A devotional to help military families stay connected during deployments

Excellent or Praiseworthy is posted on Monday and Thursday nights.

Editor’s Note: The writer of this testimony, Beverly Weeks, posts regularly on the website intentionallyyours.org. She and her husband reach out in marriage enrichment ministry throughout North Carolina—including military couples stationed there. Our hope is that this testimony will be beneficial to those who are struggling in their marriage during deployment or any other time.

. . . clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. — Colossians 3:12b

Your beauty should not come from outward adornment . . . instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight. — I Peter 3:3a, 4

How do you change your spouse? Nervously, I began to fidget, play around with my jewelry and crack my knuckles as I sat on the brown sofa. It had taken all my courage just to muster up enough strength to walk into the Christian counselor’s office.

It just felt so awkward. I mean for years I had taught Sunday School, sung in the choir and now I was having to admit to a total stranger that I did not have it all together. I felt as if my marriage had fallen completely apart. In all honesty, I had already begun to “check out” of the marriage relationship….yet my husband pleaded for me to reach out to this one who was trained, and willing, to help.

I went to that counseling session really as a way to appease my husband. I wanted to be able to tell my friends that I had done everything possible before dissolving the marriage. I guess that deep down I went secretly hoping that the counselor would affirm my decision to separate from him. At the very least, I had hoped that she could tell me how to change him.

 I took a sip of water from my water bottle, composed myself and then all of a sudden me and my 150 plus pounds of head strong ATTITUDE decided to blurt out my frustrations… Before you say anything, I want you to know that I am not taking him back if HE doesn’t change this, this and this…” I proceeded to call off the things on my list, things that aggravated me to the core! I mean how dare my husband not show me any affection, I feel like he always put his job before me, he never lets me help with making decisions, he is never affectionate, I am a people person, he loves staying at home, I love a clean house and he, well, let’s just say we are totally opposite…..”

I began to rattle them off, one fault right behind the other, until I noticed she wasn’t saying very much. Of course, if the truth be known I didn’t give her much of an opportunity! Finally, she lifted her pen, cleared her throat and spoke in a near silent whisper. Although full of conviction, her words were not at all what I had wanted to hear. “What if God is more interested in changing YOU than in changing your spouse?”

Hmmm. I want you to know that I did not exactly receive her words in the love of Christ! As a matter of fact, my fleshly sinful side wanted to leap off that sofa, pluck every blonde hair out of her head and her eyebrows and shout, “Lady, seriously, were you not just listening to what I said!?”

Her words, which were unsettling with me at the time, began to resonate in my ears. For the next few weeks and months, our marriage restoration and healing would begin with me first recognizing the fact that I could NOT change my spouse. No matter how hard I tried, the only person I could change was me. For some time I had naively thought that if I could just change my husband it would fix our relationship and the problems would vanish.

How to Change Your Spouse: The Power of the Two “P” Words

PRAYI began to pray in a new way… Lord, change me. I remember one night just sitting on the end of my bed weeping and pouring my heart out to God. “God, You know my heart. You know all the ways my husband has hurt me, all my frustrations, the bitterness and the callous feelings. Lord, you know all my expectations, hopes and my dreams. Father, I realize that I cannot change him so I ask that You will help me to compromise, accept the things that I cannot change, and God use these things to make me stronger…”

Now I won’t lie, for weeks it was just plain hard to pray that way. But I noticed over time that things really did begin to change for the better. My reactions changed, my behavior changed and it triggered my husband to want to make small changes.

PRAISEI began to praise my husband. I learned right quick that my positive reinforcements to my husband added fuel in his tank. Pretty soon he began to pick up his towels, he began to be more affectionate, he agreed to go out more and ironically every one of the small changes that he had put into place were things I had completely stopped nagging him about! I totally got rid of six words from my vocabulary…“You have to change or else!”

You see in the past, my ultimatums had only stirred up bitterness and frustration. I found that my new words, ”thank you for picking up the towels, thank you for helping in the kitchen, I like it when you hold my hand,”…. all of these affirmed him. For the first time, my husband began to feel respected.

As God began to change my heart, I was able to communicate with my husband more clearly. In the past I would have easily snapped and torn into him. I think my gentle and quiet spirit began to win him over. I am not saying everything was magically fixed. What I am saying is that instead of compressing and stuffing my frustrations (which earlier almost always led to an explosion), I began to communicate what I needed from him instead of assuming that he already knew.

You see, I learned it’s not my place to change my husband. That is God’s work. There was a lot of compromising, determination and a whole lot of hard work involved in turning around our marriage. NO, you cannot change your spouse, but you can pray that GOD will change you! In return, when GOD softens your heart your marriage will have no other choice but to change.

It’s hard to believe that encounter with our Christian counselor was over two and a half years ago. Even more incredible is the fact that GOD has placed us in marriage ministry together. How AWESOME is that? She and her husband—my husband and I—humbly serving together helping couples just like us.

