A devotional to help military families stay connected during deployments

Excellent or Praiseworthy is posted on Monday and Thursday nights.

“Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.  Consider Him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” — Hebrews 12:2, 3

I didn’t know what to expect when I became a military wife. I remember getting my first I.D. card, and the lady behind the desk asking me what my “last four” were. I said “my last four what???” I had no idea what she was talking about. Little did I know that I would live and retire—and will eventually die—with those four numbers. And when my new husband got orders for Southeast Asia in 1972, after being in the Air Force only four months, I was sure that they had made a mistake. I told my husband, “Just tell them that you’ve only been in a short time—they can’t possibly be serious about sending you off to war after such a short time in uniform!!” Little did I know . . . .

Have you ever voiced that attitude—because of the circumstances you can honestly say, “This isn’t what I expected!” For example, “married life isn’t what I expected”; “being a parent isn’t what I expected”; “this new job isn’t what I expected”; or “this move hasn’t been what I expected.” I’m sure you can think of many more instances when things just didn’t turn out like you thought they would—or should.  Sometimes they turn out better—much better. But sometimes the challenges and the newness of it all is overwhelming and we’re left asking, “Why is this happening to me?”

This Christmas season, when I was watching the movie The Nativity Story, I found myself thinking about Joseph again. What an amazing man! The Bible refers to him as a “righteous man.” (Matthew 1:19) Just as God chose Mary to carry His Son, so He chose Joseph to be Jesus’ earthly “father.” We do not know much about Joseph from the biblical account, but certainly from the beginning Joseph demonstrated grace. He could have turned his back on Mary when she was pregnant by the Holy Spirit before their marriage was consummated—and she would have been stoned to death. But Joseph was visited by an angel of the Lord who instructed him to take Mary as his wife—and that the baby she was carrying he was to name Jesus, “because He will save His people from their sins.” (Matthew 1:20, 21)

Certainly life didn’t turn out as Joseph expected. He must have expected that Mary would return from her visit to Elizabeth, they would get married and “live happily ever after.” Instead, the people of Nazareth were well-aware of Mary’s pregnancy and were no doubt confused by the whole scene—most likely they even subjected Mary and Joseph to ridicule. Life certainly had taken an unexpected twist for Mary and for Joseph (understatement)—but they were obedient and trusted God to do as He promised.

I can think of only one man to whom life was totally as He expected—Jesus. We see that especially in Philippians 2:5-8. You might consider this to be a great Christmas verse:

“Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made Himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant being made in human likeness. (note: does that not sound like the incarnation?) And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to death—even death on a cross!”

Yes, He knew exactly what life was to be like for Him—He was born to die!

The wise men who visited Jesus brought Him three gifts—gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Myrrh was such an unusual gift to bring a little one—burial spices! In John 19:38-40 we even find the story of Jesus’ burial: “Later, Joseph of Arimathea asked Pilate for the body of Jesus. Now Joseph was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly because he feared the Jews. With Pilate’s permission, he came and took the body. He was accompanied by Nicodemus, the man who earlier had visited Jesus at night. Nicodemus brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about seventy-five pounds. Taking Jesus’ body, the two of them wrapped it, with the spices, in strips of linen. This was in accordance with Jewish burial customs.”

Jesus’ birth, death and resurrection were all prophesied. Jesus knew—there were no surprises. It was all in God’s plan for our redemption . . . all as He had expected. The cross was set before Him, even as an infant in the manger in Bethlehem. And according to the book of Hebrews—we are to encourage each other with this truth.

Nancy Guthrie, in her great devotional book, The One Year Book of Hope, writes such a wonderful description of what Jesus’ birth came to mean as He was destined to die on the cross as a perfect and complete sacrifice for our sin:

“Come and linger with me at the Cross.  As we linger and see Jesus there, we find what we need to persevere when things get hard so that we won’t grow weary and lose heart. Consider him . . .

When you feel sorry for yourself because your life is hard and you want the easy way out . . . consider him . . .

When you feel forgotten by God and by those you thought cared about you, when you long for the closeness of someone who cares . . . consider him . . .

When you feel tired and you want to give up . . . consider him . . . When you feel abused and you want to fight back . . . consider him. Consider his humble responses to those who lied about him and spit on him, ridiculed him, and beat him. Consider him and do not grow weary.

When you feel fearful about the future and you want to find hope . . . consider him, who for the joy set before him endured the Cross. Whenever you are tempted to give up, look to the Cross and see the price Jesus paid so that he might call you his very own.” (p. 139, “The Cross Keeps Me From Giving Up”)

And it began in the heart of God. Why? Because He loves us. He knew what to expect in His life, and He knows what you can expect in yours—trust Him with that. He wants His followers to be free from the bondage of sin, to live an abundant life in His forgiveness and peace, and spend glorious eternity with Him. None of that would be possible without His atoning death thirty-three years after His birth in Bethlehem, both as prophesied. That is the Christmas story.

“For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given . . .”  (Isaiah 9:6)

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

“Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!” (2 Corinthians 9:15)

Work Cited:

Guthrie, Nancy, The One Year Book of Hope (Carol Stream:  Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2005)

Questions to Share:

1. Has life turned out as you expected? Why or why not?

2. Because of what happened at Christmas, and then at Easter, do you see the love of God given for you?

Excellent or Praiseworthy is posted on Monday and Thursday nights.

Editor’s Note: Yesterday, December 7th, 2016, marked the 75th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor. In remembrance of that world-changing event, this devotion is posted to tell one of God’s great redemptive stories from the battle for the Pacific.

