A devotional to help military families stay connected during deployments

40 Reasons NOT to Have an Affair

Written by Linda. Filed Under Marriage & Family

Excellent or Praiseworthy is posted on Monday and Thursday nights.

For a man’s ways are in full view of the LORD, and He examines all his paths. — Proverbs 5:21

Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. — Colossians 3:5

A pastor wrote this list of forty reasons NOT to have an affair, NOT to commit adultery.  But it applies to us all, not just pastors—without exception. It seems like Satan is winning more than his share of marital battles, and we’re all sick and tired of the damage he is causing. If rational thinking will help, this list should do more than its share of convincing a person “on the verge of infidelity” to re-think and flee temptation.

Our fear is that in “the moment” rational thinking will not prevail. There is hope, however, and the opportunity to speak into that time before and when there is a choice—that “fork in the road”—when the whole future is at stake. Scripture says that God always provides a way of escape. “No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, He will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it” (1 Corinthians 10:13).

Scripture has quite a bit to say about sexual temptation. Proverbs 6:32 says, “But a man who commits adultery lacks judgment; whoever does so destroys himself.” In 1 Thessalonians 4:3-6 we read, “It is God’s will that you should be holy; that you should avoid sexual immorality; that each of you should learn to control his own body in a way that is holy and honorable, not in passionate lust like the heathen, who do not know God; and that in this matter no one should wrong his brother or take advantage of him. The Lord will punish men for all such sins, as we have already told you and warned you.” In 1 Corinthians 6:18-10 we find another warning: “Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a man commits are outside his body, but he who sins sexually sins against his own body. Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body.”

We urge you to read this list very carefully. Agree with it. . . and keep it forward in your thinking in order to avoid any compromising situations or relationships.

40 Reasons Why I Do Not Want To Commit Adultery
By: Dr. Daniel D. Henderson

1. I would violate my relationship with my Savior and Lord Jesus Christ who has loved, cared and died for me. This action would disregard the selfless and cruel death He suffered in order to give me power over this sin.

2. I would bring public shame and unnecessary disrepute to His most holy and precious name, which I have been privileged to represent.

3. I would have to face someday my gracious Savior, eye to eye at His judgment seat, giving an account for willfully squandering His abundant provision of purifying grace. At that moment of eternal consequences I would inevitably witness the results of my own disregard for the rewards of faithfulness and obedience He so desired to give to me.

4. I would choose to submit myself to a destructive process of self-deception and the dulling of my conscience, causing a lack of confidence in my future ability to walk in obedience and faith.

5. I would inflict unimaginable pain on my wife, my best friend, and my faithful and sacrificial partner in ministry and life—and would have to stare into her tear-filled eyes to explain this conscious violation of my vows and describe the stupidity of my behavior.

6. I would permanently damage my wife’s ability to trust me or believe my word. I would lose her respect in the future, giving her constant cause for suspicion and question.

7. If my pattern of deception were to continue, or if she were unable to forgive me, I would lose her as my wife and would be left to face ongoing regret, loneliness and pain.

8. In this case, I would permanently ruin my wife’s future fulfillment causing her to face the remainder of her life feeling the struggle of rejection and dealing with the complications of single parenting or remarriage.

9. I would violate the love and trust of my precious children. In essence, I would be telling them, “Your mother is not a worthy person. Your father is a liar and a cheat. Honor is not as important as pleasure. My own selfish satisfaction is more important than loving my children”.

10. By destroying my own example and credibility with my children, I would lose future opportunities to influence them toward loving obedience and holiness and would plant within them a potential long-term resentment and bitterness toward the Lord and the ministry.

11. I would bring continual shame to my children every time they had to explain why their father was no longer in ministry—or why he was no longer together with their mother.

12. I would create destructive and continually tempting mental memories that would cultivate unhealthy lust and negatively affect future intimacy with my wife.

13. I would squander all of the money, time, effort and pain that have gone into my preparation for and development in the pastoral ministry.

14. I would seriously disappoint those godly leaders who have faithfully invested themselves in me (e.g. professors, pastors, mentors and relatives).

15. I would bring shame to the college and seminary from which I graduated, tarnishing their reputation and squandering their investment in my theological education and character development.

16. I would deeply wound and embarrass my parents whose loving instruction, sacrificial investment and current delight in the positive course of my life would be horribly violated.

17. I would significantly damage the solid ministry foundation and tarnish the wholesome legacy of my faithful predecessors of my current ministry.

18. I would bring long-term disrepute to the positive reputation of my church in the
community, hindering future ministry to people in this area.

19. I would undermine the credibility and effort of other Christian ministries and leaders in my city, adding to the climate of mistrust that continues to expand with each story of moral failure.

20. I would violate the precious trusting relationship with the elders of my church causing difficulty for them into the future as they seek to lead the congregation and causing a potential spirit of mistrust on their part toward future senior pastors at this church.

21. I would destroy my credibility and relationship with staff members who have faithfully supported me and responded to my leadership. A revelation of duplicity at this level would wound them deeply and would h9inger even their own leadership among the flock.

22. I would bring underserved difficulty and pain to my successor and his family, as they would be forced to reap what I have sown in their attempt to salvage the church and clean up the mess I would have made.

