A devotional to help military families stay connected during deployments

Excellent or Praiseworthy is posted on Monday and Thursday nights.

See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on the human tradition and the basic principles of this world, rather than Christ. — Colossians 2:8

Good Day Shipmates!

I’ve been married longer than many have been alive aboard this ship. At the risk of really dating myself, it’s been twenty-six years. My wife and I met in Chesterfield, near Richmond, as two idealistic “kids” with big plans. At 18 and 19 years old, we were convinced we were going to take the world by storm.

Life was simple back then. We dated six months and got married—bitten and blinded by the “love bug”; and on our way to RAF Lakenheath on E-1 pay. Our immaturity quickly reared its hideous head pushing our dreams and romanticism to the back burner. The only word fitting to describe the harsh erosion of our marriage was “train-wreck.”

I wounded my wife daily with razor-sharp words and emotional revenge. It’s no surprise she responded, firing back a volley of hurt and resentment. We quickly became isolated and discouraged . . . two married people living emotionally separate lives. To make matters worse, we had no “real” friends or people we could trust with such private matters. Secretly, we were ashamed how rapidly our marriage declined. I blamed her and she blamed me. Dreams of a healthy marriage were gone; our relationship had become toxic. In a few short months, the one I loved and wanted to spend the rest of my life with had become the adversary. We were consumed by pain, embittered and emotionally defeated.

Looking back, we can see that we believed four fundamental lies: 1) we were the only ones struggling like this; 2) we couldn’t tell anybody; 3) my spouse was the problem, not me; 4) we were beyond help. Each of these lies plays a deadly role in marriage relationships, shoving heads low in shame. The result of shame is demoralizing—shame leads to isolation while stealing you blind of a precious marriage commodity—hope . We tried to “fake it” and let others think that we were fine, but inside we were screaming, “Help!”

Although young, inexperienced and sinking in hopelessness, we were bright enough to know changes had to be made—immediately. Through our recovery process (more on that to come), I learned three important truths to share with you:

In a few days we will pull into port. Some of you have taken advantage of time away during this deployment to evaluate and reflect in a healthy way. Ever so quietly, in the privacy of your own heart, you’ve taken account of what’s truly important in life. You’ve thought long and hard about making much needed changes or adjustments. If truth be told, you’re not happy. Actually it’s worse than that—you secretly suffer from the disease of discontent; you suffer silently from discouragement and are emotionally tired; you seek refuge. Something’s gotta change!

Allow me to offer some thoughts:

First, change always starts from within; recovery begins with YOU. Firmly fix your gaze into the mirror of honesty; don’t quickly walk away and forget what you look like. Avoid the pull of believing the problem is “her” or “him.” It’s not—it’s you and it’s me. Start there.

Second . . . I’ve seen lots of people talk about change and even attempt change. Few find it. They’re genuine—they try harder, adjust jobs, substitute spouses, reorder finances, and make genuine attempts at change. However, true change only occurs exclusively within the framework of faith. You must seriously connect with God in repentance and surrender. Without God’s foundation, you’ll endure a long uphill battle of failed attempts. Swallow your pride—let Him produce a new you!

Third, change is a process. Don’t try to make change an event, like “whew . . . glad I got that over with. I’m different now!” Genuine change that lasts doesn’t work that way. It’s in the process you meet new people with similar goals, reach fresh objectives and connect with Creator-God in momentous, life-changing ways.

Fourth, find healthy people. You’ll only find these people in one place: CHURCH. They can be found . . . trust me. In forty-six years I’ve only found one place where people change and mature—in the church.

Fifth, stick to the plan. Resolve yourself to the process. Genuine change is hard work that only occurs within the context of relationship with God. Spend time in prayer and in His word, the Bible. That is where truth is found—in His Son, Jesus Christ.

There are better days ahead for you. I know.

Questions to Share:

1. Have you been taken captive by a deceptive philosophy that is built upon lies? How have those lies profoundly affected your thinking, words, attitudes, and behavior towards your spouse? How will you respond now?

