Extravaganza City

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It was an average day, like any other, until a pastor nearby me got an idea. “Let’s make a building that we can live in, eat in, drink in, and be self sufficient in.” Eventually, many people got onboard for it, and we decided to enter the building.

The strange thing about this building, however, was that it was so small that we had to be shrunk to fit into it. Once we got into it, everyone was very excited, and very thankful for it. It was like a city contained inside of a building.

Things started getting difficult in the city, so the pastor asked a friend of mine to start working with the project, but she declined, seeing that it was headed in a wrong direction.

The building had a food supply that was a red liquid drink. Everyone thrived on this drink until one day, someone spilled it and it then destroyed the city, spreading like wildfire. Now, it didn’t destroy it entirely, but it was much harder to live in because of that.

We thought about trying to leave the city, but we realized that since we had been shrunk, we were no longer fit for the world outside of the building we were in.

At one point, another pastor came in who would be able to bring us out of the building. Since he accessed the city via USB stick drive, he was able to bring people out. However, no one accepted his invitation.

Eventually, there were only about 3 people getting food/water for the people within the city because the other hundreds of people had lost motivation to get the drink themselves. All they had to do is get out of bed, and put out the bucket each morning to gather the drink that rained down, but so far it was me and two others that did this for everyone in the whole city. 

By this point, the whole city was dark and it was always night. Upon the spilling of the red drink, all had lost motivation to gather food but the 3 of us, and I then woke up.

There are many churches in the US today who are trying to build a self sufficient city of sorts. Many programs, meals often, everyone serving, these are all good things. However, this isn’t the application the dream here.

The red drink, Christ’s sufficient grace through His blood, is dealt with in different ways. Our spiritual food and water is gained and dispersed in a variety of ways and avenues through the church today. As it is written, “So then, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of the body and the blood of the Lord” (1 Corinthians 11:27). If this verse speaks about the physical act of communion, much more will judgment come upon us if we eat and drink of the spiritual grace of God, our spiritual food and drink, through Christ’s blood, in an unworthy manner.

Thus is where it starts. The larger church especially is not able to keep track of everyone in the church, and sin eats it up from the inside out. Paul sends many exhortations to keep track of people in the church. Regarding someone living in sexual immorality he says, “I have decided to hand over such a person to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, in order that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord.”

Eventually, the church gets caught up in numbers above hearts, and it becomes a business, not that it is not a business, but I am speaking regarding the focus of it. Inevitably, there arises sin in the church that cannot be kept track of, being there aren’t enough people keeping others accountable, and it slowly, or quickly, eats away at the church.

Unfortunately, the sad state of many mega churches today is that of this dream I had. It starts out good, with everyone serving, but then people aren’t equipped to go out into the world to live out their faith, neither are they kept track of or held accountably for living by the spirit and not by the flesh. Thus, were they to go out, they would soon be crushed by the outside world.

People are convinced that it is the pastors and those on staff who need to read Scripture, pray, and seek the Lord. They think all they have to do is show up and get fed spiritually, which works to an extent. Christ’s grace and spiritual food/water to us is certainly able to come to us through the church, but not through people feeding it to us. At anytime, Christ’s judgment, through His blood, will also come to various people in the church, may eventually destroy the church. Then no one has anywhere else to go.

In many mega churches, sadly, this is what ends up happening: A bunch of people come to get their spiritual water that the staff has been gathering for them all week, and then don’t do anything with it-they just continue to “lay in bed” spiritually.

People of God, Jesus is calling us to live out our faith and to gather our own spiritual food water. Is it not written in Exodus 16:18, “And when they measured it by the omer, the one who gathered much did not have too much, and the one who gathered little did not have too little. Everyone had gathered just as much as they needed.”

