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14 entries from January 2021

Belief vs Unbelief: The Power of Free Will

Hi friends, Ann here!Ingredients of belief

I've been thinking lately about the topic of belief vs. unbelief, and all the different spiritual ingredients that go into that. Like many of you, I have a mixture of believers and unbelievers in my life, and often look at those who don't believe and wonder what is going on there. 

There are quite a few things that lead to unbelief, as we know. The influence of the enemy is one thing. The perfect timing of God is another. But one all-important ingredient is, of course, that powerful force that God designed us to have: Free will!

Free will - Gah!

Being in a SUM, most of us will find free will a frustrating thing. Because it means our spouse has complete choice to accept or reject Jesus. But, in Genesis 1:26-31, God made humankind in his own image, then said it was ‘very good’. 'Very good' must include free will, I guess. These were not robots who would automatically submit mindlessly. Rather, they were beloved children with whom God wanted a relationship.

I think quite often about how powerful free will is. Especially as it relates to my husband. It is not only powerful, but beautiful. Probably like many of you, I have questions. After all, the work of God is often unfathomable. And that topic of free will – Oh, it intrigues me!

Here in the SUM community we have many readers, and I have a sneaky feeling that each of us would say it doesn't work when we impose our own will too strongly on our spouse when it comes to faith. We can be forceful about other things, but when it comes to welcoming Jesus in, our spouse's will is their own. There is something deeply spiritual about that.

So, we learn to not force it more than God would. Then God might eventually give us a good word to speak, in season.

On speaking a word in season, I got to do that recently - And I'll share the story now. It only happened after I had learned to shut my mouth. Yep, I tried unsuccessfully to ‘convert’ my husband for a number of years, only for it to fall flat. After all this, one day we were quietly together and I got a little God-nudge (I think): “Tell Bryce that faith is a matter of choice. He is going to have to make a choice -- Yes or no.”

“Oh crikey, Lord?” I said. “Do you really want me to step out and say this?” I was so used to things falling flat. Anyway, I took a deep breath, and here’s what I said:

“Babe, when you die, it’s actually really important that you have said ‘yes’ to God. Some people reject God, and when they get to eternity it’s not a good thing that they did. Please don’t be one of those people. It actually really matters to me to know that you’ve said yes, as far as you can.”

“Really?” he said.

“Yep. I don’t fully understand it. But it is where I’m sitting these days.”

“So, what does it look like to say ‘yes’ to God?” He said.

(At that I didn't even know where to begin. What should I say?!)

 “Um ... Well .... Perhaps start with saying ‘yes’, and God will do the rest!”

“Mm..” He said (both of us thinking). Then we lay in silence. Finally, he said: “I’m not rejecting anything, you know.”

And that was it. Um, my evangelism skills still need some refining (I'm laughing). But perhaps this was the SUM version of evangelism. Gently does it. Certainly, my husband didn’t seem to mind that I’d raised it. And that reaction tells me it probably was a Holy Spirit nudge.

What a powerful force free will is! I suppose that’s love: You can’t force somebody to fall in love with you; and so God does not. He woos, he draws, and he asks his disciples to help with this process, but in ways that might be customized. A word rightly seasoned, here and there.

So, that is one ingredient: Free will. Next time I’ll talk about another ingredient that goes into belief. I'm looking forward to it!

For now, any thoughts about today's topic? How far do you go when speaking about serious matters of faith with your spouse? We'll chat in the comments.


What I Learned About Planting Seeds Of Faith For My Husband

Hey SUM family, Tiffany here!

I mentioned in the previous post that my prayer strategy had changed. Prayer has been a long and hard battle over the years. Now don't get me wrong, I am a chatter. I love to talk - especially to God. Talking with my Best Friend is an all the time thing. The problem in the past was my perspective. I had to do a lot of heart and mind work on the battlefield against the orphan spirit. I approached God like a slave to a master. I was in fear but not in a healthy and awe-inspiring way. I would think "if I do one wrong move, say one wrong thing..." than I am going to be punished. I couldn't see God as a Loving Father because I didn't have an earthly representation of that. I mention all this to give context for the newer readers.

