home, and one of those attending was a crew chief from an Air Force fighter squadron serving nearby. It had been a long, cold day on the flightline and he was tired. But when he stopped to read this poem which is displayed in our hallway, he seemed to be encouraged:

“Remembering the Forgotten Mechanic”

“Through the history of world aviation
many names have come to the fore—
Great deeds of the past in our memory will last,
as they’re joined by more and more—

When man first started his labor in his quest to conquer the sky
he was designer, mechanic and pilot,
and he built a machine that would fly—
But somehow the order got twisted,
and then in the public’s eye
the only man that could be seen
was the man who knew how to fly—
The pilot was everyone’s hero.
He was brave, he was bold, he was grand,
as he stood by his battered old biplane
with his goggles and helmet in hand—
To be sure, these pilots all earned it,
to fly you have to have guts—
And they blazed their names in the hall of fame
on wings with bailing wire struts—

But for each of these flying heros
there were thousands of little reknown,
and these were the men who worked on the planes
but kept their feet on the ground—
We all know the name of Lindbergh,
and we’ve read of his flight to fame—
But think, if you can, of his maintenance man,
can you remember his name?

And think of our wartime heroes, Gabreski,
Jabara, and Scott—
Can you tell me the names of their crew chiefs?
A thousand to one you cannot—

Now pilots are highly trained people,
and wings are not easily won—
But without the work of the maintenance man
our pilots would march with a gun—
So when you see mighty jet aircraft
as they mark their way through the air;
the grease-stained man with the wrench in his hand
is the man who put them there—”

Author unknown (some accounts credit authorship to Lt. Joe Seward)

So whether you serve as one who maintains equipment for land, air, or sea operations—what you are doing for the cause of freedom around the world is absolutely necessary. We thank you for your service to our country. . . .and will pray for you to continue in your vital role in this global war on terror. Whether you are packing chutes, adjusting gauges, working in the boiler room, keeping a network up and running . . . . lives are at stake in what you do. And Scripture reminds us of this most important part—our work is for our Lord. When we demonstrate excellence in what we do with the skills He has given us, it brings glory to Him:

“So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” — 1 Corinthians 10:13

And, of course, we can never forget those who maintain the home during deployment—those are the real heroes!

Work Cited:

Cook, Jane Hampton, Jocelyn Green and John Croushorn, Battlefields & Blessings: Stories of Faith and Courage from the War in Iraq & Afghanistan (Chattanooga: God & Country Press, 2009)

Questions to Share:

1. Take the time to express appreciation to each other for the jobs you are both doing during deployment.

2. Pray for each other to perform your tasks for the Lord, thanking Him for gifting you with strength for the tough times.

Mission Possible

Written by Sherry. Filed Under Marriage & Family

Editor’s Note:  Scott & Sherry Jennings are managing editors of the website “Intentionally Yours”  (www.intentionallyyours.org). They are also authors of many of the postings, including this one. Military couples understand “missions” and what it takes to complete them, so together we thought this would be good encouragement to share with you.

Excellent or Praiseworthy is posted on Monday and Thursday nights.

“Haven’t you read,” (Jesus) replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’?  So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate.”—Matthew 19:4-6

You know the movies where the operative receives the message that explains the job he’s asked to complete? Once the situation/circumstance is described, he hears “Your mission, should you choose to accept it”, followed by a summary of the mission. Then the method of conveying the message explodes and the operative is sent into action, working nonstop until the mission is complete. Kind of like a marriage, really.

Wedding vows typically come with two parts:  the part where you make your promise, accepting your mission to “love, honor and obey” or “love, honor and cherish”, and then the conditions of your mission “for better or for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, from this day forward until death do us part.”

At the altar, or in front of the judge, we accept our mission and the conditions. Then we walk into the potentially, sporadically explosive situation called marriage where two people, two sinners, spend the rest of their lives either choosing to become one with every decision they make—or drift toward isolation.