All the prophets testify about Him that everyone who believes in Him receives forgiveness of sins through His name. — Acts 10:43

Sgt. Jacob Daniel DeShazer was a crew member in the legendary Doolittle Raiders, a team of 80 brave military servicemen who volunteered to bomb Tokyo in retaliation for the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. DeShazer was among those captured by the Japanese Army after bailing out of his plane over Japanese-occupied China. He spent 40 months in captivity, 34 months of it in solitary confinement, and was the victim of cruel torture and starvation. In his own words, DeShazer said, “My hatred for the enemy nearly drove me crazy. . . My thoughts turned toward what I heard about Christianity changing hatred between human beings into real brotherly love and I was gripped with a strange longing to examine the Christian’s Bible to see if I could find the secret. I begged my captors to get a Bible for me. At last, in the month of May, 1944, a guard brought me the book, but told me I could have it only for three weeks. I eagerly began to read its pages. Chapter after chapter gripped my heart.”

Particularly fascinating to DeShazer was his reading of the prophets in the Old Testament. Six times he read through their writings, and focused on the mention of a divine Redeemer to come, one born in human flesh. Then he went on to the New Testament and found there the fulfillment of those prophecies in the birth, life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

If you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved. — Romans 10:9,10

On June 8, 1944, DeShazer confessed his sins and received the forgiveness and salvation promised him in God’s word. Even though he remained in prison for more than a year, he was freed from hatred—free to love. He wrote the following in a post-war tract, “I Was a Prisoner of Japan”: “How my heart rejoiced in my newness of spiritual life, even though my body was suffering so terribly from the physical beatings and lack of food! But suddenly I discovered that God had given me new spiritual eyes and that when I looked at the enemy officers and guards who had starved and beaten my companions and me so cruelly, I found my bitter hatred for them changed to loving pity.”

But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you . . . love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because He is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. — Luke 6:27-28,35

With his new-found faith, DeShazer was anxious to “try out” the principles which he had been studying in Scripture, particularly the command to love your enemies. One day he was particularly mistreated by a cruel guard. He decided that the next morning he would greet that guard without bitterness and say “Good morning!” in Japanese. God gave DeShazer the grace to continue with that new treatment, and after a week the guard who had been so mean actually gave him extra food. DeShazer was grateful and decided that God’s way really worked!

Then Jesus came to them and said, “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I will be with you always, to the very end of the age.” — Matthew 28:18-20

Physical freedom came for DeShazer and other prisoners-of-war on August 20, 1945. Returning to his home in Oregon, DeShazer began seminary training shortly thereafter at Seattle Pacific College, married, and returned to Japan as a missionary. He served with his family as Free Methodist missionaries in Japan for thirty years, planting 23 churches. Many thousands of Japanese responded to this former POW’s invitation to receive Christ as Lord and Savior—but probably the most notable was Mitsuo Fuchida.

Fuchida was handed DeShazer’s tract “I Was a Prisoner of Japan” in a train station after the war’s end. Commander Fuchida led the Japanese air fleet which bombed Pearl Harbor, the man who had called “Tora! Tora! Tora!” After reading the tract, Fuchida, like DeShazer, was moved by Jesus’ cry from the cross, “Father, forgive them. They do not know what they are doing.” (Luke 23:34) In September of 1949, Fuchida accepted Christ as Savior, was baptized in 1951, and went on to become a missionary in Asia.

However, I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the gospel of God’s grace. — Acts 20:24

Over the next years, Fuchida and DeShazer spoke to many crowds together and individually, sharing their testimony of the power of Jesus Christ to transform lives. Fuchida’s desire was for people to remember him for the message of his changed heart more than the memory of the Pearl Harbor attack. In 1970 Fuchida wrote in his testimony “From Pearl Harbor to Calvary”: “He is the only One who was powerful enough to change my life and inspire it with His thoughts. He was the only answer to Jake DeShazer’s tormented life. He is the only answer for young people today.” Mitsuo Fuchida died in 1976 at the age of 74, and Jake DeShazer died in 2008 at the age of 95. Two former enemies now together in Heaven.

Does this story speak to you? Are you in a prison of hatred or bitterness? Do you hope for relief? The answers are in the person of Jesus Christ, and written in the words of Scripture and on the hearts of true followers of Christ. It is level ground at the foot of the cross . . . and we are all sinners. We all need forgiveness of sin, all of us. Take the time to repent and to turn your life over to Him.

For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him. — John 3:16,17

Work cited:

The Doolittle Raiders
Christianity Today
Breakpoint – With Chuck Colson
Commander Fuchida’s Testimony

Questions to Share:

1. What did you read about Sgt. DeShazer and Commander Fuchida that particularly inspired you?

2. Which of the six Scriptures highlighted spoke to you in a way which inspired you to know more about the Lord?

“The Word became flesh and lived for a while among us.We have seen His glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.”—John 1:14

We all love the drama and richness of the Christmas story—the tenderness and devotion of Mary & Joseph, God’s revelation of the new king through humble shepherds and rich wise men, and the innocence of baby Jesus contrasted against the coldness of the innkeeper and the scheming and jealousy of Herod. And this is certainly the season for beautiful nativity sets, living manger scenes, and children’s Christmas pageants—all picturing the incarnation of Jesus. But there is so much more to the story—there is deeper meaning to Christmas.

