THOUGH THE MOUNTAINS FALL INTO THE SEA

a-mighty-fortress1Psalm 46 not only inspired Be Still My Soul, but, amazingly, Martin Luther’s A Mighty Fortress is Our God, a song all about spiritual warfare. Martin Luther would often say to his melancholy and frightened friend, Philip Melanchthon, “Come Philip, let us sing the forty-sixth.” They certainly faced a frightening battle, but because of their trust in God, were used by Him to lead the Reformation. Thank God.

Shortly after Steve’s diagnosis, our daughter Sally told him she wanted to sing a hymn for him in church that Sunday. He requested A Mighty Fortress, for God had told him to fight. (We didn’t understand what our true battle was yet, but we did know we were in a battle.)

What happened that Sunday I will never forget. This is from The God of All Comfort.

Sunday, August 17th

Two weeks after Steve’s diagnosis

Sally sang “A Mighty Fortress” in church this morning. Annie and Beth on one side of Steve, pressed into him, and me on the other, John in the pew behind him with his hand on Steve’s shoulder. Sally sang it as a fighting song — I’d never heard it sung that way — I don’t think I’d really understood it before. I’ve heard it sung majestically, but never with righteous anger. Yet, it seemed so right. It is a call to battle against Satan and all the spiritual workers of darkness.  Sally kept shaking her fist at Satan, at “the prince of darkness grim,” at the one “armed with cruel hate,” at the one who must not “this battle win.” Each verse grew stronger, and our hearts found courage for the fight ahead.

But when Sally got to the phrase “let goods and kindred go, this mortal life also,” she looked at Steve and faltered. It was too much for her, and she stopped, paralyzed with grief. Suddenly — and I will never in all my life forget this — Judy (the pianist) began to sing, then the congregation rose — standing in the gap for us, finishing Sally’s song for her. They are with us.

THE QUESTIONS (Take one or two a day or all at once.)

1.  Take Psalm 46 slowly:

A. What do you learn about life and about God from verses 1-3?

B. What is “the city of our Lord?” Who is she, and what do you learn about her from verses 4-6?

C. (Challenge question!) Why do you think that in this context God is called “The God of Jacob?” What lie does this title defeat?

2. Comment on the above story in this post from The God of All Comfort? What application do you see for your life?

3. Do some research on Luther, the battle he had, his friend Philip, the writing of A Mighty Fortress and share what you learn.

4. Tell us about your favorite renditions of this song.

5. Memorize the first verse of A Mighty Fortress and as you do, what do you learn about our enemy? About our God?

6. Memorize the second verse of A Mighty Fortress and as you do, what do you learn about yourself? What does “Lord Sabboath” mean?

7. How does this meet you where you are right now?

You can find more help for these questions in the studyguide The God of All Comfort, but you can also find answers in other ways. We have an amazing group. We are in a battle against the enemy, but we are definitely in it together. Let us pray for one another as we begin this part of the study, for we need one another’s prayers.

Lord, I thank You for the women you have called to this study, and who are diligently pressing into You. I see You transforming their lives and their lives rippling out to transform others. Protect us, put a shield around us, and remind us continually of your great love, for the enemy wants us to believe you do not love us. I ask this in Jesus name.




COMMENTS (101) Post a New Comment ↓
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I would like to humbly ask if I may join in with you all again. I am having a hard time spiritually. I don’t really know what is wrong but I realize that this is not the time to try to do something on my own.

    ARE YOU KIDDING?
    WELCOME WELCOME WELCOME!
    AND WE WILL ALL PRAY FOR A BREAK-THROUGH.

    LOVE TO YOU ANNE

      Reply

      Thanks Dee. You bless me so much.

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1. Psalm 46 a. what do you learn about life and about God in v. 1-3?
God is our refuge and our strength, our helper who is ALWAYS found in times of trouble. Even when the earth trembles and the mountains fall into the depths of the sea, we will not be afraid. Even though the waters foam and roar.

Verse 1 states who God is to us. It says that He is always found in the time of trouble. This is important to me because I realize now that I am actually feeling far from God. No matter how I ‘feel’ He will be there when trouble comes. My question is, if I feel far from God how do I keep from filling my life with idols? How do I stop myself from being drawn to those things that make me feel better? If I can find honest praise and worship Him as much as I can will He be close again? In the past I have fasted and prayed and that would bring Him so close but now that seems to increase the distance…

In verse 2 the earthquake is the real danger. The water foaming and roaring in verse 3 is the intimidation, the emotional factor. We are such emotional beings. I usually do a good job of keeping mine in check but now I find myself stone cold. I find myself praying for strength like I breathe, almost without thought. Maybe I need to pray for vulnerability. Now that is scary. I don’t know how to be that Lord. I know how to work, to do and to be strong.

b. What is the city of our Lord? Who is she, and what do you learn about her in verses 4-6?
It is the holy dwelling place of God. I think it is His people, the church.

We learn that she delights in the streams of His river. I don’t know what the difference between these 2 words is in the original language but I think of the river as too big for me, I need streams that I can splash around in. Maybe when I grow up I can handle the river. I take this as meaning she delights in Him. She will not be toppled and He will help her. The nations will rage, kingdoms will topple and the earth will melt when He lifts His voice but she is protected.

c. Why do you think that in this context God is called the God of Jacob? What lie does this title defeat? I think that all of the benefits declared in these verses are also for Jacob who was a deceiver from when he left home. His mother taught him how to deceive his father and he had already deceived his brother. When Laban tricked him he received some of what he was so skilled at. It defeats the lie that bad things happen to me because I deserve them. Of course I deserve them but because of Gods character I get love and all of the benefits described in these verses.

    Aren’t we all blessed to have you back!
    Great insight on questions.

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    Dear Anne,

    Glad to have you back, and when you posted about how you are feeling far from God, and if you can find honest praise and worship Him will He be close again? In the past you have fasted and prayed and that would bring Him close again, but you said that now that seems to increase the distance between you and God.

    Now I am looking at your last paragraph, about God’s relationship to Jacob the deceiver. It seems to me that God does not shy away from declaring Himself to be the God of Jacob, even though Jacob was an imperfect man. He was still the man whom God changed his name to Israel, the father of the 12 tribes of Israel, the nation! God’s promise to Abraham and his seed – to Isaac, and then to Jacob, and on and on and on until it includes us, too!

    I would encourage you to cease striving to bring God closer to you. When a baby cries for its mother, whether he is hungry, or wet, or wants to be held and comforted, all he does is cry. And she comes. Indeed, that baby is helpless to do anything but simply cry for his needs to be met.

    I believe God is there, He is near, you cannot do anything to draw Him to you; however, He is drawing you to Himself. The very longing you feel to be close to Him is from Him, because I don’t think any of us naturally seek after God; it is His gift to us!

    Think of it this way. You are the daughter of the King. The King spared not His own Son for you. A daughter does not have to merit her father’s affections and love. He just loves her because she is his. Go to your Father! He is right there!
    Praying for you!

      Reply

      Susan, I somehow missed this until now. Thank you for your prayers and precious words. I have lately been wondering if I am depressed. I think actually I am to some degree but when I think of the Lord right in it with me, somehow it is not so bad. This morning I was on the bus to work and I though ‘is this what it means to share in His sufferings’. I don’t want to be foolish and get myself in trouble but I think He will be with me.

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1A. What I learn about life from Psalm 46:1-3: Bad stuff is going to happen, but even when the bad stuff is unimaginably horrible, I don’t need to be afraid (it’s pretty amazing to have a safe refuge during an earthquake when everything around is collapsing). The reason I don’t need to fear is because of God.

What I learn about God from Psalm 46:1-3: He is safe, He is strong (stronger than earthquakes and tsunamis), and He is always present.

1B. My first guess to answer “What is the ‘city of our Lord?’” would have been heaven (because lately, that’s been my answer to most questions). For sure, “city of God” refers to where God dwells (and probably to what He owns,too). I agree with Anne that the city of God is His people/His church (some of whom are in heaven!!). One of the clues is the “she” in the question “Who is she?” because the church is sometimes referred to as “she/her” (bride of Christ). The city of God is peaceful (streams in comparison to roaring water at beginning of chapter) and safe because God is there. This peace and safety within the city of God is occurring in the context of earthquakes and roaring waters outside the city of God.

1C. Jacob relied on his own strength and smarts to “wrestle” with other people in order to get what he wanted. Later, when Jacob was going to meet Esau again, he feared for his life and sought God in prayer. During that time in prayer, “a man” approached Jacob and they wrestled. When that “man” touched Jacob’s thigh and disabled him, Jacob realized he had been wrestling with God and surrendered to God. At this time, Jacob got a new identity; He became Israel.

The title “God of Jacob” defeats the lie of self-sufficiency. Wow — this is so amazing and timely. I can’t fight earthquakes, the consequences of earthquakes, death, grief or any of the bad stuff in my own strength. But the God of Jacob is in control. How often I waste effort trying to figure something out or attempting to “grin and bear it” when the battle has already been won, and I am safe. The God of Jacob is reminding me that I have a new identity, too!

    Reply

    I like the reminder that the battle is already won.