So, if those of the Old Covenant were to gather their own physical food, much more should we be expected, as those who are empowered with a desire for the Lord, by His Holy Spirit, to gather our own spiritual food and water “by the washing with water through the word” (Ephesians 5:26), by communion with God through prayer and worship (John 4:13-14, 23-24), and by doing The Father’s will. As said, “My food,” said Jesus, “is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work” (John 4:34).

Thus, our duty as spiritual food and drink gatherers is this: Read God’s Word, serve Him, pray  to and worship Him.

Upon writing this blog, I can tell the Holy Spirit is leading me into a literal interpretation as well. There are well known churches in the US that people reading this blog know about well, so I would rather not reveal these here. This may be somewhat of a prophesy against and for these churches, but I suppose only time can tell these things. In the dream however, the pastor of the mega church is one I know about, and the pastor who came to save us out of that city is another.

In the same way that the Lord’s judgment on Nineveh was spared upon repentance, so will His judgment be spared today if people repent. So I suppose that “Now that all has been heard, here is the final conclusion: Fear God and obey his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man” (Ecclesiastes 12:13).

People as Cars

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60-55-50-40-30-20-10-0. My poor Subaru came to a dead halt on Jess and my 2nd anniversary date. People as cars? But people are not cars! I can see how they are after this past week.

Just as my car went down from 60-0mph in a minute, so God has had to do with me at various times throughout the week. I’ll be going 60mph down my “life as a highway” mindset and be trying to get done as much as possible, when God slowly takes me down to 0mph.

Why would a gracious, loving God do this you ask? Well, out of gracious love! He knows the truth of His Word, that we must live out “Be still and know that I am God.” (Psalm 46:10). Jesus did this often, withdrawing to pray to the Father despite all the hectic-ness of life being a professional healer and having people constantly following Him (Mark 1:35). He knew the importance of taking time out of His busy schedule for His Heavenly Father.

Unfortunately, most of us get going on our 60mph highway and don’t take time to acknowledge The Lord and be reminded, through prayer and The Word, of who He is and what His attributes are, such as the Creator of everything!

As I came across in our (Jess and my) Proverbs reading yesterday, Solomon speaks through inspiration of the Spirit as such: “In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.”(Proverbs 3:6, NASB)

Now the Hebrew word for “acknowledge” is יָדָע (yadah) and means “know Him”. It includes mental awareness of who God is and the consequential submission to His lordship. So to know Him is to obey Him. Think about it, if you really know the Lord, who He is, what He is like, and acknowledge those truths about Him in all you do, then you will want to be submissive to His ways!

Sadly, at various points in my week, I don’t “know Him” in all I do. If I knew Him in everything I did, then I would always acknowledge His θελεματος (Thelematos: will, desire, and pleasure) for my life above my own selfish one that I think will work out better.

So I took my car into the shop. “Your Subaru will be fixed in a couple hours. It just needs a complete re-learning program installed for how to shift gears.” Strange, I thought it was just transmission fluid. Next thing I know, they called me saying, “That didn’t entirely fix it, but we found a corroded part on the ignition, however, the parts department is closed, so we’ll do it on Tuesday and you’ll be good to go.” Corroded ignition? Sure enough, that didn’t fix it either, though it sure was a good thing to get fixed!

Next up they said, “Well, we washed it and drove it around a bit more, and now it’s doing the same thing as before. It might be something electrical, so we’ll get back to you at the end of the day and maybe have it done by tomorrow, go ahead and keep your spare car for another day.” Wow, they sure are fixing a lot of stuff wrong with my car; but they sure wouldn’t have known about them if they knew the solution by the beginning!

So how are we like cars? Just like my Subaru, the Holy Spirit guides me into a truth of my imperfection and I bring it to the Lord. Not only does He forgive me, He does much more than I expect. It’s like how I went to the ‘Subaru fixers’ and said, “My transmission is going bad!” and they guided me into the truth that it was something entirely different that was having an effect on the transmission. They guided me, and are continuing to, into the truth of the matter and have fixed a lot of other things along the way. They’ve let me know what it was that was wrong, but fixed it for me without charging me any extra.