2. Where do you subtly blame your spouse for the condition of your marriage, while minimizing your role? What will you do in response?

Excellent or Praiseworthy is posted on Monday and Thursday nights.

He will cover you with His feathers, and under His wings you will find refuge; His faithfulness will be your shield and rampart. You will not fear the terror of night, nor the arrow that flies by day, nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness, nor the plague that destroys at midday.”Psalm 91:4-6

As Sonja held down the fort while her husband Jason was deployed, she quickly saw the need to go on the offensive against spirits of fear, worry, resentment, anger and bitterness. Instead of waiting for discouragement to invade and occupy her home, she countered it at every turn by wielding the Sword of Truth: God’s Word.

Her tactic was simple: she printed Scripture verses off her computer and stuck them all around her house with Scotch tape so God’s Word would constantly be before her eyes and the eyes of her children.

Taped next to her bathroom mirror: Be exalted, O Lord, in your strength; we will sing and praise your might (Psalm 21:13).

Taped inside her kitchen cupboard: Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil for you are with me (Psalm 23:4).

Taped above her dresser: He will have no fear of bad news; his heart is steadfast, trusting in the Lord (Psalm 112:7).

Taped in her living room: But as for me, it is good to be near God. I have made the Sovereign Lord my refuge; I will tell of all your deeds (Psalm 73:28).

The result was powerful. Instead of dwelling on the unknown of the future, Sonja chose to dwell on what she did know—that God is good, and God is in control. Even after Jason returned from deployment the following year, Sonja left those verses hanging around their home.

Without God, I couldn’t have made it,” she said. “I needed comfort and peace, and He gave it to me. That is just amazing. Jason and I prayed with each other through email. We would speak to each other about God and Scriptures to lift our spirits. God’s presence was really strong.”

Sonja was able to ward off attacks from the Enemy by claiming God’s truths. Meditating on Scripture cleared her mind and heart of the swirling negative thoughts that threatened to consume her. We can do the same.

“For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12).

Prayer: “Lord, give me the discipline I need to study and memorize your Word.”

Questions to Share:

1. Which Scripture verses would you like to put around your home or quarters?

2. Pray these verses (Numbers 6:24-26) for your spouse, “May the Lord bless ___ and keep ____. May the Lord make His face to shine upon ____ and be gracious to ____; may the Lord lift up His countenance upon ____ and give _____peace.” Then personalize this prayer for yourself by putting “me” in the blanks.

Jocelyn Green is the co- author (with Jane Hampton Cook and John Croushorn) of Battlefields and Blessings: Stories of Faith and Courage from the War in Iraq and Afghanistan from which this devotional is excerpted, with permission. Jocelyn is also the author of many other books, including Faith Deployed and Faith Deployed . . . Again.

Excellent or Praiseworthy is posted on Monday and Thursday nights.

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

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

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

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

Questions to Share:

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

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

Excellent or Praiseworthy is posted on Monday and Thursday nights.

Editor’s Note:  Lisa White writes about military life on her blog “A Chance to Bloom.” This posting, written by Lisa, was included on FaithDeployed.com in the past, and Web Site Editor Jocelyn Green gave us permission to share it with you.

“For I know the plans I have for you. They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.” — Jeremiah 29:11, NLT

A friend of mine recently asked me how I keep my mind from wandering to the what-ifs during deployments. Her husband is a helicopter pilot beginning his first deployment. She had heard about a fatal overseas helicopter crash on the news and, though knowing her husband wasn’t involved, she wanted some advice on how to deal with the “It could have been him” or the “What would I do without him” thoughts that infiltrate a military wife’s mind when her husband is deployed.

This question hit the nail on the head for me. I, too, am the wife of a helicopter pilot and I, too, have been in the position where something in the news causes my mind to go from feeling strong and content to imagining the worst-case scenario in a matter of seconds. Through three deployments, though, I have found a way to push the worry aside and prevent the what-ifs from taking over my mind.