When married couples encounter what could be described as “worse, poorer, sickness”, the answer to the “what do you do now” question remains the same—love, honor, cherish/obey. Your mission from God remains the same, regardless of your circumstances. God’s Word does not hinge on your circumstance. When you were born, the first mission God has for you is to become Christlike, to be the man/woman He created you to be.

Then, when you marry, you accept the second mission, to be the husband/wife God created you to be, fulfilling the purposes of marriage. At our church Marriage 101 class we teach from Scripture that the purposes of marriage are: 1) Mutually Complete Each Other; 2)Multiply a Godly legacy; 3) Mirror God’s Image.

If you have children, you accept the third mission—to be the father/mother God created you to be.

How do you fulfill these missions?  One moment at a time, choosing to do what God calls you to do regardless of your circumstances and how you feel about them. When God tells husbands in Ephesians 5 to “love your wife” He doesn’t follow it up with any conditions, does He?  No, because He knows that husbands need to choose to love and then the feelings follow.

When God tells wives in Ephesians 5 to “submit to your husband”, He doesn’t follow it up with conditions . . . because He knows when wives choose to submit that feelings will follow.

Where is the practical “how-to” of all this?  Read through Ephesians chapters 1-3 which tell you “who you are” in Christ. Then read Ephesians 4-6, the practical “how to walk out” who you are in Christ. You’ve got to know who you are in Christ before you can walk out who He has created you to be.

Even if it doesn’t feel like it, it’s great news to know that your mission is not contingent upon whether your spouse is still with you or has left home, is faithful or steeped in adultery or an addiction, etc.  Once upon a time when you said “I do” you accepted your mission to love, honor and cherish, despite your circumstances. You promised to fulfill your mission until death parted you. There is a very real enemy who does NOT want you to complete your mission. Satan will use everything he can against you to stop your success in marriage.

How long do you continue your mission?  Are you breathing?

Be encouraged. You have not completed your mission—there is still hope!

Questions to Share:

1. When you enlisted in the military, or were commissioned, what oath did you take?

2. On your wedding day, what oath did you take?  In other words, what mission did you accept and what were the conditions?  How are you doing?  Read the book of Ephesians for help in accomplishing your mission.

“It’s All Good!”

Written by Linda. Filed Under Spiritual Training

Excellent or Praiseworthy is posted on Monday and Thursday nights.

“Give thanks to the LORD, for He is good; His love endures forever. Let the redeemed of the LORD say this—those He redeemed from the hand of the foe, those He gathered from the lands, from east and west, from north and south.”   Psalm 107:1-3

“It’s all good.”

If I had a dollar for each time I heard my friend Bobbi say those 3 words, I would have enough money to do some significant shopping. Bobbi is a remarkable, faithful woman and a dear friend who has gone through 6 years of what most of us would call “hell.” I guess it’s because I’ve been so close to her since things went crazy in her life that I have picked up on saying “it’s all good” in response to troubling situations. I didn’t realize I was saying it so routinely until another young friend of mine started saying it—and credited it to me! That’s when I thought I’d better examine this phenomenon a bit.

As I explained to my young friend, “It’s all good, because it’s all God. Bobbi has taught me that.” Through all of the trials that I have seen her face, she would respond with that same, “Linda, it’s okay. It’s all good. I can see God in this.” So many times I would want to ask how she could possibly see God in the twists and turns of life that had devastated her family. But as the years went by and I would see the faithfulness of God demonstrated time and time again—usually in ways we could never have imagined—I could just smile and agree.

Bobbi lives her life in anticipation of what creative thing God will do to deliver her through (not from) whatever new challenge might come her way. And she is forever praising God for the gift of supportive friends and a loving family. She considers herself a most fortunate, blessed woman, in spite of it all. Don’t get me wrong—this is no “Pollyanna” kind of faith—this is the real deal.