Really, it’s similar to going to God, in that Jesus cleanses us spiritually through the forgiveness He offers through His death and resurrection. All we need to do is say, “Jesus, I’m a sinner, I’ve messed up. Please heal me and help me to walk in Your ways.” This is another way to say Psalm 139:24, “see if there be any hurtful way in me, and lead me in the everlasting way.” (NASB).

Then, through prayer and His Word, He guides us into what our imperfections are and personally works through our lives through the power of the Holy Spirit to heal us.The Spirit starts a work of bringing God’s Word to our remembrance (John 14:26) and ministers to us in the steps He wants us to take to live for Him as revealed in His glorious Word.

In a way, just as I gave my Subaru over to the ‘Subaru fixers’, we give our lives over to Christ as the first step. Then, we are led into truths (John 16:13) of how to maintain our spiritual lives: Revering God and keeping His commandments. “For this is man’s all.” (Ecclesiastes 12:13).

Keeping God in reverence in our lives, that is, through The Fear of the Lord, which is a gift from the Spirit of God (Isaiah 11:2), is how we will acknowledge Him, and He will in turn, make our paths straight.

Soon, my Subaru’s gadgets will be made straight because I humbly gave it over to the people who knew how to fix it instead of trying to do it on my own. Give your life over to Christ, who knows how to fix you spiritually, He’s the only One who can and the only One who will. Remember the truth of James 4:6: “But He gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”

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Beyond the Ballot

     It was off to the ballots! I headed out at 6:35 and made it to the ballot place at 6:56. 7pm cutoff time. I wasn’t expecting much to go on there beyond filling out a ballot and leaving, but God had more in mind for me beyond the ballot.

Divine appointments and opportunities:
      When I arrived, the first person I noticed was an old friend from high school of mine. I hadn’t seen him for over 4 years and called out to him from the back of the line. This led into a great conversation in which we concluded we should have a sort of reunion with our high school group of guys. This would provide a great opportunity to share my faith in the future.

      The next man I met was a local in Boulder by the name of Bruce. I shared my faith with him and wasn’t surprised when he said he was a believer who went to church nearby. I knew after the fact that he shared to me he was housing some people at his house. In my mind, before I told him about my faith, I was thinking ‘that’s a very Jesus like thing to do.’ We had good conversations about spreading the Gospel and about the Lord’s hand at work.
      During this conversation, a man came up to me asking if he could interview me. “Of course!” I said. I was given the opportunity to share my views and about Jesus through this interview that could possibly be on NPR. Please pray for it to be!
      Directly afterwards, I got the opportunity to start up a conversation with a lady in front of me named Casey. After overhearing the interview, she knew I believed in Jesus, so I got the awesome opportunity to be used by God as a potential small stepping stone in her life to Christ.

      I got to the ballot and, after having registered that morning, discovered my county had changed (oh the joys of moving very often as a college student). I was the last to vote in line, and didn’t get to after about two hours of waiting. I told the lady that I had been given many opportunities while I was there and wasn’t discouraged.

      I left the small mennonite church in Boulder to walk by a bus stop on the way to my car. There was a man named Derek sitting by the bus stop. He looked as a spitting image of a man that I met in the summer not far from there named Richard. A half black man with dreads and a hat on with a backpack-looking like he’s going on a journey. He asked how I was doing and I told him “well, I just got denied to vote”. We got into a deeper conversation and I asked what he believed spiritually. He said he believed many different things, a type of pick and choose religion. He then asked what my beliefs were and I told him (paraphrase) “I believe the only real Truths out there are Jesus and The Bible. When I sold out to Jesus and didn’t just ‘try Him out’ is when I realized that He was Truth and entered into a real relationship with Him beyond religious duties.”(John 14:6, 17:17)
      I then had the opportunity to share the story of how I met Richard not even a block away from there. How while I was on a prayer walk, Jesus told me, through His guiding Spirit, to turn down the narrow, dark path when I could have gone down the sidewalk that had lights all along it. That’s where I ran into Richard and was able to speak Truth into his life during his journey. (John 14:17)
      Please join me in prayer for all these people, that God would draw them to Himself through His Son, Jesus Christ.

