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Thursday, January 12, 2012

The Elisha Foundation Winter Retreat 2012

There is something serene and satisfying about the Oregon Coast in the winter. The sheer beauty of the state of Oregon added to the craggy beach where waves cover giant boulders with foam and Haystack Rock juts from the ocean like a surfacing whale making a guest appearance on the beach--paints a breathtaking backdrop.

Nestled on the end of this ocean front town is the Cannon Beach Christian Conference Center; an oasis last week for twelve families struggling with disability.

Justin Reimer, his busy family, and an army of volunteers have also descended on this conference center. It is a beautiful array of the body of Christ lifting up the indispensability of the seemingly weaker members. (1 Corinthians 12:22).

We have gathered and we are on guard; because no matter how much serenity is before us, the enemy is always prowling around us seeking someone or something good to devour.

Such was the case before and throughout the retreat as health problems nearly sidelined me from ministering to these special families with the hope of the gospel. Four weeks prior to the retreat I developed a mysterious and nearly debilitating stomach illness that almost prompted me to call Justin and cancel my trip. Once in Oregon I was desperately dependent on the encouragement of friends, the prayers of the saints and the grace of God.

At the end of day one of the retreat I was so discouraged that I wondered if I could go on. A good friend, and the pastor who taught at the very first TEF retreat our family attended, sent me an email containing a excerpt from John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress where Christian meets Apollyon on God’s Highway.

Accusations are flung by the enemy and an attack ensues in order to prevent Christian from moving forward. In a dramatic battle, Christian overcomes with the armor of God and the Sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

I finished the email comforted by the prayers of the saints and then poured over the scripture for promises and hope. It came the next morning as I awoke strengthened and ready for the fight. God put three very significant passages and three very strong truths in my head and on my heart.

1. 1 Peter 5:8 Satan is like a lion.

2. Revelation 5:5 Jesus is the Lion of Judah.

3. 2 Timothy 4:17 When the real Lion roars, the fake lion flees.

"But the Lord stood by me and strengthened me, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all might hear it. So I was rescued from the lion's mouth."

That morning was the Parent Talk, where we gathered the dads and moms in a room around a fireplace and let them talk about the personal difficulties that come with raising disabled children. It soon became obvious why I had been fighting this spiritual battle.

I listened as fathers wept over their broken children and mothers clung to the hope of certain promises from God’s word. I heard some couples openly admit to struggling marriages while others gave testimony of rescued relationships. I listened to strong confessions of very raw fear and saw evidence of grace from very real sin.

That night I spoke to the families from Mark 9 where Jesus heals a disabled boy with a seizure disorder, possessed by an evil spirit. We talked in depth about spiritual warfare and its role in our families. I told them to run to Jesus with their most desperate scenario and to be aware of spiritual warfare, but focus on the sovereignty of God in all things.

We ended as couples joined together to pray for their children, their families and their marriages.

It was a long, wonderful, and emotionally draining evening. I was weary from battle, but I found peace and strength in the fact that it had been granted to me on behalf of Christ not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for him, (Philippians 1:29). This suffering was the school where I learned to depend more and more on the God who raises the dead. (2 Corinthians 1:9)

The retreat ended on several high notes as more than one family gave testimony of renewed strength from the gospel and a stronger view of God's sovereignty and purpose in their lives.

The Reimer’s have a very special ministry at TEF. It is a beautiful foundation, set in beautiful locations, building beautiful relationships. But the most beautiful aspect of TEF is the focus on the delivery of the gospel to often hopeless and hurting families. And lest we think that all of this beauty means certain safety and comfort, the evil one stands in direct opposition on God’s Highway to keep that gospel from reaching those who need it most. But we have a strong weapon against the enemy.

Martin Luther got it right,

“And though this world, with devils filled, should threaten to undo us,
We will not fear, for God hath willed His truth to triumph through us:
The Prince of Darkness grim, we tremble not for him;
His rage we can endure, for lo, his doom is sure,
One little word shall fell him.”

And so did John Bunyan,

“Now, being refreshed, we resume our journey, keeping a tight grip on our sword.”

(Special thanks to Cassi Jacobs LeTourneau for the photography)