In 2 Corinthians 9:15, Paul proclaims, “Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!” He continues this theme of “gift” in Galatians 4:4-6:“But when the time had fully come, God sent His Son, born of a woman, born under law, to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons. Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, ‘Abba, Father.’” That phrase, “when the time had fully come” speaks to God’s perfect timing. He used the nation of Israel under the domination and political system of the Roman Empire, the extensive system of Roman roads, a common Greek language, a dispersed Jewish people and hearts searching for answers to the questions of life—all to set the stage for the birth of the Messiah.

The “Excellent or Praiseworthy” devotional, Christmas Presence, looked at Genesis 12:2-3, the first Christmas promise. This promise to Abraham leads us to the manger and the birth of the Messiah—to the promise of the blessing that Jesus Christ will be to all nations.

In 2 Samuel 7:12-13, we find a second Christmas promise—one that God conveys to King David through the prophet Nathan:“When your days are over and you rest with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring to succeed you, who will come from your own body, and I will establish his kingdom. He is the one who will build a house for my Name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever.” Perhaps David had a sense of the magnitude of what all of this meant, and it gave him comfort.

When Gabriel delivers his message from God to Mary in Luke 1:30-33, we find a third Christmas promise:“The angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary you have found favor with God.You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus.He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High.The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever; His kingdom will never end.” When we understand Mary’s situation we can appreciate why Gabriel began with the encouragement not to be afraid—that God was with her.

The first Christmas promise came to Abraham, the second to King David, the third to Mary—and the fourth Christmas promise to the world. Found in Isaiah 9:6-7, “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on His shoulders.And He will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever.” This gift—this perfect indescribable gift, the Son of God who will rule forever and ever—born a child. Born to die as payment for our sin. Jesus, who is raised from the dead, ascended to heaven, and who will return to reign in glory for all eternity. All of this is part of the Christmas story.

No, the story of Christmas must not be limited to a nativity set or a manger scene! We must make it personal, for the Christmas promise is to us—whether we are in Iraq, Afghanistan, or at home. We are a nation at war, and yet this Prince of Peace can be living in our patriot hearts. My favorite verse to summarize how God can bring peace to our hearts through our Savior Jesus Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit is John 14:27: “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.”

Peace in our hearts in the midst of war? Is that possible?

As the angel Gabriel said to Mary: “For nothing is impossible with God.” (Luke 1:37)

Perhaps that is the best Christmas promise of all!

Questions to share:

1. Do you have a favorite Christmas that you remember?Why?

2. Isaiah 7:14 says, “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign:The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.” Immanuel means “God with us.” Do you feel that God is with you wherever you are?

Excellent or Praiseworthy is posted on Monday and Thursday nights.

“A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.” Proverbs 17:22

“All the days of the oppressed are wretched, but the cheerful heart has a continual feast.”  — Proverbs 15:15

Sometimes the most obvious is overlooked. . . . A sense of humor is vital to a healthy marriage! Do we need to say that again? A sense of humor is vital to a healthy marriage! The ops tempo of military life is such that we can often overlook this VERY important truth!

Given the importance of laughter and humor in any relationship, it was refreshing to read Bob and Cheryl Moeller’s Marriage Minutes. With their permission, we are sharing this:

“Many spouses see laughter as a frivolous use of time. Yes, it feels good to laugh but nothing important gets accomplished. Other spouses see it as a denial of reality. With so much sorrow and sadness in the world how can we ignore the suffering in our lives and laugh? Still others have become cynical or embittered in their marriage. They find nothing to laugh about given all the pain their spouse or marriage is causing them.

Yet the Scriptures take a different opinion. Solomon, perhaps the wisest man ever to write a book, says that laughter is good medicine and that a merry heart has a continual feast.

Why should couples look for the humor in life and enjoy laughter with one another on a regular basis?

  1. Laughter is a form of humility—It means we don’t take ourselves too seriously. That’s a very effective way to combat pride or self-focus which can do much damage to our own spiritual and emotional health.
  2. Laughter is a form of rest—It allows us to take a much needed break from the stress and serious business of marriage and relax for a moment. The Bible clearly teaches our lives are to have a rhythm to them of work and rest, work and rest, work and rest.
  3. Laughter is a form of worship—Joy, merriment, and laughter all find their roots in the image of God. In other words God created them and gave them to us to enjoy. When we are filled with joy, merriment, and laughter we are acknowledging and enjoying one aspect of our Creator God—and that can become worship.
  4. Laughter is a form of love—When we give our spouse the gift of joy or laughter we are nourishing their hearts, lifting their spirits, and encouraging them to press on. Whenever we build our spouse up in this way we are showing love toward them.”

So during deployment how do you enjoy humor? It won’t be the same way as when you’re together, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t seek to share this aspect of looking at life with some light-hearted moments over email, skype, text, or letter. Try it. . . .you might like it!

Questions to Share:

  1. Was a sense of humor something that attracted you to your spouse when you were dating?
  2. Share with each other a time when laughter got you through a particularly tough time in your relationship.

Excellent or Praiseworthy is posted on Monday and Thursday nights.

“Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

Our family has a tradition of gathering around the Thanksgiving table and beginning our time together by sharing one thing that we’re grateful for that year. And so it goes— around the table with everyone adding their deep thoughts or silly remembrances from the past 12 months. Through the years I remember such blessings being voiced as new babies, surviving moves, finding new jobs, getting over illnesses, new marriages, interesting vacations, finishing up educational goals, new cars, new pets, etc.