“For I know the plans I have for you. They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.” (Jeremiah 29:11, NLT)

When I find the what-ifs creeping into my mind, I hand them over to God. I put my husband’s life in His hands and trust that He will take care of him no matter what. In a situation over which I have no control, the only way I feel I can make a difference is by praying and having faith that whatever happens is part of God’s plan.

When my husband received one-month notice that he would be deploying to Afghanistan, I was scared. His first two deployments were in much safer areas and I didn’t like the idea of him being somewhere so dangerous. But because I knew there was nothing I could do about it, I decided that for the next eight months, I would trust God with his life. I vowed to remember that God has a plan for me, for us, and no matter how it turned out, everything would be okay in the end.

The thought of losing my husband is too much to bear, and spending an entire deployment worrying about it would be detrimental to my well-being. But because of God’s promise in Jeremiah 29:11, I know that even if the worst happens, it is part of a greater plan. I know that any difficult circumstance will eventually lead to something good, even if it takes a while to see it. And the peace that comes with trusting God is the greatest line of defense against the inevitable what-ifs.

Questions to Share:

1. What Scriptures have you remembered and repeated to get you through feelings of fear?

2. Pray for each other to trust God during this deployment.

Excellent or Praiseworthy is posted on Monday and Thursday nights.

Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you. — I Peter 5:7

Waiting . . . waiting . . . waiting

I’ve been married to a soldier almost 14 years now and I think I’ve spent the whole time waiting. I’ve waited for orders, for our children (infertility then the process of adoption – twice), for deployments to start, for deployments to end. By now I should have the patience of Job. But I don’t. Waiting is really tough stuff.

Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the LORD. (Psalm 27:14)

There are a number of ways to live out being patient or “waiting”. Sometimes we just become effective fakers for others’ benefit. I think I’ve mastered the “I just don’t want to talk about it method.” When comparing this method to the “She talks about it all the time” method, I appear quite controlled to anybody who is looking. But, keeping it all in doesn’t do much good when it’s all just boiling around in there.

My friend has four teenagers and her husband is about to deploy for a year. She reminds me of myself because when you mention it she just smiles and says something like, “We’ll get through it.” On the other end of the spectrum is a little nine-year-old girl in my son’s class at school. Her mom is deploying next month and she’s mad. She’s throwing tantrums, crying and just generally letting the world know she’s not happy. She reminds me of me too, the inner part of me.

Jesus tells us to rest on Him – Come to me all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. (Matthew 11:28,29)

If you’ve been through deployment or any kind of waiting period, you know it is literally a heavy thing. Your heart just has this burden on it and you feel it constantly. It can bloom and grow into an unbearable weight and then can spread out and influence your speech and your body language until you yourself exude this heaviness. You’ve seen someone like this – maybe it’s even been you.

But hard things don’t have to stay heavy. You can lay them aside every single day. Jesus’ mercies are new every morning and that’s a really good thing because somehow those burdens always seem to be right back on your back when you’ve had a night to sleep on them.

It’s so okay to be sad about deployments or infertility or any kind of disappointment. But it’s not okay to drown in them. We have to help our kids learn how to lean on Jesus. And we have to be willing to share our hearts a little when they’re heavy so that our friends can help us bear these loads. No matter how old you are – Jesus is your best friend and He will carry all your cares. Let Him do so now. Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you. (I Peter 5:7)

Questions to Share:

1. How patient do you believe you are? Share an example with each other of a time when you had to demonstrate great patience.

2. How did the Lord help you to patiently endure your time of waiting?

Excellent or Praiseworthy is posted on Monday and Thursday nights.

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.” — 2 Corinthians 1:3,4

Sometimes . . . when someone has experienced a tragedy, it’s best to sit with them in silence. Not always, but sometimes. Alistair Begg, senior pastor of Parkside Church in Cleveland, Ohio, calls that “Eloquent Silence.”

I remember one of our local chaplains telling us about a visit he made to a Navy family in the housing area whose baby had died. When he arrived, he sat with the couple on the front porch. Just sat with them. Later the couple told him that was the most helpful thing he could have done at the time. He acted according to Romans 12:15, “. . . mourn with those who mourn.”

