148 posts categorized "Bible Study"

The Book of Esther: The Queen Risks Everything

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Esther, mosaic, Jerusalem-The Church of Hagia Maria Zion-The Dormition Church

For such a time as this…

My friends, we’re moving deeper into the story of Esther where things are moving much faster and starting to heat up in a big way. We left the story with Queen Esther’s life hanging in the balance.

As chapter five opens, Queen Esther has put on her royal robes (put on her best dress) and enters the king’s throne room. We hold our breath and wait. What will her fate be? Yet we know who, I mean WHO, has her back, right? With God behind her, she is destined for victory.

Just as we are, my friends. Often, it’s all in how we look at it. Like Mordecai, we can turn every situation upside down and ask God, “What do you want to do here? What are the possibilities?”

King Xerxes extends his scepter, and she is welcomed in. And not only that. The king offers her whatever she wants, even up to half of his kingdom. My friends, here is where we see God’s heart working in a big way. He has placed Esther in even more favor in her situation, and, amazingly, displays this through the king, her husband.

Do we miss that sometimes? Do we miss how God can work through our spouses and show His extravagant love through them? I know I have. God has had to almost knock me upside the head at times, but when I see it, I am so overwhelmed. It’s unmistakable in its generosity and goodness.

Now, if you’re like me, the first time you read Esther, you probably expected her to reveal everything to the king at that moment, but instead, Esther invites the king and Haman to a banquet she prepares. And if you’re still like me, you probably asked, why is she prolonging this?

Based upon what we see in the beginning of this story with Queen Vashti, I wonder if Esther wanted to reveal who she was to the king without the presence of the king’s nobles, who clearly seemed to have a lot of power and influence over the king. In fact, King Xerxes seems like a puppet at times, allowing the opinions and ideas of those around him to rule his kingdom.

But then, why would she want Haman to attend as well, if that were the case? 

The plot continues to thicken yet again, my friends. Esther continues to withhold her request by asking the king and Haman to join her for another banquet the next day, with the promise to answer the king’s question. 

We can only speculate, but my thoughts here are that she was securing her place once again in the king’s heart and hoping Haman would lower his guard enough to be exposed. After all, she surely knew the place Haman held in the king’s court as his most honored noble. Queen Esther probably wanted to ensure that her favor with the king overruled Haman’s (vss. 5:7, 7:3). 

In the meantime, Haman is doing some plotting of his own. He is so certain of his place with the king and now the queen, he orders gallows to be built for Mordecai to be hung on at the suggestion of his wife and friends. (Note: the NIV translation describes a pole and that Mordecai was to be impaled upon it.)

But as we see in the Joseph’s story, what the enemy means to harm us, God uses for our good. That very night, a sleepless King Xerxes orders the book of memorable deeds to be opened and read to him. And what do you know, the story of Mordecai exposing the plot to kill the king is read!

And the king is reminded that Mordecai was never rewarded for his act. We are now in chapter six with Haman’s plan to have Mordecai killed waiting to be initiated, yet the king has decided to honor that very same man. Talk about a clash of the Persians!

My friends, I find this part of the story somewhat hilarious as Haman walks right into his own trap. Only God could orchestrate this "just" moment. “Just” as Haman is entering the king’s court with full intentions to petition the king for Mordecai's death, the king is calling Haman to consult him about honoring Mordecai.

And Haman’s assumption and expectation to be honored by the king with his own suggestions is turned completely upside down. He winds up the one ordered to lead the very man he hates, Mordecai, around the city wearing the king’s robe and riding the king’s horse, shouting, “This is what is done to the man the king delights to honor.” 

Haman is completely humiliated. I can’t help but wonder how Mordecai felt in all this. I can’t see him sitting on that horse too comfortably and gloating. I suspect he may have been a tad uncomfortable but was wise enough to comply since it was the king’s order to honor him. 

At the end of chapter six, even Haman’s wife and wise men tell him he didn’t stand a chance. They already see his imminent fall when pitted against the Jewish people, which tells us the remnant of Israel already has a reputation of having a God who comes through for them.

And so do we, SUMites. Our God is so faithful. He comes through for us. And in the most unexpected ways! If a people group who didn’t even follow Yaweh have such an expectation, how much more can our expectation be of our God, Who gives us everything. 

And not just half the kingdom, but the entire Kingdom through His Son Jesus…

We’re entering chapter seven and the demise of Haman. At this second banquet, Queen Esther answers the king’s question, “What is your wish?” She asks for her life and reveals she is one of the very people the king has decreed to be killed. At the revelation that Haman, the king’s most valued noble, is the one behind the decree, King Xerxes becomes enraged. 

Could part of the king’s anger be a realization that he so easily gave Haman his ring and authority to make such a decree? Could we question here whether King Xerxes held much authority at this point as he seemed to allow others to make decisions for him? He certainly seems to regain some of this when he orders Hamas to be hanged on the same gallows he built for Mordecai.

Yet by chapter eight, the king has already given his signet ring to Mordecai after Queen Esther explains who he is. This happens before she pleads with him to avert the pending threat against her people. My friends, in my introduction to Esther, one of my bullet points was “the shifting of positions of those in authority and those in leadership.”

I intentionally worded it that way and you may have wondered what the difference was. This is part of what the Holy Spirit “talked” to me about one Sunday afternoon after church. Authority and leadership are not the same. You can have a leader without authority, but someone with authority will lead. He also explained that leadership without authority falls short of God’s plan.

Now here is where this discussion became very interesting. Using Scriptures, the Holy Spirit showed me there are different levels of authority. It is fascinating, my friends. Something I had wondered about in the past but now understand more clearly. This I will share with you soon and the stunning revelation that goes with it. 

In the meantime, share your hearts in the comments. We are nearing the end of Esther’s story and the beginning of another one. What parts of Esther speak to you, my friends? What revelations in this story are taking root and perhaps helping you see your situation in a different light?

Love you!
Dineen

Copyright: zatletic / 123RF Stock Photo

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SUM Books 4


The Book of Esther: Haman's Plot and Mordecai's Plea

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Esther, mosaic, Jerusalem-The Church of Hagia Maria Zion-The Dormition Church

For such a time as this…

SUMites, are you as riveted by this story as I am? The intrigue thickens as we walk into chapter three. Mordecai continues to refuse to bow to Haman or explain why to the other gate officials when asked. These men bring this to Haman's attention to see if it will be tolerated. 

Sound familiar? Everyone watched to see if former Queen Vashti's refusal of the king would be tolerated as well. All eyes are on the king waiting to see precedent set. We see the same mentality today in our own political arenas, my friends. It's like a pack mentality. 

Haman is now alert to Mordecai's ongoing refusal and is enraged. He has learned who Mordecai's people are and decides he the idea of just killing Mordecai isn't enough. He wasn't to eliminate all the Jews. 

There is history in the works here as well, my friends. Haman is described as the son of Hammedatha, the Agagite, in the beginning of chapter three. It's likely this refers to King Agag, king of Amalek. The Amalekites were the ones who attacked the Israelites after they fled Egypt. Exodus 17:16 says, "The Lord will be at war against the Amalekites from generation to generation." 

This history no doubt influence Haman's and Mordecai's view of each, I believe. Bad blood, so to speak, raised it's ugly head and determined destruction was the only answer. In the twelfth year of King Xerxes reign (and Esther's seventh as queen), they (which is unclear who) cast the pur, which means "the lot."

Pur, or lots, were either sticks with markings or stones with symbols that were thrown into a small area and then the result was interpreted. It’s also where the name of the Jewish celebration Purim comes from, which we will discuss more later in this story. 

This is how Haman determined the exact date of the demise of the Jews. Once he did this, he manipulated the king to agree by describing the Jews scattered all over the his provinces as a threat to his reign. Haman even offers the king a large sum of money out of his own wealth to fund the cause. King Xerxes hands over his signet ring, which was used to mark official documents with the official seal and authority of the king, tells him to keep his money and "do with the people as you please." (Esther 3:11)

Then the king's scribes were summoned on the thirteenth day of the first month, and an edict, according to all that Haman commanded, was written to the king's satraps and to the governors over all the provinces and to the officials of all the peoples, to every province in its own script and every people in its own language. It was written in the name of King Ahasuerus and sealed with the king's signet ring. Letters were sent by couriers to all the king's provinces with instruction to destroy, to kill, and to annihilate all Jews, young and old, women and children, in one day, the thirteenth day of the twelfth month, which is the month of Adar, and to plunder their goods. A copy of the document was to be issued as a decree in every province by proclamation to all the peoples to be ready for that day. The couriers went out hurriedly by order of the king, and the decree was issued in Susa the citadel. And the king and Haman sat down to drink, but the city of Susa was thrown into confusion. — Esther 3:12-15 (ESV)

Did you catch that last line? The entire city was thrown into confusion. Clearly this decree baffled the people with its instructions to destroy an entire people group. Can you imagine what those from other nationalities thought? Would they be next? Israel wasn’t the only nation conquered by King Xerxes. 

At the start of chapter four the news sends Mordecai into a traditional expression of grief in the Near East. He dons sackcloth and ashes and walks through the city crying and weeping loudly. And he was not the only one. Jews everywhere were doing the same thing. 

The news deeply distressed Esther, but what could she do? The king still didn’t know she was Jewish—no one did except Mordecai. She sends the eunuch Hathach (how many of these guys does one palace need?) to bring Mordecai proper clothing but he refuses them. My guess is she wanted to protect her cousin from scrutiny and further harm.

Through Hathach, Mordecai gives Esther the full picture, even to the amount of money Haman had offered the king. Speculation says the king’s initial refusal was just customary and that he did accept the money based upon Esther 4:7. But I’m thinking at this point, surely Hathach must know more about Esther’s true heritage as the go between here. In her seven-year-reign, she’s surely surrounded herself with trusted advisors and confidants. 

Now here’s where we find out two interesting details. No one, not even the queen, can go to the king without being summoned. To do so is to risk of death. If the king doesn’t want to talk to you and doesn’t extend his scepter, you are condemned to death (vs. 4:11).

We also find out Esther hasn’t seen the king in a month. They’ve been married now for seven years, remember? Could it be the king was growing tired of her? (Maybe the seven-year-itch existed even then!) How could Queen Esther not wonder if that were the case? It’s no wonder she felt her life could be at risk. 

But Mordecai, as he seems to always do, gives her the full perspective. Even though she is the queen, she is still a Jew and will not escape what is about to happen to her people. In other words, her life was already forfeited as it stood. Yet Mordecai does something genius here, my friends. He turns the perspective on end. 

Instead of declaring death over their lives, he brings a different possibility to the forefront. What if all that had happened to Esther was to bring her to a place to ultimately help her people?

For such a time as this…

And take notice here that neither Esther or Mordecai question the presence of God in this situation. They don’t even doubt His presence. It is assumed God is there, and they will do their part by fasting and praying.

At the end of chapter four we watch Esther rise to the call and tell Mordecai to gather the Jews in Susa to fast and pray for three days. Now she is the one giving the orders to Mordecai, and he is the one obeying. Esther has chosen not only to position herself in the full authority of her place as queen, but to use it to benefit her people. No matter the risk.

SUMites, we’ve talked in the past about how similar our roles are to Esther. She was most definitely mismatched in that she was married to someone who didn’t share her faith. Yet she ultimately held a great place of influence as she put her faith in God to uphold and save her. And ultimately justify her as well. At times we too stand in a precarious place, unsure whether to speak at the risk of losing the favor of our spouse, or to remain silent. But look closely, my friends, and see if there is a Mordecai there, pointing in the right direction. He can be the leading of the Holy Spirit, a timely placed person who speaks truth like a mentor, a circumstance or even a moment that clearly calls us to rise to the place God is calling us to. He speaks to our hearts and says, “Come up here!”

My friends, we see God meet Esther with strength, courage and provision so that she can rise and walk the path she is called to. God has placed her for that such a time as this moment, my friends, just as we are in the lives of our spouses and even more. So much more, SUMites. That’s part of that big revelation that I told you about. We’re almost there. You are going to love it!

Big hugs!
Dineen

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SUM Books 4


The Book of Esther: A New Queen and a Conspiracy

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Esther, mosaic, Jerusalem-The Church of Hagia Maria Zion-The Dormition Church

For such a time as this…

I remember nearly twenty years ago studying the book of Esther and finding myself enamored with this woman of humble means and her willingness to sacrifice her life to save her people. I wondered if I could do such a thing myself. I felt (and still do) very connected the Jewish people and their story. Most likely because my birth father and my grandfather were Jewish. However, my grandfather married a Methodist woman and refused to allow his children to be raised Jewish. 

Interesting how one person's decision can change the entire course of those who come after, isn't it? Vashti chose to refuse the king. Esther chose to risk her life. Mordecai chose to reveal a plot against a king, who would haphazardly follow the council of a wicked man bent on destroying the Jews.

So here we are, my friends, at a pivotal time in Esther's story. Her life story is changed by Vashti's choice and the king's decision to find a new queen. Makes you wonder what her aspirations may have been before this. We can only theorize based upon what we know about the culture of the time. The movie "One Night with the King" is one such venture to imagine a backstory for Esther while staying grounded biblically. (If you haven't seen it yet, plan a movie day!)