Recently we were with a large group of military couples—all ranks and branches— where every couple in the room offered one thing for which they were grateful. It’s not hard to imagine what was shared: “I’m grateful to be home.” “I’m grateful to be alive.” “I am thankful for my spouse who kept everything going at home while I was gone.” “I’m thankful that we, as a couple, survived the deployment.” When we are with a group like that my husband and I know that we are standing on hallowed ground. There is a deep sense of wonder at how God has provided and protected. . . .and there were a few tears by the time we were done sharing our many blessings.

It doesn’t matter where we are, or which military group we are with, the proclamations of gratitude are profound and powerful—and deeply felt. I read a devotional recently, however, that reminded me to be a little more specific in my thanks-giving. You see, what we are really asked to do in Scripture is to give thanks—and more specifically, to give thanks to God. So the next time I am asked what I am thankful for, I am going to say, “I am thankful to God for _______.” No doubt this is always implied by our families and our groups as they are sharing their deep gratitude—but I think it’s a good reminder that everything, everything is from God—every breath that we take, every moment of every day, everything around us in creation—everything.

I was also raised with a weekly singing of the Doxology at our church. I remember a time or two around our Thanksgiving table when we closed out our time of thankful sharing (before the food got too cold) with the singing of this centuries old chorus:

“Praise God from Whom all blessings flow;
Praise Him all creatures here below.
Praise Him above all heavenly hosts.
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.”

Jill Carratini, a favorite devotional writer for Ravi Zacharias’ A Slice of Infinity, on November 24, 2008, wrote:

“Being thankful is therefore always more than a glib note of gratitude or a warm sentiment in general; it requires something far more personal. It not only chooses to recognize the gifts before us, but recognizes that there must also be a giver. There is someone to thank. There is one from whom all blessings flow.”

The second reminder that struck me this year was from 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18. Perhaps this year, more than other years, you are questioning what God’s will is for your life. And in this Scripture verse it is so clearly stated, “Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”

Margaret Manning, also a great writer for A Slice of Infinity, shared her thoughts on this verse as a definitive proclamation for God’s will in our lives:

“Thanksgiving is God’s will for God’s people because when we give thanks for who God is and what God has done in our lives, there is no room for jealousy of what others’ have, no room for complaining about what we lack. Even in times of deepest sorrow, there is a joy that rises up on the heart when praise comes even with tears. Thanksgiving makes the heart full of gladness which overflows from our lives and spills out into acts of kindness and generosity. When we are grateful, we cannot help but share our gratitude. And this is the will of God for our lives. I am grateful for a day set apart to focus on thanksgiving, but I am challenged to live into God’s will for my life by giving thanks in everything, every day of the year.”  (November 25, 2008)

There are many times in my life when we have wondered what God’s will was for us as a military family. Questions arose such as “Which assignment do we put in for?” “Should we take the assignment at the base in the States, or try for an overseas one?” “Which training track does God want me to go into?” “Is the timing right for an unaccompanied tour, or should we wait until after the next assignment?” “Should we buy a house, rent, or live on base?” “Should the family stay near the base during this deployment, or move home with the folks?” “Do we stay in the service or get out?” Decisions were oftentimes made on the basis of open doors vs. closed doors, or maybe a list of pros and a list of cons. Prayers were spoken and decisions were made with thanks for His guidance.

Yet God’s Word is very clear—in all things we are to give thanks. That is His will for us. Easier said than done at times that are challenging (like deployments that keep families separated during the holidays), but His promises are always for our good. “Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that confess His name. And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.” (Hebrews 13:15-16) It is indeed through Jesus Christ that we can offer our praises to God for the freedom we have in forgiveness and in the knowledge of eternal life with Him.

Finally, and we shouldn’t need a reminder for this, we thank God for each one of you who are serving our country so faithfully (that includes the families!), all over the world. As Paul says in his letter to the Philippians (chapter 1, verse 3), “I thank my God every time I remember you.” We at Cru Military appreciate so much your sacrifices and give thanks to God for your gifts to all of us so that we, and others in this world, can live in freedom.

Questions to Share:

1. Name two things for which you are thankful to God this year.

2. Tell your spouse two things for which you are thankful to God for them this year.

Excellent or Praiseworthy is posted on Monday and Thursday nights.

“Be still, and know that I am God.”— Psalm 46:10

Because of my job assignment, I travel a lot—mostly airline travel. Consequently, I spend much time in airport terminals. This allows (forces) me to have time to meditate, to read, to ponder—and to wait. When I look around at the other passengers gathered at the gate this morning, I wonder if they experience the same things I do. You know—things like the kids at home are sick, money is running very low, conflict with your spouse just isn’t getting resolved, misunderstandings with relatives, car and household maintenance always to do, political elections with ads that run on and on, an inspection coming up, danger awaiting on this assignment, and another deployment about to be announced. . . . . .yea, there’s a lot to think about while waiting at the gate. Too much to think about.

The feeling can come over all of us that we’ve lost control. . . that we’ve reached our limit. We cry out to God and wonder—is there no relief?? “Well, God, I’m WAITING!!” . . . He says, “Really??”

And in that still small voice, truth penetrates my morning frenzy, “Be still, and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10). And this one, “Come to Me, all you who are weary and are burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).

What if we could take ourselves away from our stress. . . imagine being with Jesus when “He saw the crowds, He went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to Him, and He began to teach them, saying:

‘Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven’” (Matthew 5:1-10).