Application:
      There’s a lot more to voting then pen to paper, or dropping off the ballot. The voting ballot is very much a place that people are forced into patience and open to conversation. There aren’t many places like that anymore. At the grocery store, you run around, get your stuff, often check it out on your own in self checkout, and leave. There isn’t a lot of social opportunity these days as an adult. Many jobs are ones you can work at independently. You don’t have to wait in line inside a fast food restaurant-you can just go through the drive thru. Even in church, people can be independently there and choose to not talk to anyone-just come right when the service starts and leave.
      This night inspired me: God is a relational God. There’s a lot more beyond the ballot for us to be aware of. God can do more with a conversation than a piece of multiple choice paper. However, don’t get me wrong, I still believe strongly that everyone should vote as if there vote is the one that’s going to shift the majority. Your vote is a gift from God to fulfill Exodus 18:21: “But you should select from all the people able men, God-fearing, trustworthy, and hating bribes.” How much more must we fulfill this today, in our broken nation, in comparison to Israel? We must, people of God, we must.

The Art of Foolish Arguing

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Recently, I have been dealing with arguments all over the place. In my house, in the work force, at school, well, basically everywhere. When I enter an argument it is usually about something completely stupid, and I know that, and assume the other person knows that. (2 Tim 2:22-26). Paul speaks against foolishness and I all too easily fall into it. The problem is, what I say is often misinterpreted and becomes offensive, not the way I intend it to.

When other people are offended by something, it doesn’t effect me and I am often cooped up in myself, I think “if I don’t feel bad afterwards, who cares? They probably don’t either.”

Wrong. “What’s wrong with you Connor?” I have limited and bogged down countless people by my joking ‘opinions’ and it has all been against the kingdom of God. I need to do this for the sake of others’ work for His kingdom, not for myself. Who cares about me? I need to get to the point where I don’t, because in who I am in Christ Jesus, I care about God and becoming the best vessel I can for Him. (John 3:30 “He must increase, I must decrease.”) It’s not the angel and the devil that I’m dealing with, it’s the angel and myself.

In reality, I’m a failure on my own, the only good that I am comes from who I am in Christ Jesus. I need to seek that more. Often, I think I have gotten to a point, then God puts me in my place “you’re not they’re yet.” (See stepping off our pride stool: https://connordefehr.wordpress.com/2013/03/12/stepping-off-our-stool-to-shed-our-old-wineskin-often/ )

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Things for self

That’s what most things have been, for myself. Unfortunately, things that are for myself are worthless. Jesus sought His Father’s will, not His own (John 14:10). He denied His flesh. I know unless I’m being sacrificial, my heart is in the wrong place. See, pleasure is all vanity unless it drives one to do God’s work. But often, it doesn’t and just distracts us from getting fulfillment in God.

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Pleasure to displeasure

For what comes after pleasure but displeasure? The pleasure of man cannot be redone because he seeks more than the previous time. Consider a beautiful view, once you arrive again, it isn’t as beautiful as before, or if it is as beautiful, there will come a time in which it will not be as beautiful and the heart will not find increasing pleasure in it. Even if there is pleasure at all, man will seek progress and will be sad if he doesn’t experience something greater (Ecclesiastes 1:8).

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Song: The Smiths: Bigmouth Strikes Again

This song speaks to my situation perfectly. It’s what I am: a bigmouth. (lyrics are in the video)

Shifting Technology from a Burden to a Tool

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When Jesus said drop everything and follow Me, He said it for good reason (Matthew 19:20-26). Most of us get distracted from seeking the kingdom (Matthew 6:33) because of technology and the fact that we aren’t using it the right way.