23. I would deeply wound all those who have been saved, disciple, equipped, counseled and prayed for under my ministry, causing disappointment and disillusionment for some.

24. I would create possible disillusionment in the hearts of young men preparing for ministry as they wonder about the credibility of my leadership and the viability of authentic pastoral ministry.

25. If this should become newsworthy at a statewide or national scale, I would exacerbate the growing climate of mistrust toward Christianity at an even broader level.

26. I would squander my witness to various unsaved friends, acquaintances and neighbors to whom I have witnessed over the years, perhaps driving them farther away from accepting Christ.

27. I would be thoughtlessly and carelessly throwing away the impact of the prayers of thousands of people who over the years have wholeheartedly supported me on their knees.

28. I would be heaping significant guilt and pain on the other woman, for the rest of her life.

29. I would potentially contribute to the dismantling of her marriage, family and network of trusting friends.

30. I would run the risk of the complications of a pregnancy resulting from the extramarital sexual activity.

31. I would run the risk of physical consequences in the form of sexually transmitted diseases.

32. I would suffer the consequences of losing a job and creating serious practical strain on my family financially and socially.

33. I would experience the trauma of a career change, having violated the qualifications for pastoral office.

34. I would join the ranks of those whom I have previously despised and whose actions have deeply grieved me because of their violation of calling and trust through moral scandal.

35. I would live with personal life-long embarrassment and shame, as I would encounter regular reminders of my foolish and destructive choices.

36. I would be required to invest a significant amount of time and money in the process of recovery, as many hours of counseling and years of rebuilding would be required.

37. I would take myself out of the running for multiplied opportunities in the future that could have come my way, had I remained faithful.

38. I would run the risk of being permanently “shelved” in my usefulness to God and His kingdom, knowing that the overwhelming shame and personal regret could cause me to completely give up my service for Christ.

39. I would cause a countless number of people to doubt the validity of the Scriptures, the Holy Spirit and the power of Christ as they might ask, “If it didn’t work for him, can it really work for me”?

40. I would bring delight to Satan and his demons as these enemies of my soul and opponents of Christ would exult in their victory over one of God’s called servants.

Some of these concepts were originally conceived by Randy Alcorn in Leadership Journal. 1999 Daniel Henderson.

Worked cited:

http://www.danielhenderson.org/2010/04/40-reasons-why-i-do-not-want-to-commit.html

“Marriage Minutes” from Tuesday, November 8, 2011, by Bob & Cheryl Moeller

Questions to Share:

1. Were any of these forty items a surprise to you? Why or why not?

2. How important is it to you to guard your heart in order to guard your future?

Reunion

Written by Bea. Filed Under Marriage & Family

Excellent or Praiseworthy is posted on Monday and Thursday nights.

Finally brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence, or anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things. — Philippians 4:8

Reunions need to begin the moment a spouse leaves for a deployment. As the deployed member prepares to leave, every day becomes one of anticipation of coming together again. Connection with your spouse before and during a deployment prepares your hearts for a harmonious reunion at the end of separation. As a couple you must connect on three levels: mind, heart and spirit/soul. This is known as three-part harmony.

With their minds a couple should share their fears about the deployment, but not dwell on “what if’s,” or how they will be different when they are together again. With their hearts they should listen with understanding, hear what their spouse is saying, and remember that a feeling is neither right nor wrong—it just is. With their spirits each spouse should pray relentlessly for the other, pray for God’s help in the difficult situations they will face while apart, and pray for their spouse and marriage.

Connecting spouses emotionally, intellectually, and spiritually before the deployment maintains a healthy balance in the relationship for when the couple comes together again. Remember a reunion starts before a spouse ever leaves home.

Questions to Share:

1. How can you connect with your spouse with your mind, with your heart, and with your spirit during deployment?

2. How does this connection prepare you for a sweet reunion?

Singing Your Prayers

Written by Linda. Filed Under Prayer

Excellent or Praiseworthy is posted on Monday and Thursday nights.

Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.  — Ephesians 5:19-20

I remember two times in my life when I was at a total loss as to how to pray.

One time was when I was called to a friend’s house in the middle of the night. The circumstances that brought that family to call for the help of a friend were so horrible—so beyond my control—that I was absolutely at a loss for what to say, or pray. So we bowed our heads, and I sang. I prayed in song, My Faith Looks up to Thee. We made it through the night.

The other time was when we were stationed overseas. Our extended family in the States was struggling with problems beyond anything I had ever heard. Given the time difference and being an ocean apart, we never knew exactly from one day to the next what was happening as the situation unfolded. I would go for walks in the German countryside beside our village and sing. It was praying, God knows. I would sing the praise chorus, Oh how He loves you and me, but I would substitute the family names:

Oh how He loves John and Bob,
Oh how He loves John and Bob.
He gave His life,
What more could He give?
Oh how He loves John
Oh how He loves Bob
Oh how He loves John and Bob.

Although “John and Bob” are not their real names, I sang at the top of my lungs to the wheat fields! My words were sung in desperation. I am so grateful that Scripture promises, “The righteous cry out, and the LORD hears them; He delivers them from all their troubles. The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.”  — Psalm 34:17-18

Since those days, long past, I have had many other opportunities to sing prayers. I am not a great singer, but I have the hope that in heaven I will have a glorified singing voice. I love to sing Scripture, as in Seek Ye First and Thy Word is a Lamp Unto My Feet. I love to sing hymns like Great is Thy Faithfulness and Grace, Grace, God’s Grace. I sing them when my heart is full, and also when my heart is empty and needs filling. I sing when I’m happy, and also when I’m afraid and need to be reminded Who is sovereign.