It’s sinking in. I’m starting to feel comforted as the words in my open Bible work their way past the turmoil in my mind. I wish everyone in the gate could experience this. I decide to read on:

“Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Matthew 5:11-12).

Amazing! He tells us how we can actually be blessed in spite of the trials and the evils that come upon us. And even more—He goes on to say that I have a part in all of this. “You are the salt of the earth. . .You are the light of the world. . . let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:13,14,16).

What a joy, what an encouragement that my Father not only created this earth, but He says that I have a purpose beyond the here and the now, with all of its unknowns and anxiety. His Spirit is speaking to my spirit. I know Who is in control. “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God” (Philippians 4:6). I bow my head in prayer, giving thanks. How could I forget?

My pain is almost gone now, but there’s an insidious danger sneaking up . . . I fear that the pain will return. So I start looking around for its source. My military mind wants to set up a defense against the enemy that can inflict such damage. The enemy’s tactic is infiltration . . . of my mind.

But I know what to do with thisit’s in Ephesians 6: “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s scheme.” vs. 10-11

I know a good bit about armor, so I can, in my mind, put on the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, my feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace, the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit. It’s all there for me.

I think I’m ready. They make the announcement that the plane is ready to board. I’ve gone from anxiety to peace. It’s been quite a journey, and I haven’t even left the gate. I pick up my bag, and my heart relaxes with a refreshed joy in my mind, “This is the day the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it” (Psalm 118:24).

Questions to Share:

1.When your mind tends to wander in the direction of worry, do you have some Scripture memorized to call you back to truth? Could you start with any of the verses that are in today’s devotion?

2.Pray that you and your spouse will make it a priority to “be still before the LORD and wait patiently for Him.” (Psalm 37:7)

3.Tell each other how you have gone from anxiety to peace because of the presence of the Lord in His Word.

Excellent or Praiseworthy is posted on Monday and Thursday nights.

Editor’s Note: I asked Diana Juergens, author of Wife of a Soldier, A Journey of Faith, to share with me her thoughts on parenting during deployment. Rich and Diana are the parents of eight daughters and had completed their sixth (or was it seventh?) deployment.  This devotion has been so popular that we are delighted to re-post it.

“He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.”  —John 7:38

Parenting well during a deployment begins with our faith—which begins with belief in the truth of Scripture. Being “plugged in” to our source of faith, the Lord Jesus, allows us to be full of “living water” (the Holy Spirit) which will then flow through us to our children. To put it another way—as Jesus tells us in John 15:5—we are to “abide in the vine.” “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.” God is making it very clear when He describes Himself as the vine and His people as the branches that the branches must abide (remain in, stay) in the vine to bear fruit. Without the vine, the branch is nothing. Both of these verses quoted point to the most important source for parenting—Jesus Christ. He is the provider of our strength, joy, wisdom, and discernment (the fruit of abiding) to care for and train up our children while our husbands are gone.

Our family just experienced a 15 month separation. As I look back, I can point to seven truths to share about parenting during deployment:

1. Your relationship with God must be a priority.

I made my time with God the first thing I did every morning. Even if I went to bed late, I chose to rise before my children in order to have time with God. I knew that extra hour of sleep would not make up for the kind of strength I would need as a geographical single parent.

2. Remember that you are setting an example for your children.

I was humbled when my oldest daughter told me, “Watching you respond through difficult times, knowing your heart was hurting, has demonstrated to me that your source of peace is God. By your example, I know Him to be my only source, too.” Sometimes I think that our children learn more by watching than they do by listening! Here are some questions to ask yourself: Do your children see you reading your Bible and praying? Are you being their example of faith to draw near to God (James 4:8), to allow God to be your refuge (Psalm 141:8), and to allow Him to be your source of joy (Habakkuk 3:18) in spite of your circumstances? Your Godly example will impact their journey of faith and their everyday life.

3. Make sure that you teach your children about the sovereignty of God.

The verse I read with my children is Jeremiah 29:11-13: “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon Me and go and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart.”

Knowing that God has chosen this time apart can give you the assurance that it is what is absolutely best for your lives. God loves us, and His Word confirms that He is good (Nahum 1:7). He uses all things for good for those who love Him and are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28). This deployment separation is a wonderful opportunity to teach your children how to trust God by embracing the new work which he wants to do in and through your family.

4. Pray.

As parents, we are to be shepherding our children according to God’s heart and with His knowledge and understanding (Jeremiah 3:15). The children and I begin the day in prayer and devotional time together—the keys to parenting during a long separation include daily prayer and time in God’s Word as a family. And during our times separated as a family, due to the calling placed on our soldier, we have learned to run to God when our hearts are hurting, afraid and overwhelmed. We stop what we are doing and let the tears fall as we cry out to God for His comfort and peace. He has intervened every time and provided exactly what we have needed. God has used these painful times to draw us each closer to Him. Each deployment has provided the circumstances that have taught our family life lessons of faith. We also use our devotional time as an opportunity to pray for the safety of our soldier and his unit, our nation’s president and those in leadership, and for the people within the nation to which my husband is deployed.