Chapter two opens with King Xerxes seemingly in a place of regret. His fury has subsided and he remembers Vashti and what he has decreed about her. Perhaps seeing his regret, his personal attendants rush in to assuage the king's heart. Let's find a new queen for the king!

And this is where the lives of the King Xerxes, Mordecai and Esther begin to intersect. Mordecai (which means "little man" or "worshipper of Mars") was captured under King Nebuchadnezzar’s reign and now holds a position of leadership. He stands outside the gates, most likely as an elder to settle disputes brought to him by respected citizens. In chapter three he is referred to as a royal official. In fact, we are introduced to him before we meet Esther. 

Esther, which means "star," is actually the daughter of Mordecai’s uncle. Perhaps her parents were killed in the invasion by Nebuchadnezzar. However, we only know Mordecai has raised her like his own. Esther is brought to the palace as a candidate for the position of queen and is about to walk into a world of which she probably knows little and become the star of the show, so to speak, though it is her humility and demure nature that begin to win her favor with those she encounters. And we continue to watch the "behind the scenes" workings of God, Who is still unmentioned. Yet from our perspective we clearly see God's hand at work, as good and evil interplay.

Esther pleases the eunuch Hegai (which simply means "eunuch") and wins his favor immediately. He provides a year of beauty treatments, special food and assigns her seven (there it is is again) female attendants selected from the king's palace. God continues to prepare this pivotal time in history to bring Esther into a constant light of favor, ultimately with the king who was more attracted to her than any of the other candidates.

And we see Esther grow in wisdom as well, as she takes with her to the palace only that which Hegai, the eunuch advises her to take. Hegai is clearly strategic in his actions to ensure that Esther will be chosen. And she continues to be obedient to Mordecai's instructions that she keep her nationality a secret.

Again we see more of the author's elusion to God's presence in the seven attendants assigned to Esther, who is brought to King Xerxes in the seventh year of his reign. What's fascinating here, as well, is the time involved in all of this. We tend to read the story and assume it unfolds quickly after Vashti's deposition, but in fact, four years have passed. And Esther sits as queen for five years before the conflict with Haman begins. 

Yet another smaller plot unfolds at the end of chapter two that seems to also be part of God's great "set-up" in this story. Two of the kings eunuchs who protected the king's private quarters have become angry for some reason and are plotting to kill the king. And Mordecai happens to be the one positioned to overhear it from his place at the king's gate. I can't help but wonder what went through Mordecai's mind when he first overheard this plot. Did he consider the implications first?

He gets word to Esther of the plot, who in turn tells the king, giving Mordecai credit as the source. The eunuchs are are hanged and the events are recorded in the book of annals right in the king's presence, yet Mordecai isn't rewarded. I find it interesting how conveniently the king forgets only to be reminded during a sleepless night in chapter six.

The intrigue continues to build, my friends. In the opening to chapter three King Xerxes honors Haman, giving him a seat higher than all the other nobles. Haman isn't even mentioned in the list of those seven nobles mentioned in chapter one, but here he is elevated to the highest position next to the king. What shifts of power have occurred during this six to seven year period of Esther's place as queen? 

As the spotlight shifts to Haman, which means "magnificent," he is revealed to be quite a vain and conniving person. His ego seems to only be fueled by the king's royal officials requirement to bow before him—an order from the king himself.

But Mordecai refused.

And that is where we will leave it for now, SUMites. So much more is coming as this story continues to unfold and culminates to a very unexpected revelation the Holy Spirit showed me. I'm excited to tell you about that...soon. First the pieces must all come into place to build the full picture of what God was doing in the story of Esther and what He is doing in us today. It's astonishing and mind blowing! 

Love you, SUMites!
Dineen

Copyright: zatletic / 123RF Stock Photo

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Share your voice, heart and love in the comments. 

THRIVE in your Spiritually Mismatched Marriage and raise your children to faith. Our books are filled with practical experience and Biblical advice. -click or tap the photo-

SUM Books 4


Chapter One of Esther: The King Divorces Queen Vashti

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Esther, mosaic, Jerusalem-The Church of Hagia Maria Zion-The Dormition Church

For such a time as this...

Hello, my friends! Welcome to part one of our study of Esther! Like many of you who commented on Monday, I love the book of Esther. The more I read and study it, the more I appreciate the complexity and the multiple layers that compose this fascinating story. 

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A little glimpse of my work area as I study Esther.

And that is how I've decided to approach this amazing book of the Bible. We will go chapter by chapter in search of the truths and details of each layer. 

The Layers of Esther

When I look at stories, I tend to look for layers and how they intertwine together. Esther is rich in this kind of structure and symbolism as well. I hope you get as excited as I do when I discover these details. They truly bring the story to life in my mind, and in my heart, my friends.

These layers appear to be:

  • God's work "behind the scenes"
  • The enemy's reaction to God’s work "behind the scenes"
  • The changing and building relationships between the characters
  • The shifting of positions of those in authority and those in leadership
  • The positioning of key people to save the nation of Israel

First, let's ground our story in a relatable timeline. Esther's story begins to unfold about 15 years before Ezra would lead his expedition to Jerusalem. If you've read the books of Ezra and Nehemiah, you're probably already familiar with the poor state of the temple and surrounding walls in Jerusalem and the astonishing way God moved a pagan king (Cyrus) to help the Israelites begin to rebuild it. So basically, the books of Ezra, Nehemiah and Esther are about the restoration of Israel.

So, imagine if you will, that you are a Jew living in one of the 127 provinces ruled by King Xerxes. Your people have been in exile for some time and have settled all over these provinces. Yet you sense things are about to stir and change. You know the prophecies of the Torah and have a tenuous hold on the the promise that one day Yahweh would restore the nation of Israel and return you and your people to Jerusalem. But perhaps you're struggling to imagine how God could accomplish such a thing after the destruction of the past.

Yet right in the midst of your story, another begins to unfold. We're now peeking into the palace of King Xerxes as he closes 180 days of celebrations to display his vast wealth and the glory of his majesty. The palace is full of nobles, officials and the servants doing their bidding. And now, the king is giving a final banquet in the enclosed garden with unlimited food and drink. 

Here's where we find the first hints of God's presence, clues I believe the unknown author of this story included to show that God was always there even though He's not mentioned. We see this in the use of the number seven, which is associated with God and His creation.

  • The king's banquet was to last seven days.
  • The king commands seven specifically named eunuchs to bring Queen Vashti before him.
  • The king consults seven specifically named nobles of Persia and Media, who were considered wise and closest to the king.
  • The confrontation with Vashti occurs on the seventh day of the banquet.

What else can we glean and take not of in this first chapter of Esther's story? The celebration of Purim doesn’t exist yet, as it it a tradition direction birthed out of the events of Esther. We will explore that more as it unfolds toward the end of the book and how it continues to be a key part and celebration for Jews today.

Some speculate that the king’s request for Queen Vashti to present herself before the court may have actually meant she was to appear nude, waring only her crown. However, that is not historically or biblically supported. But it does seem she would have been in a somewhat humiliation position to be on display before men who had been drinking without limit for seven days. Yet surely she knew the risk and felt she needed to still refuse the king’s request.

Now let's have a little fun here. How about the names of those nobles and eunuchs? I find those fascinating as well. Names were often used to indicate the person's vocation, character, or relevance in the stories of the Bible. And remember, these were real people, SUMites.

Seven Eunuchs

First, let's quickly cover that the role of a eunuch wasn't usually voluntary. The position required the man to be castrated, which seemed to be considered an insurance of loyalty to the king and the protection of the king's property, specifically his wives and concubines. 

Here are the seven eunuchs mentioned in chapter one and their meaning:

Mehuman - faith

Biztha - booty

Harbona - ass-driver

Bigtha - in the wine press

Abagtha - God-given

Zethar - star

Carkes- severe

What's interesting is that Bigtha and Abagtha are listed together in the ESV translation, yet not in others. But that's a question for the scholars out there. 

Seven Nobles 

Here are the names and meanings of the seven nobles mentioned in chapter one:

Carshena - illustrious

Shethar - a star

Admatha - a testimony to them

Tarshish - yellow jasper

Meres - lofty

Marsena - worthy

Memucan - dignified

And it is Memucan who speaks in reply to the kings question of what to do about Vashti’s refusal of the king’s request, which they perceive to be a threat not only to the king’s authority but also to the authority of every husband in his home.  

My friends, in this first chapter alone have "watched" the positions of two roles change. The place of queen is now vacant due to Vashti's dismissal (divorce) by the king. And a new proclamation in every language has been sent to all the provinces stipulating that the husband is the ruler in his home. 

How interesting...how interesting that the voice of the women in this kingdom was silenced at this point of the story. Here we see the enemy's reaction to God's action, as if he is anticipating God's plans to bring a new voice from an unsuspecting place and person to save the remnants of Israel.

And that's where we will leave this fascinating story for today. My friends, what aspects of Esther are coming to life for you? What insights are you gleaning? Let's have some fun in the comments!

Love you!
Dineen

 

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SUM Books 4


The Mystery and Wonder of Esther

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Esther, mosaic, Jerusalem-The Church of Hagia Maria Zion-The Dormition Church

For such a time as this...

Hello SUMites! I mentioned last week that I was feeling led to do an series on Esther. Since then I can’t seem to stay away from this book and have poured hours of research into digging into the deeper places of this astonishing story. So consider this an introduction to Esther and what I have in store thus far to share with you. And I encourage you to read the book yourself and ask the Holy Spirit to reveal its truths and promises to you too.

One of the most significant aspects of the story of Esther is that God is not mentioned by name once in the book. He isn’t even referred to. But He is very much implied. However, there are actually clues I believe the author put in place to make indirect references to God’s presence, something I hadn’t noticed before. So fascinating!

In researching the people highlighted in this story, I discovered the Hebrew meaning of their names to often be significant and indicators of their place in this God-driven story. And that even key attributes of God’s character are clearly yet indirectly displayed.

On a larger scale Esther is the story of the birth of a Jewish tradition and celebration (Purim) that has had significant historical impact in that last century alone that is unmistakably God’s work to save the nation of Israel. 

My friends, Esther is a very multifaceted true story that holds romance, power, intrigue and much more. I am excited to explore its depths with you and look forward to hearing your comments too. We are going to have fun with this one, SUMites, and in reading about Esther and the nation of Israel, I’ve no doubt we will discover our own stories and God-driven purposes in the lives of our spouses and our families. And in our nation as well.

So, are you with me on this one? Ready to go an adventure with me? If so, give a shout out in the comments and share anything else that’s on your heart, my friends. I know the Holy Spirit is already at work among us, the SUM Nation, stirring our hearts for “such a time as this.”

And in the mighty and saving name of Jesus, I say, AMEN!

Love you so much, my friends!
Dineen

Copyright: zatletic / 123RF Stock Photo

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THRIVE in your Spiritually Mismatched Marriage and raise your children to faith. Our books are filled with practical experience and Biblical advice. -click or tap the photo-

SUM Books 4


Combating the Enemy Within

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Photo courtesy of DigitalArt/FreeDigitalPhotos.net


I’ve always been curious as to the stubbornness of my anxiety and sinful habits that nag away at me. I thought it a useful topic to discuss as we walk through this fabulous series on emotional healing.

I’ve mentioned my struggles with anxiety previously. Like many of us it’s been a regular companion for as long as I can remember. I’ve spent enough years of my life in counselors chairs that I figured it was something that would be with me all of my days. There was a self-defeatist sense of ‘oh well, it must just be part of what makes me, me.’ I know many others who struggle with it think similarly.

Some of you may be able to relate to this as you too have had anxiety as a companion or perhaps it’s some habitual ‘thing’ that just hangs around. You’ll have some days where it doesn’t make an appearance, others when it says ‘hi, don’t mind me, I’ll just sit over here,’ and other days when it just gets plain bossy and makes everything so much harder and, scarier, leaving you in despair.

“Help me, Jesus,” is a much-repeated cry on such days.

A Thorn or what?

We’re all familiar with Paul’s ‘thorn’ that he carried with him for most of his days. I know I’ve often resigned myself to thinking my anxiety is my ‘thorn’. But I’ve come to realise that’s a lie.

We talk a lot about the Devil and his role in continually badgering us. Remember John 10:10, he’s come to “steal, kill and destroy.” Yes, we’ve got a target on our backs and his aim is pretty good because he gets a lot of practice.

But it’s not just that enemy we have to contend with. There’s the “enemy within the camp.” Our flesh. I love this definition of the flesh I read recently which provided much insight:

“… the outlook orientated towards the self, that which pursues its own ends in self-sufficient independence from God.” (Anthony Thistleton)

There’s an internal battle going on inside us. Because of the rebellion that took place at the fall, there’s been an “enormous disruption in our human nature.”1 As Hewetson contends: “the body’s desires are entirely legitimate and simply doing what they were created to do. The evil lies in the fact that because of our failure to submit to God, these desires refuse to submit to us and rebel against their lowly position.”2

Hence, the longer we’ve lived with a particular habit or perception or way of thinking, the harder it is to dislodge it. And willpower won’t be sufficient to move it out altogether. We need supernatural help.