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About Psalm 46:

A. What do you learn about life and about God from verses 1-3?

God is always with us and is ready to protect us when the many uncertain and scary things of life occur. Because of His strength alone (not ours, as God has been impressing on my heart lately) we are not to fear. We are protected within the fortress.

B. What is “the city of our Lord?” Who is she, and what do you learn about her from verses 4-6?

The City of the Lord is where He dwells (v.4). She is full of His help and will not fall because of His protection. As threats appear, God’s voice still provides the ultimate barrier against them.

I will answer more questions later, especially because the research on Luther and the song’s origins seem so interesting. However, it’s getting late tonight! God bless all of you.

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I love reading what you ladies write. You have inspired me, encouraged me, blessed me.

I believe in the “God of Jacob”. To me, that means that God is the God of one so undeserving such as I. His faithfulness is based on His character, not mine. He is the God of Jacob who transforms lives and makes us new. What we receive from His hand is pure grace poured out!

I was recently diagnosed with cancer and have been in and out of the hopital ever since Jan, when this Bible Study was just getting under way and I just really wanted to say thank you ladies – you have blessed my life!

    Fellowsojourner — that’s why you have been missing, and missed you were.
    I’m so sorry about the cancer diagnosis.

    Lord, I lift up Fellowsojourner, ask for Your healing hand on her, and for wisdom for doctors. Please sustain her and be her Mighty Fortress.
    In Jesus Name

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    Dearest Jesus,
    I lift to you my sister, Fellowsojourner and ask that your presence comfort her and bring her the peace that only you can give. I pray a prayer of agreement for her healing.

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    Praying for you, too, “God, be Fellowsojourner’s refuge and strength, a very present help in her time of trouble. Protect her mind from fear. Give her strength, and we also pray for healing”.

Each of you are looking deeply at the verses and bringing forth beautiful insights. Thank you!

Let’s pray over Anne’s questions, about the distance she feels, despite prayer and fasting, from God. “How” she asks, “can she resist turning to idols when God seems far?” I know often food seems such a faster fix than waiting on God — but a deceptive one, as all idols are.

Pray — we’re talking about the most important things here — and share as the Spirit leads.

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Good Morning Sisters!

Dee before I post my answer to 1A,I want to thank you for the in- depth questions. I have been on sabbatical from teaching at church since September 2008. It has been for my good, I know, because the Lord knew I would need time to heal from my hurt. It’s hard, frustrating and humbling to sit under the leadership of another teacher. I have to control my urge to ‘take over’. The past few weeks I feel as if I’m preparing ‘to teach’ each week. My mental capability has greatly improved with this study. I am finding I have the mental strength to process much at one time.

What do you learn about life and about God from verses 1-3?

Life if full of upheaval. Upheaval is defined as a sudden, violent disruption or upset. As I have learned, life is not a dream. IT IS REALITY.

The Hebrew name for God in verse 1 is EL. EL means the Strong One. Translated 250x in the OT. EL is frequently used in circumstances which especially indicate the great power of God.

Therefore, as EL, God is our refuge-a shelter; a place of hope and trust. As our strength, God is our security and praise. We gain the strength needed to face our trials when we PRAISE God-whether we feel like it or not.

I will sing to the LORD (Eternal One) as long as I live;
I will sing praise to my God (Strong One) while I have my being. Psalm 104:33

‘a very present help in trouble’

Here EL is JEHOVAH-SHAMMAH which means The Lord is There. I have been reading Herbert Lockyer’s ‘All the Divine Names and Titles in the Bible. Here is what he says about JEHOVAH-SHAMMAH:

“Further, what strength we have for the trials of life as we remember that as we pass through the rivers and walk in the fire we have His promise, “I will be with thee” (Isaiah 43:2). Has not Jehovah promised to be in the midst of His own, even amid all the turbulent forces that may surround them? He is there, a very present help in trouble (Psalm 46). Then there is the added declaration, “He hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee” (Hebrews 13:5). Do you know that this is the only portion of Scripture you can read backwards and it means the same-”Thee forsake, nor thee leave never will I”? What a gracious JEHOVAH-SHAMMAH He is!”

Anne I,too, struggle with returning to idols. I made the following sign and placed on my refrigerator. I also apply these words when I want to run to tv.

ARE YOU
STRESSED
DISCOURAGED
TIRED
LONELY
AFRAID?

TAMMY WHT’S INSIDE OF HERE CANNOT HELP YOU. RUN TO THE WELL OF LIVING WATER AND DRINK. OPEN THE BREADBOX WHICH CONTAINS THE BREAD OF LIFE. THERE YOU CAN FEAST AND BE SATISFIED.

Anne I also recommend reading March 10 entry in ‘Streams in the Desert’. It pertains to sensing the presence of God. Amazing how God is using each of us to help one another on the journey.

    Reply

    Thanks Tammy. Is that a devotional? I will look for it on line.

    I like the sign on the refrigerator. What a great reminder.

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I just wanted you ladies to know that you all bless me greatly. God is so good and sweet to provide such a means as this to be an encouragement to each other and to bear the burdens of each other. I am so grateful. Though I’m not presently in this study, I read your comments and they are so meaningful. Anne, sometimes I find that simply resting in Him is enough. I have to quit trying and allow Him to do. It is my nature to try to fix, but that isn’t what God requires. Lately one verse that stands out to me is Micah 6:8. Thank you, Dee, for you exhortation to study, and to each of you for your help.

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    Thanks Deidra. You read me right for sure. I just want to fix it and move on. Iv’e be doing it for years.

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Welcome back Anne,
You asked the question: If I I can find honest praise and worship him as much as I can, will he be close again? The Word promises if you draw near to God he will draw near to you. Sometimes I remind myself that he is near whether I feel him or not. He inhabits the praise of his people so by faith, whether you feel him or not, draw near with praise. God wants his children to stand on the promises of his Word.
As to the question of turning to idols I can only suggest what I am learning after years of trial and error. I put the praise music on, fall on my knees and cry out for divine assistance. I remind myself that God’s pleasure and presence far outweigh the limited pleasure of chocolate. Sometimes I even have to call a friend, go for a walk or pick up my Bible. A favorite scripture of mine is: He will enable me to do what he has called me to do and in this context God will enable me to run to him instead of an idol. I say this scripture out loud so the demons know I mean business.

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sorry, ladies, a busy, busy work week! I’ve been listening to this version. Hope it blesses you also:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z9AoELpPryk&feature=related

Anne, I’m so glad you’re in this study! Seems to me that God knows that this powerful hymn and Psalm 46 is just what you need at this time. Don’t dispair. God never changes! I’m praying for you!

    Reply

    Thanks so much Marlys for your prayers and encouragement.

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I struggle a lot with trying to fill my life with things that I mistakenly think can “fill the hole” when I feel far from God.

I keep reminding myself that Christ is way above my feelings. In my mind I imagine a great mass of storm clouds, which are my feelings, doubts and naggy thoughts that keep telling me I’ll offend God or turn away from Him if I don’t do everything ‘perfectly’ — then I imagine Christ Himself so far above the clouds, which do not ever truly block Him out. I remind myself to look up and see the One Who does not change, and, in the words of a dear friend, only requires me to love Him and His people. Not perfection. Just faith.

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What do you learn about life and about God from verses 1-3?

In this life there is trouble, the earth may give way and the mountains may fall into the sea. Suffering and trials can roar and foam all around us like a raging sea. It can all change in an instant.

God is our refuge and strength. One translation states for “a very present help in trouble” – “(God is) abundantly available for help in tight places”.
He is where I am safe and where I can be unafraid.

What is the city of our Lord” and who is she, and what do you learn about her from verses 4-6?

The city of God is the holy place where the Most High dwells. God lives there. God is within her. She will never fall.

I looked up one cross reference for “city of God” and it was Revelation 3:12:

…and the name of the city of My God, the new Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from My God…

So I wonder if perhaps it is the new Jerusalem talked about in Revelation, where God will dwell with His people.

Commenting on some of your good thoughts — but I am a “fellow sojourner” as well, and need you. Together we help each other see.

I think Susan’s reference to Rev 3:12 is helpful — it is a mixed metaphor in Revelation — a city dressed like a bride! So, yes, I think it is the people of God together forever in the “New Jerusalem” where heaven and earth will join forever. This community has begun now on earth, but will be perfected one day in the “New Jerusalem.”

Many of you had great insight into The God of Jacob — the heart to me seems to be, as you have said, that there really wasn’t anything admirable in Jacob — yet God loved him. Isn’t that the Gospel? Realizing how wicked we are, yet how loved we are.
Tim Keller has some wonderful messages on Jacob — showing how that stairway from heaven came to the deceiver as a picture of the Gospel “seen to the bottom and loved to the sky” — and how often God wrestles us instead of comforts us into transformation.