I am still in awe of the things that God has done for the Carter Crew to be able to transition into a brand new home - designed just for us. I didn't get to dig in to all the crazy "God moments" on Monday. I am sure I will have a lot to share over the next nine to ten months as our house is being built. However, I thought I would share a few details I was not able to previously touch.

When my husband started looking at our finances a few months ago, he was confident that we would be able to make this commitment work. The only thing that was holding him back was my job security. I have touched on the hardships at work here before. I won't go into all that today; but, suffice it to say, my husband was very paranoid that I was going be fired. It was like my work situation was a barrier that he just couldn't hurdle over. (To be fair, this issue at work has been going on for almost a year now.) Whenever we would talk about it, I would get very emotional - triggering my husband's paranoia - and we would argue. At times I was so exhausted over it that I would have panic attacks. I physically could not breathe. Praise God! He worked through us both.

One day when I was at work I very clearly heard the Lord say, "I want you here watch me work." As you all know, there are some things we have to keep to ourselves until the timing is right to share with our spouses. Sometimes they may think we are crazy Jesus freaks and they are not ready to hear it all. ::grin:: I held this to myself for a while. Even in the midst of arguments for those couple of months.

I believe it was Christmas Eve or New Years Eve (2020) that my husband and I had to absolutely commit to whether we were going to proceed with this builder. Soon they would be upping their price to build by $7,500. We had to sign papers by Jan 4th, 2021 in order to lock in the cheaper price. My husband asked me why I thought my job was going to be in tact. I had been telling him for weeks that I am not worried about my job. I was confident that everything was going to be okay. Of course, he didn't know the word from God.

I said, "I don't know if this will give you any comfort or not but a few weeks ago, God said to me, 'I want you here. Watch me work.' I trust what God has said. He has never given me a reason to doubt Him. He has always come through and provided for me - for us." He wanted a reason that did not have to do with God. I responded with words spoken to me from my Captain, "We need you here. I think you know that." I also told him that I always tell him if something doesn't set right with me. I get a "feeling" (Holy Spirit discernment ::wink::) about things whether they are good or bad. I have no bad or concerning feelings about any of this. Not the house or my job. That day we took a leap of faith.

The Sunday we got an offer, the kids and I went to church. We had showings throughout the day so Jason took the dog for a loooooong car ride. During first service, my phone went off a couple of times from the realtor alerting us of new showings for the day. My husband had asked if any were second showings. She said unfortunately not. She also said, "With only one bathroom, maybe we should consider dropping the price by $5,000." My husband said, "Let's see how today and tomorrow goes with the showings. We will talk about that at a later time."

As soon as I read his response this is where my prayer strategy changed. Standing in the gap for my husband, according to 1 Corinthians 7:14, I prayed in my seat:

God, I thank You for my husband. I have been praying over this decision that You are God of more than we can ask or imagine. You know what we need. I have prayed that we will not settle in asking for it. This response from Jason to the realtor is him refusing to settle. He doesn't know this yet but this is him standing in faith. This is his seed being planted. Please God honor my husband for this. Amen.

After first service, I stepped out into the hallway to call my husband. I thanked him for standing up and responding the way he did. I said that I had been praying that we don't settle. I asked him if he wanted us to leave and meet him for lunch or continue on to second service. He said he didn't care. I asked him where he was. Crazy enough, he was in the parking lot next to the church! I told him that we would stay for second service and then we can get lunch at the pizza place next door.

Starting into second service, the enemy tried to steal my praise and worship with loneliness and grief. How is it that my husband can be in the parking lot but not in the seat next to me? I refused to do anything other than praise and worship. Look at what God is doing? Am I going to step out of the confidence and gratitude I just had in praying over my husband? No way! I pressed in.

Second service sermon begins and we get a text from the realtor. A buyer wants to put in an offer and wanted to know if there were any other offers on the table. She said, "don't be surprised if it is a low offer since they were asking about others interested in the house." I reminded the Lord of my prayer from first service. To our amazement - full asking price, no contingencies. Even our realtor was blown away. After church I got to proclaim the goodness of God to my husband - He is a God of more than we can ask or imagine.