Abundant Living

Over the past year I believe I’ve made some significant headway regarding my anxiety. One of the key steps was to acknowledge (and keep reminding myself) that God doesn’t want me to live with anxiety. It’s not in His plan. For me. Or anyone.

“Jesus came that we may have life, and that we may have it abundantly.” This is the flip side of John 10:10.

We can have confidence that in walking with Jesus we are “moving away from lingering imperfections toward more and more holiness.”3 The more we keep our focus on Jesus and the things above (Colossians 3:2) the stronger our protective walls become forcing the enemy to gradually retreat.

Another key consideration was understanding that I am a son of God. As I mentioned in my comment to Lynn’s post last week I knew this in my mind but it’s only really in the past year or so when I believe it’s sunk into my heart.

“Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life.” (Prov 4:23 NLT)

The heart. We can rely too much on our minds and what we are thinking but God looks at the heart. He wants us to love Him with all of our heart … trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your understanding.

Heart health

How do we get heart healthy in 2017? A few thoughts on what I’ve actively been doing these past 18 months or so that I believe have helped me get to where I am now.

1. Get moving

Not just exercise – do that. But actually be positive and take action. God uses us to implement His purposes for our lives. Think of all those great OT stories, eg, Abraham had to leave home, Noah had to build a boat, etc. My anxiety has many times stopped me from starting because “where should I go? what if it isn’t the right way? What if I do it wrong?” You get the gist.

Last year I moved forward by committing to an action that I’d put off for years. Why had I put it off? Pride and fear.

I’m so pleased now that I stepped out as it has definitely helped me. Stepping out does take courage and having someone close who can encourage you, move with you even, is a good way to help take that step.

The greatest counter measure to fear is to start something.

2. Get into the Word

You’re probably tired of me saying this but golly gosh, falling in love with the Word has changed my life. The Word is a lifeline, an instruction manual, a love story, a magnificent mystery, and a supernatural book. And it’s a person.

“… but be transformed by the renewing of your mind …” (Rom 12:2)

Getting the truth into our hearts truly is a strong weapon against those perceptions or deceptions that we’ve carried around with us for too long.

3. Guard your heart

We need to put a gate against all the negatives that can infect our hearts. Many of us struggle with such negatives in our marriages. The enemy uses offense to weaken Christians. Offense can bubble away inside us for years. Our pride will encourage it to convince us we are justified in feeling such and such. And then before we know it relationships are strained. Forgiveness is a powerful weapon against offense.

4. Community

Like many of us being actively involved in church happenings has been a challenge for me. But I also enjoyed being anonymous as it made it easy for me to stay uninvolved. Last year I was asked to increase my engagement in a couple of different groups. I’ve been so blessed by both and have seen my faith and love for Jesus grow as a result.

I was reminded only today of what Acts said about the first church:

“And they devoted themselves to the Apostles teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles.” (Acts 2:42-43)

God loves community. He knows it’s good for us. I’ve been a laggard for too long and used my situation to stay in the shadows.

 

I’ve still got a long way to go. Anxiety pops its head up most days to remind me it’s only a few thoughts away from jumping back in. And yes, they’ve still been some tough days but I’m filled with far more hope and confidence than I was previously.

“Finding fulfillment in God is the most powerful antidote to any sin.” (Gary Thomas). Keep fixing your eyes on Jesus.

Grace and peace, dear friends. I do apologise for the too long a post. Thank you for persisting. May 2017 be a great year where we all experience release from the “stuff” that has vexed us.

Notes: 1. “Good For You. The Extraordinary life of the Ordinary Christian”, Canon David Hewetson, Barton Books, 2015. Pg25. 2. Ibid. pg 26. 3. “Taste and See. Savoring the Supremacy of God in All of Life.” John Piper. Multnomah Books, 2005. Pg100 Referencing Hebrews 10:14 NASB

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The Power of God’s Words

SwordCloud
"Jesus is your sword."

One of the things I love about living in Florida is the cloud formations. They are tall and fluffy, filling the sky with a terrain of fluffy like cotton. Then other times they are imposing and dark, flashing with lighting and pouring down rain. Rarely is the sky completely devoid of these puffy wonders.

One bright and humid Florida morning, I went for a walk to worship and pray. My conversation with God that day was about prayer and words. I wanted to understand more about what He seemed to be impressing upon my heart to understand.

I looked up in the sky and noticed a could that looked just like a sword, which I thought was so interesting. But what made it relevant was what the Holy Spirit spoke to me as I looked at this simple formation.

“Jesus is your sword.”

My friends, this truth clicked into place in my heart and then my mind and the Scriptures I’d ready many times seemed to take on even deeper meaning. 

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. — John 1:1-5

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. — John 1:14

This truth already blew my mind, SUMites, but then to think of it in terms of our spiritual armor, brings a whole new level of awe. 

And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, — Ephesians 6:17

Jesus is the Word and the sword of the Spirit is God’s Word, so Jesus truly is our sword! So what does that mean?

The Ezekiel Model

In the book of Ezekiel, God tells Ezekiel to prophesy over dry bones to hear the word of the Lord. First of all, prophesy simply means to speak by inspiration. We are all call to do this and since we have the Holy Spirit living in us, it makes sense that we can do this. (That’s a whole other series best saved for another time.)

Then he said to me, “Prophesy to these bones and say to them, ‘Dry bones, hear the word of the Lord! — Ezekiel 37:4

So Ezekiel is told by the Spirit of God to speak God’s words of life over these bones. The word ‘hear’ in Hebrew is šâma’ and holds such meanings as to hear intelligently (often with implication of attention, obedience, etc.), declare, discern, give ear, (cause to, let, make to) hear(-ken, tell), listen, make (a) noise, (be) obedient, obey, perceive, (make a) proclaim(-ation), publish, regard, report, shew (forth), (make a) sound, tell, understand, whosoever (heareth), witness. And that’s the edited down version. 

In similar intensity, ‘word’ means ḏâḇâr in Hebrew and translates to such meanings as a word; by implication, a matter (as spoken of) or thing; adverbially, a cause: act, advice, affair, answer, commandment, commune(-ication), concern(-ing), confer, counsel, decree, deed, duty, effect, eloquent, errand, glory, manner, matter, message, portion, power, promise, provision, purpose, question, rate, reason, report, request. Again, the edited down version.

These are two hefty words that hold a lot of meaning and impact. Which then led me to Jeremiah 1:12 where God asks Aaron what he sees. 

Then the Lord said to me, “You have seen well, for I am watching over my word to perform it.” — Jeremiah 1:12

Did you know that word ‘watching’ means to be alert i.e. sleepless? Now look at Isaiah 55:11

“For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it. — Isaiah 55:10-11

My friends, this is like a double promise. God decrees (shall) His Word will not only be life giving but also powerful and effective to accomplish His purposes. So, think about this in context of praying Scriptures, which are God’s Word and are thus in alignment with His heart and purposes, and what could happen as a result of doing so. And I mean literally praying Scriptures out loud, word for word. 

For example, our salvation word this year is Jeremiah 24:7. Almost every day I am praying this:

Lord, thank you for giving every one of our SUMite spouses a heart that knows You are God. Thank You that You have declared they will be your sons and daughters and You will be their God. Thank You that they are returning to You wholeheartedly and will follow You all the days of their lives.

We can do this with any Scripture in the Bible, SUMites. Speak God’s Word out as truth. 

Lord, Your Word says that by the stripes of Jesus Christ I am healed, therefore I declare that I am healed of (name specific illnesses, diseases and conditions). (Isaiah 53:5). And I declare the blood of Jesus over my entire body and declare I walk in divine health. In the name of Jesus, amen!

Lord, you are not willing that any should be lost so I rejoice and thank You that You are pursuing my spouse, my children, my family members with your relentless love and I stand in agreement with You that me and and my entire household will be saved. In the name of Jesus, amen! (Matthew 18:14, Acts 16.31).

My friends, whenever you read your Bible and find yourself stopped or stuck on a piece of God’s Word, ask the Holy Spirit what it means, what you need to know about it, and how you are to pray into it, believe it and then decree it. 

One last story…

In my post last Friday I talked about Isaiah six and how the praises of the seraphim shook the place. Did you know this happened in the New Testament too, with the disciples? The disciples were faced with great opposition, so they joined together and prayed.

And now, O Lord, hear their threats, and give us, your servants, great boldness in preaching your word. Stretch out your hand with healing power; may miraculous signs and wonders be done through the name of your holy servant Jesus.”

After this prayer, the meeting place shook, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit. Then they preached the word of God with boldness. — Acts 4:29-31

What did they pray for, my friends? Boldness to share His Word. They asked for healing power, miracles and wonders (what Jesus had taught and sent them out to do), all done in the name of Jesus. And what did God do? He shook the place with His presence! They prayed according to His Word (Jesus) and God answered.

So, my friends, I’m not saying that every time we pray, our houses are supposed to shake, but what if they did? What if we asked God for that kind of boldness and courage to pray and share Him with others and walked in miracles and wonders as the evidence of it? What if we already are?

I believe our prayers “shake” the heavens more than we realize. And the more boldness and courage we have, the more we shake the rafters!

O Lord, give us, your servants, great boldness in preaching Your word. Stretch out You hand with healing power; may miraculous signs and wonders be done through the name of Your holy servant Jesus. Amen!

Love you, SUMites!
Dineen

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The Power of Words

HeavenMy friends, on Monday we talked about our authority and place of power, that we have everything through Christ Jesus and nothing to lose because of His sacrifice for us, and that the enemy has nothing and everything to lose. That's because he's already lost.

With that I want to point to a truth that we sometimes forget to practice, because we do a fair bit of spiritual warfare in our mismatched marriages. Just after Jesus tells us about the authority He's given us, He points out where our focus and rejoicing should truly be focused.

Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall hurt you. Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.” — Luke 10:19-20

We are secure in Heaven! With Him! That's the promise that we have nothing to lose! And when we rest in and live from this place of security, guess what happens? The enemy loses influence, because we are filled with confident hope. That's the light that makes him flee before he can even get near us.

I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in him. Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit. — Romans 15:13 NLT

Now let's talk about the power of words. In Genesis, God spoke the world into existence with words. Much of the Old Testament where it reads God ‘said’ or ‘told,’ those words also mean to decree or to promise in the Hebrew translation. 

In Isaiah 6, Isaiah encounters the Lord and witnessed heaven in action as part of his commissioning as a prophet.

And one called to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!” And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke. — Isaiah 6:3-4

Did you catch that last line? The praises and worship of the seraphim literally shook the foundations of the thresholds (doorways) and smoke filled the house. I have to say there is something profound that occurs in worship when we sing the word ‘holy’ and the angels know it. That’s because we are declaring the presence and character of God.

Take a look at this passage from Isaiah 11 about the coming of the Messiah, Jesus:

But with righteousness he shall judge the poor, and decide with equity for the meek of the earth; and he shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked. Righteousness shall be the belt of his waist, and faithfulness the belt of his loins. — Isaiah 11:4-5

Let’s not forget that Jesus is described as the Word in John 1. The Word—logos—in Hebrew embodies not only the obvious meaning of words spoken, but encompasses decrees, prophecy, mandates, precepts, conception or ideas, and even even addresses the function of the mind in reasoning and our relationship to God. It is a power-packed “word.” 

And even as Jesus spoke healing over people, He spoke more to their hearts—to the person they were created to be (Ecc. 3:11)—than He spoke to the demons themselves. He would simply speak the truth and evil spirits fled—the rod of his mouth and the breath of his lips. Light always removes darkness completely. You turn on the light in a room and the darkness is gone completely. Not part way—all the way.

Truth is the light that makes the darkness flee. Thus why it is important to replace lies with the truth. Keep the room lit with the truth of God’s Word! That is the power of a transformed mind as well, my friends (Romans 12:2).

I have more to share with you about words and it has to do with a story we know well in the Bible. Since this post is long enough already and I want you to absorb what I’ve shared today, I will save that for next week. We have a clear model and example of how we are told to declare truth according to God’s Words and what that transaction does. I am looking forward to sharing that with you, my friends, and I will also share examples of how we can use this model to decree truths over our pre-believers, loved ones and ourselves.

Have an amazing weekend, SUMites. Stand in the truth that you are chosen and dearly loved by Your Papa God. And absolutely nothing can snatch you out of His Son Jesus’ hand (John 10:28).

Love you!
Dineen

 

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What Does God Want From Me?

image from www.spirituallyunequalmarriage.comHello SUMite Nation,

The Holy Spirit is speaking the Word – PRAYER! (Don’t tune out. This is good.)

“Oh man, did she just write – PRAYER.”

Did you just whisper this under your breath?

Let me explain what I feel the Lord is impressing upon me as well as upon most of His church right now.

Prayer.

Some of you may remember that I served on staff in Women’s Ministry at my local church for years. I led Bible study groups, choose studies for our women and directed a lot of the Bible study efforts. I left that position four or five years ago as our online and book ministry began to grow.