I want you to know that the change did not begin in my marriage. My husband and I are closer now than ever before. God has restored our home. That change began in me.

Work Cited:

http://www.intentionallyyours.org/2013/08/06/how-to-change-your-spouse/

Questions to Share:

1. Spend time in prayer asking God how He might want to change you in your relationship with your spouse.

2. Praise your spouse for something specific they do that you admire. If you are experiencing deployment, praise them in email or phone—or in writing.

Fearless Love

Written by Al. Filed Under Marriage & Family

Excellent or Praiseworthy is posted on Monday and Thursday nights.

There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear… – 1 John 4:18a

Love is the answer to fixing all relationship issues, at least that’s what we are told by everyone. Hollywood certainly suggests that if a man and women fall in love, everything will be great until they fall out of love. Then they just need to find another person to fall in love with and it will all be good again.

Hollywood is wrong. That doesn’t mean that love isn’t the answer to all our relationship issues, but Hollywood confuses romance with love. The result is that a lot of people start to think that love equals a constant state of romance.

It is hard to imagine anything more exhausting than a constant state of romance. We need romance, for sure, but in bursts. Men, generally lacking the emotional wiring that women are blessed with, especially find the idea of constant romance an impossible challenge. It’s not that men can’t be romantic, but it takes a lot of energy. So men can’t be romantic all of the time. Even women will eventually run out of romantic energy–we just don’t see that as often as they tend to always outlast men. In the military, while not impossible during a deployment, romance is much trickier. So does that mean there is less love? Of course not.

So if constant romance is not love, and loving each other is critical to maintaining a healthy relationship, what do we have to do? This question plagued me for a long time. I knew that I needed to love and be loved, and I kind of knew when I felt loved. But the problem was that I wasn’t always sure what to do to love. Call me a simple soldier, but a manual would have been nice. Something with a plain-speaking, practical guide telling me what to do to love my wife. Otherwise, the concept of love just seemed too overwhelming, too fluffy and, quite frankly, unmilitary. Then I read 1 John 4:18 and saw something I hadn’t seen before…

Some of you will have known this a long time ago. So this revelation is for others like me who are a bit slower on the uptake… Perfect love casts out all fear. Now we can’t love perfectly, only God is capable of doing that. But we can work toward His standard. John is saying in this verse that there is a converse relationship between love and fear. So while love seems a little intangible, I know what fear is. That’s something we get to deal with in life and especially in military life.

So, if I want to love my wife more, I need to work on taking away any fear that she might have. When women are asked what they are afraid of, a common theme is abandonment–physical or emotional. This can be why some wives hate deployments. They fear the insecurity that comes from being left alone. That leads me to the practical things I can do for my wife – physically hold her hand to show I am right there with her, hug her often so she feels my support, tell her how much I appreciate her at least daily, boast about her to others, find out what she likes and do that or get that for her. The list goes on. If I communicate well when I am away then I can maintain the emotional security she needs, but the physical security is obviously a little trickier. If I prepare everything well – finances, insurance, house and car maintenance, etc., she will feel some physical security even when I’m gone. If I make it a habit to physically reassure her when I am home, the effect will extend to when I am away because she knows that if I was home, I would be holding her as often as she needs. The point is that whether I’m home or away, whenever I do something that makes her feel more secure and less anxious or fearful in our relationship, I am loving her. Sometimes that means a little romance, but not constantly…

Men generally fear failure. We fear being laughed at or looked down upon as being weak or incompetent. So wives, if you want your husbands to feel more loved, one of the most practical things you can do is to compliment them. Tell them you are proud of them and feel safe around them–that they are doing a great job. We know we’re not perfect, but focus on the bits we are great at and it will make us want to be great in the other areas too. Because we love it when our wives take away our fear of failure. And if you are separated because either you or your husband are deployed, write those compliments down for your man and it will sustain him for a long time.

Perfect love casts out all fear, so let’s take away each others’ fears and see what happens!

Questions:
1. What would be your fears in your relationship, great or small (including sharing your fears if that is one of them)? Share them with your spouse.
2. What surprised you about your spouse’s fears?
3. What practical steps can you make to help your spouse feel more secure? Group them into daily, weekly, monthly and on occasion. Make an action plan. Follow the plan.

Walking Wounded

Written by Mary. Filed Under Marriage & Family, Spiritual Training

Excellent or Praiseworthy is posted on Monday and Thursday nights.