The book of Job gives us insight into this matter of comforting others in tough times. When Job loses everything—children, possessions, health—there are three friends who come to check on him: “When three of Job’s friends heard of the tragedy he had suffered, they got together and traveled from their homes to comfort and console him. . . . When they saw Job from a distance, they scarcely recognized him. Wailing loudly, they tore their robes and threw dust into the air over their heads to show their grief. Then they sat on the ground with him for seven days and nights. No one said a word to Job, for they saw that his suffering was too great for words” (Job 2:11-13).

But then they started critiquing Job’s situation—analyzing why they believed God had allowed him to suffer so horribly. In Job 13:5 we read Job’s assessment of their “help”: “As for you, you smear me with lies. As physicians, you are worthless quacks. If only you could be silent! That’s the wisest thing you could do.”

Instead of offering their own advice, what if they had encouraged Job with God’s truth? What if they had prayed with Job, which they never did? We have no record of any of his friends praying with him, or helping to care for his wife during her time of confusion and grief.

Perhaps you have done comforting things for others who are suffering—you have spent time with them; you have wept with them; you have encouraged them with Scripture; you have prayed; you have provided meals/done laundry/offered transportation or finances. You have looked into your heart and thought how you would want to be comforted, or remembered how you have been graciously comforted by God and others during your own crisis times—and you offered real encouragement. Indeed, you have shown compassion: “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience” (Colossians 3:12).

In a strange twist at the end of the story of Job, the Lord tells his three friends to go to Job and seek forgiveness. Their words to Job, recorded at length in the book, had angered God: “So now take seven bulls and seven rams and go to my servant Job and sacrifice a burnt offering for yourselves. My servant Job will pray for you, and I will accept his prayer and not deal with you according to your folly. You have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has” (Job 42:8).

Mike Mason, in his classic book on Job entitled The Gospel According to Job: An Honest Look at Pain and Doubt from the Life of One Who Lost Everything, writes a further explanation of this: “Perhaps more than any other Old Testament character, Job through his unmerited suffering becomes a reflection of Jesus, a Christ-figure. For it is not simply through sacrifice and prayer that Job’s friends gain their forgiveness, but rather through the entire mystery of Job’s suffering which, by sending its relentless roots deep into their hard hearts, has been invisibly breaking ground for the living God. Thus those who had considered Job ‘stricken by God, smitten by him and afflicted’ in the end receive healing through his wounds. Healing for what? Healing for wounds less visible than Job’s, wounds they did not even know they had: the wounds of lovelessness. When the powerful come to the powerless for help, there the door to the Kingdom of God swings open.” (p. 434)

Through the years I have learned better than to say, “I understand what you’re going through”—when I really don’t. I know better than to tell my own story that’s similar, but not exactly. I now know that a gentle touch, a sympathizing tear, and an offer to help go a long ways. Not trying to fix the situation, or to “fix” the friends, but standing by them through the crisis.

To love like Christ loves . . . with grace . . . that is the goal.

Jesus says in John 15:12: “My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.”

Work Cited:

Mason, Mike, The Gospel According to Job: An Honest Look at Pain and Doubt from the Life of One Who Lost Everything (Wheaton: Crossway Books, 1994).

Questions to Share:

1. When you have experienced a crisis, how has someone helped you then that you truly appreciated?

2. Have you ever gone to encourage someone going through a hard time, and they ended up encouraging you? That is a remarkable grace which God gives to those going through extreme circumstances. Have you ever experienced that kind of grace?

3. Have you had a time during this deployment when you sat with someone during their time of loss and comforted them? Tell each other about that time.

Excellent or Praiseworthy is posted on Monday and Thursday nights.

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

During childhood many of us were taught the Lord’s Prayer.  We can recite it “from memory” and it doesn’t mean a thing, if we’re not careful. Whether we call it the “Lord’s Prayer” or the “Model Prayer” it reads like this in Matthew 6:9-13: “. . . Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be Thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts (some say ‘trespasses’), as we forgive our debtors (or ‘those who trespass against us’). And lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil: For Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.”