What I always found fascinating and utterly disappointing in the years of choosing Bible studies was the fact that if we chose a Bible study about prayer, no one signed up. Yep.

Bummer! But true.

However, what I’m discovering in 2016 is that God’s people are hungry to learn about prayer and learn to pray effectively. It was evident by the online class on prayer this past Tuesday. And it seems that every time I post a prayer on Facebook, it gets shared around. I’m so truly excited about this change in the heart of the Church. Hallelujah.

So over the next few posts I want to pour more into prayer. I want to encourage all of you who attended the class with more information. And for those of you who missed it, now is your time to also gain wisdom, knowledge and anointing to pray with power for REAL results!

Sound good?

A word before we continue: Prayer is NOT a way to arm twist the Lord into doing our will. Prayer is a conversation between a Father and His child. It's learning to listen to God and then obeying His will. 

I want to look at a few keys to vibrant prayer as well as “blocks” that keep us from breakthroughs. Such as:

  • The Word of God
  • Belief
  • Confidence
  • Will
  • Courage

And finally we will discuss the “why.” When prayer remains unanswered, why?

I might throw a few extras in somewhere along the line. Also, I won’t spend too much time on discussion about praying the Word of God because that was covered in the class on Tuesday. (I hope to offer that class again in the future, for those of you who wanted to attend and couldn’t.)

You know maybe we actually need to start at the beginning. How do we create a prayer life? What do we do when we just can’t pray? How do we respond when we feel so beaten that our prayers are full of defeat and tears? Anyone?

I’ve shared many times that all I have in the Kingdom, is the result of my intentional efforts to create time and space to be with God. I know this is often THE most challenging part of prayer but even a few minutes a day will change your life. You can read about that here: Breakthrough Praying for Breakthrough Living. (Skip down to where you see the Bible and start reading there.)

Today, I pray significantly different than I did in 2008 when that post was written. I often pray about the same things but the way I pray, the words I speak and my convictions are what has changed and is also what moves heaven in response.

So, today, I challenge you that if you to create and stick to a time to read the Word and pray everyday.

Let me leave today’s post by reiterating two essential components of effective prayer.

  1. Create a time and space devoted to Bible reading and prayer.
  2. Use the Word of God in your prayers.

Okay, what might be helpful is for all of you to share how you created time and space in your life for prayer. Share in the comments. Someone reading this need to emulate what you did. Especially help mothers of young children with suggestions.

Also, share in the comments if you learned news tips from the class, Praying the Word, and how you will now pray the Word in your prayer life. Someone reading this also needs to read how you pray the Word.

SUMites, God intends to set His praying people upon a broken, dark and evil world. He expects His kids to pray and bring His Kingdom to earth. Are you ready? It’s gonna be fantastic.

I’m traveling the next couple of weeks. I will be checking in here as I am able and pop in to be part of our astounding community.

Okay, PLEASE take a minute to write what you have learned to help a SUMite on the road behind you. Love you a ton, Lynn

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Lord of the Harvest

15753952_sHe said to his disciples, “The harvest is great, but the workers are few. So pray to the Lord who is in charge of the harvest; ask him to send more workers into his fields.”

My friends, I don’t know if you remember me sharing in June of 2013 a dream God gave me, which I believe was a precursor to our salvation word this year and what’s to come. There are several pieces to this that the Holy Spirit is showing me, and I am excited to share with you. So let’s start with a refresher of that dream and then pray in this harvest!

May 2013 (date of dream)

I was half awake, half asleep, but the dream was very vivid. I stood before a tall cornfield—taller than me. Jesus stood next to me.

He gestured to the crop and said, "This is the Great Harvest.”

I said, "Lord, I can't see past this, can you show me more?”

Suddenly I was up higher and could see tall mountains in the far distance. The crop spanned all the way to the mountains!

At the time I found it very curious that I saw corn in this dream as opposed to wheat. With some investigation and research, I discovered that the Bible references to grain can mean either corn or wheat and are often connected with oil and wine.

“From the dew of heaven and the richness of the earth, may God always give you abundant harvests of grain and bountiful new wine. — Genesis 27:28

Isaac said to Esau, “I have made Jacob your master and have declared that all his brothers will be his servants. I have guaranteed him an abundance of grain and wine—what is left for me to give you, my son?” — Genesis 27:37

“If you carefully obey all the commands I am giving you today, and if you love the Lord your God and serve him with all your heart and soul, then he will send the rains in their proper seasons—the early and late rains—so you can bring in your harvests of grain, new wine, and olive oil. He will give you lush pastureland for your livestock, and you yourselves will have all you want to eat. — Deut. 11:13-15

Look at this Scripture from Joel, which is part of God’s promise of restoration:

The threshing floors will again be piled high with grain, and the presses will overflow with new wine and olive oil. — Joel 2:24

Grain and wine were such integral parts of the Israelites lives and culture that it makes complete sense that Jesus would use bread and wine to bring such powerful symbolism, connection and power to what we practice today as communion.

And harvest time is always about prosperity, provisions and promise—of abundant life. The Old Testament displayed this in the physical sense first through manna and then provision from the promised land. Jesus took this provision of physical sustenance and connected it to our spiritual need as well. 

Then Jesus declared, "I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty. — John 6:35

Now recently several SUMites have shared stories of how their spouses have walked away from their faith either on this blog or on our 1Peter3Living Yahoo group. My friends, I can’t tell you how deeply this grieved me. These are the stories that break my heart and bring me to tears before God. 

And that is what I did one day last week. It made no sense to me in light of the promises God has been sharing with me—with all of us. I went to Him in tears and asked, “Lord, what is going on? You’ve promised us salvation and even shown me this is coming. Have I missed something, not prayed enough? Is the enemy winning this battle?”

I saw only two possibilities, but our God of the impossible replied with His, “I’m revealing the greater glory.”

Dear friends, my tears turned to laughter as the Holy Spirit whispered this to my heart, “The prodigals are being called back and the unbelievers are being drawn in.”

Our Papa God is so good! He’s bringing our loved ones to His Son just as Jesus said He would. 

“No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them, and I will raise them up at the last day.” — John 6:44

SUMites, I believe this with all my heart, soul, mind and spirit! Will you pray with me?

We praise You, Mighty Lord Jesus, for You are the bread and wine to our lives, our souls and our spirits. Thank You for giving this provision to our spouses too! Lord, send the workers needed for this Great Harvest. Send people into our midst to reveal Your presence and love to our pre-believers. Reveal and show that love to them through us, for we are Your workers too, Lord! 

Lord Jesus, there is Resurrection Life in all You do. We ask for this resurrection life to be released over our pre-believers, our lives, our marriages, our children and every place in our lives where dry bones need to be called back to life. Breathe Your breath of life over all of us. We call these dry places to life, in the Saving and Life-Resurrecting Name of Jesus. 

Lord Jesus, we ask for vengeance against the enemy and the demonic for all they have stolen from us, the SUMites, from our pre-believers, from our children and even from our ancestors. We ask for full recompense and restoration of what has been lost and stolen (Isa. 35).

Lord, call in the harvest of our pre-believers and prodigals. Bring them to You, Lord, every single one of them. Lord Jesus, when You walked this earth, every person who came to You was healed. We present our prodigals and pre-believers to You like the man lowered through the roof and ask that every single one be saved and healed. In the Mighty Name of Jesus, amen!

Love you, SUMites!
Dineen

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Change The DATE - Praying The Word

OOPIE!

Yep, Lynn's back and I'm showing my blonde. 

Many of you have already registered for the LIVE online class, Praying The Word of God with me. AWESOMENESS!

However, I gave you the wrong date. The date of both classes is now scheduled for August 16th. Class times at 12:30 p.m. and 5:00 p.m. PACIFIC. This is the following week on a Tuesday.

If you already registered and cannot make that date, please forgive me. I hope to offer the class again later in the fall.

It's not too late to sign up. To register visit the registration page Praying the Word with Lynn Donovan. The class is FREE.

Let me ask you a few questions. Do you want to pray with power? Do you want to pray and actually know God heard you? Do you want to see the results from your prayers?

This class is intended to instruct you how to activate the angelic realm to respond to your prayers. We will look at several passages and I will teach you how to pray them with power and purposes in your life. One of my power passages is Matthew 18:18. Can't wait to teach you how to pray this with power. In this session we will also cover praying out of our identity and from the place of authority as a Child of our good Papa.

Once again sorry for the date change. Stay tuned because our prayers absolutely are intricate to the salvation and success of our spouse, children and our own lives.

Register today: Praying The Word with Lynn Donovan

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Foundations Series: INHERITANCE & IDENTITY, part 2

IdentityHello, SUMites! Yesterday my hubby and I walked through our house to see the changes in just the last week or so. The drywall is up and the rooms are more defined now. As we passed through an unfinished doorway, my husband pointed a written Scripture still exposed there. He asked me, “Is this one of yours?”

I answered, “Yep.” And I laughed with delight inside, my friends. This was a victory for me, as I felt no concern about his reaction. I simply rejoiced in knowing what’s coming and seeing the evidence of it all around him, even though he isn’t seeing it…yet. Just like this house, seeing only the present stage, yet knowing so much more is coming and yet to be seen. The floor tiles, the walls painted, cabinets, kitchen, etc. So much more is coming…salvation. My heart dances with expectation of the coming promises.

As I thought about our Scriptures being a part of the structure of the house now, the structure that holds up the roof and defines the parts of the house, I began to see how we are like this house. As we read and learn about God’s Word and truths, they become a part of us. They transform our minds and make us stronger in our foundation and our structure. And not only that, they define us and our many parts. Like the walls define the rooms, these truths define who we are in Christ, what our spiritual gifts and purposes are and how were are to live as believers.

This is our identity. Everything God created us to be with unlimited potential. And the only things that limit us are ourselves and the enemy if we let him. I find this happens when we aren’t walking in the truth of who we are, and thus why our continual intentionality to know God and grow in intimacy with Him are so important. As we spend time with God learning about Him we are in actuality learning who we are. 

My friends, as I sought God for greater understanding about inheritance and identity, the Holy Spirit helped me understand they are very deeply interconnected. If we look at inheritance in the New Testament, we see two parts.

  1. We are Christ’s inheritance, His holy people.
    I pray that your hearts will be flooded with light so that you can understand the confident hope he has given to those he called—his holy people who are his rich and glorious inheritance. — Ephesians 1:18
  2. We have inheritance in Christ as co-heirs with Jesus. And this is where our identity sits and is defined.
    So you have not received a spirit that makes you fearful slaves. Instead, you received God’s Spirit when he adopted you as his own children. Now we call him, “Abba, Father.” For his Spirit joins with our spirit to affirm that we are God’s children. And since we are his children, we are his heirs. In fact, together with Christ we are heirs of God’s glory. But if we are to share his glory, we must also share his suffering. — Romans 8:15-17

This piece of Scripture alone tells us:

  1. We are no longer slaves to fear and have received the Holy Spirit.
  2. We belong to God and are His children.
  3. We have a heavenly Father who not only saved us but connected us directly to His Spirit. This is what happens when we accept Jesus. Our spirit is called out from the “dead” (Eph 5:14) and is united with the Holy Spirit in us. Thus why He is in us and we are in Him.
  4. As His children, we are co-heirs with Christ (not after, but with) and as His heirs, we also receive God’s glory! However, as we are reassured of receiving God’s promises as His heirs, we must also accept that persecution is going to be part of this journey and is another sign that we are God’s children. SUMites, we already understand this, which makes us unique in our experiences. I firmly believe God uses this understanding to equip us with a compassion and a heart to reach the lost in this world. 

So, who are you in Christ Jesus? That’s an excellent question and one I highly encourage you to ask the Holy Spirit. And I’m beginning to see and experience that the Holy Spirit loves questions as much as prayers, because our questions are the start of the answer to the prayer. 

Ask questions like these:

  • Lord, who am I in You? Show me how you see me so I may walk in peace and clarity of these truths.
  • What have You designed me to be and do? 
  • How have you gifted me uniquely to operate according to those truths?

My friends, identity is something we choose to believe and live as truth. Our culture has so imbedded a striving mentality in everything we do that we even apply this to our faith. As I shared in my video last week and my post on Tuesday, we can stop striving to be Christians and simply live in the truth of who we are—God’s kids!

I think we could spend weeks, even months on this topic, and that’s because it is so relevant and important that we stay aware of how we are operating in our lives. Are we operating out of a place to prove who we are, or are we living in the truth of who we already are according to Jesus? 

The amazing thing is, when we live from that place of truth, people are drawn to us, SUMites. It’s attractive, because we live in a peace and freedom the world is desperate for. So, as you live in and out of the truth of who are you are, you’r letting your light shine brightest! 

Isn’t that amazing? That’s freedom, my friends, and peaceful living. It’s so simple it’s almost ridiculous. But notice I didn’t say easy. Just ask God who you are and then live it out everyday as best you can. And when you don’t, God’s right there to help you get back into the center of that truth—Him. 

I will see you tomorrow (or rather you’ll see me—ha ha!) in my last prayer video for July. 