1 Samuel 16:14-23 tells the story of King Saul being comforted by David as he would play his harp to soothe Saul’s troubled spirit. “Then relief would come to Saul, he would feel better, and the evil spirit would leave him.” I can picture this scene, with David bringing comfort to Saul through the gift of music. Any parent of an infant knows the power of the lullaby to get their baby to calm down and go to sleep. And I believe that Christian music playing in the background of a home sets a tone of serenity.

Here are some more suggestions of songs that I have modified for a person’s need in prayer.  Just fill in the blank with their name:

“Softly and Tenderly, Jesus is calling. Calling for ____ and for me.”

“He is able, more than able to accomplish what concerns ____today.”

“In _____’s life, Lord, be glorified, be glorified.”

What a blessing to be able to lift someone up in prayer and praise! Whether that “someone” is in the desert, or at home alone, God knows and God hears. Prayers for salvation, prayers for protection, prayers for strength, prayers for comfort, prayers for healing, prayers for forgiveness, prayers for provision, prayers for wisdom and guidance, prayers of adoration and thanksgiving, prayers of contemplation and examination—He hears and He answers all the prayers of His children (silent, spoken, or sung).

Questions to Share:

  1. Is there someone right now for whom you want to pray, but don’t know how?
  2. Do you know the song, Jesus Loves Me? Could you sing that for them?

Your Tears Matter to God

Written by Linda. Filed Under Spiritual Training

Excellent or Praiseworthy is posted on Monday and Thursday nights.

The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. — Psalm 34:18

I would be surprised if you have gotten through this deployment without any tears.

Tears when your spouse left; tears during the long months of separation; tears at special occasions when your loved one’s presence is especially missed . . . tears matter.

Tears matter to God.

A couple years ago I read the daily devotion on A Slice of Infinity, a favorite of many (from Ravi Zacharias International Ministries), which was entitled “The Language of Tears.” I have never forgotten it, and saved the copy. I think it will be an encouragement to you, because your tears do matter to God.

Here’s what part of the writing said, “Many times, our response to tears is to admonish them away. ‘Don’t cry,’ ‘be thankful’ or ‘look on the bright side’ are dismissive statements, as much as they are meant to comfort. Yet, there are so many moments in life that cannot be expressed or soothed by words. They are too deep, too visceral to be simply captured by a clever turn of phrase. Instead, tears are the necessary articulation of our hearts, speaking out the groans too deep to be uttered.

“Indeed, tears are a language of their own. Whenever I am tempted to dismiss them or to try to overcome them, I am encouraged towards their free expression because of the way in which my Christian faith values them. Throughout the sacred pages of Scripture, there are tears. The tears of the grieving, the weary, and even the joyful—tears speak what the mouth cannot say.” (A Slice of Infinity, October 9, 2012)

Here are some Scripture verses about tears. Think about how important God views them:

You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book. — Psalm 56:8

The Sovereign LORD will wipe away the tears from all faces; He will remove the disgrace of His people from all the earth. — Isaiah 25:8

For I wrote you out of great distress and anguish of heart and with many tears, not to grieve you but to let you know the depth of my love for you. — 2 Corinthians 2:4

He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed. — Revelation 21:4

And don’t forget the story of the woman in Luke 7:36-50 who wet Jesus’ feet with her tears. And when Jesus’ wept at the tomb of Lazarus in John 11 . . . and over the city of Jerusalem in Luke 19.

Nancy Guthrie, in her great devotional The One Year Book of Hope, writes: “Some see tears not only as a loss of control but also as a lack of faith. It is as if the physical manifestation of tears gives evidence of a spiritual deficiency—that if our faith was big enough or deep enough or developed enough, we simply wouldn’t be this sad . . . But when you’ve lost something or someone who is valuable to you, when you have been forced to let go of a dream or live within a nightmare—that is something to be sad about. So let yourself be sad. And know that God does not discount or dismiss your tears. They are precious to him because you are precious to him.” (p. 3)

And because we are precious to God, tears are not the end of our story. Nancy Guthrie concludes: “Picture in your mind right now the Lord of the universe reaching down to gently and lovingly wipe away your tears. He doesn’t ignore them or tell you that if you really had faith you wouldn’t cry. He wipes them away. And Revelation 21:4 tells us that not only will he wipe away tears, he will remove all of the sorrow that caused them. God’s plan for the future is to destroy forever the evil that has brought you so much pain and then to live forever with you in a place he has lovingly prepared where there will be no more tears.” (p. 3)

The psalms are filled with instances where the writer is crying out to God, and then the “hinge” verse turns everything around in proclamation to the faithfulness and goodness of God. For example, in Psalm 31:10, 14 and 15 we read: “I am dying from grief; my years are shortened by sadness. Sin has drained my strength; I am wasting away from within . . . But I am trusting you, O LORD, saying ‘You are my God!’ My future is in your hands.”