Anne’s question about experiencing God is huge. I think we know in our hearts that it cannot happen through striving, yet the letting go and letting God and being completely passive doesn’t work either. We are told to draw near to Him.
So what is the answer? I believe beholding Jesus, as we are doing in this blog, is key. For as we see who He is, our hearts are drawn. I think the analogy to a covenant loving marriage is helpful. When you love someone so much, you wouldn’t think of hurting him with unfaithfulness. If you don’t love him, then even if you say, “I won’t be unfaithful, I won’t be unfaithful, I won’t be unfaithful: you will probably be unfaithful! So I think when the Scripture says to draw near, it means to behold Him, to practice His presence through worship, through the fellowship and sharing like we are doing here so that we see who He is — and then cannot help but fall more deeply in love with Him. Then our desire to be unfaithful will lessen. It won’t be gone, because of our depravity — until that day in The New Jerusalem. I love the passage in HOsea where He says he will take the sin out of our lips and hearts.

Tammy — may I say how proud of how you are handling the situation at church. Humility is such an evidence of the life of Christ thriving in you.

You’ve certainly helped me with these first few questions. Feel free to continue with those, commenting on my or one another’s thoughts, or adding new thoughts — or go on to the questions that plunge you into Luther and A Mighty Fortress.

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Wow ladies…great job with those questions…you really helped me out with the God of Jacob especially Renee’s comment of defeating the lie of self-sufficiency. I appreciated Anne’s comment on idols…timely for me and Kim T’s & Tammi’s examples of how they handle the lure of idols in their lives.
So I will answer this question as it seems to fit with how you have ministered to me and others….
2. Comment on the above story in this post from The God of All Comfort?
That is a moment of precious memory in your family’s life and also for your church family. It is true, we have a constant enemy, who is determined to destroy. I feel like I have been losing some battles recently. It is a beautiful picture of standing together against the foe.

What application do you see for your life?
The church family is so important. The Lord gives us each other to encourage, to support, to exhort. It is hard to be an isolated soldier. For a few years I have been out of a close local church and going to a church, too far away but to be Sunday am’s only. My heart has been yearning for that closer contact with the local body and the Lord is in the process of giving that back to me. Thank you Lord.
I can also add, my internet sisters/soldiers. You have ministered to me greatly this day. Lord, help me to follow these good examples regarding idols. Blessings, dear sisters. lynn

    Thank you, Lynn — for these encouraging words. Will pray too for a local body. Love to you.

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Lynn, what you just said about needing to be nearer to some believers made me think of and organization called Moms In Touch. It is an organization that facilitates groups of mothers to pray for their children and the schools they are in. Each group is school based but does not meet in public schools. These groups have brought some of the best Christian fellowship that I have ever experienced and what I know about prayer I learned there. I have found it to be an organization very anointed by the Holy Spirit. You can look them up online to find out more and if there is a group in your child’s school.

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2.Comment on the above story and how it applies to my life. This is such a beautiful story. There is so much that is remarkable starting with Steve’s request for it followed by Sally’s delivery in just the spirit that Steve saw in it. Has there ever been such unity displayed in the body of Christ? Yes, I’m sure there has but I have never seen it. What a precious picture of the church as Christ’s body. One family in unbelievable pain and the rest run to support them. The part that stands out the most to me is Dee’s last sentence-They are with us. How beautiful is the body of Christ.

Application for my life is that I can’t be a part if I am not connected.

    You made me weep in a good way this morning, dear Anne.

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      Dee, I am so sorry for your loss and all that you and your family have been through. You have blessed us with your willingness to share.

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1a I need to correct myself. EL is not the name of God in Ps 46. It is ELOHIM-the one worshiped and adored.

1b The “Layman’s Bible Book Commentary” states that the city of God is Jerusalem, which had no river like other capitals. The stream which refreshed Jerusalem was the presence of the living God. I like how Tracy put it-where God dwells. The God of Jacob dwells in us. His presence is always with us. His resurrection power is in us. Though ‘the city of the Lord’ (Spurgeon sees it as the church) is surrounded by great enemies (the world, the flesh, the devil), she will not be overtaken. God always comes right on time to save her.
“We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair. We are hunted down, but never abandonded by God. We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed. Through suffering, our bodies continue to share in the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus may also be seen in our bodies. 2 Corinthians 4:8-10 NLT

1c “The God of Jacob”

God waited 20 yrs for Jacob to fully surrender to Him. After an all night wrestling match God changed Jacob’s name to Israel-God’s Prince. The man who once cheated his brother, deceived his blind father, and outwitted an unscrupulous uncle would become the father of the 12 tribes of Israel. You know, after wrestling with God, Jacob walked with a limp the rest of his life. With each step Jacob took toward his future, he was reminded that he had seen God and and would never be the same. So, who is “The God of Jacob”? He is the God who is patient with us. (Tammy’s theology) The God of Jacob will always defend and take care of His people.

The lie defeated is the one the enemy loves to taunt us with. ‘God does not care’.

2. My impression of Sally is that she is full of courage. She wanted to honor her Dad and glorify God. What an appropriate song. What a testimony to a loving congregation. I had never really paid attention the words myself until I heard it sung by Amy on the Midday program awhile back. I have been on the receiving end of the ‘cruel hate of the enemy’ and I understand Sally’s shaking of the fist at our unseen foe. I think the application for my life is to remember I fight spiritual warfare in victory not for victory.

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http://worldwidefreeresources.com/upload/CH320_T_04.pdf

I did some research on Martin Luther, Philip and the writing of “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God” and found that Luther was struggling with physical illness, depression and spiritual rebellion. He spent several weeks in this misery when prayers on his behalf helped him through and he decided to write a hymn. He had spent time in a fortress translating the New Testament into German and felt spiritual attack. The symbolism of the fortress undoubtedly influenced the way in which he pictured God’s protection.

I looked quite a while and didn’t find much… is there more to it than this?

    Good work Tracy –
    Renae is sort of our internet expert –
    Renae, or others, can you lead us to some trustworthy websites?

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I am enjoying the book SO much, Dee, I know Dr. Brestin would smile down on us and take joy in knowing how many are being helped because of it. It is your best work. Two items that struck me as I was reading: 1)It was not satan who first brought up Job’s name, but God. 2)When we refuse to let go in the midst of suffering, we reveal a heart that can accept the mystery of suffering. We reveal a heart that shows great love and respect for God, and bows to him in trust. Until now I have never seen suffering as a mystery but that is so good, somehow it takes the pressure off of us humans. I too love the picture of the body of Christ finishing the song for Sally. I was blessed to be a part of the multitude that fasted and prayed for healing. I only met Dr. Brestin once and he struck me as gentle and contented.

    Thanks so much, Kim. I love love love any comments about Steve.
    And thanks too for the warm comments about the book. I appreciate this note!

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I have been researching for two days. Here are the sites I liked best.

german-history.suite101.com/article.cfm/martin_luthers_greatest_hymn

I found a google book.(digitalized version)
THE LIFE OF MARTIN LUTHER, THE GERMAN REFORMER
HEINRICH GELZER
GUSTAV FERDINAND LEOPOLD KONIG
written in 1855

refromationsa.org/articles/Luthers%20practical%20program.htm
site is located in South Africa. This particular article is about Luther’s view of prayer.

sacreddestinations.com/germany/wittenburg-lutherhalle.htm
pictures of Luther’s home and birthplace

google Philip’s name and you will find much on him.