Love you dearly, SUMites!
Dineen

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Part Four: The Promised Provision

IMG_0009My friends, are you ready for more of God’s amazing truth and love? Are you ready to have your thinking transformed a bit today? Let’s go back to the book of Jeremiah and take another look at King Zedekiah’s story.

Let’s look at the first five verses of Jeremiah 34, because this is where things get really interesting.

King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon came with all the armies from the kingdoms he ruled, and he fought against Jerusalem and the towns of Judah. At that time this message came to Jeremiah from the LORD: “Go to King Zedekiah of Judah, and tell him, ‘This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: I am about to hand this city over to the king of Babylon, and he will burn it down. You will not escape his grasp but will be captured and taken to meet the king of Babylon face to face. Then you will be exiled to Babylon.

 “‘But listen to this promise from the LORD, O Zedekiah, king of Judah. This is what the LORD says: You will not be killed in war but will die peacefully. People will burn incense in your memory, just as they did for your ancestors, the kings who preceded you. They will mourn for you, crying, “Alas, our master is dead!” This I have decreed, says the LORD.” — Jeremiah 34:1-5

I just recently listened to a faith message that presented a concept I hadn’t considered about God’s character and plans of us. Then God showed me the truth of it here in this passage in Jeremiah 34.

In every difficulty we face, there is a God-given promise. 

If you think about it, if you think about God’s nature and promises like Romans 8:28 that God works for our good in ALL things, then it makes perfect sense. That alone is the promise in a nutshell. Especially believers in Jesus who are indwelled by the Holy Spirit. God will not and cannot deny Himself.

If we are faithless, he remains faithful—for he cannot deny himself. — 2 Timothy 2:13

God gave Jeremiah a message for King Zedekiah of what was going to happen, that Nebuchadneezzar would take the city of Jerusalem and the cities of Judah and there would be no escape. Yet God has made a provision for Zedekiah—a promise. Jeremiah even says, “Listen to this promise form the Lord…”

In Jeremiah 38:17-20, King Zedekiah questions Jeremiah again, and again Jeremiah repeats God’s promise. Which if you look back to what Jeremiah said in chapter 34, showed God’s intention to honor Zedekiah’s obedience with a legacy of honor and praise. Sadly, Zedekiah admits his afraid to surrender and fears King Nebuchadnezzar’s wrath more than he trusts God to keep His promise. In chapter 39 we read of his failed attempt to escape with resulted in him watching his sons be slaughtered before his enemy gouged out his eyes. 

Not pleasant, I know, but my dear SUMites, here’s the other part of this amazing thing God is showing me. That promise in our challenge is the key to our breakthrough and our victory, and we walk as conquerors. And the more we do it, the more afraid of us the enemy is! 

This is what it means to fight from victory, not for victory. A promise for every thing we face is already in place for us to find and claim. We are already victorious, already declared conquerors. Now it’s up to us to live like it.

No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us. — Romans 8:37

Not just partial victory, my friends. Overwhelming victory. God won the battle for us when He put our promise in place. Ask Abba what promise He has put into place for the circumstances you are struggling with. Has He already given you a Scripture or two, like He has given me for my daughter Leslie? Has He spoken a word of reassurance to you in the dark of night that you’re afraid to hope for?

My friends, this beautiful SUM family is a huge testimony of God’s faithfulness. He will not fail you. And trust me, I know how hard it can be to look for God in a situation so difficult that all we can see is the mountain of our pain, yet not a glimpse of what God is doing in the midst of it. But I know—have learned—from those very situations that He’s most definitely there. Just not how we expect Him to be. It may not make sense…yet, but it will. 

And I’m discovering that those are the most astonishing moments of God’s undeniable presence manifesting all around us. He’s always been there. I just needed to quit looking for what I expected and see Him.

I love you, my friends. Know that God is giving you the power and the desire to do whatever it is He’s asking you (Phil. 2:13) and He absolutely adores you.

Father God, bless Your SUM Nation with every spiritual blessing You have already set aside for each of us. Fill us, Holy Spirit, with wisdom and revelation to know the direction to go no matter what the circumstances around us look like or are telling us to do. We want only Your voice, Lord Jesus, our Great Shepherd, who gave everything for us to live the abundant life You’ve set before us. Fill us with great courage to take the next step, and the next and the next. Your will be done, Lord, on earth, right now as You have already declared it in Heaven. And to You, Lord, be all the glory. We love You! In the name of Jesus, we pray, amen!

Love you, SUMites!
~Dineen

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The Call to Rest

22300078_sMy friends, my search for deeper understanding of God's call to rest has brought me to some interesting places. I'm excited to share what I have discovered with you. 

As I pondered and prayed over this, Holy Spirit brought to mind first "trust" and "strength." Specifically these pieces of Scripture.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. — Proverbs 3:5-6

Then he said to me, “This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel: Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord of hosts." — Zechariah 4:6

I then began a search for the word "rest" in the New Testament and discovered there are at least five different Greek words used for this one word. The more obvious one would be koimēsis—to rest, recline, lay down, sleep as used in John 11:13.

Acts 7:49 and Hebrews 3:11 both use katapausis, which refers to a place of rest, the heavenly blessedness in which God dwells. Hebrews 4:8-10 uses the word, sabbatismos, which you can probably guess has to to with the Sabbath. This word holds the promise of “entering now into this rest means ceasing from the spiritual strivings that reflect uncertainty about one's final destiny; it means enjoyment of being established in the presence of God, to share in the everlasting joy that God entered when he rested on the seventh day (v. 10).” — ESV Study Bible Notes

But in Matthew 11:28-29, which is about taking Jesus’ yoke, this little word gets very interesting and takes on implications such as refreshment, freedom and salvation. This word, anapausis, comes from the word, anapauō, which means to rest, refresh, take rest, to keep quiet, of calm and patient expectation and is also used in Luke 11:24 about unclean spirits seeking rest but finding none. They live in constant unrest.

Now, if I haven’t lost you (and if I have, just keep reading because this next part if the good stuff). Take a look at this nugget of Scripture.

And he said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while.” For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat.” — Mark 6:31

This verse comes at the point when the disciples have returned from traveling and ministering to tell Jesus about all they had done. He calls them to a time of rest to refresh and to possibly reflect (anapauō). What I find very interesting in His direction is that He calls them to a desolate place (Mark 6:30-44).

Now the meaning of this word also means isolated and solitary but even still in these definitions it holds the intent of loneliness and uninhabited. It was a desert, a place uninhabited by people. Yet as they go to this place, the multitude rushes ahead and fills this "desolate" location.

I encourage you to prayerful read this part of Scripture and allow the Holy Spirit to fully bring its symbolism to your heart. I find it quite deep and exciting to reflect upon. This is what I felt Holy Spirit wanted me to see.

Even with a group of people in this place, the disciples still called it desolate. There was hunger there (not just physical), deep needs, unfulfilled desires and wants. Remember, these people lived under ether heavy religious yoke of the Pharisees. 

I can remember once years ago being with a group of people I knew yet feeling lonely in that moment and place. I believe the use of this word "desolate" was not just to describe a physical place but the spiritual state of the people thronging Jesus and the disciples. They are desperate for relief, restoration and healing in their lives.

But then something amazing happens. Jesus now tells them to do something about it. The disciples seem confused by Jesus' command, as they can only see what is there—the desolation and lack of provision.

Yet Jesus shows them that even a desolate place can be transformed to one of plenty and provision. Jesus called them to rest from their efforts and to rest in Him. They most likely expected a time to sit and physically rest. Not a lesson about true rest in Jesus, which can be so much more. That even in a time of rest, provision, growth and flourishing occurs. Healing, transformation and even miracles, such as five thousand being fed with two fish and five loaves. Just the symbolism in the bread alone, served by the “Bread of Life” is breathtaking.

And in the collection of the leftovers (vs. 43) we see that abundance. Jesus could have multiplied the fish and loaves to be just enough for the crowd, but He did more. The lesson of "rest" continued in those baskets to reveal the plenty of His provision, generosity, abundance and love. 

As the disciples served those people, I dare say they found an unexpected rest. The kind that comes from placing ourselves in the hands of our Creator and saying, "Yes, Lord, whatever you will.” That's the trust of Proverbs 3:5-6 and the strength of Zechariah 4:6 to do what we may think is beyond us—the impossible. 

So my friends, my understanding of resting in Jesus is confirmed in my heart by what I suspected and knew it to be, to trust in and rely upon Him. But now I see it as so much more. It's not just a set time apart with Him each day to grow and know Him more. It is an intentional choice to seek this constant state of mind and spirit. To trust in and rely upon Him to renew, restore, replenish, provide, guide and love us, even in our desolate places—spiritual, mental or physical—all of them.

For without Him, they are truly desolate. Jesus is the one who brings the baskets of life and love. We can bring nothing except a willing heart and spirit to receive what He has for us. Our striving can cease as we "rest" in the truth of what He has already done for us. 

And there, my friends, we find our true peace, resting in Him regardless of what conditions or situation surround us. To the naked eye the place where the five thousand ate remained a place of desolation, but the desolation in the hearts of many that day were transformed into places full of lush greenery (growth), cool waters (hope) and restoration (revival).

The Way had come into their midst to show them a better way to rest. He beckoned them then just as He beckons us today. And ours is to simply heed His call.

Love you, my friends. May we all respond to His call to go deeper with trust and a loud, “Yes, Lord!” That is my desire and longing and my heart for you.
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We Stand for Jesus

1415366_heart_cross_2A week ago I shared in my post the things I am standing for. I sensed then Holy Spirit might be leading me to share a story that began in 2013 that had to do with the word and command in the Bible, to “stand.” Jesus presented it to me as a question, but its full meaning wouldn’t become clearer until almost a year later. 

Will you stand for Me?

The question came as I worshiped with over a thousand others at a faith based conference.

Will you stand for Me?

So unexpected and suddenly there. Often I would hear something and wonder, “Is that me or is that you, Lord?” This time I knew it was Jesus. 

I went to my knees. Yes, Lord, I will stand for you.

That was at the end of 2013 and before I understood that this question was the beginning of what was to come—a very challenging time that would transform my mind and restore my soul.

Months later I would come to understand that this question was part of His preparation, and a year later, He would show me a connection in His Word that brought all the pieces together.

Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. — Matthew 16:24 ESV

This verse showed up in my email inbox—twice in one day. I’ve learned to pay heed to such things, so I mined this verse for the nuggets it held. I’ve always wondered about and wanted to understand exactly what Jesus meant by “taking up our cross.” So I looked up the Greek translation of this word, “cross” — stauros

I found the expected definitions: a stake or post, a pole or cross, figuratively, exposure to death, i.e. self-denial, etc. But I noticed it had a root word as well, so I followed the trail to yet another word, one I recognized from another verse. Histēmi, which means “to stand.”

My heart quickened and my fingers dashed over my iPad to Ephesians 6—the armor of God:

Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. — Ephesians 6:11-15 ESV

And there it was. The same word, histēmi. To bear our cross for Jesus meant to stand for Him. That was the cross He’d asked me to carry, to stand for Him through a difficult time He knew had to come but I didn’t. And as I stood (though wobbly and grateful for the prayer warriors holding up my arms), He fought for me. He never left. He never forsook me, never rejected me, never judged me. Just loved me with a relentless passion that would calm, claim and heal my fractured heart.

My friends, Jesus does this for you too. He stands with us as we stand for our spouses, our marriages, our children, our family and for each other. He is our Savior, our Friend, our Advocate, our Healer. He is the source of our strength and joy.

Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me. — Psalm 51:12 NIV

Lord Jesus, I stand with my SUMite sisters and brothers and ask that You restore the joy of Your salvation to each one and give each of them a willing spirit to sustain them in all areas of their lives. Let their hearts be comforted and filled with Your peace. Thank You, Lord Jesus, our Prince of Peace, amen!

Love you, my friends!
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In the Courtroom with the Apostle Paul

19197771_sMy friends, I know many of us sat in church alone on Easter Sunday. I did too. But today I want to encourage you with a story that has gripped my heart with a message that is for us, SUMites.

Turn back to the pages of Acts and let's look at the story of Paul. I am captivated by this man's journey, my friends. As I read the words he shares with King Agrippa about his Damascus Road encounter, it was as if I were right there sitting in the courtroom. Read Paul's story. Imagine yourself sitting in the audience with great anticipation, listening to every heart-pounding word. Imagine the intensity of Saul, a Pharisee who approved Stephen's stoning and held the coats of the men who killed him. Saul, so sure in his belief that Jesus was an imposter, he chased the believers of the Way to imprison them, to stop them. Listen with your spirit and lean in with your heart.

“I used to believe that I ought to do everything I could to oppose the very name of Jesus the Nazarene. Indeed, I did just that in Jerusalem. Authorized by the leading priests, I caused many believers there to be sent to prison. And I cast my vote against them when they were condemned to death. Many times I had them punished in the synagogues to get them to curse Jesus. I was so violently opposed to them that I even chased them down in foreign cities.

