Fortifying the City

By: Sarah Arend

PillarsI’ve had some thoughts rattling around in my head recently. They’re about being equipped to stand against the enemy’s attacks. I’m a senior at Concordia Academy and oftentimes I feel really safe at Concordia; I know that I have people who will support and love me, I am comfortable there, I’ve been there for four years. But the fact of the matter is, in reality I’m not that safe [5]. In fact, nowhere that I go will really be safe. Nothing is safe because we have an enemy. And this enemy is going to attack, because he seeks our destruction at all times [1]. This means that no matter how safe I may feel like I am, I must be on my guard. And when I am in a place that is protected, that is the time to spring into action to prepare for an attack. It is not the time to get lazy or complacent.

It’s the idea of fortifying the city in peace [2]. If a city waits until it is under attack to fortify itself, its efforts will be far less effective and it will weaken itself because it must divide its forces. As Christians, we are far more vulnerable if we wait until we are under attack to go to the Word and to seek God. We need to internalize the truth before the attacks come so that when they do (which they will) we will already be equipped. In times of peace, or even when things seem mundane, it is so easy to get lax. It’s easy to look at past hardships and think, “Well I’m glad that’s over so I can rest,” or even to think, “Hey, you know I deserve a break after all this hard work.” And rest is a good thing. In fact, the Lord sometimes will grant us times of rest, but we should not equate resting with doing nothing. In 2 Chronicles where it talks about the Lord granting rest to Judah (footnote 2), that is for the purpose of fortifying the city. For me, I want resting to be a time of settling Truth within me so deeply it will not be moved. I want resting to be finding verses that speak the Truth of who God is so that I know His voice and character when under siege [6].

There is always more hardship to come, and sometimes it will be worse than we think because the enemy doesn’t play nice [3]. If there is a crack in the wall, he will take the whole thing down. Open the door and he will charge right on in. This is why internalizing the Truth, knowing undeniably who God is, and fortifying the “city” (ourselves)  is paramount. If we do not internalize the Truth in times of peace, we cannot reach for it in battle [4]. If we do not know undeniably who God is when He is easily accessible, how much harder will it be to find Him when we are under attack? And if we do not fortify in peace, we will become quickly depleted when attacks come because we must both defend and strengthen ourselves. The word of God, His Truth, is our weapon, our armor. The more than we can saturate ourselves in it, the stronger that we are. It is a mighty defense so that when evil comes, we can stand our ground. And when the war is over, we will remain standing [7].

 

Footnotes:

  1. 1 Peter 5:8 Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.
  2. 2 Chronicles 14:6 He built up the fortified cities of Judah, since the land was at peace. No one was at war with him during those years, for the LORD gave him rest.
  3. John 10:10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.
  4. Jeremiah 12:5 “If you have raced with men on foot
    and they have worn you out,
    how can you compete with horses?
    If you stumblea in safe country,
    how will you manage in the thickets byb the Jordan?
  1. 1 John 5:19 We know that we are children of God, and that the whole world is under the control of the evil one.
  2. 1 John 5:20 We know also that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true. And we are in him who is true by being in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life.
  3. Ephesians 6:10-13 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 schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.
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The Impact of Prayer Group on My Life

By: Lisa Vaupel, Sunday Morning Prayer Group LeaderPraying Hands

I’m a therapist by trade meaning I hear people’s trouble and work with them to try to repair some of the hardest parts of their lives. In many ways, I’m a fixer. It can be a messy, stressful, and draining job. Don’t get me wrong though, it can also be hugely rewarding which is why I do it.

Due to the nature of the work, I often lean on my coworkers for advice on how to take care of myself and the children and families with whom I work. Many of my coworkers aren’t Christians or they are the Christmas and Easter kind of Christians. I’m often hesitant to share much of my faith and how Christ and my church community are a support to me, but one time in the last year I found myself in a position to share a bit more.

We were all sitting around and talking about the things that “fill us up.” Since the work we do can be draining, we often focus on “self-care” and making sure we are taking care of ourselves so that we can continue to be effective therapists. I found myself sharing with my coworkers about the Sunday morning prayer group at enCompass and how it feeds me.

Early on Sunday mornings I make my way to church and some people might think, “I need that time to just stay home and rest or relax…” But me, no. I need the time to refuel. I make my way to the room where we meet to pray just after settling my boys down with Jess, Darcy and Kaitlyn. I usually have a cup of coffee because I need that too. Our group is small which is perfect for me. The faces are familiar, welcoming and loving. I know that they genuinely care about me, my family, our church, our world and our God.