I am sorry that I went really long. I wanted to give you encouragement today. I know there is a lot of stress and hardship in our mismatched marriages. Sometimes it seems like there 20210104_162029
is no hope. Please know that not only does God bless and honor our commitment and faith. He also honors our husbands decisions in leading our families. I learned to see my husband from God's perspective. I was able to discern that his heart and mind was unified with mine. We were working like two sides of the same coin. He in the natural, me in the spiritual. Together God used us both to receive the glory.

I don't believe that my husband understood the weight of his comment to the realtor. To him it was just common sense. Dropping the price of the house won't make a second bathroom magically appear. But to me, it grew my faith in how to pray for my husband.

And work for the peace and prosperity of the city where I sent you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, for its welfare will determine your welfare. - Jeremiah 29:7, NLT

Pray to the Lord for discernment. What are things that your spouse is doing that are secretly seeds of faith over your household? Write them down. Speak peace and prosperity over it. Ask God to honor their decision. Stand in faith and intercede on behalf of them. Watch and see what the Lord will begin to do as He breaks through in your lives.

I love you all. ::Hugs::


How Changing My Prayer Strategy Strengthened My Faith

Hey SUM family, Tiffany here!

Two and half years ago we put our house on the market. We were so certain that it would be a quick sell. The houses in our price range were hard to come by. We were looking for a bigger home but had to sell our house in order to get a new one. We would go to ask for a showing only to find that the home was already pending after one day.

I remember the disappointment and heartbreak as two weeks had come and gone with no offer on our home. I remember crying out to the Lord. Why, God? We NEED a bigger house. We NEED more than one bathroom. You do what is good for your children. Why does it seem like the door has closed on our dream? What are you waiting for?

Fast forward to September 2019. My husband got into a "mood" where he started looking at builders for a home. After some research he picked a builder that seemed like a good fit for us. He was crunching numbers but we needed to see what the average price of a home would be. We went to the models. We planned. We dreamed.

We had finally come to a point where we had agreed on a plot of land and a floor plan that we both liked. The realtors as well as my husband were certain that the plot of land that we had fallen in love with would be gone quickly. After a few weeks, my husband found that we really couldn't afford it. I was crushed. Again.

Psalm 127-1I was really struggling with not becoming bitter. I was tired of being put on hold. It was then that the Holy Spirit spoke to my heart: Psalm 127:1.

I decided to pray and stand in faith. Lord, if it is your will, put the Carter name on this plot of land that no one can have it but us. I had never prayed a prayer like that before. I wasn't even sure if it was "okay" to make such a request; however, my heart was of pure intentions.

I had a craft show at the elementary school a couple of blocks from the plot of land. I drove up to the land and prayed again in faith. Lord, we have chosen this land. We have agreed upon it. You know it is hard for my husband and I to agree on things at times. The process of choosing has been so smooth. It was easy and even fun planning and dreaming together. Hold this land for us. Because of my faith, we are standing firm - together.

I took my kids with me and prayed with them. I told my husband that I asked God to hold the land for us. I held my ground and prayed. After some time I checked the plot of land and it seemed as though it was still available. I told my husband. This seemed to activate another "mood" of crunching numbers. Now almost exactly a year after claiming the land it seemed as if the tide was turning. It seemed as though the numbers were adding up.

We went through the process again. We looked at the model home. We got updated pricing to build. We crunched numbers and crunched them again. The only way we could make this work is if we sold our home. We had done a lot of upgrades to the home since we put it on the market almost two and a half years ago. The market is so much better than it was before. We had paid off debt. Would this be the time for us?

There were many God moments and chances to witness to my husband along the way. I wish that I had the space to share it all! I will share one briefly before I close.

Tiffany Summit Drive 2021
I made sure to give God the glory in front of my husband throughout this whole process. We put the house on the market on Friday, January 15th. In our location we were set to have a snowstorm on Friday. Thursday night my husband said, "Well I bet we won't have any showings on Friday because of the weather." We were both amazed when our phone kept going off the next day. Our realtor alerting us of showing after showing. I told my husband that God is a God of more than we can ask or imagine. On Sunday, we got our first offer. They offered full asking price and they had no contingencies. My husband said, "I never would have thought we would have sold our house for this much." I reminded him again - God is a God of more than we can ask or imagine.