“One day I was on such a mission to Damascus, armed with the authority and commission of the leading priests. About noon, Your Majesty, as I was on the road, a light from heaven brighter than the sun shone down on me and my companions. We all fell down, and I heard a voice saying to me in Aramaic, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me? It is useless for you to fight against my will.’

“‘Who are you, lord?’ I asked.

“And the Lord replied, ‘I am Jesus, the one you are persecuting. Now get to your feet! For I have appeared to you to appoint you as my servant and witness. You are to tell the world what you have seen and what I will show you in the future. And I will rescue you from both your own people and the Gentiles. Yes, I am sending you to the Gentiles to open their eyes, so they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God. Then they will receive forgiveness for their sins and be given a place among God’s people, who are set apart by faith in me.’

“And so, King Agrippa, I obeyed that vision from heaven." — Acts 26:9-19

As Paul speaks I imagine the silence in the room to be complete and heavy with the presence of the Holy Spirit. Not a word or a whisper could stop this moment of truth. Every word and every detail has been planned and purposed for the glory and revelation of Jesus.

My friends, as I shared earlier, I felt like I was present in that audience, witnessing this account. The intensity had me sitting at the edge of my own seat, leaning over my Bible. The heart of the message for this moment in time came clearly in a knowing in my heart and spirit. A message for us, SUMites.

This is what I felt the Holy Spirit wants us to understand. The man Saul vehemently opposed Jesus with a fierce and violent passion, yet in a moment of Jesus' choosing, He revealed His presence to Saul. And this man became transformed to one of the loudest voices, Paul, promoting and sharing Jesus with untold numbers and writing the majority of the New Testament. If Jesus' presence could turn such a staunch opposer's heart to Him, then no one is beyond His reach. He didn't manipulate, coerce, or condemn Saul to believe. He simply revealed Who He is. And if He can do this for such a man as Saul, He can do the same with our spouses, my friends.

SUM family, pray with me: Lord Jesus, thank You that Your presence alone is so great and all consuming that we are transformed in Your presence. Reveal Your grace and salvation to our spouses as You have said You would. We believe, Lord. We believe! Let it be as You have said it would be. In the saving name of Jesus, amen!

Dear friends, I have more to share next week about Paul's story and how his words have become my words right now in this time as I stand for you and my family in faith. I love you!
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Leslie Update:

Many of you have asked me to give you updates on my daughter, Leslie. I will include these at the bottom of my posts when there’s something new. Please keep Leslie in your prayers today. She will undergo more tests Wednesday. MRI’s to look at muscles on her left side. We are fighting the insurance company to approve a CT scan to see if there are tumors in her chest cavity. Could be that this is being blocked by God because she doesn’t need it. He’s done this before to protect her. Stand with me in believing God's promise to me in Isaiah 58:11, that she will be as a well watered garden. Thank you, my SUM family. I love you!

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How Do You "Speak" God?

MouthMy friends, as I listened to a very gifted teacher at my recent healing rooms training I attended teach about our words, I knew right away this applied to our "how do we hear God" series, thus my title "How Do We "Speak" God?" It seems the natural progression, as Scripture says what we hold in our heart is what comes out of our mouths.

A good person produces good things from the treasury of a good heart, and an evil person produces evil things from the treasury of an evil heart. What you say flows from what is in your heart. — Luke 6:45 NLT

God's Word also says we are created in His image, therefore we are creative beings, like our Creator. We just have different ways of expressing that creativity. God's Word shows the power of His words to create, bless and curse. And as image bearers of Christ, we are warned about the power of our very own words to give life or death:

The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit. — Proverbs 18:21 NIV

The more I walk this path of faith and understand the importance of studying God's Word to put truth into my heart so that it will flow from my mouth, the more aware I have become of the words I think and speak throughout my day. Our thought life is a very powerful entity, one that when full of lies and not controlled, leads to bad decisions and hurtful words. This is the heart of where our words pour out, so we must guard our hearts and minds well.

Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life. — Proverbs 4:23 NLT

Think about that verse for few minutes. I intentionally chose the New Living Translation because of the last part of its wording—determines the course of your life. That also means it can determine the course of our marriages, of our relationships with our children, our friends, our co-workers, etc.

Let me say that again. What we choose to think and speak can determine the course of our marriages, my friends. And let me tell you, that is powerful. I will never forget the day I stood in my husband's home office and realized the words I just spoke had created a negative atmosphere between us. The thought hit me—most likely the Holy Spirit—that if I didn't change my heart and my words, my marriage would fail.

That's when God began opening doors for me to the resources I needed—books like Beloved Unbeliever and a small group for the spiritually mismatched. It started with my recognition of need and God's answer to that prayer. You are a part of the SUM family for the very same reasons. God knows your need, wants you and your marriage to thrive and has answered your prayer with support, resources and encouragement from this amazing "church without walls."

My friends, as God changed my heart, my words began to change. What I spoke to my husband became more about edification and unity. The Holy Spirit worked very hard, I'm sure, to help rein in my tongue that had learned the wrong kind of fruit to bear. And guarding my heart is something I must do constantly for I know who is prowling around with the intent to destroy my family (John 10:10). You know that too.

I once heard a woman speaking to her husband at a grocery store that brought home this truth in such a powerful way. That not only do our words "speak" but also our tone. I am sure the Holy Spirit placed me there that day to see this picture, because I've never forgotten it. With each contempt filled word, this man's head sunk lower and lower.

SUMites, we have the choice each day to use our words to build up or tear down. I have come to the place now where I am constantly looking for ways to build up my husband and our marriage. The amazing thing is this has increased my gratitude for my husband and our marriage dramatically, which has drawn him closer to me and brought more opportunities to share my faith with him. And I am eating the fruit of this in ways I never even thought possible. As a child of multiple divorces, this has changed me profoundly—in a wonderful, God-intended way. Thank You, Jesus!

And this has rippled into every area of my life. My relationships with family, friends and even strangers. This is how we become these open doors for the Kingdom of God to burst through, carrying the love of Jesus. That just blows my mind to a whole new realm. How about you?

My friends, share how you have used your words to bring change to your life, your marriage, your family, etc. Let's encourage and inspire one another right here with our words. SUMites, I've seen you in action and you are GOOD at it!  

I have a special post for Thursday in honor of Easter. I am also flying back to California on Thursday to help my daughter move and help my hubby get our house there ready to be sold (Sniffle. That house was a true gift and blessing from God, as is our new one we are building—more on that soon!)

I intend to continue this speaking series next week to expound upon the power of our words as we speak Scripture and God's promises over our lives and marriages. Pray for the Holy Spirit to help me do justice to that post! That could be an entire book right there. 

I love you, my friends. I believe in you and your hearts for your marriages. I stand with you in prayer for your marriages to be healed, to be restored and to be places of prosperity and thriving. And I am standing with each and every one of you for the SALVATION of your spouse and loved ones. That is my heart for you and the Father's too (2 Peter 3:9)!
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How do you "hear" God?

41250080_sOver the last several weeks I’ve been following along with the Lenten reading on Margaret Feinberg’s site that Ian shared with us. I feel like I’m taking a walk with Luke through his testimony of his time with Jesus and what happened after the cross. It's a fascinating way to follow the progression of events. Thank you for the recommendation, Ian!

What I want to share with you today is one verse in particular that a stopped me in my reading and became an assignment I gave myself and a few dear friends. It’s a verse I know I’ve read many times, but you know how that happens, when a verse just grabs you, one know you’ve read many a time but in that moment, Holy Spirit is saying, “pay attention to this!”?

And He literally meant “pay attention…”

“So pay attention to how you hear. To those who listen to my teaching, more understanding will be given. But for those who are not listening, even what they think they understand will be taken away from them.” — Luke 8:18 NLT

The ESV translations reads like this:

Take care then how you hear, for to the one who has, more will be given, and from the one who has not, even what he thinks that he has will be taken away. — Luke 8:18

The first part of this verse about paying attention to how you hear God kind of surprised me, because I think most of us would express some kind of frustration or concern about hearing God. I know I have. Did I hear Him correctly? Was that Him or was that me I heard? Or we question the method or venue, wondering if God would actually communicate with us in such a way. How about you?

My friends, you know me well enough by now to know that I’m going to dig into the Greek and Hebrew meanings of words, and I did just that. As usual this one small verse holds some very fascinating gems.

The Greek word for pay attention or take care is blepō and has a long list of general meanings, such as to turn the thoughts or direct the mind to a thing, to consider, contemplate, to look at, to weigh carefully, examine. This is wise instruction for us, of course, but the one that stood our for me was to discover by use, to know by experience. The “how” part.

Over the last several years as I’ve gone deeper with God, I’ve discovered there are so many ways that God communicates with us. And sometimes I think He changes things up so we continue to seek and depend upon Him for His leading and learn more about Him and His ways. Which brings to mind another AMAZING verse:

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. — Proverbs 3:5-6

But let’s go back to that meaning, to discover by use, to know by experience—the how. The “assignment” I felt Holy Spirit impressing upon me was to keep a log of all the ways I hear God. That’s exactly what this verse is telling us to do—to pay attention to how we hear God. Not just to the what, but to the how. The amazing this is, the more you pay attention the more you will discover other ways God is speaking to you as you experience communication with Him.

For the last several weeks I’ve simply jotted down when I heard something from God, and how He communicated it with me. It’s been a fascinating observation.

My dear SUM family, I’d like to give this assignment to you. For at least a week, simply note each time you feel God has spoken to you and how He did so. It can be something you hear, read, see, feel, smell, taste, sense, or just know. And can even be a combination of these too. On Thursday I will share some of the ways I’ve sensed and heard God speaking to me. And I hope you’ll share some of yours too!

So how about it? Are you in? Leave me a comment so I can pray for you to have “eyes to see and ears to hear” everything our precious Lord wants to tell you! And have fun, my friends! God loves to speak to us! 

Love you and praying for you every day, my SUM family!
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Guest Post: Blessed are the Peacemakers

Dear friends, we have some more exciting news for you today. Our very own SUMite, Ian Acheson, has come on board with us and will be posting the first Wednesday of each month. As you know, Ian is the author of Angel Guard and has written guest posts with us periodically. We are so thankful to have him on board to give a male perspective to our mismated journeys and to our SUM family. God is so good! He knows exactly what we need! If you want to know more about Ian, check out his website too!

Thank you, Ian! We are excited to see what God has planned for you here and we are blessed to receive your wisdom and authenticity. Lord Jesus, bless Ian and equip him with more knowledge and wisdom in You. In the name of Jesus, amen!

Blessed are the Peacemakers

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Photo courtesy of Arvind Balaraman/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Lynn wrote a wonderful post two weeks ago encouraging us to always put on the shoes of peace. I've been meditating on the Beatitudes for the past few months and providentially my church has just completed a sermon series on them.

Anxiety has filled my heart for too much of my life. I’m blessed to be a twin and since I can remember mom always described me as the “anxious one” while Peter, my brother, was the relaxed one. I put it down to the fact he sat on me for nine months. Yes, I was first out and Pete took another twenty minutes before he realized he was missing his older brother.

Peace is inside us

Neither the enemy nor the world can bring us peace. But God is peace and the words of Romans 5:1 remind us that in believing in Jesus we have peace. As Lynn reminded us we have to actively choose to believe that peace is within us by putting on our shoes.

“Where do wars and fights come from among you? Do they not come from your desires for pleasure that war in your members?” (James 4:1)

Anxiety and strife begin in our heart. If we’re anxious we step into any situation, anxious. Only this weekend Fiona and I were discussing Christmas and how we’d manage having separate lunches for each of our families. Even though Fiona will do most of the cooking, she was the one who brought peace to our discussion. I brought the anxiety.

We can only be a peacemaker when we're at peace. 

Distraction steals peace

We live in a world of distraction. We only need to look at the story of Martha and Mary when Jesus comes to visit. Look at what Jesus says to Martha, “Martha, Martha (ouch …not a good sign) you are worried and troubled about many things …” (Luke 10:41)

Martha wants everything to be just right. Heck, it’s Jesus. She’s cooked him a three-course meal while making their house spotless. And she’s exhausted.

Mary, on the other hand, is single-minded. On Jesus.

We can learn two valuable lessons here on dealing with distraction:

  1. Make decisions about what your priorities will be. For example, read your Bible every day, go to church every Sunday. Don’t wait to decide on the day. Lock it in.
  2. Actively eliminate things from your life, whether that’s one or two regular commitments, some of the email newsletters you subscribe to, or stuff that is causing clutter in your house.

Source of peace

Remember that post I wrote a few weeks ago about the power of memorizing Bible verses? One verse that I’ve locked away since then is the following:

“You will keep in perfect peace
 those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you. Trust in the Lord forever,
for the Lord, the Lord himself, is the Rock eternal.” (Isaiah 26:3-4)

That’s what Mary did. She kept her mind fixed on Jesus.

As I mentioned last time, for too much of my time as a Christian I’ve been too casual in my commitment to Jesus. I haven’t wed myself to His Word rather simply grabbing snippets. Guess what? My anxiety continued unchecked.

“Great peace have those who love your law, and nothing can make them stumble.” (Psalm 119:165)

My pastor mentioned this verse a few weeks ago. What a great verse. Fall in love with the Word. Read it, devour it, mark it up, memorize it, live it.