Think about a friend who is texting you “How was you’re day?” or “What are you doing?” instead of calling you and figuring out the same answers and more in 2 minutes. Or playing words with friends or video games. If I do it, it’s filling in Jesus time.

I feel much more fulfilled after reading the Bible and talking with God than playing words with friends, surfing fb, or checking email fervently. Think about the amount of time that could be spent getting closer to God if we dropped our reliance of fulfillment from even one of those things: Video games, Words with Friends, Angry Birds, Facebook, etc.

Besides, those things are only fun in the moment. It’s like bacon, it’s good when you eat it, but it makes you feel bad afterwards. Don’t let the devil convince you otherwise (Matthew 16:23). Think about how Jesus diminished Peter’s pride to admonish him and to bring Peter closer to Him. (Mark 14:66-72) Then his mindset completely changed into one that was clothed with humility (1 Peter 5:5-8), now that’s a salad. An eternal one 😉

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It’s not that we can’t have fun, but certain things (ie video games, books, and TV) are meaningless without some kind of community and are just making us more worldly (John 17:14) as we try to relate to those characters and the perception of how they find fulfillment-which is entirely inaccurate (Ecclesiastes 5:10-11). But during a board game or card game, you get to know a lot about real people. Social skills. We need those.

Playing online is all about the game and you are constantly engaged in the game, talking about it, and not talking about life. Besides, most people you will never meet in person.

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Now don’t get me wrong, many things tech-wise should be used for God’s glory, like blogging, Facebook posting, texting, and commenting to encourage and admonish each other to get closer to God (Colossians 1:28). But if we aren’t doing what we do tech-wise for the purpose of glorifying God, there’s really no point. If it’s not bringing us or our friends closer to God, it’s bringing them and us farther away and has therefore become a branch in which we step out on and don’t see God as well. (See https://connordefehr.wordpress.com/2013/03/16/climbing-the-tree-of-life/ )

We must start ‘eating salads’ and start doing the things that seem boring in the moment but fulfill and satisfy us for the rest of the day, in the long run. (see https://connordefehr.wordpress.com/2013/04/04/the-misconception-of-love-salad-bacon/ )

We often find that God blesses those moments and decisions of repentance into joy, though we may be blinded from that joy now or our mind so easily forgets about the joy He has given us before when we trust in Him alone. He wants us to be patient and trust in Him for that joy. (Psalm 40:1-4)

Cheating Heaven

God says yes and no to our prayers. When He answers yes, it isn’t always the yes that we want.

Think about your stomach hurting, you say “God please heal me.” Immediately, your friend comes in the door and says you have to get your appendix out. “No!” you say.

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1. It’s gonna hurt

God always has the best for us in mind, but He never says it’s not going to hurt sometimes. When is the best time that you grew closer to God? Chances are, it’s probably when you realized you were a sinner and allowed God to fill up your life (through prayer, praise, fellowship, and God’s Word) rather than turning to what we as a culture usually use to make us happy (TV, food, shopping, etc)

Many of us think that if it hurts, then it must not be God’s will, but what about all the disciples? Most of them got killed in the name of Jesus, and they were devout followers of Him. Additionally, I think about the consequences of not following God’s will, like with Jonah. He was told to go one way to preach but went the complete opposite way. The consequence? Eaten by a whale. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to be eaten by a whale.