After studying Luther for 2 days I have come to the conclusion that the most important ministry in Luther’s eyes was prayer. Prayer was his consuming passion.
Luther birthed the Protestant Reformation on October 31, 1517-the Fourth of July for Protestants. He was condemned for his heresy against the Catholic Church and his refusal to recant. (1521) He was secluded at Wartburg Castle-his ‘Patmos’. There Luther translated the NT into vernacular German so the everyday people could have personal access to the Scriptures. The German dialect Luther used became the written language of all Germany. During Luther’s time, Germany-about the size of Montana-was a confusing collection of over 300 little feudal states.
Luther married former nun Katharine von Bora on June 13, 1525. He was not a romantic man. “I am not madly in love, but I cherish her.” She was 15 years his junior. They had six children and two of the children died in childhood. They were married for 21 years. Luther died first and Katie died 4 years later. Her last words were, “I will stick to Christ as a burr to a topcoat.” (Info about Luther marriage is in 25 SURPRISING MARRIAGES WILLIAM J. PETERSEN I wish I could loan to everyone of you-it is a treasure!)
Much has been written about Luther’s battle with Satan. As we say here in the South, ‘it plum wore me out’ reading all I could find. I’m going to sum it up this way: Luther was such a man of prayer because he understood that there is constant opposition from the enemy. By keeping total focus on Christ, Luther gained the peace needed to overcome darkness. As I have learned, biblically, peace does not mean ‘no conflict’, it means ‘living a stable life-not chaotic’. True Christians CAN have internal peace because it is Christ who gives the strength to do so. We, as His sheep, get to ask for His strength. I came across my teaching notes from 2008 recently and found the following statement. ‘The soul (study was on Jacob Gen35) must not rest on miracles but on God’s own Word’ I believe that is what Luther is telling us. In the battle with darkness we MUST walk by FAITH not by sight.
In a conversation with the prince of Wittenburg, the Elector John the Constant, Luther calls Satan “a sorry bitter spirit who cannot bear that the heart of man should rejoice or be at peace (have a non-chaotic life), particularily in the Lord.”
Another Luther quote concerning his unseen foe was made in 1527- the 10th anniversary of 95 theses. One source I read considers this to be the foundational quote for Luther’s Battle Hymn-A Mighty Fortess. “The only comfort against raging Satan is that we have God’s Word to save the soul’s of believers.” If we already have salvation-deliverance-from sin, what salvation is Luther speaking of? What else do we need to be delivered from? I submit we need constant deliverance from despair and despondency. If we focused on the ‘bad stuff’ all the time we would live in a terminal state of depression, which is exactly where the enemy wants us. Satan knows the power of prayer and tries to keep us from it at all times. Satan knows the power praise can give a battered believer. When a believer who has an invisible knife wielding her soul begins to praise Almighty God, Satan knows God will come to the rescue. Satan wants no one to be rescued. The theme of Luther’s hymn is TRUST in God’s protection amidst the battle that Christians wage against the devil.
Luther’s friendship with Philip Melanchthon reminds me of David’s friendship with Jonathan in that there was nothing they would not do for each other. Luther was ‘Paul’. Philip was ‘Timothy’. Let Luther describe Philip Melanchthon, distinguished teacher of the Greek language at Wittenburg, for you: ‘a mere youth in age, figure, and appearance; but a man when one considered the extent of his knowledge.’
In 1522 Luther stated “No commentator has come nearer to the spirit of the Apostle Paul than my Philippus.” Philip assisted Luther with translation of the Bible.
Luther and Melanchthon were day and night in personality. Luther was considerably an extrovert while Melanchthon was of a delicate nature. I learned that Philip could not mentally handle the strife of the day. (Can you imagine the arguments and debates over Luther’s ‘true’ doctrine? Not much as changed in that area since Luther’s days.)
Philip fell physically ill from all the mental battling. He was perfectly content to die and go to heaven. He didn’t mind leaving all the strife of life behind. Luther would have none of that line of thinking. Luther interceded for Philip as he lay close to death. He told Philip, “No, no, Philip, thou must serve the Lord our God still further!” (kinda what Steve told Dee when she wanted to go with her beloved.) Philip recovered by “divine power”. Their friendship lasted 28 yrs.
I have much to thank Luther for when I attend corporate worship on Sundays. He instituted singing in worship. He loved singing. Luther’s favorite NT book was Galatians for it was Paul’s epistle that taught him ‘salvation is by faith alone’-sola fide. Luther could not stand James epistle. He found it ‘dry as straw’. I love James for he tells it like it is.
I have learned that Luther had a tender heart when it came to ministering to women. He wrote hundreds of pamphlets. One was exclusively for women: “Comfort for Women Who Have Had a Miscarriage, 1542″. Luther understood the sorrow of losing a child. When his beloved daughter Magdalen died, Luther stated, “Indeed I rejoice in the spirit, but sorrow in the flesh; the flesh will not submit: parting grieves us beyond all measure.” Let’s remember these words as we comfort those who mourn the death of loved ones.
Martin Luther’s last word spoken on this planet was ‘YES’. He had been asked “Reverend Father, shall you die faithful to Christ and the doctrine you preached.” Luther died on Feburary 18, 1546 at the age of 62. May we all live faithful to Christ until our last day.

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    I misspelled reformation. website is reformationsa.org…

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    thank you Tammy for your time and effort…blessings,lynn

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    Great info, Tammy, and very interesting reading! I like your style of digging in :)

    Wow, Tammy, this is great. I loved Luther’s description of Satan — and the emphasis on prayer. So good. Thanks so much.

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I’m out of town right now; I did save some interesting stuff about Luther and Melanchton on my computer at home. I read what I did rather quickly and a few days ago. I also have Lutheranism in my Scandinavian DNA :) ; I’ll combine what I remember from the past as well as recent readings. If I have the order or facts mixed up, I’ll fix later!

What struck me during my recent reading was the breadth and depth of knowledge of both of these men. They both were brilliant, but apparently had quite different personalities. Whereas it would be an understatement to refer to Luther as bold (he seemed to be a fighter who didn’t care about others’ opinions of him!), Melanchton was more timid, a peacemaker who maybe compromised even when he shouldn’t have. Luther was a monk, who had big concerns about the Roman church. In particular, he was against the selling of indulgences (artifacts or so-called artifacts such as wooden pieces of the cross) to release people from purgatory). He also believed that Germans shouldn’t have to pay for the building of a cathedral in Rome (sounds similar to U.S. history). Melanchton was an academic theologian who came to a more evangelical understanding of salvation under Luther’s influence.

Luther is known for starting the Reformation with the posting his 95 Theses on the church door at Wittenberg. I always thought that pounding something on a church door was kind of amusing, and had kind of a commic book understanding of that event. However, through reading this week, I learned that posting disputes on the church door was common practice.

Luther caused a lot of commotion and wouldn’t retract what he wrote. At the “Diet of Worms” (a meeting at which I think Luther was brought up for “trial”), he was kicked out of the church. Also, it became okay to legally kill him. Then when Luther’s life was in danger, he was captured by the good guys and taken to a castle (for a long time). When he was in the castle, he translated the New Testament (?) into German in a short period of time. He also wrote “A Mighty Fortress” during that time. (interesting that he was physically safe within a fortress when he wrote). Luther’s ultimate safety was in God — and he was known for his battles with Satan, including throwing an inkwell at and yelling at Satan.

Reports on the Internet about the writing/singing of a Mighty Fortress varied. One site indicated that he sang it at the Diet of Worms (I guess he could have sung at the Diet of Worms before putting it on paper later, but other sites indicated that he wrote it when he was exiled in the castle). Luther wrote both the words and the melody for A Mighty Fortress.

One site indicated that in Luther’s time the melody was more rhythmic. I had no idea what a “bulwark” was (even MANY years of singing the hymn and even after reading about Luther and the hymn). I decided to look it up after I read a more accurate translation might have been “stronghold.” A bulwark is a defensive wall or structure for protection, but (to me, anyway) a stronghold is MUCH STRONGER.

Luther was all about congregational singing. Prior to him, priests did most of the singing. The Bible wasn’t in the language of the people; further many were illiterate. Thus sacred music was one way for common people to learn Scripture (art also served that purpose during times when most were illiterate). I think Luther and Melanchthon were more intelligent than any one I’ve met. But intelligence certainly doesn’t protect people from attacks of Satan, and some say that most geniuses have streaks of “crazy.”

I’m going to have to do some snooping about how the words “melancholy” and “Melanchton” are related. Melanchton wasn’t born with that last name, but changed it upon reccomendation of his uncle. I didn’t read anything about Luther singing the hymn with Melanchton or about Melanchton’s melancholy nature. However, because he was timid and had a huge task, it’s not surprising that he was prone to discouragement –or that Luther would encourage him to sing in order to internalize Scripture.

I couldn’t find (on YouTube)what I’m thinking of as my favorite version of “A Mighty Fortress.” I like lots of brass (an orchestra is good), a pipe organ, and a choir. I was surprised that the YouTube version I liked best was rock!! (because it had the most spunk).

One of the most interesting documents about Luther was on the website of the C.S. Lewis institute. (will post it when I’m at my “real” computer)

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I appreciate all this great information on Luther and Melanchton. Tammy and Renee spent a lot of time on this. I have been away from home since 8am. What started as a broken down car turned into a blessed day spent with my oldest. I don’t get many of them and I did appreciate this one. The car is fixed and we had a good time talking. One thing that stands out is when I related a conversation with myself about Peeps(which I hate but was tempted to buy because they were so pretty) he said that he has to frequently have the same conversation with himself. I had to smile remembering our Psalm 42. Anyway I feel so much better than I did early this morning (Thank you Lord!).

The other day I was looking for info about Luther and found a movie PBS produced about his life. I read a juvenile biography about him a few years ago. I only watched the first part but it seemed to be accurate. It is an instant watch on Netflix.

    I liked that movie. I also liked the movie Luther that was a Hollywood movie — I thought they were quite faithful and liked how they showed how frightening this all was for him.

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2. Dee, I haven’t posted on this one yet. . . because occasionally (not very often!!), I am “speechless.” Your description of Sally singing “A Mighty Fortress” in church, grieving as she recognized the message of “let goods and kindred go, this mortal life also,” and then the congregation rising and completing the hymn does leave me (almost) wordless. I’m overwhelmed, at least partly because the application for me is so powerful that I either am not quite able or willing to put words to it yet (I have an “inkling,” but am not quite there).

    Thanks so much, dear Renee.
    Sally lived with the Scharfs, our mutual friends, for a summer. I see Greg as part of the answer to Steve’s prayer for God to be a Father to the fatherless.

Dear Ladies…your words have touched my heart and enlightened my mind. Anne, welcome back! Fellowsojourner, I have missed you. I am sad to hear of your diagnosis and pleased that you have the prayer support of this group. I have not had one moment to participate this week. But reading through all your responses tonight has strengthened and blessed me. On Thursday I travelled 4 hours to visit my son in prison. His drug addiction and suicide attempt have led him to what seems to me a new addiction to anti-depression, anti-anxiety drugs. He’s shakey, his hands don’t work real well, he seldom blinks, and is slow to respond. Demons surround him and feel very present in the institution. It is a creepy place. A Mighty Fortress is a good hymn for me right now. Since we have begun talking about demons in this study, I have had two opportunities to share with others on this topic. That has reminded me that God gives us what we need when we need it and prepares us for what is ahead even before we know what is coming. I look forward to catching up and sharing with you again. All of you and this study are in my prayers. Please pray for protection and healing for my son, Chris. Thank you.