I know in making a stronger commitment to spending time in the Word and in prayer this year my level of anxiety has reduced and I realize God’s peace is truly accessible.

This morning as I scanned my Instagram feed there was a photo of an underlined passage of the Bible from someone I follow. She mentioned her sister has been struggling with much opposition but “reading God’s words are the only time my mind and world quit spinning.”

It reminded of something my pastor would say: “If your Word level is out of whack with your circumstances, you will be susceptible to those circumstances.”

As a group let’s encourage each other to stay in the Word and in so doing we will experience peace. Then we can be the peacemakers in our marriages, our families, our friendships and all situations.

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What Does Thankfulness Do?

3KeysSUM family, we talked last week about the first two keys, forgiveness and love. On the subject of love I just want to make one more point that the Holy Spirit reminded about me over the weekend. 

We reference 2 Timothy 1:7 frequently when we talk about fear.

For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.

We’ve been given love in our spirit. I just want to point that out in case you’re feeling like you can’t love your pre-believer or someone else in your life well enough. The truth is, on you’re own steam, you can’t, but as a child of God, you can. God’s Word says you have a spirit of power, love and self-discipline. And I love how these three are bundled up.

Love without God’s power runs out. Power without God’s love turns manipulative and self-seeking. And self-discipline without love and power is ineffective. All three are necessary and work best together. I could write even more on this subject alone, but let’s move on to our third key, thankfulness.

The Holy Spirit has been showing me how important thankfulness is to our walk of faith and the abundant life. Let me start with a story first. Several months ago, I was struggling a bit in my faith walk and couldn’t figure out why. I sat one morning in prayer and asked the Holy Spirit for help.

He said, “You’re not being thankful.”

At His words I realized I’d done more grumbling than thanking lately. Not grumbling in the sense of complaining, though I’m sure I did some of that too, but more in the sense of continuing to ask over and over again without faith.

The Bible has a lot to say about thankfulness. Psalm 50:15 calls it a “sacrifice of thanksgiving,” which it is when we’re called to be thankful in difficult situations and times.

Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus. — 1 Thess 5:18

And let me point out that this verse doesn’t say to be thankful for the circumstances but to be thankful in them. I do not believe we are called to be thankful for an illness, a catastrophe, poverty—things that are clearly not from the hand of a loving God. But we can be thankful in them that God’s presence is working to help us in whatever situation we are in to bring redemption and goodness from it. 

When in doubt, reread Romans 8:28. Let your world and perspective revolve around this verse and watch how dramatically your life and how you live your life will change!

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. — Rom 8:28

So back to my story. Yes, my friends, I repented of my unthankfulness and began intentionally being thankful. And I began to take notice of the effect thankfulness has on me—spiritually, mentally and even physically. These are my observations:

Being thankful:

  • Brings peace in every situation (Col 3:15)
  • Encourages and releases healing—spiritually, physically and mentally (Col 1:11-13)
  • Gives a sense of well-being (Col 2:6)
  • Brings our heart into alignment with God’s (Eph 5:20)
  • Releases the Holy Spirit to work (1 Thess 5:19)
  • Builds our faith and trust in God because as we are asking in prayer, we are then thanking him for the answer (Phil 4:6-7)

My friends, I want you to try your own experiment with thankfulness. Try one of two things: 

  • Start a thankful journal. Writing down five things every day that you are thankful for. Try not to repeat.
  • Sit in a quiet place and think about one thing that you are struggling with. Now, shift your mind to God and start thanking Him for one positive aspect of that situation. 

Perhaps your marriage—thank God for one aspect of your husband that you truly love. God designed your pre-believer just like He did you. Find the gold and appreciate it. Talk to God about this. Do this everyday and then at the end of the week, ask yourself how you’re feeling and thinking about your marriage now.

A situation at work—focus on the rest of your job that you are thankful for. Do this every day before you leave. Then email me and tell me about the day one of your co-workers commented on how you’ve changed and how positive you seem to be.   

Something inside yourself—acknowledge whatever it is you don’t like about yourself, but give yourself grace here, my friends. Sometimes the very thing we see as our weakest area is the very thing God is turning into your greatest strength. Thank Him for giving you the power and desire to do what pleases Him, because He is! His Word says so. 

For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him. — Phil 2:13

Even Jesus prayed with thanksgiving (Luke 10:21). Paul thanked God and drew courage from it (Acts 28:16). Now look at a these Scriptures from Colossians:

Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.

Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. — Col 3:13-15

All three keys are right there! They build upon and are integral to each other. And when we are intentional to use all three in our faith walk, we are strengthened in our faith, my friends, because we living our lives rooted in the truths of Jesus Christ.

So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness. — Col 2:6-7

There are so many verses in the Bible about thankfulness. Do you have a favorite one to share? Do you have story of how being thankful has made a difference in your faith and life? Let’s meet in the comments and keep talking! 

SUM family, I am so thankful for you, every day. I am thankful God has put me in this place for such a time as this to be a part of your lives. And thank you for being a part of mine. I love you!
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How Do We Love?

3KeysMy friends, I’d planned to talk briefly about love and then move into thankfulness, but the Holy Spirit impressed our Father’s heart on this subject upon me and I want to give that ample space. So today we will talk about love, the second key in this Abundant Life series. 

I want to tell you that this series simmered in my heart for a few weeks and at first I thought love should come first since it is so foundational to all we feel, think and do. But I realized that unforgiveness needed to be covered first because when we hold that unforgiveness we are actually trying to control a person or situation, and we have talked in the past about how love and control can’t coexist, especially in a marriage.

And your comments were so good, so honest! Never discount how much sharing your heart here ministers to others. That is one of the aspects of our community that I love so much, SUM family. You’re amazing in the love that you show!

As I prayerfully prepared for this post, the Holy Spirit told me to read Galatians. I suspected He had a nugget for me there and wow, did He. This one piece of truth from Paul in his letter to the Galatians says it all:

For when we place our faith in Christ Jesus, there is no benefit in being circumcised or being uncircumcised. What is important is faith expressing itself in love. — Galatians 5:6 (NLT)

Paul wanted the Galatians to return to the truth of their salvation in Jesus and not listen to the group of Jewish Christians who had come and was teaching they still need the Law in order to be saved. Paul’s statement was a powerful truth for the Galatians then and for us today.

Without love, we can’t represent Jesus accurately, because He is love. 

All who confess that Jesus is the Son of God have God living in them, and they live in God. We know how much God loves us, and we have put our trust in his love. God is love, and all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them. — 1 John 4:15-16

This piece of truth reveals that it is because of God’s love and His love for us that we are able to love others. And not only love others, but love Him. And that is what I feel the Holy Spirit wanting us to truly embrace today about God’s love. 

You see, God designed us with a need to be loved. This need is even stronger than our need for food. I remember as a child somehow understanding that love was the answer to everything and the key to solving all problems. My understanding was limited though because I only understood love as the world defined it.

But now, as I walk closer and closer to God, I realize I was almost right. God’s love is the answer to everything—to all our needs, wants, conflicts and dreams; physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually.

God created us to need love, to need Him. And He created us to love Him and others. Thus our primary commandments to love God and love others isn’t just a command to please God. It is basic instruction to do what we have been created to do.

God living in us means Love is in us—His love. When we let Him increase and overflow in us, we are transformed. And that ripples out to everything around us. We’re not the only ones changed. Those around us are affected, influenced and changed. Lives, communities and nations.

God’s love is the most powerful force in heaven and on earth, because it’s Him. God is love. No matter how many times I say and think it, I’m astounded by the magnitude of this truth. He is vast. No wonder we need the Holy Spirit’s help just to understand it!

So that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith —that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. — Ephesian 3:17-19

My friends, we will spend our entire lives here on earth and eternity learning about God’s love. And you know what? That’s what our Abba Father wants most. To love us, for us to love Him, and then to release that love into others. And it happens in that order. Faith expressing itself through love. The abundant life...

Earlier this year I prayed and asked the Lord for a key to breakthrough. He said, “Love.” And He led me to this verse, the first one that follows 1 Corinthians 13, the love chapter.

Let love be your highest goal! — 1 Cor. 14:1.

Love as our highest goal…that’s so powerful, my friends. And that is the story of my marriage. I made loving my husband my highest goal. Not to change him or convince him God was real. Just to love him because I believe in God and I believe He, His love, transforms everything. And it has transformed my marriage and filled it with so much love, I’m blown away by it almost every day. That’s God, present and living and loving.

Share your thoughts in the comments, my friends. Share how God’s love has touched and changed your life. Share how loving someone changed a life, a heart—possibly yours. Because love always ricochets as a blessing.

And I love you, SUM family! With all the love God pours into my heart for you! He is love and He is GOOD!
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SUM Books 4


Your Mismatched Marriage Isn’t a “But” (part 2)

6a00d83451ee9f69e201b8d16111a0970c-320wiMy friends, on Tuesday we started talking about seeing our marriages instead of a but, to see them as a "But God..." My heart is to encourage you to walk in God's truths and to be all that His heart and love have declared and planned for you to be. The more I work in our healing rooms here, the more I understand that God has asked me to partner with Him to help people do this, to realize their divine destiny and walk in it. And this calling He's placed on my heart is not limited to healing rooms. He puts me into action all over the place. What an adventure!

And I love, love, love that I can bring that to our SUM nation. Dear friends, Lynn and I love you so much! We are passionate for you to walk in freedom, in the truths that Jesus came and died for us to believe and live in, and experience all the fullness of a life with God. Our abundant life isn't waiting in heaven. It's starts here on earth the moment we say yes to Jesus.

The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life. — John 10:10

Jesus does not put any qualifiers on this, my friends. No ifs or buts! We started with the truth that God is unchanged, unaffected and unmoved by our pre-believers lack of faith and neither are His plans and purposes for us. 

Now I want to look at what Jesus did for us, because I love these truths. They have given me freedom from the enemy’s lies that his influence is greater than God’s.

In this way, he disarmed the spiritual rulers and authorities. He shamed them publicly by his victory over them on the cross. — Col 2:15 (NLT)

The NIV translation says “he made a public spectacle of them.” God not only defeated satan, He shamed him and made a public spectacle of him. My friends, the enemy wants to transfer that shame on us because he hates it. But remember, there is no condemnation (shame) in Jesus (Romans 8:1). That’s our truth! Wow!

Therefore…

You have died with Christ, and he has set you free from the spiritual powers of this world. So why do you keep on following the rules of the world, such as, “Don’t handle! Don’t taste! Don’t touch!”? Such rules are mere human teachings about things that deteriorate as we use them. — Col 2:20

We have been set free of the enemy’s power. The only way he can influence us is if we let him, if we give him our authority. Lynn will be teaching more on that.

I want to finish with a few more powerful truths from Colossians:

For you died to this life, and your real life is hidden with Christ in God. — Col 3:3

In this new life, it doesn’t matter if you are a Jew or a Gentile, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbaric, uncivilized, slave, or free (or spiritually mismatched). Christ is all that matters, and he lives in all of us. — Col 3:11 (with my parenthetical addition)

My friends, Christ is all that matters. He’s the “but” in our  marriages because all things are possible with Him. Lynn and I are living proof that we can walk in the fullness of our spiritual identity and callings regardless of our mismatched marriages. And I will tell you that I used to think my marriage—my husband’s unbelief—would limit what God had for me, would basically preclude me from being and doing all that God has for me, but that was another lie of the enemy that has been publicly shamed (by this ministry) and proven untrue.

At the end of Colossians, Paul says something that has had me pondering:

“Remember my chains.”

I wondered at first if this was his way of asking for prayer and perhaps it was, but I think it goes beyond that. I’ve studied Paul’s letters though the years not just for the truths he shares but to understand the man he was. I believe Paul was encouraging believers to see that despite his chains, God was still working in and through Paul to accomplish all that God had predestined (planed in advance) for this man to do (Eph 2:10).

SUMites, I’m not saying our pre-believers are our “chains,” though some days, I dare to say, many of you may feel this way. And I say that with humor! What I am encouraging you to embrace is that if we are to stand in the truth of God’s Word, which tells us that ALL things are possible with God, then let’s believe and live it right in our marriages. 

We are not defeated, and we are by no means limited as long as we believe God, believe what He has told and promised us. Let’s do as Paul tells us, to believe this truth and stand firmly in it.

In the mighty name of Jesus, amen!

Quiet Time Study: (Take these questions to the Lord in your quiet time. Then listen.)

Continue to seek God for His plans and purposes for you. Write down whatever He tells you and then start seeking Him for each step of this journey. He may start you big or He more than likely will start you with small steps, my friends. God’s great “divine plan” for us is to know Him. To just be His kid. If that’s what He’s calling you to do right now, that means He wants to take you deeper first to know Him, love Him, trust Him, so that He can move you into bigger places. 

Community Questions (answer in the comments):

No questions today, my friends. Simply share whatever is on your heart. If you want to share what God is showing you, please do! Let’s encourage and celebrate each other in whatever God is doing in each of our lives. And I want to pray over and bless each of you for whatever Papa God is revealing to you. If you don’t feel comfortable doing that, feel free to email me. 