I am stretched when I study Scripture to examine the goodness of God. Entwined with His other attributes, I just don’t want to miss this. I don’t want to miss what He might want me to see as good, that I might be tempted to say is definitely “not good.” I don’t want to miss what suffering might just be a gift designed specifically for me, for my good. I don’t want to miss anything, or take anything for granted, that is God demonstrating His love for me in my life—even if it’s not obvious. His promises of this are numerous:

“He is good; His love endures forever.” —2 Chronicles 7:3b

“I am still confident of this: I will see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living.”
—Psalm 27:13

“How great is Your goodness, which You have stored up for those who fear You, which You bestow in the sight of men on those who take refuge in You.” —Psalm 31:19

“For the LORD is good and His love endures forever; His faithfulness continues through all generations.” —Psalm 100:5

“No one is good—except God alone.” —Mark 10:18b

One of my favorite stories is of George Mueller, who used a verse about God’s goodness at the funeral of his dear wife who co-labored with him in their ministry to orphans. He gave the sermon that day, February 11, 1870, from Psalm 119:68, “You are good, and do good.” That might seem to be a strange verse to use for a eulogy, but Mr. Mueller had 3 points: “(1) The Lord was good, and did good, in giving her to me. (2) The Lord was good, and did good, in so long leaving her to me. (3) the Lord was good, and did good, in taking her from me.’ In discussing his third point he told how he had prayed for her during her illness: ‘Yes, my Father, the times of my darling wife are in Thy hands. Thou wilt do the very best thing for her and for me, whether life or death. If it may be, raise up yet again my precious wife—-Thou art able to do it, though she is so ill; but howsoever Thou dealest with me, only help me to continue to be perfectly satisfied with Thy holy will.’” One Year Book of Christian History, p. 74

Our pastor taught us recently that when confronted with the goodness of God, we should respond in three ways: “(1) Repent of our unbelief and ingratitude (Romans 2:4); (2) rest in His goodness (Psalm 31:19); and (3) risk stepping out in faith like never before.” Pastor John Pouchot, June 24, 2007

Joseph is able to say in Genesis 50:12, “What you meant for evil, God meant for good.” In the New Testament, we see Romans 8:28 saying something similar, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.” I plan on continuing to examine my life to see God’s goodness at work, even when my flesh would not have a hint of it. He alone knows what I need, and what is good for me. I don’t want to miss it, because if it’s from God, then it is all good.

Questions to share:

  1. What are you struggling with in this deployment?
  2. Can you see God at work in your life, even through what is considered not good?
  3. Do you have a friend who demonstrates faith during tough times?

Hellos & Good-byes

Written by Linda. Filed Under Marriage & Family

Excellent or Praiseworthy is posted on Monday and Thursday nights.

Love is patient, love is kind. I Corinthians 13:4

I’m not sure that communication in marriage comes easily for anyone, but I got some good advice early on which has served me well. If I were to summarize what I learned in one word it would be kindness . . . . during two critical times:

1. “Hello”

The first lesson I got in communication kindness was from one of the few books on marriage available in those early days, Letters to Karen by Charlie Shedd. Written from a loving Dad to his soon-to-be-married daughter, Dr. Shedd tells Karen to be intentional about the “hellos” when her husband came home:

“Do greet him with gladness when he first comes home. One husband made this picturesque statement: ‘She throws the garbage in my face first thing when I open the door.’ Then he went on to explain that she had a knack for saving the worst news of each day and giving him this promptly on his arrival. You will recognize that he was a master with words as he mimicked her patter: ‘Junior broke the neighbor’s bird bath!’ . . . .’That left rear tire on the station wagon is flat again!’ . . . ‘Won’t you please fix my kitchen faucet?’ . . . ‘I understand the Watsons are getting a divorce!’ . . . and so on in woeful detail. These evil tidings are strictly no good for his homecoming. Occasionally there must be exceptions, but every good meeting of minds will lay certain items aside for later consideration  . . . . From what I’ve seen, it’s a good idea to now and then check your words of greeting.” (p. 49,50)

What I learned was that the first few moments we spent back together after a day of work apart were “the most important five minutes of the day.” It set the tone for the evening, and was a way of reminding each other that they were missed, valued, and appreciated and loved! It was so easy to “dump” all of the details of the day on him when he first walked in . . . . and that just isn’t kind.