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    Praying for protection and healing for your son and praying for you, too.

    Lord, we do lift up Chris, and ask for Your healing hand, Your enlightenment, Your wooing of him. Please send light into that prison.
    And uphold dear Janet too.
    In Jesus Name

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    Lord, I too, just lift up Janet’s son Chris to you father. I pray that he may just cry out to you father, and find in you all that he needs! Thank you Lord.

      Fellowsojourner –
      I have seen how those who have suffered are quick to pray for those who are suffering. Bless you.

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    Lord, may Your light and Your truth shine all the brighter in this very dark place. I pray that You would be so very close to this young man during this time. Help him to remember his deliverance, praise You for it and be lead to further faith. His enemy is defeated and we praise You for that truth. You have delivered this one that he thought was his and for that we rejoice. Lord, we can not even imagine what he is going through there, but I know that the enemy is angered by his defeat. Protect him Lord, overshadow him by Your presence and Your peace, God of all comfort.

      Thank you everyone for your prayers. I spoke with my son last night and he has been assigned to a prison for his 5 year sentence. It is the prison with unique programs in drug rehabilitation and community service. They also have a unit that is a faith community. As sorry as this situation is, God has reached down from on high and rescued Chris from the troubled waters of his powerful drug addiction. He has set him down in a safe place because he delights in him! (Psalm 18:16f) Praise the Lord!

        I am so glad to hear this! Praise God!

        Janet, Thanks so much for sharing this. I’m encouraged by answered prayers. Rejoicing with you!

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Dear ladies, I just want to share with you – how GREAT God has been to me! He has been my mighty fortress, my place of safety, my shelter, my hiding place. Before I even call, He answers. At times, I feel so overwhelmed by His love, that I almost feel like, Lord, stay your hand, it’s too much! I am no one special, just another “fellow sojourner”, testifying to the truth of what He says, “never will I leave you, never will I forsake you.”

I look at Psalm 46, where it speaks of earthquakes, and mountains falling into the sea…but it ends with “The Lord Almighty is with us!”
I thank Him for when all these things happen, we have a place of safety – The Lord Almighty is with us!

    Good Fellowsojourner. Praying for you. May the cancer be gone.
    But if not, I pray for your strength and courage. Love to you.

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I watched the PBS documentary about Martin Luther last night(all except the last 10 minutes). It did not include anything about his family or friendship with Melanchton. It did do a very good job of illustrating how his own inner turmoil over the question of salvation birthed the reformation. He ruined his health in the monastery doing penance and still had no assurance of salvation. It was at this time he was sent to Rome by the church and was appalled at the condition of the church he had devoted his life to and counted on for salvation. Someone in authority over him assigned him to a parish and he began to study scripture(for sermon delivery I think). There he discovered that salvation was a free gift from a loving God and he was set free. I think when he was trying to do penance for salvation he saw God as tyranical and began to hate Him because he could not be free from his guilt no mater what he did.

The posting of his theses on the church door was not an uncommon practice for questions for the papacy. It was the content that so angered the Pope because it exposed him. With the printing press available to him, he was able to publish and gain the support of authorities in Germany(who wanted freedom from Rome anyway). He also published in pictures for the common people and became their champion. It was favor from both that protected his life from the papacy.

The name of the production is Empires:Martin Luther.

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I read that there are many English translations (one site said over 60, another said over 80) of “A Mighty Fortress.” Mat Perkins, the author of the blog at http://northwestanglican.blogspot.com/2009/09/mighty-fortress.html provided a literal translation of the hymn from German to English (without being too concerned about the poetry). I found the minor differences interesting, but also became VERY impressed with Hedge’s (the most common one) translation into English. (e.g., Luther originally wrote “They take the body, Property, honors, child and wife” instead of “let goods and kindred go, This mortal life also.” I like Hedge’s version better for a women’s Bible Study!)

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5. First verse of “A Mighty Fortress” (Hedge’s translation)

A mighty fortress is our God, A bulwark never failing;
Our shelter He, amid the flood Of mortal ills prevailing.
For still our ancient foe Doth seek to work us woe;
His craft and pow’r are great, And, armed with cruel hate,
On earth is not his equal.

What I learn about our enemy:
-He is ancient/old and is very experienced at doing “his job:” that is, harming us. He’s serious about it — hurting us is not some cartoon thing.
-He’s powerful and effective at his task (I had a hard time using the phrase “good at what he does” because Satan is un-good. But there might be a better word than effective, too. The translator on the blog I posted used the word “cunning”).
-He hates us, and no power on earth is as powerful as Satan.

What I learn about God:
He is powerful; He is our protection and shelter. He’s more powerful than Satan; He never fails. And He is willing to help us in all difficulties we face on earth, and there are a flood of difficulties.

This is a good reminder for me not to let curiosity or idolatry or any other reason to lead me away from His shelter. When I stay in the shelter, I am protected.

Dee, I’m glad you asked the question about God AFTER the question about the enemy. Without verse 2, this verse would end on a depressing note.

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6. What I learn about me from the 2nd verse:

It’s pointless to even try to fight the enemy and “mortal ills” in my own strength, energy, or intelligence. If/when I do rely on my own strength, I’m destined for defeat.

Lord Sabaoth

I found the following on Net Bible:

“occurs in (Romans 9:29; James 5:4) but is more familiar through its occurrence in the Sanctus of Te Deum –”Holy, holy, holy, Lord God of Sabaoth.” Sabaoth is the Greek form of the Hebrew word tsebaoth “armies,” and is translated in the Authorized Version of the Old Testament by “Lord of hosts,” “Lord God of hosts.” In the mouth and the mind of an ancient Hebrew, Jehovah-tsebaoth was the leader and commander of the armies of the nation, who “went forth with them” (Psalms 44:9) and led them to certain victory over the worshippers of Baal Chemosh. Molech, Ashtaroth and other false gods.”

Romans 9:29, where the Greek work Sabaoth is used, says “And as Isaiah predicted, ‘If the Lord of hosts had not left survivors to us, we would have fared like Sodom and been made like Gomorrah.’” This example clearly illustrates God’s power both to protect us, as well as to defeat the enemy.

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4. So far I like Steve Green’s rendition the best because he seems to have captured the fighting spirit of the song to some degree http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NRJHKzU_t1M I also liked this one that was piano only with the words of Psalm 46 displayed http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i2fJYTsmXhU

On one site I found this quote from Luther. Music is to be praised as second only to the Word of God because by her all the emotions are swayed. Luther also printed hymnals for congregational singing which had not been done in the Catholic church. The first contained 8 hymns including A Mighty Fortress. This site also gives line by line scripture references from not only Psalm 46 but all over the Bible. http://www.whatsaiththescripture.com/Poetry/A-Mighty-Fortress.html

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    Thanks, Anne. I’m so glad you’re back :)

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    That’s a great site you gave us — I didn’t know about that one
    whatsaiththescripture.com

Such good ponderings and research.
I too love Steve Green’s version best so far from what I’ve heard.
Good research from Renee on Lord Saboath. Our pastor in Nebraska simplified it as “Lord of all the good angels and all the bad angels.” I think that is huge — for God is obviously in charge in Job. Tim Keller says that God only gave Satan enough rope to hang himself.

i’LL POST A NEW POST TOMORROW OR WEDNESDAY — SO THIS IS YOUR TIME TO FINISH UP YOUR CONTEMPLATIONS!

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Qestion #3.

I did a little online research on Martin Luther. My source was http://www.equip.org (The Christian Research Institute).

Luther entered the Augustinian monastery in 1505. The themes of salvation and damnation, central to the culture of the day, concerned him greatly. Luther became aware of the presence of sin in his life and the inability of penance and the sacraments provided by the church to bring relief.

In 1511, Luther was transferred to Wittenberg. His spiritual confessor there was Johannes von Staupitz. Staupitz was aware of the intense spiritual struggles of Luther and he directed him to study scripture. Luther graduated as Doctor of Theology and began teaching theology and biblical studies at Wittenberg in 1513. It was during this time that Luther developed his initial ideas concerning justification by faith.

The decisive role in the formation of Luther’s theology was Paul’s letter to the Romans, particularly Romans 1:16-17. Luther concluded that justification is a gift of God, appropriated by faith. He is quoted as saying, “Night and day I pondered until I saw the connection between the justice of God and the statement that ‘the just shall live by faith’. Then I grasped that the justice of God is that righteousness by which through grace and sheer mercy God justifies us through faith. Thereupon I felt myself to be reborn and to have gone through open doors into paradise.”

Luther’s initial break with Rome began with his challenging the sale of indulgences.

I also recall hearing a sermon on the radio by Erwin Lutzer about Luther’s struggles, and how he would confess (to Staupiz) for hours, only to realize the next day that he had more sin to deal with. He would wear uncomfortable clothing and sleep on the floor to inflice self punishment. It was in the study of Romans that he learned justification comes from God.