I love you, SUMites! I’m praying for you and celebrating with you, for all that God has for you. Next week, I want to share with you three keys to walking in the fullness of faith and victory. The Holy Spirit has started a new dialogue about these. I’m listening to hear more and look forward to sharing them with you. Have an amazing weekend!
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Share your voice, heart and love in the comments. 

THRIVE in your Spiritually Mismatched Marriage and raise your children to faith. Our books are filled with practical experience and Biblical advice. -click or tap the photo-

SUM Books 4


Your Mismatched Marriage Isn’t a “But” (part 1)

6a00d83451ee9f69e201b8d16111a0970c-320wiMy friends, I want to touch on an area that I feel the Holy Spirit has placed on my heart. I sense there are some of you out there who are reading this spiritual warfare series and seeing your marriages (regardless of how you got there) as blocks to all that God has for you. As a “but.”

Instead, I want to encourage you to think of your marriage not as a “But God…”

We’ve talked about sanctification before so I encourage you to go read this post on that subject and study and seek God for more truth and understanding of 1 Cor 7:14. That is a powerful foundational truth to understanding the influence your faith has on your marriage, your pre-believer and your children.

But today I want to talk about our places in these marriages, the truths that protect us and how this relates to spiritual warfare. First, we need to understand that our pre-believers choices and criticisms against our faith do not change these truths:

  • God is good, is good to you, and is working for your good—always (Rom 8:28). (You could say your pre-believer is the beneficiary!) 
  • God’s love for us is unchanged and unaffected by your pre-believers choices or criticisms (Rom 8:38-39).
  • God’s plans for you stand regardless of the choices and decisions of your pre-believer (Jer 33:11).
  • Just as God loves and desires to bless and delight in you, He also holds this same love and desire for your pre-believer (2 Peter 3:9 & 15).

This may seem simplistic in some ways, but I find this truth as powerful as the truth of God’s love for us. God is unchanged, unaffected and unmoved by our pre-believers lack of faith. Period. God will always pursue our pre-believers in His relentless love for all to repent and know Jesus, but this does not stop His plans, purposes and blessings for us. 

Salvation is an individual choice. In other words, our salvation and standing as a child of God with all the benefits, inheritance and blessings is in no way dependent upon any other person except for Jesus. And He already did the work. It’s done.

So, let’s talk spiritual warfare in our marriages. Yes, we may face more warfare because we are on the front lines contending for our pre-believer’s salvation, but we also are way more aware of this warfare than a lot of believing couples, SUMites. We know the enemy’s plan is to destroy marriages. We are on guard and praying against his tactics. We have skills!

Let’s start with an awesome Scripture Lynn quoted last week from Colossians and look at some others from this powerful book about our standing with God and the enemy.

May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy, giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. — Col. 1:11-14 (ESV)

Our reality is that we have been delivered from the domain of darkness and transferred into the Kingdom of Jesus. Paul continues to expound upon this truth in verse 22 with a word of caution:

Yet now he has reconciled you to himself through the death of Christ in his physical body. As a result, he has brought you into his own presence, and you are holy and blameless as you stand before him without a single fault.

But you must continue to believe this truth and stand firmly in it. Don’t drift away from the assurance you received when you heard the Good News. The Good News has been preached all over the world, and I, Paul, have been appointed as God’s servant to proclaim it. — Col. 1:22-23 (NLT)

Paul is admonishing us to believe and stand in the truth of our salvation, which again is true regardless of what the world says about our faith, what our pre-believers think of our faith, or even what we may mistakenly believe about ourselves. Jesus has made us holy and blameless before Him without a single fault.

My friends, I'm going to stop here for now, but come back Thursday, because I have more to share with you on the spiritual warfare side of this. 

Quiet Time Study: (Take these questions to the Lord in your quiet time. Then listen.)

  • Sit down with God and ask Him how or where you have limited Him working in you or your marriage because you believed the enemy's lie that mismatched marriage disqualified you. SUMites, we serve a gentle God who adores us. He will not condemn you. He will lovingly reveal truth to you, so don't be afraid of this.

Community Questions (answer in the comments):

  • If you are comfortable sharing, what lie has the enemy led you believe regarding God's plans and purposes for you?
  • How has the Holy Spirit helped you overcome this lie or any other lie that once held you back from walking in your callings and purposes in God (divine destiny)?

I love you, my friends. I'm excite to share the rest of these truths with you and I pray they revolutionize your thinking in some way that frees you to walk in the fullness of your faith. In the name of Jesus, amen!
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SUM Books 4


Wearing Our Armor—God’s Word

6a00d83451ee9f69e201b8d15b17ab970c-320wiMy friends, I want to share with you today how I “pray on” my armor. And I do this out loud whenever possible. I know that can be awkward at times in our spiritually mismatched places, but I find bathrooms, closets and cars to be good places when needed!

Lord, today I am putting on my armor. 

My belt of truth, which is You, Lord Jesus. You are my way, my truth and my life. In You I live, move and have my being. (John 14:6, Acts 17:28).

My breastplate of righteousness, because I am the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus (2 Cor. 5:21).

My shield of faith for the righteous live by faith and You, Jesus, are the author and perfector of my faith. My shield is strengthened and empowered by the truth of Jesus to deflect the barbs of the enemy. (Rom. 1:17, Heb. 12:2)

My sword of the Spirit, the very word of God that is alive and powerful. Lord, Your promises are my armor and protection (Heb. 4:12, Ps. 91:4).

My helmut of salvation for I am saved and made holy by the blood of Jesus through His salvation (Heb. 9:12-14, Heb. 10:10).

My feet shot in the gospel of peace, because I stand on the Truth of Jesus and He is my foundation (Matt. 7:24-25).

And the glory of the Lord is my rear guard (Isa. 58:11).

In the name of Jesus, amen!

The reason I say to pray this out loud is so that you hear these truths over and over again. Not only are you putting your armor on, you are declaring who you are in Jesus, your identity. And that makes the enemy lose all power over you, my friends. You are literally changing your thinking—transforming your mind with God’s truth (Rom. 12:2)—and building your faith.

Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ. — Romans 10:17

These are just the Scriptures I use. Study your Bible and as you find certain Scriptures capture your heart and connect to your identity (and you will, I’m certain of of it), personalize your armor. This isn’t a one size fits all suit, yet then again it is. That is the mystery and fun here, SUMites. We get to take it and personalize it.

I have just one more crazy wild truth to share with you regarding God’s Word. Take a trip with me to Mark 4. Jesus has told the parable of the farmer scattering seed, and it’s the very first parable that Jesus shares, at least according to Mark’s account. 

The disciples ask Jesus what it means. Here’s the beginning of his answer:

Then Jesus said to them, “Don’t you understand this parable? How then will you understand any parable? The farmer sows the word.” — Mark 4:13-14

This is astounding to me, my friends. This parable about God’s Word is foundational to understanding all the other parables that Jesus shares. He wants the disciples, and us, to understand the importance of not only growing in God’s Word but the importance of sharing it. As believers in Jesus Christ, everything we are and do starts in God’s Word, because He IS the Word.

We are His farmers! And we are to sow the Word of God into others. Not beat people over the head with it, but pray it over them like we do our pre-believers, live it out in our lives in front of others, and share it when we are led to or see the moment of need. 

And we are to speak the truth in love. 

Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work. — Eph. 4:15

Quiet Time Study:

Take the armor prayer I shared and make it uniquely yours, one you can remember no matter where you are or what you may be doing. 

Community Question:

What kind of farmer is God calling you to be and where is He asking you to “sow” His word?

I love you, SUMites, so so much. My heart is for us all to walk in these truths and our families too. As I finished writing this post, my oldest daughter called, upset over a situation she had no control over. I was able to pray with her, speak words of truth for her heart and spirit to hear, and encourage her to study her Bible so that next time she will already know these truths and can speak them out in prayer over herself. My testimony to her was based upon my firm belief that God’s Word is what delivered me from fear, anxiety and depression, because I knew what to pray—God’s truth!

Walking with you in faith, my friends! I can’t wait to hear YOUR testimony.
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SUM Books 4


Under the Umbrella of Our Amor and Identity

6a00d83451ee9f69e201b8d15b17ab970c-320wiMy friends, forgive me if my last post confused you but I promise that as I wrap this up it will all make sense. As the Holy Spirit has revealed more and more of the importance and power God’s Word plays in our lives, I am undone by it. And my prayer is that by the end of this series, you will be too. 

The Full Armor of God is representative of our identity of Christ. We’ve covered the belt (truth), the breastplate (righteousness) and the shield (faith). Let’s move on to the rest.

Our feet are to be “fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace” (Eph. 6:16). This too is built upon all the other pieces of our armor and identity. We are grounded to stand (Paul repeats this word many times in Eph. 6:10-17) in truth, righteousness and faith.

“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock.” — Matt. 7:24-25

The Greek word for fall, piptō, has enough meanings to make an entire post of its own here. It covers the literal meaning of to physically fall down but also encompasses our salvation (judgement), to be overcome by terror or under attack by evil, to worship and more. This word covers literally and figuratively all ways we could “fall.”

Yet these verses tell us we won’t fall if our foundation is built upon Jesus’ words. He is Truth. He IS the Word—we’ll come back to this shortly, so hang with with me a little longer. And His peace guards our heart and our minds (Phil. 4:7). 

Our helmut of salvation is the covering of our mind. Salvation came through the sacrificial blood of Jesus, so therefore our helmut is that blood covering, cleansing and identification as a Christian. It is through His salvation that we receive His righteousness and become the righteousness of God. See how these truths continue to come full circle? 

But wait…it gets even better. The sword of the Spirit is the only only piece of armor that Paul clearly defines (Eph. 6:17). And he tells us to pray in the Spirit, which many believe has to do with praying in tongues, but I also believe it means we are to pray the Word—speak it out loud in our prayers, back to God. It is His living and breathing Word of God. And hearing it builds our faith.

Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ. — Romans 10:17

John 1:1-14 also defines Jesus as the Word and that the Word became flesh.

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. — John 1:14

by truthful speech, and the power of God; with the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and for the left; — 2 Cor. 6:7

If the sword of Spirit is the Word of God and Jesus is that Word, then as we stand on the Word, speak and pray the Word, believe the Word and share the Word, we are living, breathing and being as Jesus. He is in us and we are in Him (1 John 4:13). He is not only our Truth, our Righteousness, our Faith and our Salvation, He has also given us His Spirit. We are inseparable. 

The full armor of God defends and protects us, because it is who we are and reflects Whose we are. This truth comes full circle and keeps going: The Armor of God is our identity which is our armor.

He will cover you with his feathers. He will shelter you with his wings. His faithful promises are your armor and protection. — Psalm 91:4

My friends, I am convinced the first and most important battle we will ever fight against the enemy will be to make time to read God’s Word, because he knows that when we do, we learn who we really are and are set free from his lies. The truth, THE Truth, sets us free (Gal. 5:1). It is our greatest weapon against him. And when we learn the truth, we stay free.

SUMites, the Word of God is the answer to everything we need. It’s not just words on a page. It’s truth. It’s Jesus. It’s the key to being everything we have been created to be and to do. The Word of God will save you, heal you, release you, anoint you, empower you and love you. It will reveal who you are and who you are meant to be—your purpose and calling, divine destiny. 

How is all that possible? Because it’s alive and powerful.

For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires. — Hebrews 4:12

The Bible is not just a book. It is a dialogue with the God who created you. This is part of the mystery of God, of how His Holy Spirit in us creates the bond and connection to the Father’s heart to know Him, to love Him, to hear Him. All through Jesus, the Word become flesh, the Truth.

Quiet Time Study:

My friends, my prayer right now is that this truth I’ve shared with you today will spark a hunger for God’s Word like never before. If you don’t have a time each day to sit and read your Bible, ask God right now to help you make that time. Tell Him you want to go deeper with Him in His Word. I promise you, He will rush in and answer this prayer if you are willing to do what He asks or shows you. 

Community Question:

Share a moment the Holy Spirit spoke to you directly through God’s Word.

As I said, I believe this is our greatest battle, to make daily time with God reading His Word, but once you “win” this one, SUMites, you will be empowered to win the rest. And as your identity becomes clearer, your armor is stronger. Pretty amazing, huh? On Thursday I will share how I pray my armor on with these truths. There’s a benefit to doing this that I don’t think we don’t realize…

Lord, my prayer today is for every SUMite who reads this to have a greater hunger for Your Word. That You would move time into alignment and opposition out of the way for each one of them to spend time reading their Bible every day. Lord Jesus, You are the Word and You are our Truth and our reality. Meet them on the pages of their Bible and show each one of them a specific truth this week that is from Your heart to theirs. In the name of Jesus, I pray, amen! 

Love you, SUMites!
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P.S. Check out this awesome worship song about who we are!

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Share your voice, heart and love in the comments. 

THRIVE in your Spiritually Mismatched Marriage and raise your children to faith. Our books are filled with practical experience and Biblical advice. -click or tap the photo-

SUM Books 4