Whether praying this prayer before going out on patrol in the desert, before going to bed at night, or as part of worship or a discipline of daily time with God, it’s a good reminder to examine this prayer for our “heart attitude” so that it doesn’t become just part of a “check-list of to-dos.”

Dr. John MacArthur quotes a passage in his sermon entitled “The Plan of Prayer” which does just that—examines our heart attitude. From an unknown author it says:

“I cannot say ‘Our’ if I live only for myself in a spiritually watertight compartment.
I cannot say ‘Father’ if I do not endeavor each day to act like His child.
I cannot say ‘who art in heaven’ if I am laying up no treasure there.
I cannot say ‘hallowed be Thy name’ if I am not striving for holiness.
I cannot say ‘Thy kingdom come’ if I am not doing all in my power to hasten that wonderful event.
I cannot say ‘in earth as it is in heaven’ if I’ll not serve Him here and now.
I cannot say ‘give us this day our daily bread’ if I am dishonest or if I am seeking things by subterfuge.
I cannot say ‘forgive us our debts’ if I harbor a grudge against anyone.
I cannot say ‘lead us not into temptation’ if I deliberately place myself in its path.
I cannot say ‘deliver us from evil’ if I do not put on the whole armor of God.
I cannot say ‘Thine is the kingdom’ if I do not give to the King the loyalty due Him as a faithful subject.
I cannot attribute to Him the power if I fear what men may do.
I cannot ascribe to Him the glory if I’m seeking honor only for myself.
And I cannot say ‘forever’ if the horizon of my life is bounded completely by time.”

This anonymous saint is reminding us (and I believe we need reminding in these hectic times and crucial circumstances) that the attitude of our heart will be expressed in our relationship to Jesus and will be reflected in how we pray.

Perhaps you can use these check-points to intentionally examine your heart attitude towards our Lord. Then an attitude check can lead to an action check. . . and then we can demonstrate a truly committed heart on the front lines or on the home front.

Work Cited:  Dr. John MacArthur’s “The Plan of Prayer, Part 1” is available at:  www.gty.org/resources/print/sermons/2237

Questions to Share:

1. Take the time to pray the Lord’s Prayer, pausing after each phrase to examine what that phrase really means in your life today.
2. If possible, take the time to pray the Lord’s Prayer together with your spouse over the phone.

Excellent or Praiseworthy is posted on Monday and Thursday nights.

Editor’s Note:  We are pleased to post a devotion from Faith Deployed: Daily Encouragement for Military Wives.  While this particular writing by Jocelyn Green is specifically for wives, the “question to share” at the end will ask if the same considerations might apply to husbands.  Please know that there is sequel entitled Faith Deployed . . . Again.

Watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it flows the springs of life. — Proverbs 4:23

A woman in our military unit had been corresponding with her old boyfriend for months, unbeknownst to her husband (but shared with the other wives), emailing and instant messaging late into the night. She was convinced she would be happier if she filed for divorce, hoped for the best for her children, and returned to the arms of the one she did not marry.

While the geographical distance prevented her from having a physical relationship with this man, she was clearly in an emotional affair. Perhaps she thought that emailing couldn’t hurt anything. But the more she shared of her heart with him, the more her desires bent toward being with him as a permanent solution to her loneliness and dissatisfaction in her own marriage.

The fact that it is common makes it no less tragic. Each one of us is vulnerable to the same situation. Those of us who would “never have an affair” might just be feeling lonely enough to mention it to a sympathetic man. If he offers us the male attention we are craving, if he makes us feel special, how can our hearts not want to go back for more? While not every emotional affair ends up in a physical affair, you can bet that every physical affair once began as an emotional affair.