Luther did not explain justification in forensic terms to explain how it is imputed to us, rather Philipp Melanchthon, Luther’s systematic theologian, did use legal terminology to describe justification.

I do recall Pastor Lutzer telling a funny story in which Luther’s wife came to the breakfast table dressed all in black, as in mourning. Luther asked her who died? To which she replied “God is dead”, because Luther had been going around acting all depressed and downcast as if God was dead. Supposedly this got him out of his bad mood!

A. Psalm 46:1-3
We will have troubles in our life, even troubles that seem like the whole world is caving in upon us. Even in those times God is our hiding place, our shelter, the bubble around us protecting us from the fallout.

B. Psalm 46:4-6
The river of prayer, like an umbilical cord, connects us to God. Each of us is a stream joining in to the flow. All creation (the City of God, the place where God dwells)is made glad and rejoices as we gather at the river. As I was reflecting on this psalm I began singing “Shall We Gather at the River”, written by Robert Lowry in 1864 and based on Rev 22:1-2 which says: “A pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb.” Holy Spirit river, with all our streams of prayer, flows from earth to heaven, its source the throne of God and of the Lamb, the Church.

When all the world fails, God lifts His voice and the turmoil melts away. All that remains is the river, the prayer, the Holy Spirit flow to the throne. Yes, we shall gather at the river “where all the saints have trod.”

C. The God of Jacob
When Jacob was on his way to his future – the women who would birth the 12 tribes – he laid his head upon a rock to rest. He was given a dream of a ladder reaching from earth to heaven (like the river in the psalm)with angels of God going back and forth between heaven and earth (like the streams of prayer). God renewed His covenant in that vision and reminded Jacob that He was ever-present to him. Jacob responded to this dream by saying, “If God will be with me and will watch over me on this journey I am taking, and will give me food to eat and clothes to wear so that I return safely to my father’s house, then the Lord will be my God and this stone that I have set up as a pillar will be God’s house, and of all that you give me I will give you a tenth.”

The God of Jacob provides. The stone upon which Jacob rested his head became the house of God. Jesus later named Simon, Peter, the rock, and said, “Upon this rock I will build my church and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” (Mt 16:17-18)

The keys to the kingdom of heaven – the throne of God and of the Lamb at the mouth of the flowing river of Holy Spirit prayer – have the power to bind and loose. Those keys were given by the God of Jacob, the Provider.

But, like us, Jacob often forgot that and depended upon his own wiles to make things go his way. It took a wrestling match with God to set him straight. With that, he became Israel, the promise of God. We have that promise also, the promise that God will always be with us. As this psalm repeats, “The Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.”

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    Janet,

    I was so sorry to read about your visit to your son, Chris. It must be heartbreaking for you. I was glad to see that he will be transferred to a place where he can get help for his addiction and where there are Christians. I will be praying for him!

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Question #5. Memorize the first verse of A Mighty Fortress. What do you learn about our enemy? About our God?

Our enemy is:

our ancient foe (he’s been causing trouble from the very beginning)
he seeks to work us woe
Webster defines “woe” as a condition of deep suffering from
misfortune, affliction, or grief.
he is crafty and powerful
his weapon is hate, cruel hate
no one on earth is his equal

BUT our God:

is a mighty fortress
I visited the city of Salzburg in college, and there sits a fortress
on top of a hill, overlooking the city. You can see everything from
up there. God sees everything that is happening.
a bulwark never failing
Webster defines as “a strong support or protection in danger”. I like
the “never failing” part.
He is our Helper Who PREVAILS amid the flood of mortal ills.
I like how Webster defines “prevailing”: having superior force or
influence.

For me, the hardest part is accepting, or believing, that God is, indeed, my Fortress, that He never will fail, that He will prevail, even when the “flood of mortal ills” is still present. I’m having a hard time putting this into words. The idea that if the suffering or troubles are removed, or resolved, and all is well and I’m happy, then that means that God is good and He won the battle. But no, even if the suffering and trials and tribulations continue, that doesn’t mean that God is ineffective. He is prevailing even if I may not see the final victory here on earth.

When my nephew died of a drug overdose, all the “facts” seemed to point to the conclusion that the enemy won that battle. That’s how I felt, that satan won. I still battle with feeling that. A book that has helped me tremendously, and maybe there is someone out there whom it would help, too, is “Saving a Life – How We Found Courage When Death Rescued Our Son” written by Charles and Janet Morris.
They write:

“God doesn’t just come in after the fact and clean up the mess. The Bible represents Him as being in absolute control, sovereign over all things, shaping, restraining, allowing events to unfold in a way that always accomplishes His purpose.”

I guess all kinds of things can happen to us, to our bodies, but the real us, our eternal soul, is, in fact, safely at rest in Christ, surrounded by our mighty fortress, our bulwark, and the enemy can NEVER get in there!

    Susan, the quote from the Morris book is a comfort to me today. Thank you. We are beginning to see so much fruit from the mess our son is in and the wreckage he left behind. One of the great fruits is this study. It has brought me back to an awareness of the spiritual warfare happening around and within our family. It has given me a refresher course in the language I need to use with the baby-mamas as their children, our grandchildren, begin to face the issues of what their father has done. Baby-mama #2 has turned to the church and been saved! Her daughter, the child our son had custody of when he was arrested, has been having trouble sleeping. She sees snakes coming out of the computer and bugs all over the wall at night. Things keep moving and coming at her and she can’t sleep. This all began happening to her after a visit with her father last Thursday. Their pastor is coming to the house this morning and I had the words to speak to her about rebuking demons and praying protection. They are both seeking counseling, too. This says to me that the evil one is not happy about what is happening in this family. Thank you all for your continued prayers. God’s will for our family is marching forward! Praise His Holy Name! Thank you, Jesus!

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Question #6. Memorize the second verse, and as you do, what do you learn about yourself?

That is I am into the self-deception of thinking I can live independently of God, or I try to live this life in my own strength and fight the enemy myself, I am going down the tubes. All my striving will be losing. It reminds me of the verse that “Unless the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain who build it”. (Psalm 127:1)

    This is a constant battle, to walk so closely with Him and not be independent. YOu have voiced my battle too. Hit the heart.

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I am in agreement with Steve Green rendition on Youtube being my favorite. I also listened to an organ instrumental and a guitar instrumental. Mahalia Jackson’s voice also gives a special something to the song.

What do I learn about my enemy and my God in verse 1?

I learned that my enemy is ‘on the job’ 24/7. Always looking for that opening in my spiritual armor to shoot an arrow through. The meanest person on the planet is nothing compared to the hatred of our ancient foe.

I learned that my God is my only fortification against my enemy. God is the ONLY fortification I need. His Holy Spirit is my helper bringing to rememberance the scriptures and songs needed to fight the daily warfare.

What do I learn about myself in verse 2?

I learned I need to tell myself that I cannot fight my enemy in my own strength. (Have already walked down that path-I lost). Without Christ as my Lord and Savior the daily battles of life would not even be worth the fight. With Him giving me His strength when I ask for it, I can face whatever the enemy is allowed to send my way.

What does Lord Sabaoth mean?

My answer is dedicated to my sisters who have lost husbands because of death and annulment/divorce.

Yes Lord Sabaoth means Lord of hosts: angelic, stellar, feathered, animal, human, and satanic. In Lockyer’s book I mentioned in an earlier post I have found one more meaning.

Isaiah 54:5 (asv) tells us, “Thy Maker is thy husband; JEHOVAH OF HOSTS (my emphasis) is his name.” Here Isaiah provides a twofold glimpse of our Lord-Sabaoth. First, He is our Maker. Second, He is likewise a Husband. This is a picture of God in His Providential Role Lockyer writes: “Has death (annulment/divorce) taken your dear partner and provider and are heart and home vacant, and children left fatherless? Take courage, sorrowing one, for the Lord offers to fill that dear one’s place with more of His own abiding presence, and be more to you than an earthly husband could be. May you prove Him to be as a husband in your widowhood”. (because of death of spouse or marriage)

How does this meet you where you are right now?

Eighteen months ago when my dead marriage was laid to rest, I thought my ex would move on with his life. That was not to be. He still hopes I will one day change my mind and marry him again. I have told him I cannot marry him because he does not have a relationship with Christ. There have been days when he has just harassed ‘the stew out of me’ but, as I cling to God’s word, I am able to respond with kindness. He recently informed me he knows he should follow God’s ways but he is not going to. He has told me repeatedly that he knows he is on the wide road of destruction but he doesn’t care, he is going to live as he wants. As Luther stated without Christ we would fight a losing battle. But, as I see it, in my situation I’m not losing, I’m gaining strength each time I repay evil with good. I have come to realize, without my interactions with my ex, I would not be learning how to have peace over darkness. I will confess that right after the annulment I wanted God to execute justice for me. It would not have bothered me then if my ex had exited the planet. But as the days passed and I began soaking in God’s truth I began to see that I should desire my ex to experience God’s mercy and not His justice. The most frustrating thing for me now is that I can’t save my ex from an eternity separated from God. Jesus has already done that and the gift of salvation has been rejected. I know only God knows if the opportunties have run out. As for me, I still pray that, as long as there is breath in his body, my ex will bow to the authority of Christ. Luther’s hymn reminds that Jesus is the one who must win. It’s not about me it’s about the light of Christ shining forth through me. No matter what comes my way I can always walk in victory and not defeat.