Trust in the faithfulness of God is the hinge on which our heart turns. Lubricated by tears oftentimes, we can turn from despair on one side to an almighty God whose love is powerfully unshakeable yet tenderly compassionate. And we find hope on the other side.

Pray: “My Tear Collector, sometimes you seem so far away, it’s hard for me to grasp that you are sad with me. Give me the faith to see you now beside me and to see a future in which your hand will wipe away my tears forever.” (p. 3)

Work Cited:

Guthrie, Nancy, “Your Tears Matter to God,” The One Year Book of Hope (Carol Stream: Tyndale House Publishers, 2005), p. 3.

“The Language of Tears” by Margaret Manning, A Slice of Infinity, Ravi Zacharias International Ministries, October 9, 2012

Questions to Share:

1. When have you cried during this deployment? Did you sense that God cared about those tears?

2. When brokenhearted or lonely, it is easy to turn to Facebook or friends or TV. Scripture encourages us to turn to His word: “I weep with sorrow; encourage me by your word.” (Psalm 119:28) What does Psalm 145 say to comfort your soul and restore your hope?

Excellent or Praiseworthy is posted on Monday and Thursday nights.

Then He said to them all: “If anyone would come after Me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow Me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for Me will save it.” —Luke 9:23,24

I was intrigued by the title of the book I saw in my local bookstore, probably because of its shock value. The title was How to Ruin Your Life by 40, and written by a favorite author of mine, Steve Farrar. I knew there would be something valuable in this book for me, for many reasons.

And since I’m especially bad about reading the end of a book first (so I know how it turns out—if it’s worth reading) . . . I was particularly grabbed by a closing section in the book entitled “The Greatest Fear.” Could you guess what this author believes is “the greatest fear?”. . .

“It is common knowledge that the greatest fear of men and women today is the fear of death. It usually appears as number one on top ten lists of people’s greatest fears. This is understandable. We do not know when our last breath will be or for what reason it will cease, and this hanging ignorance of the end leaves many in a lingering tension. But there is one fear that always fails to make the top ten lists, and yet, it may be the biggest fear of all: It is the fear of dying to one’s self.” (p. 131)

Certainly as military members we are sensitive to the subject of death and dying. We understand sacrifice. We are prepared, or as Christians we should be. But the daily burden of unselfish living—putting others’ needs above our own in every circumstance—how exactly do we do that? That is called “dying to self,” and I think the author has a good point in raising this matter as a “fear.”

Years ago Bible scholar and pastor/teacher Dr. John MacArthur taught about “dying to self” in a sermon from his daily radio program, “Grace to You.”  He said that his favorite teaching on the subject was a lengthy paragraph from an anonymous writer—and he kept it on his desk as a daily reminder of what Jesus calls us to do in Luke 9:23,24, “If anyone would come after Me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow Me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for Me will save it.” I telephoned Dr. MacArthur’s staff after hearing this teaching—it challenged me to the core—and they emailed me what he said over the radio . . . which I will pass on to you:

“When you are forgotten or neglected or purposely set at naught, and you sting and hurt with the insult of the oversight, but your heart is happy, being counted worthy to suffer for Christ—that is dying to self. When your good is evil spoken of, when your wishes are crossed, your advice disregarded, your opinions ridiculed and you refuse to let anger rise in your heart, or even defend yourself, but take it all in patient loving silence—that is dying to self. When you lovingly and patiently bear any disorder, any irregularity, or any annoyance, when you can stand face to face with waste, folly, extravagance, spiritual insensibility, and endure it as Jesus endured it—that is dying to self. When you are content with any food, any offering, any raiment, any climate, any society, any attitude, any interruption by the will of God—that is dying to self. When you never care to refer to yourself in conversation, or to record your own good works, or itch after commendation, when you can truly love to be unknown—that is dying to self. When you see your brother prosper and have his needs met and can honestly rejoice with him in spirit and feel no envy nor question God, while your own needs are far greater and in desperate circumstances—that is dying to self. When you can receive correction and reproof from one of less stature than yourself, can humbly submit inwardly as well as outwardly, finding no rebellion or resentment rising up within your heart—that is dying to self.” —Anonymous

Whoa! I’m afraid I just can’t do that!! I know I can’t do that, and am afraid I will disappoint those who think I can! I’m afraid when the time comes, when unselfishness is absolutely required of me—that I will fail miserably! I’m afraid to admit there are desires within me which take precedence over the needs of others and obedience to my faith! Count me in—I’m afraid of the requirements of “dying to self!”

But the promise of Scripture is if I surrender to the lordship of Jesus Christ, that Christ actually lives in me—and with Christ nothing is impossible! Maybe there’s hope for me! Galatians 2:20 reads, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.” So with Christ living in me, I might actually be able to demonstrate the impossible—I might actually be able to demonstrate His “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” (Galatians 5:22,23)

Staying in the book of Galatians we read, “Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.” (Galatians 5:24, 25) And further teaching on this is in Romans 6, for example in Romans 6:11: “In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus.” I am set free not only from the power of sin and guilt, but also set free from the fear of “dying to self.” It is in dying to my own selfish nature that I am alive in the power of the Holy Spirit to truly live, to truly love.