As you read this, we have signed papers to sell our current house and also build our new house - on the plot of land that God held for us for an entire year. Hindsight is 20/20. Looking back I see all that God shielded us from. We had no idea that COVID-19 would hit. We had no idea that there was such a better offer available in the not-so-distant future. We had no idea that there would be better interest rates for home mortgages. All I could see back then was the disappointment of failed expectations. I had put parameters on what I wanted to see God do. I wanted a breakthrough, but I wanted it in my timing and my way. Thank the Lord He doesn't always give us what we want!

What is it that you are praying and hoping for in your life? A new job? New home? Loved one to be saved?

Don't get sucked into the trap of putting parameters around your prayers and expectations like I did. It only caused pain, disappointment, bitterness and uncertainty.

When I began to pray with God's character in mind, my prayer went from uncertainty to expectation. Of course, not everything we pray for will come to pass. Sometimes, it will be a no from the Lord. However, our attitude and perspective will drastically change for the better. We will begin to focus on Him and His goodness, mercy, grace, etc.

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. - Philippians 4:6-7

Let's meet in the comments. What are some prayer strategies that have strengthened your faith?


Pray This Prayer For Your Family and Marriage

There are times we need to lean on other’s prayers. And today, I have a prayer that God gave me recently to pray for my home and family. Lean on it. Pray it aloud in your prayer time. Pray it often. It truly is from the Lord. Save it in your notes on your phone. Take it out and pray it as often as God reminds. Hugs, Lynn

 

Praying HandsFather, I come in the name of Jesus to Your Mercy Seat today to receive mercy and help. Today, I ask You, Father, to bless my home with the Shalom of heaven. Bless my family with divine health. Protect all of us from all evil assaults against our bodies, soul, spirit, mind, will and emotions.

Lord, decree and bless my marriage that we operate intentionally within a partnership of unity. Bless us with the spirit of mutual honor, love, respect and kindness. Bless our marriage to be filled with a spirit of cooperation and unity. Bless us to love one another with our words and our body language.

Lord bless my children with curiosity, with self-discipline and help me to also cultivate creativity, independence and self-responsibility and a hunger for God within their minds and hearts.

Bless us with a fierce protection and love for one another. Bless us to smile, to laugh and to uplift each other. Bless us with Your Presence and speak into our lives Your hope, truth and goodness.

In Jesus’ name. AMEN


How Do We Linger Long with the Lord?

Dear friends, Ann here. Linger

Last week I shared a story about a shift in my home. A good shift. If you missed that post, you can read it here. Essentially, a peace came and settled between me and my hubby, and we stopped having disagreements about faith or church.

Wonderful!

Perhaps at some point in a SUM, this is what happens. I would be interested to hear in the comments if any others of you have found that. I know that Lynn felt that shift one or two years before her husband, Mike, got baptized.

Now, I keep a careful diary about my life with God, and in the case of this particular shift I looked back and noticed something curious. At the very time that the shift with my husband happened, I had begun to do something new: I had begun to linger a little longer with the Lord.

It was right when I began to linger a little longer that a peace descended in my home. 

So, I'd like to share a bit about my journey with that.

Like many of us, I've had a busy life for a long time. I worked as a lecturer at the University of Auckland, a busy job. And, of course, I had my family. Despite the busyness, I would spend daily time with God, but there sometimes wasn't the capacity to spend as much time as I wanted. That is the case for many, I know. And life has seasons, God understands. 

Anyway, 2019 rolled round and God took me on a little adventure there. First, he made it clear that he had a new plan for me and that I was to leave my job. I didn’t know exactly why, but I duly waved goodbye to my colleagues, and began a time of being a housewife.

It was then that the Lord nudged me to do something rather counter-cultural. Here's what he asked:

“Ann, would you try giving me your whole morning, and see what happens?”

My whole morning? Every morning? Umm ... I'd actually like to!