Matthew 5:27-28 in The Message says, “You know the next commandment pretty well, too: ‘Don’t go to bed with another’s spouse.’ But don’t think you’ve preserved your virtue simply by staying out of bed. Your heart can be corrupted by lust even quicker than your body. Those leering looks (or thoughts) you think nobody notices—they are also corrupt.”

It’s inevitable that you will notice attractive men—and that isn’t sinful. It would be sinful if we allow that attraction to spur us on to develop an emotional attachment to that man. Here are some questions Shannon Ethridge, in Every Woman’s Battle, suggests we ask ourselves to evaluate whether we, as married women, are in dangerous territory:

–Do you think of this man often (several times each day) even though he is not around?
–Do you select your daily attire based on whether you will see this person?
–Do you go out of your way to run into him, hoping he’ll notice you?
–Do you wonder if he feels any attraction toward you?

One way to play it safe and help guard our hearts is to guard our mouths. Flirting, complimenting, complaining, confessing, and inappropriate counseling and praying are all ways of communicating that could lead to a deeper relationship—in other words, avoid them!

If you find yourself struggling to reserve your heart’s affections for your husband, seek out a trusted friend (same gender) to serve as an accountability partner to you . You are less likely to stumble if you know you’ll have to report it. “Iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another” (Proverbs 27:17)

Pray: Lord, Help me guard my heart, especially when my husband is away. I know that Satan would love nothing more than to undermine my marriage and watch it fall apart. Alert me when my thoughts drift into inappropriate territory. Help me take every thought captive to Jesus Christ. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Questions to Share:

1. This devotional was written for wives, but in what ways is the advice the same for husbands?

2. When illicit thoughts cross our minds, what can we do to starve those desires?

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

Excellent or Praiseworthy is posted on Monday and Thursday nights.

“This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil. For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed.” —John 3:19-20

I remember Ruth Bell Graham’s teaching from years ago on the power of light. She said that film crews were coming into their log cabin home in North Carolina to interview her husband, Billy Graham. She cleaned and cleaned—wanting everything to look just right for the cameras. When the crews arrived and set up their equipment, she was horrified by what the bright studio lights exposed—cobwebs and dust that she had missed in her cleaning! As we all know, things can be hidden in darkness.

John, the apostle John, wrote much on light. And what is this light that has come into the world? More specifically, Who is this Light that has come into the world? Mrs. Graham used her illustration above to make the point that it is the Light of Christ which exposes our sin—those things hidden in the dark corners of our lives—so that we can confess and receive forgiveness for our sin. If we think that we do not have sin, we have Romans 3:23 (“for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”) and 1 John 1:8 (“If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us”) to remind us that we need the Light.

John tells us:

“When Jesus spoke again to the people, He said, ‘I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life.” —John 8:12

“I have come as Light into the world, so that everyone who believes in Me will not remain in darkness.” —John 12:46

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men.” —John 1:1-4

“This is the message we have heard from Him and announce to you, that God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth; but if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin.”. —1 John 1:5-7

We hear much teaching on the fact that “God is love” (1 John 4:16). But how does He demonstrate that love? In Romans 5:8 we read, “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” So what I can put together from this is that I needed God as Light to expose my dark sins and then God as Love could forgive me through Jesus Christ’s death on the cross as the perfect sacrifice.

Dr. Simon J. Kistemaker, Professor of New Testament Emeritus at Reformed Theological Seminary and author of New Testament Commentary writes, “We often see plaques on walls and bumper stickers on cars that tell the world that ‘God is love.’ But no one displays the sign ‘God is light.’ But light comes before love, for light uncovers that which is hidden in darkness. And when it has been exposed, it must then be removed. The removal is the result of love. God is light for He exposes our sin—God is love because He sent His Son to remove it. Don’t forget though that He is always light before He is love.”

What does this have to do with deployment?

Questions to Share:

1. How can you pray for your spouse during this deployment, so that they can be light in a dark place?

2. If you have not done this already, choose a period of the day when you and your spouse can agree to pray for each other (if possible).

Excellent or Praiseworthy is posted on Monday and Thursday nights.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Questions to Share:

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

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

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