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2. The eternal perspective

We are limiting God’s plan for our lives if we force God to work in an environment that keeps us safe and without pain. Jesus even tells us we will go through pain as disciples of Him(John 16:33). We who are in Christ Jesus are not of this world, but we can’t try and cheat heaven while we’re on earth (John 17:14). We are to bring heaven to earth, not pretend that we’re in heaven on earth (Matthew 6:10). We are to work for Jesus Christ up until death; and if we really believe we’ll be in paradise for eternity, why wouldn’t we do so? (Romans 12:1-2)

I have learned to appreciate moments of pain and sorrow, finding my joy heavenward, in Jesus, and knowing that after this life, I will never experience those feelings again for the rest of eternity; also knowing that God is using these moments to bring me closer to Him. (James 1:2-3)(Hebrews 12:6-11)

This is not to say we can’t have joy in this life. We can! It’s in doing God’s will and growing closer to Him, not longing for the past, because we are growing closer to Jesus more and more each day becoming even greater vessels for His Spirit to work through us. (For more on this aspect, see https://connordefehr.wordpress.com/2013/02/26/god-and-nutrition/ )

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3. Scriptural reference

John 16:33: These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will[a] have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”

John 17:14: 14 I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world.

Romans 12:1-2: I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.

James 1:2-3: My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience.

Hebrews 12:6-11: For whom the Lord loves He chastens,
And scourges every son whom He receives.” Ifyou endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom a father does not chasten? But if you are without chastening, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate and not sons. Furthermore, we have had human fathers who corrected us, and we paid them respect. Shall we not much more readily be in subjection to the Father of spirits and live? 10 For they indeed for a few days chastened us as seemed best to them, but He for our profit, that we may be partakers of His holiness. 11 Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.

Life as a brick wall

Often in the Christian walk, we are told ‘Don’t do this’ but rarely are we told what to do in its place.

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1. Sand vs Concrete

I like to think about it like a brick wall. When you decide to not do something, you’re taking out a brick from your wall, or life. Without replacing that brick with something better, you will undoubtedly fall back into that sin; if you don’t, you will not feel complete.

These bricks that we use on our own are weak ones, made of sand; they’re just filler and don’t have any strength to uphold us. They look good on the outside, but they often get crushed under the weight of other bricks and the sand falls when the wall is nudged. Then we have to replace them.

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2. A brick for a brick

We must seek out the power of Jesus to replace these bricks that we put in our lives with concrete ones that are unshakable.

-Instead of hungering for bacon, we are to hunger for more of God’s Word (John 4:31-34).

-Instead of lusting after women, we are to lust after knowing Jesus more (Matthew 5:28).

-Instead of thirsting for ‘strong drink’ (Proverbs 31:6), we are made to thirst for the living water that Jesus gives (John 4:14).

-Instead of seeking happiness, which is based on happenings, we are to seek the joy that only Christ can give in all circumstances, resting in the fact that while we endure tribulation, Christ has overcome the world (James 1:2-3, John 16:33).

-Instead of longing to hear words of the world, we must long to hear words from the Spirit through others.

-Instead of being caught up in the fantasy of video games, we must get caught up in the fantasy the God has laid out for us in the Bible and in our lives when we’ve dedicated out lives to Him (after all, there’s some crazy stuff that’s gonna happen and that already is happening!).

-Instead of praising idols, like our sports teams, we are to shift our praise to God for what He’s done for us through Jesus (John 4:23)(way better than what our sports teams have done for us!).

-Instead of serving mammon, we are called to serve God (Matthew 6:24, 4:10).

-Instead of seeking our will, we are called to seek His kingdom and His righteousness (Matthew 6:33).

-Instead of idolizing our family, we are to idolize Jesus (Matthew 10:37).

These are only a fraction of the bricks Jesus can provide for us when we accept Him as our Lord and Savior and let Him take control of our lives.

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3. Where do I start?!

Whenever we think about not doing something, we must first seek Jesus; rather than thinking about what not to do, let us think about what we can do through Jesus Christ alone. When we learn to replace the longings in our lives that are in the flesh with Jesus, there’s nothing He can’t do through us (Matthew 17:20-21).*

As we learn about God’s character and what He can do for us, our faith is strengthened as we believe He can be our refuge, comfort, strength, energy, provider, rock, and so much more. I invite you to read through God’s Word, including, but not limited to, many of the Psalms and a Gospel, to learn about all the things God promises He can do/be for us for we who have faith He is able.