A few days later, when Jesus again entered Capernaum, the people heard that He had come home. So many gathered that there was no room left, not even outside the door, and He preached the word to them. Some men came, bringing to Him a paralytic, carried by four of them. Since they could not get him to Jesus because of the crowd, they made an opening in the roof above Jesus and, after digging through it, lowered the mat the paralyzed man was lying on. When Jesus saw their faith, He said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” Now some teachers of the law were sitting there, thinking to themselves, “Why does this fellow talk like that? He’s blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?” Immediately Jesus knew in His spirit that this was what they were thinking in their hearts, and He said to them, “Why are you thinking these things? Which is easier: to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up, take your mat and walk’? But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins….” He said to the paralytic, “I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home.” He got up, took his mat and walked out in full view of them all. This amazed everyone and they praised God, saying, “We have never seen anything like this!” — Mark 2:1-12

I’m tired. If you are currently deployed, or the spouse of someone who’s deployed, then you’re probably tired, too. Especially if this is not your first deployment. Our base chaplain took a quick, non-scientific survey at a large meeting and discovered that the major stressor for both the deployed AND family members is lack of sleep!

I’ll bet the paralyzed man in this parable was tired, too. Tired of laying on his mat everyday . . .tired of depending on others. But notice, he still had friends. And they helped him out by bringing him to Jesus. What an entrance!! Through the roof! I wonder: how difficult was it to get him up to the roof in the first place?

Don’t you think it’s interesting that the first thing Jesus said to him was, “Son, your sins are forgiven”? I mean, the man obviously needed help! But Jesus, looking into his soul, perceived that this man needed more help internally than externally! I’ll bet there were only two people in the room NOT shocked at Jesus’ words—Jesus and the paralytic. To everyone else it appeared as if this man needed primarily physical healing. Then, of course, so the Pharisees would see that Jesus DID have the authority to forgive sins, He bade the man to walk. Is it any wonder that the Word, through whom all things were made, could make one man well? Knit his nerves, bones, muscles, tendons and cells perfectly back together to work in harmony as they were designed?

How many of us are the opposite of the paralyzed man? On the outside we look fine, but on the inside we are wounded? For so many in the military community these days it seems deployment-related. There are the ”talked-about” injuries: divorces, suicide attempts, alcohol. And then there are the more common, but strangely less talked-about wounds: excessive video game playing, extreme fatigue, lack of sexual desire, living in committed—but very strained—marriages. In effect, we are the walking wounded.

It’s easier to feel compassion for someone with a visible wound, I believe. . .like a broken leg, burns, scars, etc. But what about the invisible wounds that manifest themselves in outward behavior: the lady screeching at the medical desk, grumpy service workers, rude teenagers? I suspect that we are so unwilling to give grace and mercy because we perceive that we have received so little ourselves. We have the attitude of, “I got through it. Suck it up and take your turn.”

Notice that Mark said, “When Jesus saw their (the men who brought the paralyzed man) faith, He spoke . . . What if, just today, we treated everyone we encountered as if they were the walking wounded? What if, in spite of our own wounds, we tried to be “the friends” and responded to others in mercy and grace, instead of in-kind? Might it make a little difference? Spread some of Jesus’ light and healing? Eventually come back to us and bind up some of our own wounds? Most importantly, would it point people to Jesus? What if, just today, we try?

In the words of Reuben Morgan of Hillsong:

“Everyone needs compassion, Love that’s never failing, Let mercy fall on me.
Everyone needs forgiveness, the kindness of a Savior, the Hope of nations.
My Savior, He can move the mountains, My God is mighty to save,
He is mighty to save.
Forever, Author of salvation, He rose and conquered the grave.
Jesus conquered the grave.
Shine your light and let the whole world see, Jesus, for the glory of the risen King!”

Questions to Share:

  1. What “invisible” wounds have you experienced because of deployment?
  2. How can you extend grace to others who perhaps have experienced the same woundings?

7 Steps in the Walk of Faith

Written by Mike. Filed Under Spiritual Training

Excellent or Praiseworthy is posted on Monday and Thursday nights.

I trust in the mercy of God forever and ever. I will praise You forever, Because You have done it; And in the presence of Your saints I will wait on Your name, for it is good. — Psalm 52:8,9

The family was hit with tragic news—so unbelievable and unexpected, and particularly difficult for his wife. As the spiritual leader, this husband knew there were steps he must take in order to get his family through the crisis.  He cried, “Lord, help!”

Those steps would have to be steps of faithbecause there was no seeing the “whys”, “hows”, and “what ifs.” All of that was beyond understanding . . . with no idea what God was doing. But his Christian faith was strong . . . so he was willing to take the first and certain steps of faith in order to lead his family with gentleness and power, a remarkable combination.

Oswald Chambers, the great theologian from the early 1900s and author of the devotional My Utmost for His Highest, presents a strong challenge to those facing similar trials: “When we are in fear we can do nothing less than pray to God, but our Lord has a right to expect that those who name His name should have an understanding confidence in Him. God expects His children to be so confident in Him that in any crisis they are the reliable ones . . . it is when a crisis arises that we instantly reveal upon whom we rely. If we have been learning to worship God and to trust Him, the crisis will reveal that we will go to the breaking point and not break in our confidence in Him.” Oswald Chambers in My Utmost for His Highest, August 12th

The husband did have a desire to lead with confidence and trust in God, but his own emotions were close to the breaking point. Watching him take these seven steps of faith revealed to us his reliance on God, and his confidence did not break:

  1.  He knew this would be a journey of faith and it would not be clear what the outcome would be. Acknowledging his helplessness was the first step, and the husband did this humbly in prayer, citing: “We live by faith, not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7) and “. . . faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see” (Hebrews 11:1).
  2. Next, the husband knew he must go to the source of faith for strength to face the day and the days to come. He had no strength on his owndrained by circumstances.  So the second step was to decide to spend time in God’s word: “Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ.” (Romans 10:17) Knowing that the path would be long and hard, he believed the scriptural truth, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path.” (Psalm 119:105)
  3. The third step was to meditate on the Scriptures which stated what he was sure of. Emotions in his family were bordering on total confusion, so he focused on what he knew to be certain: “God is our refuge and strength, an ever present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear . . .” (Psalm 46:1,2)  “My comfort in my suffering is this: Your promise renews my life.” (Psalm 119:50)  “I lift up my eyes to the hills—where does my help come from? My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth.” (Psalm 121:1,2)  “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.” (Romans 8:28)  “Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail.  They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness.”  (Lamentations 3:21-23)  He wrote Scripture on index cards to refer to during times of weaknesswhich came, but less and less as time went on.
  4. The husband knew that step four was patient endurance, and he took that step with new-found confidence. At first just surviving the day, then the week . . . and growing in perseverance along the way: “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” (James 1:3,4)
  5. The husband also knew that endurance would be twin to encouragement. Friends and family (especially church family) would be essential if his family was to survive this ordeal intact. Instead of isolating themselves in their pain, the husband led his family in the fifth step—keeping them open to help and open to worship: “May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus, so that with one heart and mouth you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Romans 15:5,6)
  6. The sixth step was to look for hope with new eyes. With mature thinking, the husband knew that, in the flesh, we can all be blinded by despair and discouragement. Looking for how God is moving takes Holy Spirit-led vision, and the husband was ready: “For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.” (Romans 15:4)
  7. Their road ahead remains hard . . . the journey long. Steps of faith are never easy and require total trust in God in the dark. The husband prayed Proverbs 3:5,6: “Lord, I pray that I will ‘Trust in You with all my heart and not lean on my own understanding. In all my ways I will acknowledge You, and I know You will make our paths straight.’ Step seven was to praise God for His sovereignty and His presence . . . with all thanksgiving. This was perhaps the most counter-intuitive step of all, but necessary because Scripture says, “Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (I Thessalonians 5:16-18).

In spite of everything they have been through, this family stands together in faith.  They are an inspiration to us all.

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” — Romans 15:13

Questions to Share:

1.  What crises of faith have you experienced in your life as a couple? How did you rely on your trust in God to get through them?
2. What crises of faith have you experienced during deployment? How did you rely on your trust in God to get through them?
3. Are you facing a crisis right now? What steps do you need to take to lead your family well, from the battlefield or from the home front?

The Old Ways—Still Work!

Written by Linda. Filed Under Marriage & Family

Excellent or Praiseworthy is posted on Monday and Thursday nights.

Righteous are You, O LORD, and Your laws are right.The statutes You have laid down are righteous; they are fully trustworthy. . . .Your promises have been thoroughly tested, and Your servant loves them.— Psalm 119:137,138,140

We were in a sparsely-populated area of Maine having dinner at a local cafe, and had the privilege of talking with our waitress about her experience with deployment. Her husband had been a Guardsman serving in a remote area of Afghanistan with limited internet access.

These “unexpected” conversations during our travels never surprise us, as we find military families everywhere. With Guard and Reserve units pulling 52% of rotations to the Middle East, you don’t have to be close to a base or post to have military in your midst. Right?

One thing we heard from this wife was her commitment to writing and sending her husband letters. Hand-written letters. Some would say this is a lost art in our culture of emails, instant messaging, Facebook, and texting. . . .but the truth is that there is something uniquely special about writing, and receiving, a letter from the one you love. It works.

This young lady told us that she remembered having a slow day on the job, and being able to write a four-page letter to her sweetheart—something that she tried to do as often as possible. My husband asked her if she numbered her envelopes (something we learned in the Vietnam War days) in case the postal system got the letters delivered out of sequence. We learned the hard way—numbering can help eliminate confusion and misunderstandings. No doubt this husband, far away from the woods of Maine, savored her loving letters delivered during “mail call.”

Don’t get me wrong, our family is all for modern technology—from Skype to Facetime to internet to cell phones. But we are also seeing more and more the advantage of that personal card, letter, or package. A while back I mailed a package containing a cassette recorder, microphone, and cassette tapes to our son’s family overseas so that they can record Daddy reading favorite books to the children—and the children can record messages for their Dad while he is deployed. No doubt this can be accomplished with an MP3 player and the proper software, but the old cassette recorder just works so easily. Forty-plus years ago it was a new-fangled device, but it still works during war-time deployments. I remember many a lonely evening in a remote town in Oklahoma popping in those cassettes just to hear my husband’s voice—and he did the same in Southeast Asia. It works.