5. Discuss God’s purpose for this deployment.

We must encourage our children with examples from God’s Word, to believe that God knows exactly what He is doing. His goal is to always use our circumstances to increase our faith and trust in Him, while using us to touch other’s lives with His love. Memorizing Deuteronomy 32:4a (“He is the Rock, His work is perfect.”) will help you stay focused on the call placed on your lives, to be separated as a family for such a time as this (Esther 4:14b). You can make this even more real by locating the country to which your husband is deployed in an atlas and learning all you can about it and its people. Find an organization, like Voice of the Martyrs that will help you send care packages to the hurting people within that nation. You can also give your children a vision for the time apart by teaching them to serve others who are experiencing deployment and need help. Look for ways to use the gifts and talents within your family to reach out and be a blessing to others. There is no room for a sorrowful heart when you are serving and encouraging others. Many years ago my wise husband designated Matthew 5:16 as our family verse, and we seek to let our “light shine” to the glory of God.

6. Journal what God is doing in your family’s life.

Our family (including my husband while he is away) keeps a record of all God is doing in us and through us by journaling. An inspiration for this was Jeremiah 30:2. It has been a wonderful encouragement to our family as we read our entries and reread ones already written. Each entry is a new testimony of God’s plan and faithfulness.

7. Actually this one should be first—prepare your hearts in prayer before the deployment.

There is much to do to prepare for deployment, but don’t forget to pray that God will prepare your hearts, as a family, for what He will do while you are separated. Begin to pray for new opportunities to arise which will allow your family light to shine, to bring glory to God. Remember, He who has called you to this time apart is faithful. “He who calls you is faithful, who also will do it.”  (1 Thessalonians 5:24)

Questions to Share:

1. How can you implement the seven points above with your family during deployment?

2. Pray for God’s guidance to teach, lead, and love your children with grace and compassion—and wisdom—during this time of separation.

Excellent or Praiseworthy is posted on Monday and Thursday nights.

Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends. — John 15:13

Chuck Swindoll, one of our favorite preachers, loves to tell stories of when he was a Marine on active duty. These stories offer multiple illustrations for his sermons. So it was not a surprise that on Veterans Day he posted a special prayer on his ministry website—and also gave his thanks to all of you who serve so faithfully. We want to share his prayer with you today, in honor of your sacrificial service to our dear country:

Thank You, Father, for Your good hand upon our nation during times when we stood strong. And even when we have been weak and lacked the moral fiber that makes a nation great, You have still poured out Your protection and grace upon us. Thank You for Your favor.

How we thank You for those who have defended the freedom of our country—those who have spent their years believing in a cause that transcended their own safety . . . who surrendered the pleasure and comfort of home and family . . . who fought fierce and lengthy battles, carrying heavy weapons . . . and who stood firm in dark and difficult times when the conflict was dangerous and the enemy was near.

We thank You also for those who serve today, some of them in places where war has come up close and personal. Watch over them. Take care of them. We pray for their safe return. Comfort their family and loved ones whose arms ache for them. We also intercede for those who make difficult decisions by commanding our troops. We pray You would give them wisdom and integrity, keep them safe, use their strategy and intelligence for the betterment of this country and for the greater good of generations to come.

Our Father, we also acknowledge that You are a God of grace who has watched over us at all times. When we began as a country, You were there. When we fought amongst ourselves in that bloody Civil War, You were there. When we defended ourselves from enemies on both sides, You were there. You have been our Shepherd, and because of that, we lacked nothing. Thank You for being our shield and our defender, for the enduring promise of Your presence.

We commit to You the future of our land. We ask You to guide us and help us serve You faithfully. We pray that Your name will be honored in our future even more than in our past. May Your righteousness and glory continue to be exalted in this great nation.

All of this we ask in the name of Christ, our Savior. Amen.

And we say, “Thank you, Pastor Swindoll, for your great service to our country and to our Lord. May the Lord allow you to continue to serve well, both at your church in Frisco, Texas, and around the world through your writings and radio. In Jesus’ strong name. Amen.”

Work Cited:

Listen to Chuck Swindoll’s Veterans Day Prayer on www.Insight.org.
Learn more about Chuck Swindoll’s experience in the Marine Corps in the article, My Determined Purpose.

Questions to Share:

1. Who also served in the military in your family that you can remember in prayer today?

2. Read this prayer out loud to each other, if possible, or to someone with whom you serve.

Excellent or Praiseworthy is posted on Monday and Thursday nights.

Although I hope to come to you soon, I am writing you these instructions so that, if I am delayed, you will know how people ought to conduct themselves in God’s household, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of the truth. Beyond all question, the mystery of godliness is great: He appeared in a body, was vindicated by the Spirit, was seen by angels, was preached among the nations, was believed on in the world, was taken up in glory. — I Timothy 3:14-16

Our beloved pastor preached one particular Sunday on the Church. I will share only a brief outline, followed by best practices which any church can apply in their own way to serve the military in their midst. But if you want to hear the entire sermon, click here.

The Apostle Paul gave Timothy encouragement and direction in how to lead his church, most likely in ancient Ephesus. The instruction is valid today, and worthy of examination.