What does this have to do with deployment? Everything. In and of ourselves we will not be able to stand up under the extreme demands of fighting this global war on terror. We will focus on the unfairness of it all. We will fear the unknown. We will let anger have the day, and we will take it all out on our spouse—the one we are supposed to love the most.

It is only in the power of the Holy Spirit, living in us, that we will have the ability to conquer bitterness, fear, anger . . . selfishness. And by thinking of our spouse and their struggles we can encourage them during this time of separation. We are set free to serve one another in love—even when apart. We can ask the tough questions, like “How are you today?” “Do you know how much I love you?” “How can I pray for you?” And in doing that we are facing our fear . . . the fear of dying to self. And having faced that fear, we can truly begin to live.

Work cited:

Farrar, Steve, How to Ruin Your Life by 40 (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2006)

Questions to Share:

1. Do you believe that, in your marriage, you have been successful at living out Philippians 2:3,4: “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.”

2. During this deployment, how can you serve your spouse in love, considering their needs?

Thoughts from the Desert

Written by Matt. Filed Under Spiritual Training

Excellent or Praiseworthy is posted on Monday and Thursday nights.

For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword,and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. — Hebrews 4:12

As I came off the C-130 that just landed and began to unload my belongings, I was met by the non-commissioned officer whom I was sent to replace. It was the early morning hours in Iraq, but already the sun was up and the temperature was rising. As we set out from the airport and embarked on the thirty minute drive to the office out of which I would begin working, I began to tune into my new surroundings. The pot-hole filled roads jostled our Explorer back-and-forth, but my mind was also jostled by what I was hearing on the radio—musical lyrics glorifying matters of “the flesh.”And on my first shopping trip I could also see the wide-range of commodities being readily offered—everything from electronics and shoes to violent video games and pornography. Just like in the States, the temptations are all available. I knew I must be careful—and staying in God’s word would be invaluable to my time here.

So I took this time while deployed to read through the Bible from cover-to-cover. I decided to read through the Old Testament six days a week and then the New Testament one day a week. It was exciting to see what God taught me, reminded me, and how He moved my heart as I examined His word. It was a special time to think, and I had the opportunity to ponder what God has to say about temptation and sin—my own included.

One night I read this passage in Deuteronomy which really caused me to think about how Christians are to feel about the seriousness of sin:

“If a slain person is found lying in the open country in the land which the LORD your God gives you to possess, and it is not known who has struck him, then your elders and your judges shall go out and measure the distance to the cities which are around the slain one. It shall be that the city which is nearest to the slain man, that is, the elders of that city, shall take a heifer of the herd, which has not been worked and which has not pulled in a yoke; and the elders of that city shall bring the heifer down to a valley with running water, which has not been plowed or sown, and shall break the heifer’s neck there in the valley. Then the priests, the sons of Levi, shall come near, for the LORD your God has chosen them to serve Him and to bless in the name of the LORD; and every dispute and every assault shall be settled by them. All the elders of that city which is nearest to the slain man shall wash their hands over the heifer whose neck was broken in the valley; and they shall answer and say, ‘Our hands did not shed this blood, nor did our eyes see it. Forgive Your people Israel whom You have redeemed, O LORD, and do not place the guilt of innocent blood in the midst of Your people Israel.’ And the bloodguiltiness shall be forgiven them. So you shall remove the guilt of innocent blood from your midst, when you do what is right in the eyes of the LORD.”— Deuteronomy 21:1-9

We are prone to read these Old Testament verses thinking that they have nothing to say to us today, but such was not the case the night I was studying. Here, Moses reveals an illustration of how Israel was to react to the sins of others, and I think this has real application in my life and the lives of Christians. Just as Israel was to mourn over the secret murder of a man, and Israel was to sacrifice a heifer to God as atonement for this sin, Christians are to mourn over the sin of others just as much as we mourn over our own sin. We can look around today and see Satan’s hand in communities and societies—and often see it buried and disguised within other ideologies, covered up in people’s private lives, praised in our entertainment culture, and displayed in political and corporate corruption and hypocrisy. Even the church is not untainted by sin’s curse and Satan’s attack.

What should our reaction as Christians be? According to Deuteronomy 21:1-9, we are to mourn over sin. We are to ask the Father to forgive our wicked ways, to show His mercy and grace on our world. We are to pray, “Forgive Your people whom You have redeemed, O LORD, and do not place the guilt of innocent blood in the midst of Your people.” We should agree with Jesus’ words in Matthew 5:4, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted” and Luke 23:34, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.”

I was moved by my reading and my spirit was impressed to pray, “Father, we thank You for Your mercy and grace. We thank You for Your faithfulness to deliver Your people from the penalty of sin. We thank You for salvation, and for the hope of Christ’s return which will completely deliver us from the effects of sin. Father, we mourn over our own sin and the sin that we see committed around us. We know that it is an abomination to You and that You hate anything contrary to who You are. We ask that You forgive us for turning from You and indulging in sin. Father, we ask that You would keep us from sin and that we would not even desire its pleasures, that You would teach us to discipline our bodies, that You would teach us to walk in Your ways, and derive our pleasure completely from You. We ask that You would change our hearts that we would mourn over sin, and that we would be so close to You that we would be sensitive to the sin around us, and we would run from it. I especially pray this for myself, Father. Keep me pure.”