What else works? What are some of “the old ways” that a couple can stay connected during deployment?

— Reading the Bible “together”—both of you with a One-Year Bible which you already have, or pick out together. Then you can write about what you read that touched you that day (or whenever you can). After all, isn’t God’s word His love letter to us? On May 8, 2008, we posted an EorP devotional entitled “WWII and Beyond—A Story of Commitment.”In it we wrote about Louise and Eugene, separated for 3½ years during World War II after having been married for just 2 days at Ft. Stewart. They wrote each other about what they read in the Bible that day. They remained married for almost sixty years until Eugene’s death. It worked.

— Reading devotionals “together”—we are seeing a return to the classics, “My Utmost for His Highest” and “Streams in the Desert.”We love the new devotionals (especially online!), but there’s something about reading from a book that has stood the test of time. If you both have a copy there is material for sharing from a deep level. It works.

— Picking a prayer time each day—knowing that there is a certain time each day (in the morning, at meal-times, before bed) when your family member is praying for you is very comforting and encouraging. One of my favorite devotional books is Battlefields & Blessings: Stories of Faith and Courage from the Civil War. In it are letters from moms, dads, chaplains, soldiers, children, pastors, generals, sisters, brothers, uncles, friends . . . . . telling their stories of faith in the midst of war. A recurring theme in these 365 letters is the prayers that they have for one another—and how they count on those prayers to get them through the hardships of the day. It worked.

— Carrying that special photograph—make sure that your spouse has your favorite photo—one you have picked for them to have or carry. Maybe it’s one of the two of you in a memorable location, or at a special event . . . something that will bring happy memories along with the enduring look. It works.

— If you can’t correspond in any way (especially submariners), keep a journal—it’s an old way, but a good way, of staying connected. Our couple in Her Favorite Christmas Present (EorP posting on December 28,2009) is a dual-military couple and they are now both deployed. They learned before how valuable the journals were, and they are using them this time, too. It works.

— Read a book together—we have heard of couples reading The Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan together during deployment. I have found the chapter entitled “The Pilgrims Deal with Giant Despair” to be particularly relevant during deployment challenges. First published in 1678, it’s a “classic among classics,” and not beyond the children joining in the project. The second-most-popular book of all times, next to the Bible, there is wisdom in this allegory which will provide spiritual discussion for all ages.It works.

Perhaps you can think of some other “oldies but goodies”—methods of communication and spiritual growth which worked then and still work today. Be encouraged—be challenged—and don’t waste this time which can be used to His glory!

Questions to Share:

1.  Which of these eight ideas above have you used in the past to communicate with your loved ones? Share with each other what worked. . . .

2. Which of these ideas would you like to try during this deployment? What would it take to get that started? The Old Ways—Still Work!

Excellent or Praiseworthy is posted on Monday and Thursday nights.

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In His great mercy He has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead . . . “ — I Peter 1:3

Editor’s Note:  Bob and Cheryl Moeller minister to marriages with “For Keeps Ministries: For Better For Worse.” They write online articles called “Marriage Minutes” (forkeepsministries.org) from which this outline is taken. We are sharing this outlined article “Is it Friday, Saturday or Sunday in your Life?” because during deployment we can experience all three of these emotions—reeling, grieving, and rejoicing!

The Easter weekend is a picture of all our lives — which day is it in your life?

A. The reality is for some of us it’s Friday in our lives (We are reeling).

Luke 24:13-19  “Now that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles[a] from Jerusalem. 14 They were talking with each other about everything that had happened. 15 As they talked and discussed these things with each other, Jesus himself came up and walked along with them;16 but they were kept from recognizing him.17 He asked them, “What are you discussing together as you walk along?” They stood still, their faces downcast. 18 One of them, named Cleopas, asked him, “Are you the only one visiting Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?” 19 “What things?” He asked.”

1. We are stunned from unexpected and painful events in our life.

a. No one expected Jesus to end up dying on a Cross.

b. It is entirely possible these two men had witnessed the crucifixion in stunned disbelief.

c. For them it was a day of broken hearts that would never quite heal again.

2. Yet, even when it’s Friday God is still working in our lives.

a. Jesus is still caring for our needs.

b. God’s sovereign plan is still at work.

c. Spiritual victories on our behalf are still being accomplished.

3. If its Friday let the love of others be your strength.

B. The reality is for some it’s Saturday in our lives (We are grieving).

Luke 24:19b-27  “About Jesus of Nazareth,” they replied. “He was a prophet, powerful in word and deed before God and all the people. 20 The chief priests and our rulers handed him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him; 21 but we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel. And what is more, it is the third day since all this took place. 25 He said to them, “How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken! 26 Did not the Messiah have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?” 27 And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.”

1. We are confused by life and our unanswered questions.

a. Sorrow has replaced shock and we are filled with questions.

b. The way we thought life was supposed to turn out has not happened.

c. What we believe is being tested as never before.