Recently I heard a talk about this very subject, and the speaker recommended that a suitable greeting for a couple coming back together after time apart (even a short time) was a “twenty-second kiss.” He cited a story of a couple whose relationship was strained but decided to try this one seemingly little gesture to try restoring their once-vibrant romance. The couple was amazed at how simple this one act of kindness in a greeting was at getting them back on track.

Stop . . . . look  . . . . listen . . . . and a nice, long kiss makes for a wonderful greeting, no matter who gets home first and gets to welcome the other. It is a beautiful way to show love to your spouse.

2. “Good-bye”

The second thing I learned that was so helpful in practicing good communication skills was to always make sure that my “good-bye” was a sweet one, followed by “I love you.” Granted it was a psychologist who instructed our squadron wives on this principle (yes, I was that ignorant), but it was true then and true now. Training accidents and enemy actions happen, and you never know what a day is going to bring—so the advice penetrated my heart. If something tragic happened to either one of us while apart I wanted our last words to be kind. I realized this one practice was not just an attempt to assuage guilt, but was a purposeful approach to maintaining peace between us as partners in life. It was smart to make our “good byes” as tender as possible.

We had many “hellos” and “good-byes” during our military days—with plenty of TDYs, deployments, training, exercises, and the Vietnam War. The “good-byes” were always difficult (understatement) . . . and the “hellos” were always glorious. Whether we were parting for a day, a week, a month or a year I always tried to stick by the training I had gotten from that one book and that one wives’ meeting.

And as much as these principles apply to physical greetings and farewells–they also apply to written ones.  Yes, even during deployment communication of email, text, letter–also phone and skype . . . be kind.

I’m not naïve . . . . and life is complicated. But these two simple rules—greet each other with kindness; depart from each other with kindness—are as important as any two rules in marriage you will ever find. I’m glad I found them early.

For when we are kind to each other, we are demonstrating the very character of God:  “You are kind and forgiving, O Lord, abounding in love to all who call to You.”  (Psalm 86:5)

Work Cited:

Shedd, Charlie W., Letters to Karen: On Keeping Love in Marriage (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1965)

Questions to Share:

1. Share with your spouse a time when you remember the way they greeted you was especially kind.

2. Share with your spouse a time when you remember the way they said “good-bye” to you was especially kind.

40 Days of the Deployment Dare

Written by Linda. Filed Under Marriage & Family

Excellent or Praiseworthy is posted on Monday and Thursday nights.

Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails. —1 Corinthians 13:7,8

Late in 2007 we posted an “Excellent or Praiseworthy” devotion entitled “Can You Take a Dare?”  This is how that article began:

I have been reading The Love Dare, the book featured in the recent movieFireproof.” This book is unique in that it examines love—married love—in all of its dimensions. And in forty lessons, forty days, the reader has the opportunity to be challenged in ways that perhaps he or she has never been challenged before—hence, “the dare.” Each day’s reading begins with a scripture, followed by writing about an aspect of love (honorable, patient, kind, impossible, accountable, enduring, etc.), and then concluding with an exercise—a dare—to demonstrate that particular aspect of love unconditionally to your spouse. On the back cover of the book you will find this statement, “The Love Dare is a 40-day challenge for husbands and wives to understand and practice unconditional love. Whether your marriage is hanging by a thread or healthy and strong, The Love Dare is a journey you need to take. It’s time to learn the keys to finding true intimacy and developing a dynamic marriage. Take the dare!”

I have been going through the book day-by-day, reading the material and considering how The Love Dare can be accomplished while separated by deployment. Actually, it hasn’t been that difficult to think creatively about ways to accomplish each dare even though you are experiencing the many challenges of deployment. In some ways—The Love Dare is easier to do while separated!  Don’t let Satan deceive you into thinking that it is not possible to grow together when duty calls you apart!