A. From I Timothy 3:15a we Remember what the church is:

  1. It is a family. Paul describes the church as the house, or household, of God, depending on the translation. Paul’s metaphor here is not that of a building—but of a family. Believers are members of a unique and special family, and this same truth is emphasized in Ephesians 2:19: “So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God’s household.” Also in Galatians 6:10 we read, “Therefore as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith.”
  2. It is the assembly of the living God. It is God’s church, His family. In his letter to the Ephesians, Paul wrote that the church is “God’s own possession, to the praise of His glory.” (Ephesians 1:14). Because God dwells in us, when we come together we come as “the church of the living God.” “And in Him you too are being built up together to become a dwelling in which God lives by His Spirit.” (Ephesians 2:22)

B. Pastor John’s second point is that in I Timothy 3:15b we Recognize what the church does:

  1. The church is the defender of truth. In other words it guards and protects the precious truths of God’s word. The church has the sacred stewardship of the Scriptures. It is the church and the church alone which has been tasked with providing the solid bedrock of truth as found in God’s word.
  2. The church is light shining in darkness. Every church should stand against the prevailing tide of a sinful culture.
  3. The church is stability to the individual believer. We are in accountable relationships, for the good of each other. There should be within the body of Christ a willingness to be held accountable and a willingness to hold others accountable.
  4. The church is the avenue by which we serve and encourage one another. In Hebrews 10:24 we read: “And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works.”
  5. The church is the agent by which the Great Commission is carried out. Paul writes in I Thessalonians 1:8: “For from you the word of the Lord has sounded forth, not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but also in every place. Your faith toward God has gone out . . . “

C. His last sermon point was: From I Timothy 3:16 we Recommit to Whom the church belongs:

After explaining what the church is and does, Paul goes into a praise chorus focused upon the person of Jesus. Why? The more you focus upon Jesus—the more you love Jesus—the more you will love the church and be committed to it. The church will be effective and productive and healthy and useful when glorifying, exalting, and lifting up Christ remains the central theme of all that we do.

The church is the family of God—the assembly of the living God. The church is the defender of truth—the light shining in darkness—the place of accountability and encouragement—the place to serve—and place that helps us to go on. And above all else—the church is led by Jesus—and therefore we say “Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.” (Ephesians 3:20,21)

We can take what Pastor John has laid out before us as an exposition of God’s word and apply it in our churches and chapels in order to serve those who serve our country so faithfully. Remember, if you believe in the sovereignty of God, military members come to your church or chapel for a reason—but they will only be there for a season.

So our question is, how will you Respond in order to minister to military members and families during that season so that they go on to their next assignment or deployment at a higher level of spiritual maturity?

Here are some best practices which my husband and I have observed and recorded (we use the word “church” to refer to both churches and chapels):

  1. Prayer. If your church has a prayer meeting, a prayer team, or a prayer list, make sure your military members and families are on it, at their request. They need your prayers!
  2. Hospitality. Practice hospitality. Military members and families are delighted to be included in meal times at members’ homes—after church or during the week.
  3. Small Group. Consider offering a small group Bible study or “life group” for your military members, both as in-reach to provide fellowship with a common bond and as an outreach to bring in other military members searching for spiritual growth.
  4. Ask Good Questions. A church needs to approach a military member or family and ask good questions: “How can we serve you during your time here?” “How can we pray for you?” “What can we do to get you to the next level of spiritual training before sending you to your next assignment?”
  5. Marriage Enrichment. Form a Marriage Enrichment Team in your church to serve your married couples with small group and seminar training. Military couples (singles, too) particularly need training in their relationships because of the unique challenges they encounter.
  6. Special Days. Special emphases (or banquets) on Memorial Day, Veterans Day, and 4th of July are always appropriate times to honor our military. Suggest that the military wear their uniforms on one of these days—even the veterans!
  7. “Commissioning”. Before military members and families PCS, invite them to the front of the church during or at the close of worship for a special time of prayer. This can be considered a “commissioning” as you send them off to minister/serve at their new duty station.
  8. Staff Training. Provide periodic education to your pastoral staff to ensure they remain keenly aware and appreciative of the unique challenges of military life. Hopefully they will be supportive, encouraging, and open to new ideas for helping.
  9. Childcare. Anytime a study is formed or group is organized with military members and families include a plan for childcare, if possible.
  10. Support Groups and Bible Studies. Consider offering a support group/Bible study group for those with combat trauma, or those who have a loved one with combat trauma. The books The Combat Trauma Healing Manual and When War Comes Home are excellent resources for these groups. A Bridges to Healing seminar might pave the way for this group to begin in your church.
  11. Establish a Reputation. Sign on to the Military Missions Network (MMN) as a “military friendly” or a “military focused” church. Acquaint your Missions Team with MMN’s “The 4th Missionary Journey” and the new web portal MilitaryBeliever.com!! www.militarymissionsnetwork.com.
  12. Relocation Services. Before they PCS, make sure that your military member and families are pointed to a like-minded church from your denomination or the Military Missions Network at their new duty station. This helps them to take steps to get connected immediately upon arrival.
  13. People of calling. Be aware that the calling of First Responders is very similar to the military calling. Your church may desire to incorporate First Responders into ministry to military.

During the deployment cycle your church can also actively participate:

  1.  Before Deployment. Schedule a time for the military member and spouse to spend with the pastoral staff, Sunday school teacher, or deacons. This is a time to set up accountability, to encourage, and to make sure that the needs of the family at home are discussed and assigned to appropriate church members.
  2. Before Deployment. Call the service member and family up to the front of the church for a special time of prayer.
  3. During Deployment. Assign someone to email daily or weekly prayers, devotions and/or sermons to the deployed service members as a group. Our church uses Oswald Chambers’ daily prayers to email to our deployed group.
  4. During Deployment. Remember the Holidays! The Sunday School classes can send each deployed member care packages and holiday greeting cards. Don’t forget to honor the family at home with special giftings.
  5. During Deployment. Support those at home. Consider offering a support group for the wives/husbands of those deployed. It might be a good opportunity to do a Bible study like Loving Your Military Man.
  6. During Deployment. If the military member agrees, make their addresses available to the church body either in the bulletin or on the A-V screen for further communication and as a prayer reminder.
  7. After Deployment. Recognize the service member and family for their sacrificial service after the deployment. You may want to give them an opportunity to speak, to thank the church for support, and/or to give their testimony of how God worked in their lives during their time of deployment.