Questions to Share:

1. Is your conscience troubled by sin in your midst, no matter where you live?

2. Is your desire to go to God, asking for forgiveness, for your own sin and the sins of others?

 

Asking the Tough Questions

Written by Linda. Filed Under Marriage & Family

Excellent or Praiseworthy is posted on Monday and Thursday nights.

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.” — Colossians 3:12-15

In the military it’s always wedding season, and with each present I wrap I enclose our favorite wedding verse. It is Colossians 3:12-15. Perhaps this is a bit of an unusual choice for scriptural instruction on marriage, but my experience has been that it gets right to the very core of the challenges of married life.

As I was wrapping such a gift on Saturday, I thought of another couple who has been married only a short time but is experiencing big problems—and has asked my husband and I for help. Surely on their beautiful wedding day they could not have imagined the struggles they are now having. As I was writing out my favorite wedding Scripture on the card to the day’s newlyweds I thought, “I wonder if we asked some good questions regarding these verses to our troubled couple, perhaps they would start to really wrestle with some of the problems they are having—and be convicted to communicate better with each other. Perhaps even forgive each other.

The power of questions. Have you ever noticed how many questions Jesus asked? For example, He asked Peter, “But what about you?’ He asked. “Who do you say I am?” (Matthew 16:15)

He asked Martha: “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 11:25-26)

He asked the disciples when He calmed the storm: “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?” (Mark 4:40)

Jesus asked the tough questions, and I have been studying His questions in order to grasp how He could get to the heart of the matter—and cause people to think. So on Saturday, as I was inscribing the wedding gift, my question—to myself—was, “What kind of questions could we ask throughout the verses of Colossians 3 would get to the heart of the marriage problems with our couple who is seeking reconciliation?”

“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved . . .” (vs. 12a)

Questions to ponder: Who stood with you on your wedding day, believing in your abilities to love each other? Do you truly have a relationship with Christ as your Lord and Savior?  How committed are you to living lives following God’s rules? How important is the legacy of a good marriage?

“. . . clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.” (vs. 12b)

Questions to ponder: Have you been patient with each other? In what ways do you wish your spouse was more patient with you?  In what ways would your spouse wish you were more patient with them? Who taught you to be kind and compassionate, or are you still “a work in progress” regarding those attributes? What could you do for your spouse, while separated by deployment, which he or she would consider to be a demonstration of kindness? Who is the most humble person you know? How are you like that person?

“Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” (vs. 13)

Questions to ponder: Are you forgiving of each other? Are you aware of some of the things for which your spouse has already forgiven you? Have you said that you are sorry? asked for forgiveness? told the other that you will never do that again? asked what you could do to make things right?

“And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.” (vs. 14)

Questions to ponder: What was it about your spouse which attracted you to them in the first place? What did you used to tell them that you loved about them?  Are you ready and willing to die to self, and selfishness, and love unconditionally?

“Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace.”(vs. 15a)

Questions to ponder: How much peace is there in your home right now? Has there ever been peace between you two? What happened? How badly do you want peace between you to be restored? Since Christ is the Prince of Peace, have you gone to Him and asked for peace in prayer? Then have you sought Him as the great Counselor?

“And be thankful.” (vs. 15b)

Questions to ponder: What two things can you say that you are thankful for in your spouse? Even when deployed, especially when deployed, have you taken the opportunity to express to your spouse what you are grateful for in them? in your relationship in the past or now?

If we are serious about building our homes into dwellings where love reigns and God is glorified. . . . then perhaps we can take Jesus’ example and be willing to ask and answer the tough questions. Perhaps you will find that it is in understanding the problems that He can lead you to the solutions.

Questions to Share:

1. How would you like to see your marriage grow in strength and love as outlined in Colossians 3:12-15?

2. Remember the vows that you took on your wedding day. How are you doing in keeping those vows?

Excellent or Praiseworthy is posted on Monday and Thursday nights.

Be strong and courageous.  Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go. –  Joshua 1:9

“That’s a great idea–I would have never thought of that!” A young Army wife shared with me something she had done to help prepare her family for her husband’s upcoming deployment. Before her husband left for Iraq she had taken a picture of him with their children in each room of the house, and then framed them for displaying. The house was filled with Dad’s presence—reminders of times when they were together. This wife knew that in the days and months ahead there would be moments when both she and the kids would wonder–is he really real? He feels so far away–he is so far away! But the pictures were there to bring back the memories of his presence in their everyday lives.

Are there times when you wonder if God is real? Pause to consider His presence in your life. I believe that the psalmist was expressing just that when He wrote:

“Where can I go from Your Spirit?
Where can I flee from Your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, You are there;
If I make my bed in the depths, You are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
If I settle on the far side of the sea,
Even there your hand will guide me,
Your right hand will hold me fast.”
— Psalm 139:7-10

It is His Word, His people, His creation, His faithfulness in our circumstances, His guiding hand, His Holy Spirit filling us that remind us of His presence! Just as this precious family in Texas is aware of Dad’s presence in their home, we can be reminded of God’s presence in our hearts and receive comfort and strength when we are in lonely times.