Janet, before I read your post about Chris I had asked God to send him a spiritual mentor in the prison. I was thrilled to read that he is going to be a better enviroment. Tell him I am praying for him.

    Thank you Tammy. I will tell him.

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    Tammy,
    I am very moved by your sharing. How honest and transparent of you to admit that at first, you wouldn’t have cared if your ex had “exited the planet”. But, how beautiful your testimony of how God changed your heart to desire for him God’s mercy. and especially how in your repaying evil with kindness, you are learning to have peace over darkness. Peace over darkness. Yes, yes, yes. Instead of the darkness invading your heart and bringing hatred, bitterness, unforgiveness, or despair.

    It moves me because when my sister divorced her husband, who was an alcoholic and drug addict, it was bitter and nasty. True, his behavior had done alot of damage; I’m not saying he was not responsible for the hurt he caused her and their children. But, I wonder if that was part of the despair that turned my nephew to drugs. Because there was all of this open hatred and name calling and even when my brother in law died, the hatred continued; the “I’m glad he’s dead” attitude.

    I think it made it hard for my nephew to find the support he needed to grieve for his dad. I had witnessed his dad’s baptism at church, and had seen a humble man admit his addictions in front of hundreds of people. I believe he was saved and while he had a long way to go, he was trying, with God’s help, to fight his addictions before he died. He died less than two weeks after being baptized. I tried to tell my nephew what I had seen and heard, to give him something good to hold onto about his dad. But others in our family tried to tear that down, saying that he had lied in front of the church and that he was still drinking and using drugs. But I was there. I know what I saw and heard. I think my nephew must have been so torn inside. Some in our family felt that once his dad was gone, there would now be “closure” for his children.
    I don’t believe that. Only God’s love and forgiveness and mercy can bring closure, when you come to the place where you release the person who has so deeply hurt you to God, and He keeps then that darkness from moving into your heart. My nephew had no peace from the darkness.

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Tammy, I’m sorry for all you have gone through with your ex husband. Divorce is bad enough but then when he keeps coming back…it must be hard for the wounds to heal. But God is so faithful as you have just said. He is the perfect husband.

I think questions 5 and 6 have been so well covered. I don’t have anything else to add so I will move on to #7.

7. How does this meet me where I am now? There are some things going on with my oldest today. I think he is having anxiety issues. I am sure that most of the reason is that he is far from God and because he is filling his mind with garbage. I know because I see what he watches on Netflix. On my way home from work tonight, when I was tired, I began to despair of his ever coming back to the Lord. But God, being rich in mercy… I remembered that I can’t win this battle, but God can and he will as I see at the end of the 2nd verse. This is the battle in my life right now that these verses speak of to my heart. They are so timely and uplifting for me right now. As for him, I think the hounds of heaven are on his heels.

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Another thing that I just thought of Tammy. If he really wants you back he may come to the Lord and that would be great. He will probably be a new person because of the presence of the Holy Spirit. My experience has been that without being faithful to grow and being discipled it can be a short road back to the way he was before. My pastor once said that he rejoices when people come to salvation but when he really rejoices is if in 5 years they are growing the Lord.

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I’m still trying to find that “perfect” version of A Mighty Fortress (I searched in German too) and haven’t found exactly what’s going through my brain. I did like this one http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FDeqlFLsv_c from the 2nd Chapter of Acts (even if it dates me).

Some of the others I liked were by Placido Domingo — and a sample by Phil Driscoll at amazon.com. I thought a military band/orchestra might have something, but haven’t found one yet. Will keep looking :)

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I’ve been to EVERY U.S. military band website and now am back on YouTube. I didn’t watch this one until now (quite a bit of church history here): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b4TeJJmQJqU

Enjoy!

    Well — that is certainly a unique presentation of the REformation!
    Only Renee!

    I hope others will watch and comment.

    On a serious note, and I do realize many truths are said in jest, I found myself wondering how today many Christians, non-Catholics and Catholics alike are failing to trust His grace. I know Tim Keller believes that though Christians believe we are saved from the penalty of sin by grace, they don’t understand we are saved from the power of sin by grace.

      Loved the video! I grew up in a union of Catholic/Methodist parents and was raised Methodist. Married a Catholic & didn’t attend church until he became sick. We hooked up with Assemblies of God. After his death, I married an Episcopalian. After 30 years we left the Episcopal Church and last year joined the Evangelical Lutheran Church. In studying for that move, what sold me on Martin Luther was the fact that his protest was an attempt to reform the church, not divide the church.

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      That video was certainly a light-hearted way to start the morning! Definitely unique.
      As an additional thought to your comment on how many Christians don’t understand that grace also has broken the power of sin over us, a wonderful book if written by Chuck Swindoll entitled The Grace Awakening.
      In it, he uses the example of when slavery was abolished legally; however, there were still African slaves living as slaves in the south. They were unaware that they had been set free and continued to live as slaves. And yes, we can continue to live as slaves to sin, not understanding that that chain has been broken.
      For the Christian, sin is our choice. It is not our master.

      I listen to Chuck Swindoll on the radio, and right now he is doing a series called “Getting Through the Tough Stuff” of…. right now it is on Doubt. You can go to the website of insightforliving.org and listen to the programs online if you can’t catch the radio broadcast.
      The one he is doing now on doubt helps me because I often have doubts!

        Sorry – that website is just insight.org.

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    Renee
    I enjoyed the video. Now I have a new song in my brain to think about. One thing about the kindgom of God-creativity abounds!

I’ll post tomorrow. Meanwhile, let’s pray for one another. Susan, Janet, Tammy, and Anne have all shared their battles and I am praying for each of you. Others may wish to share. Let’s pray for one another, for that is the beauty of the body of Christ.

My husband always used to pray for my “quickening” in my writing, and I love people to stand in the gap for me to pray that. I’m preparing my three final God of All Comfort talks for Moody, and also seeking a publisher for a Bible study I have completed, and I need wisdom. I am going away with my daughter Sally for a long weekend to Florida and have looked forward to this all winter. Right now I’m sick and need to be better. There — that’s plenty of little battles for you to pray about. I will pray, right now, for each of you.

And I’ll do a new post tomorrow!

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Dear Heavenly Father,

May You give Dee a fresh quickening, a filling of Your Holy Spirit, and give her the wisdom and insight she needs to prepare to present her God of All Comfort talks for Moody radio. Give her the words to say that will reach those who will listen to those broadcasts.
Help Dee to find the right publisher for her Bible study. And I also pray for You to bring her some much needed rest and refreshment as she goes to Florida with her daughter, Sally. Please make it a really special time for the two of them! Help Dee’s body to strengthen itself and bring healing from sickness.
Thank you for bringing all of us together in this study. May each woman find acceptance, encouragement, love, and hope here, and come to know You better. Thank you for a safe place where we can be honest and share our hearts.

And all of this made possible through Your Son, Jesus.

Amen.

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Thank you Lord, for the faithfulness of these ladies. Thank you Lord that in their trials and “battles” it is you that they call upon. Thank you Lord, that you care about both the big and little things, and we can bring all to you, knowing you care and you answer prayer. Bless all these ladies, I pray Lord, as they have been a blessing to us!

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Renee: I enjoyed that light-hearted look at the Reformation! It IS chock full of info! Have you seen the movie, “Luther?” I found it very informative.

Dee: I humbly join this group of women standing in the gap for you. I pray the Lord will give you strength, rest and wisdom!

Ladies: I feel so honored to be a part of this group. So many of you have been vulnerable in sharing your struggles with the rest of us. I want you to know I pray for you daily.

I don’t always have time to share on here like I would like to. I’m a single grandparent raising 2 teenage boys, I’m a technical writer working full time out of my home office, and I’m helping a small “start-up” church start an Awana program. My main prayer request would be to keep my eyes on the Lord instead of on the “waves” crashing around my ankles.

Keep up the good work, Ladies! And, Dee, keep us posted on how to more effectively pray for you.

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    Marlys, I will pray for you too and for your grandsons. You are so busy and raising 2 boys also. It is great to hear from you when you can. I am reading a good book about raising teens. I so recommend it. It is by Paul David Tripp, “Age of Opportunity”. I ordered it on line from Shepherd Press.

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7. Where this meets me right NNNOWWW:

I’m so thankful for God’s grace — and experience His love and grace in the “big things,” the very painful things in life.

But I’ve tried to do the small stuff, day-to-day tasks in my own strength (and when small stuff is ignored, it becomes big stuff after awhile). My striving has been losing.

God has been gracious to me in my grieving, and He is fixing my thoughts on the eternal. He is Lord of the big stuff. Now, I’m realizing that Lord Sabbaoth also is Lord of daily tasks, the ones that seem to be burying me alive, the ones in which my striving is losing. I don’t think I’ve EVER prayed about some of the mundane, daily tasks. God forgive me for failure to live in your grace for everything.