2. Yet, even when it is Saturday God is working in our lives.

a. The Word of God is being fulfilled.

b. The plan of God is being accomplished.

c. The promises of God are being vindicated.

3. If it’s Saturday let the Word of God be your strength.

C. The reality is for some it’s Sunday in our lives (We are rejoicing).

1. We are left amazed and transformed by the turn of events.

a. We sense the presence of God in our lives once again.

b. We are fed and nourished by Jesus Himself.

c. We can see Jesus in our midst once again.

2. Yes, when it’s Sunday God is at work in our lives.

a. It’s a day of amazement and understanding.

b. It’s a day of our hearts burning within us again.

c. It’s a day of witness to what God has accomplished.

3. If it’s Sunday let the presence of the risen Jesus be your strength.

D. Just remember….

Luke 24:28-35  “As they approached the village to which they were going, Jesus continued on as if he were going farther. 29 But they urged him strongly, “Stay with us, for it is nearly evening; the day is almost over.” So he went in to stay with them.30 When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. 31 Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight. 32 They asked each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?” 33 They got up and returned at once to Jerusalem. There they found the Eleven and those with them, assembled together 34 and saying, “It is true! The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon.” 35 Then the two told what had happened on the way, and how Jesus was recognized by them when he broke the bread.”

1. Whatever day of the week it is for you right now God has a special grace to get you through.

2. Even when it appears God isn’t doing anything He is still at work.

3. Someday given enough time (and we may have to wait for heaven) God’s plan will all make sense.

4. In the meantime God calls us to be wise and filled with faith.

Questions to Share:

1. If the tomb is empty what problem in your life is too big for God to heal or resolve?

2. Pray for your spouse to endure through the Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays of your life—and to see God at work through circumstances.

 

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 11:25,26

My Christmas celebration includes listening to the delivered words of Dr. S. M. Lockridge in his sermon, “That’s My King!”  And a similar joy comes at Easter when I listen to his preaching “It’s Friday. . . but Sunday’s Comin’!”  This year I can share with you the powerful presentation put together with scenes from Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of The Christ.”  The video clip captures joy which Christians are experiencing because of the truth of the empty tomb on Resurrection Sunday:

https://youtu.be/Tn94B3GHcjY

What are you going to do with this truth?  The Apostle Paul wrote:  “For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures. . .”  I Corinthians 15:3,4

We live in a world of turmoil and war, desperately in need of hope . . . . the hope that can only come through knowing Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.

Can you share that hope with someone today?  “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ!  In His great mercy He has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. . . ”  I Peter 1:3

Questions to Share:

1. What difference has the understanding of Christ’s resurrection made in your life?

2. Who could you share with about Christ’s atonement for our sin made possible by His death on the cross followed by His resurrection?

Excellent or Praiseworthy is posted on Monday and Thursday nights.

“Peace I leave with you, My peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” — John 14:27

The war footage on the DVD really brought back memories of the 1960s and 70s—after all, I lived through those days. With friends, family and husband off at war in Vietnam I watched the nightly news (no 24-hour news channel then) for the latest information and visual images of this much-debated and hard-fought war. So when I recently watched “The War Within: Finding Hope for Post-Traumatic Stress” I was reminded of what seemed long ago—and somehow only yesterday. Strange how time is like that.

And for many of our returning veterans from Vietnam, those memories are still horror-filled and all-too-fresh. They might even say, “I was in Vietnam just last night, in my dreams.” Who better to help our returning military members today, struggling with PTSD? After all, the Vietnam vets should know.

I have seen Vietnam vets, mostly unappreciated when they returned from war, reach out to those returning from Iraq & Afghanistan with open arms of compassion and understanding. I have seen them at the airports manning the “Welcome Home” events. I have seen them at funerals, guarding the families’ privacy with their motorcycles. I have seen them volunteering their time for “Honor Flights” making sure that WWII veterans get to go to Washington, D.C. and see the WWII Memorial. I have seen them work at the V.A. Hospitals, help at patriotic events—ever solemn during the playing of the National Anthem. After all, the Vietnam vets should know.

So you shouldn’t be surprised that two of these Vietnam vets have worked with Day of Discovery of RBC Ministries to chronicle their story on video—in hopes that it will bring just that—HOPE—to our present generation of fighters and PTSD sufferers. Mike Wilkins, former Army airborne infantry, and Phil Downer, former Marine machine gunner, are the two brave men who returned to Vietnam with a group called Vietnam Battlefield Tours to visit the places where they fought.

This was a difficult journey for them, but they were clear about why they went—to help you. Step-by-step the video team walked with them through the rice fields and hills, studying map coordinates and GPS headings with their Tour guides. The goal was to pinpoint the exact battle locations and sites of some of their most-vivid memories.  Along the way they spent time with the villagers—and especially enjoyed their time with the now-happy children of this much-changed country.