Read the story of Jacob’s dream at Bethel in Genesis 28:10-22. The LORD reminds Jacob in this dream of His promises and the covenant in Genesis 12:2-3. Jacob awakes and his thought is of God’s presence: “Surely the LORD is in this place, and I was not aware of it.” What place are you in right now? Have you wondered if the LORD is with you, and you are not aware of it? He promises in Joshua 1:5, “I will never leave you or forsake you.” The truth is, if you are His child, you are never alone no matter where you are. And you have His Word on that!

Questions to share with each other:

1. How does the writer encourage you in Psalm 139?

2. How is God ministering to you during this war?

 

Shine On

Written by Al. Filed Under Spiritual Training

Excellent or Praiseworthy is posted on Monday and Thursday nights.

“You are like light for the whole world.  A city built on a hill cannot be hid.  No one lights a lamp and puts it under a bowl; instead it is put on the lampstand, where it gives light for everyone in the house.”Matthew 5:14,15

Jesus was talking to a gathering of followers and just after telling them that they were like salt, He also told them that they were like light.  They were salt because God used them to preserve those around them, but they were also light because through them, Jesus intended them to illuminate the truth of who God is.  What is interesting to me in these verses is that Jesus doesn’t suggest that a city in a valley or a light under a bowl has any less light, He just focuses on what to do with the light.  This is a call to do more with what we have.

My wife and I have only lived in military housing three times in my career.  We have mixed socially outside of military circles more than inside.  So, after many years, my wife doesn’t consider herself to be a “military” wife and she thought that she had little to offer those around her.  One day we were with a couple who had just heard that the husband was being called up to deploy to Afghanistan.  It obviously came as a shock to them and the wife was very emotional.  My wife started talking to her and suddenly discovered that she did have something to offer, having been through a similar experience.  Just by talking with her and relating to her circumstances, my wife was able to shine a little light on where God was in the situation.

I think sometimes we think that being a light is what pastors, or people who have been to seminary, or missionaries who take the Bible to far corners of the world are called to do.  The followers who were listening to Jesus had never seen a seminary, there were no churches to pastor and the Bible we have now was a long way off from being printed.  Jesus followers then, as they are now, were ordinary people and yet Jesus said that they were like light. They just needed to place themselves where they would shine.

By choosing to follow Jesus, we already have the light in us. Fortunately, God provides the light – if it was up to me it might on occasion go out altogether. The light might wane from time to time as we face challenges that filter it somewhat, but it doesn’t go away.  So what we need to do is to look for opportunities to place it where others can see it and can see who God is.

How does that look practically?  Well, first we need to ask God to help us deal with anything (sin) that might dim our light.  Then we need to ask God to give us opportunities to shine, be alert for those opportunities, and to act on them.  You may meet someone who is struggling with a deployment and they just need a listening ear – commit to have coffee with them.   You may meet someone who is making a bad choice in their marriage and needs some gentle but direct advice – be gentle, but honest in guiding them.  You may meet someone who just needs practical help like mowing a lawn or watching children for a while – sacrifice some of your time. The possibilities are endless, but each one shines a little light on who God is.

Now some of you reading this are already masters at serving others, so this is no big deal.  A lot of you, however, probably don’t take the next step, which is talking to people about why you are so nice and helpful.  That’s where you really get to shine a light on who God is.  You see, it’s easy for the people you help to write off your helpfulness as you just being nice.  In a sense, you are taking the credit if you let that go by without telling them that you are who you are because of what God has done for you.  That can be really scary, but it is the end goal of shining your light.  Take a deep breath next time someone says “thanks, that’s really nice” and say something like, “you know, I’m pretty selfish in myself, but God is helping me to think more of others”.  See what happens!  Of course you will need to know what to tell them if they ask how they can accept Jesus as their Savior because you never know how quickly the Holy Spirit will move!

Now here’s a thought– if we have a light each in our marriage, how much light can we shine if we work together as a couple?   Married couples in the military who follow Jesus have a unique opportunity to shine some light for other military couples, families and co-workers who are going through similar experiences as us.   I’d encourage you not to put that light in a valley or under a bowl, but look for opportunities to help those around you so that you can tell and show them who God is and what He has done for them.

Questions to share:

1.  Who can you think of right now who could do with some help?

2.  What can you do to help?

3.  When can you start?

4.  Pray about it, do it and see what God does with your light.

The A-Ha Moment

Written by Linda. Filed Under Spiritual Training

Excellent or Praiseworthy is posted on Monday and Thursday nights.

“If you hold to My teaching, you are really My disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” — Jesus’ words in John 8:31,32

You have heard it called many things—an A-Ha moment, a breakthrough, “it all came together,” “something clicked,” “my eyes were opened,” “the light bulb came on”. . . . all references to that time when a key element sinks into one’s thought processes and truth makes sense—perhaps for the first time.

Because we have all had this wonderful experience at one point, we cling to the hope for that moment in others—when something that has confounded them, perhaps for years, no longer is a stumbling block and they are free to experience the remarkable liberty that truth brings. Marriage counselors especially work towards this end in hopes that one (or both) of the spouses in a troubled relationship will “put the pieces together” and whatever problem has them stymied will be “fixed,” or at least relieved—allowing them to go on to the next level of breakthroughs. And because we know that A-Ha moments can take a lot of work in leading up to that moment of truth, and sometimes much time, we encourage ourselves and others to be patient and to persevere!