My initial response is to pray for willingness/strength/discipline to “get stuff done.” But I’m not so sure that’s what God desires; I don’t want to turn to Him merely to complete MY “to-do” list. Please pray that I’ll understand what it means (and be obedient) to honor the Lord and be a good steward of what He has provided.

Marlys, I haven’t seen the “Luther” movie. I think I even have a copy of some movie about Luther (I’ll have to look. I sometimes order movies, but I don’t seem to watch them at my house!). Will check it out.

    Love your ponderings in your next to the last paragraph.

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My dear sisters I thought I would add a few thoughts here…I have been following along each day. I so appreciate you and your sharing! The Lord is using this study to ” warm my heart at the fire of God’s love” as Dee mentioned as we looked at Psalm 3. He has shown me that the feeling of being stuck that I had for a long time was actually about not TRUSTING Him after a series of life events that left me wondering what was next! My own cancer, my dear mom passing away, a dear brother in law tragic fatal motorcycle crash, my husband’s bloot clot,our rear end collison resulting in on going neck and back injuries….I had a lot of anger and frustration although I didn’t realize until our study together here…thats not an easy thing to admit! Slowly I am feeling warm and loved again! The Psalms and songs are quieting my soul and I run to them in the night or whenever satan would try to whisper his lies to me again.. The Words soothe,comfort and heal while He murmurs love to me.
Thank you so much Dee for your wonderful book, your truly heartfelt sharing and this great study with you dear sisters! It has been God sent for me!

I have always loved Psalm 46. Verse 10 “Be still, and know that I am God, I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth”
When my husband and I were first married and in California in the military we went to Sequoia Natl. Park to see the huge trees and mountains. What beauty! It was a dream come true for us to be there and just feel the majesty of His creation. Early one morning we went down to King’s Valley and there is a place I will never forget. It was
so early there were no other cars as we left the higher elevations for the Valley. Morning mists were rising over a river that ran along the road. We finally came to a spot that we could park. We walked over to a small pond and as we approached a small deer heard us and ran off. As I looked up to the peaks of the mountains above us taking in the trees surrounding us ,the quiet stillnes of the water the King kissed me with His words “Be still and know that I am God…Be still ”
What a gift! Our God who created all of this beauty and majesty of our earth, the God of Jacob, our fortress! This Lord Almighty is with us, always! Though the earth quakes and the mountains fall into the sea Be Still and know that I am God…Be still
My prayers for each of you!!!

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    What a beautiful memory. Thanks for sharing it Kris.

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7. How does this meet you where you are right now?

All of the discussion on God as Mighty Fortress is meeting my spiritual and emotional needs in unprecedented ways. I am reminded that God is my strength, I don’t have to be perfect at all even though the naggy thoughts that so often fill my mind and stir the pit of my stomach tell me I must be in order to please God.

I, too, am grieving, but in a different way from a lot of people. Nine years ago I was in college and was doing well by God’s grace, thrilled to be using what He gave me to reach for an exciting future. I lived at home because it was easier to do financially, as a lot of people who live in college towns will do to lighten the load. Part of this reason was my chronic asthma, which has debilitated me in life mainly because my dad had been a smoker all of my life and refused to listen to what doctors or my mother warned regarding my health. I’ve also spent many years being both untreated and undertreated because doctors weren’t sure what medications I should take. In 2001, my dad’s parents passed away within eight months of one another and he began to smoke around me so much, without any apparent regard for how much sicker I was becoming, until I was forced to drop of out of school totally. My mom even quit her job to try to get him to stop smoking, but he continued exposing me to smoke regularly for up to eleven months after she came home from work. By this time I was unable to walk across a room and my emotions spiralled down into complete despair because I could not envision how I would be able to have good enough health to return to college and pursue a normal life.

Now it is nine years later. Although my dad finally stopped smoking in the last six months, the damage to my health is extensive. I get winded walking from the car to the parking lot of a store. I feel guilty because I live at home at 33 and can’t work or go to school. I have been seeing an awesome Christian counselor who is helping me deal emotionally. I’ve suffered from anxiety since I was seven, and it was also very much worsened by the loss of morale in coming home from school. There is emotional abuse and even what my counselor calls brainwashing in my background, mainly that I was a bad person, not good enough, and, in my dad’s eyes “crazy” because I enjoy creativity. My counselor has confirmed over and over that there is NOTHING wrong with me or my mind, creativity is a natural gift of God. She is helping me to gain more confidence than I’ve ever been given opportunity to have in my life.

I’ve been very shy to share what has gone on in the last nine years of my life because too often opinionated but uninformed people have given me one of two unsolicited responses. #1: Asthma can’t do that? There’s got to be more! And/Or #2 Just move out! I was then too shy to do much but get away as quickly as possible, trying not to cry. I wish I’d answered them tactfully but with truth. #1 Yes, asthma CAN do that if aggravated this extensively and #2 since I can’t cross a room or do anything physical, how would I maintain a place of my own? Grocery shopping, vaccuuming, dusting, bed-making and earning rent money on a job don’t do themselves! So I think it’s quite a miracle of courage from God for me to share, which I so rarely do.

I am so blessed by my mom. She is the sweetest, most perseverant person I know who is standing beside me through all of this. I pray that God will bless her head to toe because of what she is doing for me.

My constant worry about offending God is an offshoot of the anxiety and demoralization of being unable to finish college. There I kept busy and felt productive. So focusing on how God is my mighty fortress and that Christ is more than enough for me to please Him because I am washed clean in His blood is helping me bit by bit to focus more on Christ than the anxious feelings. Because I’ve been physically idle for so long I get bolts of adrenaline that can lead to panic as I move, which before this study I’ve interpreted as a sure sign that I was doing something ‘wrong’ or the feeling wouldn’t be there. But now my eyes are focusing on Christ. It’s an ongoing battle but I know Who my victor is!

This study also means so much to me because I’ve been unable to go to church since my health went downhill. I get exhausted easily and only go to my counselling appointments and an occasional store afterward. The story Dee related about Sally singing and the pianist finishing for her when she faltered touched me, but didn’t surprise me because that is my church and I know how the kind the people there are day in and day out. I miss Trinity a lot and can’t wait for the day I can go back.

This is much longer than I intended, for that I apologize. I also must thank all of you for helping me feel safe to express my journey and how much this study means to me.

May Christ bless you all, head to toe, beyond your wildest imaginations.

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    Tracy, Thanks so much for sharing this. May your hope continue to be in Christ.

    I had to take some deep breaths when reading this because I was reminded of when I was unable to hold a job or stay in school because of too many hospitalizations. Please be encouraged that God is faithful, even if decades are miserable, illnesses are exhausting, or medications seem worse than the problems they are treating.

    Lord God, Thank you that you are Tracy’s Mighty Fortress and that you will not fail her. Grant her wisdom and patience regarding her health, and strengthen her body. In Jesus’ Name. Amen

    Tracy, Ignore the following if it’s not helpful :) (more unsolicited advice!) If participating in this blog works okay with your health concerns and you like this style of interaction, you might want to consider exploring online college classes if you’d like to finish your degree (however, the “bad news” is that sometimes online classes cost more than face to face ones). Again, PLEASE ignore if not helpful!!

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      Renee:

      Don’t worry, your advice was certainly not unsolicited! I am thankful for the info regarding online classes. I am actually enrolled in one right now, a one-year accounting certificate. My books are on the way and I am excited to get started! If I hadn’t heard about it before, I would have definitely considered it now. :-)

      In a couple of years I am also going back to the college I attended and will switch my major from education to journalism (a total God-led move) and get done there too.

      The accounting thing gives me something to do right now and will be a great backup plan as accountants are always needed somewhere.

    Tracy — thank you so much for sharing your journey. It has been a hard one and I’m so thankful you are with us, and that your heart is being warmed, and that you are blessed with a good church. You add significantly to our group, sharing the beauty, and I thank God for you.

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Thank you Kris and Tracy for sharing your journey of pain. I will be praying for you. Marlys after I read your post, I wished I could help you with your housekeeping. I clean houses for a living and I have grown to love taking care of others and their homes. That’s when I do all my pondering for the study. You all have inspired me to keep going with the study. I had the thought of taking a break from the next post off-I overdid it with the study of Luther. When I was teaching Sunday School on a regular basis I tremendously enjoyed the preparation through study. Many people can relate to physical injuries but have a hard understanding someone whose mind has been battered. I did not realize how much energy it takes to live until my energy level was completely depleted. Just being able to think and process again is helping me tremendously.
Dee I pray you and Sally will have a wonderful trip in Florida. I have been meaning to tell everybody the daffodils have been in bloom for a couple of weeks now. Spring is just around the corner!!

Lord I thank You for leading all of us to this place of healing. May we never fail to give You all the glory and honor due Your Holy Name. And as always thank You for Dee. Help her to find the right publisher for the new study. Give her physical strength as she prepares to travel. I thank You for hearing my cries for ‘sisters’. May we be faithful to bring each other to Your throne of grace. Thank You for giving each one of us the courage to face the reality of the pain in our lives. You are healing. In the Precious Name of our Redeemer. Amen.

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