In summary, the church is a precious gift from God and we should never take it for granted. To God be the Glory!

Hebrews 10:25—“Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”

Questions to Share:

1.  What church “best practices” can you identify as particularly helpful to you and your spouse during deployments?

2.  If you are not an active member of a local church, pray that the Lord would lead you to one.  If you are a member, consider how you can pray for your pastor and the church.

Excellent or Praiseworthy is posted on Monday and Thursday nights.

Be gracious to me, O LORD, for I am in distress; my eyes grow weak with sorrow, my soul and my body with grief. My life is consumed by anguish and my years by groaning; my strength fails because of my affliction, and my bones grow weak. . . . But I trust in You, O LORD; I say, “You are my God.” My times are in Your hands; deliver me from my enemies and from those who pursue me. Let Your face shine on Your servant; save me in Your unfailing love. — Psalm 31:9,10,14-16

The Combat Trauma Healing Manual: Christ-centered Solutions for Combat Trauma is filled with truth that helps and heals. My copy of this life-valuable book has underlines, highlights, stars and check marks in the margins, brackets, and notes—page after page. But one of my favorite parts is in the back—in the Appendix. The appendices are filled with important information—from how to know God personally to symptoms of PTSD to Scripture for use in spiritual warfare. Then there is Appendix D, with the interesting title of “Prayer Life of a PTSD Victor: King David.”

There are three sections of prayers in this six page appendix—“Prayers of a Wounded Warrior,” “Promises to a Wounded Warrior,” and “Praises from a Wounded Warrior.” I will give a sample of each, but first we must ask the question “Who was King David?” and “Why do we believe he was a PTSD sufferer?”

The Bible refers to King David as “a man after God’s own heart” (Acts 13:22) because of David’s tremendous obedience and love for the LORD as voiced in the book of Psalms. David grew up tending his father’s sheep in the hills around Bethlehem before being anointed by the prophet Samuel (I Samuel 16) to succeed Saul, Israel’s first king. We then read the great Old Testament story of David and Goliath (I Samuel 17), and witness years of running from the murderous King Saul.  The story continues with David’s eventual ascension to the throne, his leadership of Israel in numerous military victories, and then his disastrous adultery with Bathsheba followed by the painful consequences of that sinful act.

What would lead the author of The Combat Trauma Healing Manual to believe that King David was victorious in his battle with PTSD? The author, Rev. Chris Adsit, writes: “Because David recognized that God was his Healer, his only hope of escape from his distress. When you read many of David’s Psalms, you are reading the writings of a man in process. He fought with depression, guilt, fear, anger, despair—probably many of the same emotions you (the reader) fight with. But in practically every one of his Psalms, you will see him lifting his eyes and his hopes to God.” (p. 165)

From the book of Psalms here is an example of “Prayers of a Wounded Warrior”:

“As the deer pants for the water brooks, so my soul pants for You. My tears have been my food day and night, while they say to me, ‘Where is your God?’ Why are you in despair, O my soul? And why have you become disturbed within me? Hope in God, for I shall again praise Him for the help of His presence. The Lord will command His lovingkindness in the daytime; and His song will be with me in the night, a prayer to the God of my life.” — Psalm 42:1-3,5,8

“Since I am afflicted and needy, let the LORD be mindful of me. You are my help and deliverer; do not delay, O my God.” — Psalm 40:17

David’s confidence in the faithfulness of God is expressed in the section “Promises to a Wounded Warrior”:

“The LORD will be a stronghold for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble; and those who know Your name will put their trust in You, for You, O LORD, have not forsaken those who seek You.” — Psalm 9:9,10

“You will make known to me the path of life; in Your presence is fullness of joy; in Your right hand there are pleasures forever.” — Psalm 16:11

Make David’s praises to God in “Praises from a Wounded Warrior” to be your heart-felt praises:

“I waited patiently for the LORD; and He inclined to me and heard my cry. He brought me up out of the pit of destruction, out of the miry clay, and He set my feet upon a rock making my footsteps firm. He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God; many will see and fear and will trust in the LORD.” — Psalm 40:1-3

“If the LORD had not been my help, my soul would soon have dwelt in the abode of silence. If I should say, ‘My foot has slipped,’ Your lovingkindness will hold me up. When my anxious thoughts multiply within me, Your consolations delight my soul.” — Psalm 94:17-19

Rev. Adsit closes his words in this appendix with this, “We hope that you will identify with this man who, despite his courage, skills and accomplishments, was only a man. He was a man who recognized his need for a Savior, and his need for God’s help. He’s a good man for us to imitate as we grow through our dark days.” (p. 165)

Our prayer is that the knowledge of King David’s PTSD struggle and victory will be an encouragement to you who share this struggle.

Work Cited:

Adsit, Rev. Chris, The Combat Trauma Healing Manual: Christ-Centered Solutions for Combat Trauma (Newport News: Military Ministry Press, 2007)

Questions to Share:

1. Do you identify with any of the feelings David expressed in the prayers, promises and praises quoted above?

2. David proclaims his despair and then his dependence on God. Take a moment to express your concerns to God and then thank Him for His faithfulness to help and heal.

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