One of my favorite cinematic A-Ha moments occurs in “The Miracle Worker”—the true life story of Helen Keller, who became blind and deaf as a toddler due to an illness. In the 1962 movie, Anne Sullivan, Helen’s teacher, works tirelessly to help her student, then almost seven years old, to associate an object with its name, spelling out the letters of the word with signals in Helen’s hand. Over and over and over again she works with Helen, spelling out the names of objects throughout the house and countryside. This movie is worth seeing for the dramatic climax, when Helen finally “gets it,” the meaning of the word “water.” Helen understands, at one given moment, that the word “water” means the cold liquid that is poured into her hands from a garden pump—and then the whole world opens up to her as she leads her teacher around to every object in the Keller yard, learning one new word after another. The background music, the joy experienced by the Kellers, the fortitude of Anne Sullivan—all go together to create the on-screen brilliance of the moment when a life is changed seemingly in an instant.

I often recall, and speak about, two A-Ha moments in my life. One was on an August evening in Weatherford, Oklahoma, in 1980. My husband was TDY, and I was alone with my children while visiting relatives since we were between assignments and without a home. In my loneliness my thoughts were turning to spiritual matters—many questions went through my head and my heart. “What is life all about?” “Something’s missing—what is it?” “What do I really believe in?” “What does faith in God mean?” One night I happened to attend (yes, it appeared to be just that random) a concert of a little Christian band traveling around the country in a raggedy old school bus. God bless that band—I wish I knew who they were so that I could thank them for their faithfulness! That night they spoke truth—seemingly directly to me—as they shared the gospel of Jesus Christ. Either it was the first time that I had heard, or it was the first time that I “heard.” The Holy Spirit was at work in my heart. One of the band members told us that we are all sinners, and because of that we need a savior. That savior is Jesus Christ, the very Son of God, who loves us so much that He bore our sins on the cross so that we might be saved and spend eternity with God in heaven. It was my A-Ha moment—my break-through, as everything came together under the direction of the Holy Spirit. . . .it clicked, my eyes were opened, the light bulb came on in my head . . . . and “it all came together.” The band member asked us that night to make a decision—to repent and to trust our life to Christ. With every head bowed and every eye closed in the audience, I raised my hand as one who committed their life to Jesus as Lord and Savior. I’ve had peace ever since.  I was indeed born again, a new creation in Christ.

Six years later, in 1986, I attended a marriage seminar at our base chapel in Germany. My husband must have been deployed, or he was home with the kids—or working weekends—I don’t remember. Somehow it was just me. My neighbors dragged me along with them because initially I really wasn’t interested. After all, my marriage was fine. But a small missionary group came to teach us that weekend. . . .and I learned that marriage was God’s idea. There was a purpose to it, and that my husband and I would leave a legacy of faith for our children. A-Ha! Suddenly, yes suddenly, another light bulb came on! Our marriage wasn’t just about us, or our kids, or our assignment or career. . . . .it was about God!  Once again, the Holy Spirit was at work in my heart.

Turns out that an A-Ha moment really is a series of small breakthroughs, “process items,” which culminate at a point in time when it all comes together. . . . when we allow God to shed His light on our thinking and on our circumstances. . . . and then in humility we know that He is in control . . . .and we willingly turn the reins of our life over to Him. After all, He has always been in charge anyway. The freedom and the joy have been remarkable as I have seen God take me through the twists and turns of life with such love. None of it has been an accident. . . .and He has been so patient as He has worked with me over and over and over again until I “got it.”  It’s the working of the Holy Spirit! If I take the time to remember, I can see how He worked in and through other people, circumstances, Scripture, prayer—and I can see some of the steps which God used to bring me to my powerful moment of decision, the convergence. “I will remember the deeds of the LORD; yes, I will remember Your miracles of long ago.  I will meditate on all Your works and consider all Your mighty deeds.”  (Psalm 77:11,12)

Many others who have placed their hearts and lives in Jesus’ hands cannot point to a single moment of revelation of their need for repentance and rescue—it has been more of a gradual turning and light has been shed more and more on the truth of the good news of Jesus Christ. Either way, God is at work to touch hearts and change lives—forever.

I’m still a “work in progress,” as God still has much to teach me. Perhaps you feel the same. Perhaps there are still pieces missing—and you wonder who God really is. Believe me—He longs to shine the light of His truth into whatever darkness you are experiencing right now. You will never be the same—you will be free! You will have peace! Pray “Yes, Lord, I am a sinner and I need a Savior. Please forgive my sins and take control of my life. Thank You for dying on the cross for me, and make me the kind of person You want me to be. I want You to be on the throne of my life, not me. I need You, Lord Jesus, and I receive You as my Savior and my Lord.”

Did the Light come on? Tell someone about it. . . . maybe they need to hear, too.

“To be accustomed to our Lord’s teaching is not to ask, ‘What must I do to be good?’ but, ‘What must I do to be saved?’  How long does it take us to know what the true meaning of our life is?  One half second.” —  Oswald Chambers

Questions to Share:

1. Recall a time in your life when you realized an important truth, seemingly in an instant. Perhaps it was in putting together something your parents taught you, or realizing your part in a series of events which turned out for good. . . .

2. Can you say that you have recognized your need for Jesus Christ? Spend time in prayer and confess your sin, committing your life to Him.

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