What happens when we come together is truly miraculous. I often walk in a bit burdened, tired, and sometimes feeling isolated. I leave feeling heard, supported, loved, and encouraged. Each time it happens. I know I can walk in and share my latest parenting struggle or the crazy nearly unbelievable thing that has happened in my family. There won’t be judgement, only love. I can share it, I can cry (if I need to) and we will pray. I hear the burdens of others and it is an honor to sit with them in their struggle.

There is something about praying with others that is more freeing than praying by myself. First, when I pray with others I’m more focused. On my own I’m often not disciplined as much as I would like, and I struggle to keep myself on track. In the group, I slow down enough to wait for God to speak. I also am able to hear the prayers of others which often ring true with what I am sensing in my own heart and it is encouraging. My heart says, “Yes, yes God. That is the prayer I want to speak!” Other times others pray and I am challenged by their perspective. Perspective is another thing I often gain. Too often I am stuck in my own circumstances and bogged down, but this small group of prayers – with the help of the Holy Spirit – help to break me out of my circumstances and help me to really experience God.

My coworkers still don’t know or understand the depth of what I experience in our little prayer group, but someday I hope to have the opportunity to share more and more with them. I want God to use this group not just for my good, but for His. I guess it is used for his good through me because what I gain from this group allows me to continue on in my week with the energy, perspective, and freedom that I have in Christ. God is good!

Photo credit: Andythedreamer via Visualhunt.com / CC BY-NC-SA

A Steep Climb

By: Brenda Lortie

Autumn Rocky ClimbI don’t know about you, but I typically feel like I am missing the point despite trying hard to figure out who God wants me to be or what he wants me to do in this situation or that. Years ago a friend told me that I only need to regularly spend time with God, ask to know his will, actively listen, and then obey in the myriad small matters of everyday life. Practicing simple obedience, I could then assume I was walking in God’s will, unless he let me know otherwise. That was, and is, the whole point. It made perfect sense but also seemed too simple and I am masterful at making simple thinks complicated.

Decades, 5.5 to be more precise. That’s how long my learning curve has been. And it’s been a steep one. Here is the short list of life skills God has taught me in that time:

Grace. I recognize grace isn’t typically thought of as a skill but God set out to teach me Grace and despite being a remedial student, I have learned Grace. How to extend it to myself. God’s Grace convinced me that I was doing my best despite feeling like a failure. Believing this allowed me to love and (importantly) like myself.

Courage. Displaying courage doesn’t mean you don’t experience fear, it means doing what you’re afraid of. My modus operandi in life was fear. Fear of failure, fear of rejection, fear of being “found out,” fear of not having enough, fear of loss, even fear of gain since what was gained would inevitably be lost. I got up every day and put on my fear. God has daily prompted me to practice “couraging,” another word I have hijacked for my purposes. It means going outside the confined space I exist in to overcome the fears that would otherwise waste my days.

As I said, this is the short list. God only knows, but I will share with you, that there is much more to the story. More to come, as each day I scale new heights on the learning curve.

Photo credit: andyarthur via visualhunt.com/CCBY

Bike Story

By Caren Nicholson, Leadership Team

Caren NicholsonI had just finished my shift at the hospital and was on my way home one beautiful summer day.  I turned on Gramsie and noticed a couple of girls riding their bikes down the hill.  All of a sudden, one of the girls did a summersault over her handlebars and landed on the ground.  I thought to myself, “Oh my goodness, I have to stop and help”.

I learned the girls’ names were Elizabeth and Ella. As I was assessing Elizabeth, she told me she couldn’t move her arm.  “Ahh, I said, I bet you broke your collar bone.”  I stayed with the girls while we waited for her mother.  Through the confusion of how to get the girls and bikes home, my name and phone number was given.  A few days later, Elizabeth’s mother called me to thank me again for helping the girls and gave me an update on her daughter.  She indeed had a broken collar bone.  Then she said, “Caren, your name sounded familiar to me.  I know your sister-in-law and we prayed for you and John.”

This statement stopped me in my tracks.  You see I was still in the middle of grieving the loss of my husband a couple of years earlier.  I doubted if God even existed or that he is who he says he is.  I considered myself a mature Christian prior to my husband’s illness, but here I was on the edge of walking away from God and faith.

What are the chances of a helping a complete stranger and it turns out they prayed for me?  What is the lesson here?  What are you trying to tell me?

Finding my way back to the Lord has been a long journey.  In a nutshell, my bike story showed I was not abandoned by God as I previously thought.   I discovered God’s abounding love in a way I have never experienced before.  He offered his grace to me and I accepted it.   That was the key…

I think of all the people that have walked away from God because he didn’t meet their expectations.   He didn’t do what they wanted.  Or maybe the church failed?  The Bible says our pain is not wasted.  That is my hope, and I pray God would use me to help someone see Him when they thought they were abandoned.