Both Christians, Mike and Phil have a story to tell and faith to share. As Mike Wilkins, now a seminary professor, states, “When I found out about Jesus it radically changed my heart . . . What I have experienced in Jesus is what is available to any veteran who has experienced the trauma of war.”

And much of the documentary is the story of their wives because, as Phil Downer states, “I came home to another war—I wounded everyone around me.” But his wife, like Mike’s wife, wants you to know: “There is hope . . . and I think back on all those years that I didn’t think there was any hope. . . but there was and I’m so so grateful that I didn’t give up. . . that I persevered because—he can change! Phil has changed—God changed him!” Susy Downer quotes 2 Corinthians 5:17: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” Phil went on to become a lawyer but now leads Discipleship Network of America (DNA)—a ministry which serves in training for evangelism and discipleship.

Both of the wives tell of the anger that their husbands experienced after the war and the violent damage that was done in their homes. Even though the wounds of war in some ways remain, the violence is gone. There is peace from God. There is joy in their hearts and in their homes. There is purpose in life, and a higher calling to share. There is hope.

“The War Within,” a 90-minute DVD, is available for order from Day of Discovery. But you don’t even have to order it to begin watching. All four episodes are available here online.

I particularly appreciated the “Bonus features” on the DVD—interviews with Phil & Susy Downer and Mike & Lynne Wilkins. If PTSD is a challenge in your life—in your marriage—perhaps in your family, these Vietnam vets know and understand. They want you to know that there is hope. After all, the Vietnam vets should know.

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” — Romans 15:13

Questions to Share:

1. Psalm 147:3 reads, “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.”  How does God heal?

2. One of Mike Wilkins favorite verses is Matthew 6:33, “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” What would that verse mean to a PTSD sufferer?

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 had a lesson in how to “make music in your heart to the Lord” last week. It was a wonderful opportunity to realize how many times I sing praises, but fail to really “listen” to the words.

Each morning last week I opened my email to find a message from our pastor—sent to all the church membership. He began our days with encouraging messages containing only the lyrics to his favorite songs. The words immediately triggered in my mind the melodies—but what amazed me was the depth of spiritual understanding that took place in my heart as I focused on the words alone.

For example, here was Monday’s offering:

“Amazing love,
How can it be
That You, my King, should die for me?
Amazing love,
I know it’s true.
It’s my joy to honor You,
In all I do, I honor You.

I’m forgiven because You were forsaken,
I’m accepted, you were condemned,
I am alive and well, Your Spirit is within me,
Because You died and rose again.”  (Hillsong United)

This worship song became the theme for my day . . . with a heightened sense of truth from focusing on the language alone.

The next day our pastor sent:

“Great is Thy faithfulness, Oh God my Father
There is no shadow of turning with Thee.
Thou changest not, Thy compassions they fail not;
As Thou has been, Thou forever wilt be.

Great is Thy faithfulness! Great is Thy faithfulness!
Morning by morning new mercies I see;
All I have needed Thy hands hath provided
Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me!”  (Thomas Chisholm & William Runyan)

At this point, I was looking forward to opening my email each morning—expecting a gift of truth somehow unsavored during worship time on Sundays. I was not disappointed to find this in my inbox:

“You are my strength when I am weak
You are the treasure that I seek
You are my all in all.
Seeking You as a precious jewel
Lord, to give up I’d be a fool
You are my all in all.

Jesus, Lamb of God
Worthy is Your name
Jesus, Lamb of God
Worthy is Your name.

Taking my sin, my cross, my shame
Rising again I bless Your name
You are my all in all.
When I fall down You pick me up,
When I am dry You fill my cup
You are my all in all.

Jesus, Lamb of God
Worthy is Your name.
Jesus, Lamb of God
Worthy is Your name.”  (Dennis Jernigan)

I have decided that sending spiritual songs to others—in lyric form—is a powerful method of encouragement as yet untried by me. What my pastor stirred in my heart is going to be a new approach of encouragement to others in my circle of friends.  After all, isn’t the book of Psalms exactly this?

For those of you who are deployed, or serving on the home front, I offer this to strengthen your steps and your heart today:

“Jesus loves me! this I know,
For the Bible tells me so;
Little ones to Him belong,
They are weak, but He is strong.

Yes, Jesus loves me!  Yes, Jesus loves me!
Yes, Jesus loves me!  The Bible tells me so.

Jesus loves me! He will stay
Close beside me all the way;
Thou hast bled and died for me,
I will henceforth live for Thee.

Yes, Jesus loves me!  Yes, Jesus loves me!
Yes, Jesus loves me!  The Bible tells me so.”  (Anna B. Warner & William Bradbury, 1st & 3rd stanzas)

May Jesus Christ be the song in your heart today, wherever you are, giving thanks to God the Father for everything.

Questions to Share:

1. Is there a hymn or praise song that comes to your mind right now?

2. Would you email the words to that song to someone who could use some encouragement?

Excellent or Praiseworthy is posted on Monday and Thursday nights.

“Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral.” —Hebrews 13:4

Another day—another email announcing marital troubles as a result of poor decisions made during deployment. I want to scream, “Oh, No!! Not again!!” Didn’t this couple know there were dangers—weren’t they warned?

It all reminds me of something we posted on Excellent or Praiseworthy entitled “Absence Makes the Heart Grow ____.” Maybe it’s time to post again. . . Maybe it’s time to warn . . . Please be careful!!  Here is some wisdom worth repeating from postings past:

Have you ever heard the phrase “Absence makes the heart grow fonder” and wondered if that was really true during deployment? Turns out the phrase has been around hundreds of years and means “the lack of something increases the desire for it.” Does that phrase win out over the other phrase, “Out of sight, out of mind”, also centuries old? The truth is, keeping a marriage growing during the separation of military duty takes work.

The flip side would be “Absence makes the heart grow wander.” A spouse can be deceived into thinking that there is no harm in developing casual relationships with members of the opposite sex while deployed. Here are some examples of those situations where “red flags” need to be observed as warnings:

“Emailing an old girl friend from high school doesn’t hurt anything. After all, she might be interested to know that I’m fighting in the desert.” WARNING! Connecting over the internet with someone other than your spouse might start innocently enough, but can lead to serious feelings and dangerous problems.

“You’re going to be gone a long time. I need someone close to pay attention to me and help out!” WARNING! Call on a friend of the same gender, or group in your church or community to listen and help. Prepare ahead of the deployment by building safe relationships which will provide support when your spouse is gone.

“We’re just going to have dinner together. She wants to talk to me about how her husband doesn’t understand her, and I might be able to share with her about my faith and why our marriage is so good.” WARNING! No! If “she” needs to share about her troubles, she needs to go to a chaplain or a girl friend, not to someone else’s husband. The opposite could be true, of course, in a man seeking marital “advice” from a woman. That is also dangerous territory.

These are just a few—we all know that there are more ways to “slide” into immorality. The Bible has strict warnings about the consequences of marital infidelity:

“But a man who commits adultery lacks judgment; whoever does so destroys himself.” —Proverbs 6:32

“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 . . .” —1 Thessalonians 4:3-4

“But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people.” —Ephesians 5:3

“Flee immorality. Every other sin that a man commits is outside the body, but the immoral man sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body.” —1 Corinthians 6:18-20

And Jesus said, “You have heard that it was said, ‘Do not commit adultery.’ But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” —Matthew 5:27-28

I would like to suggest a third version of the phrase which I have seen demonstrated in the lives of many who are fighting hard to keep their marriages healthy during the challenges of deployment: “Absence makes the heart grow stronger.”

Years ago there was a song performed by the couple, Captain and Tennille (am I showing my age??) called “Love, Love will keep us together.” It was a sweet song, but the truth is that sometimes you don’t feel like you love your spouse—or he/she is many miles away. What will keep you together then? The real truth is that “Commitment will keep us together.” A couple who is totally committed to staying together through the thick and thin, through the joys and the sorrows, through the ups and the downs. . . that couple will be intentional about guarding their marriage from the enemies which seek to destroy (yes, destroy) it.

How can you “guard” a marriage, in order to provide the strength to finish the deployment with your relationship intact? Here are some thoughts:

  1. Maintain a close relationship with God, including daily time in prayer and in Scripture.  And don’t forget to ask your spouse “How can I pray for you?”;
  2. Set up an accountability partner (of the same gender) who will be able to ask you the tough questions about your thought life, reading material, use of the internet, conversations with others, use of leisure time;
  3. Spend as much time as you can staying connected with your spouse through letters, email, Skype, telephone—and take the time to be creative with special gifts or ways that they will know that you love and care for them.  If possible read a book, Bible or devotional together–many have found this to be a helpful discipline;
  4. Don’t flirt, share intimate secrets about your spouse, or seek a friendship outside of your marital relationship with someone of the opposite sex. Show discernment!
  5. Seek help in your marriage from appropriate sources if/when necessary.  There are so many excellent seminars (Weekend to Remember, Art of Marriage, Love and Respect, to name a few), helpful books (Sacred Marriage, Strike the Original Match, Before the Last Resort, to name just a few), Christian counseling agencies, pastors and chaplains, useful websites (familylife.com, focusonthefamily.com).  Don’t give up–use discernment and get qualified help!

These are just a few of the ways that you can be wise. A good marriage is a precious gift, and will serve to strengthen your family for generations to come. It is worth fighting for, and even when you are absent—it can grow stronger.

“Some Pharisees came to Him to test Him. They asked, ‘Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any and every reason?’ ‘Haven’t you read,’ He replied, ‘that at the beginning the Creator made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For his 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 19:3-6

Questions to Share:

1. In what ways do you believe that “Absence makes the heart grow fonder?”

2. How can you demonstrate commitment to your spouse so that the last phrase, “Absence makes the heart grow stronger” can be true of your marriage?

 

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