If you have answered the question, “Can you take a dare?” with a “YES!”, then we invite you to look on the right sidebar for each day of the “40 Days of the Deployment Dare”. We have taken each of the forty “dares” in the book, The Love Dare, and have suggested, for each, how you could accomplishment that task even while deployed and separated from your spouse by military duty. Just click on the “Excellent or Praiseworthy” sidebar where it says “40 Days of the Deployment Dare.” 

Both Cru Military and FamilyLife want to help you grow your marriage into all that God wants it to be—and The Love Dare book plus the movie “Fireproof” have been two timeless tools which have proven to be effective in bringing a couple closer to each other.

We look forward to what the Lord is going to do with these online opportunities to use the principles of The Love Dare and practice unconditional love for your spouse. Whether deployed or at home, whether you have seen the movie “Fireproof” or not, whether you have a copy of the book or not, there will be something in this exercise which will challenge you to love like you mean it.  Please, take the dare. It will be worth it!

Top Ten Predictions of 2016

Written by Linda. Filed Under Spiritual Training

Excellent or Praiseworthy is posted on Monday and Thursday nights.

Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe this?” — John 11:25

I have several friends who email me “forwards.”  Perhaps you do, too.  I received this one back a few years ago–and I like to return to it, this time for 2016.  The ten predictions are from the forwarded email (author unknown). . . . .and the additional comments are from Scripture, and my heart.

Top 10 Predictions for 2016:

1. “The Bible will still have all the answers.”

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

2. “Prayer will still be the most powerful thing on Earth.”

The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective. — James 5:16b

I heard a quote from John Piper that went something like this: “if Twitter and Facebook are good for anything they will prove on the Last Day that our prayerlessness was not for lack of time.”

This is very convicting—if we really believe that prayer is powerful, why do we not pray more?

3. “The Holy Spirit will still move.”

. . . For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live, because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. — Romans 8:13,14

4. “God will still honor the praises of His people.”

Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that confess His name. And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased. — Hebrews 13:15

5. “There will still be God-anointed preaching.”

Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction. — 2 Timothy 4:2

We heard an influential chaplain challenge a group of church pastors that the best thing they could do for the military members in their fellowships was to preach the whole truth of God’s word—including the sovereignty of God. If we believe prediction #1, then prediction #5 will follow in answer to prediction #2 and the Spirit’s calling in #3. And we will praise Him (#4) for the way only He can answer prayer.

6. “There will still be singing of praise to God.”

Sing praises to God, sing praises; sing praises to our King, sing praises. For God is the King of all the earth; sing to Him a psalm of praise. — Psalm 47:6,7

When I encounter someone struggling in their faith, I typically ask two questions—how is your devotional time with the Lord? and what music are you listening to? There is such power in singing praises to God. It can soothe a tired, frustrated soul in ways that only God can accomplish. When we want to express our love of God, we will include singing in our methods of praise.

7. “God will still pour out blessings upon His people.”

But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. — 1 Peter 2:9,10

8. “There will still be room at the Cross.”

For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. — John 3:16

9. “Jesus will still love you.”

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation (even deployment) will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. — Romans 8:38,39

10. “Jesus will still save the lost when they come to Him.”

For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost. — Luke 19:10

Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God—through Jesus Christ our Lord! — Romans 7:24,25

One word which I believe pictures what Jesus did for us in our sinful state is the word “rescue.” When I see what our military has done in foreign countries to help governments and individuals—it is rescue. Jesus came to earth on a rescue mission to save us from the penalty of our sin. It is because of His rescue that we live—eternally with Him, if we believe. (John 3:16)

This email of the “Top 10 Predictions” ends with a great proclamation of truth: “Isn’t it great to remember who is really in control, and that ‘the Word of the Lord endures forever.’” (1 Peter 1:25)

I’m going to email the person who sent me this “forward” and thank them. . . . . it’s been a great reminder of what really matters—not just in 2015, but always.  “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.”  — Hebrews 13:8

Questions to Share:

1. Which, if any, of the ten predictions surprised you?  Why?

2. Are there some promises of God which you could add to this list—ways in which God was faithful in 2015 and in which you know He will still be faithful in 2016?

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