So I did. It looked like this: Get up, make coffee, see the boys off to school, and then sit with God. Sit. Sit. Sit some more. Until midday. In those hours, I did nothing except chat to him, read scripture, worship, journal, look back on stories of his faithfulness in my life or others' lives, pray for others … And focus 100% on filling myself up.

Some might say to that: "Wow, that's kinda lazy!" Well, that was the question for me. Was I being lazy? I will confess to being a natural couch potato. So was it lazy, or was it the most worthwhile thing I could do? 

I had to count the cost. It meant we would not be living in a show home, for housework came second. I had less space in my diary. I didn't really get to go round the shops much that year, which I otherwise would have enjoyed. I did without some pleasures. It made me a bit serious in some ways, because matters of faith are serious if we go near the topic of others' salvation, good and evil, and so on. But, I became addicted to the Lord.

And somewhere in amongst this lingering, the presence of God came and brought some new peace. Things shifted. 

It wasn't just my marriage. It was myself. I began to feel constantly like I had been injected with happy drugs. For that is the abundant life of Jesus.

Now, to come back to earth: Yes, it was a treat, and usually it's not practical to linger that long. Especially if you work, or have toddlers. But what we can do is say this: "Lord, I'd like to give you a little bit longer than I have before" Then, "How can I rearrange my life so that I can linger with you?"

It might just be 10 minutes more than we did before. It might be one lunch-break a week at work. That is lingering … A little longer than we did before.

And, if we find it hard to concentrate, hard to linger, if we find we get distracted, we can pray for help with it: Lord, help me to linger a little longer with you!

How easy or hard do you find it to linger at the moment? What kinds of obstacles get in the way? Let's chat! 


A Letter From Jesus. You Need This Today!

My Beloved Child LetterSUMites,

This post is for the weary. This post is for those who have been in the trenches and can’t feel their toes, their nose, and struggle at times to think clearly. This post is for those who feel hope draining from their future, and dreams appear dashed.

This post is for all the warriors of the Kingdom of light!

Sit down, sip your java or tea, buckle in because our Jesus is about to love on you.

My dear child, You are NOT alone. I haven’t abandoned you and left you to live a life without hope. I am in the very room with you protecting and comforting when there is conflict, discord and demonic interference. I perceive as words of condemnation fly about your mind. And yet you continue to press into the life-giving words of truth that I speak from the Holy Word of God.

Believe MY WORDS. They are life!

You have wrestled with doubt and despair but arise each morning into the newest of mercies that I purchased for you. You are on my heart. I delight in your children. I even love that ornery spouse who behaves without honor or sensibilities toward you at times.

I know you feel you fail many times. Hear me now, you don’t. You wade through the unknown and the frightening with such courage and conviction, determined to bring the best to your home, your family and your heart.

Lay down your self-criticisms and the word curses and false accusations spoken toward you by others. Hear My truth: I approve of you. You are living your best effort and as you arise every morning to face more hardship, I am holding your hand. I literally stand with you throughout the day and whisper truth, hope and love into your heart and I change your life.

You are braver than you will ever know this side of heaven. Your prayers over power all the blackest of assignments from the hellish demons. You arise and bring with you hope for your family, your church and community.

This brings me the greatest joy!!!!!

I offer you a glimpse into your future. Hear me say unto you this day: WELL DONE, GOOD AND FAITHFUL SERVANTS. Enter into the Father’s rest.

I am your Savior, your Shepherd, your Rabbi, your Bridegroom Prince. All is well my beloved. All is well!

My friends, this flew off my fingers. I’m humbled to have written it. I believe every word for myself and for you. Hallelujah.

I love you. Lynn


One Big Shift In My Home

Hello friends, Ann here. Ann and Bryce

Last week, I mentioned that things had shifted in my home -- Quite a lot, in fact. Well, I want to tell you more about that.

This photo here is of Bryce and me, on a recent holiday. You wouldn't think we'd had such drama, looking at that peaceful photo! We love each other heaps. But, despite that we've had some truly difficult moments on this SUM journey. It's a journey that neither of us asked for.

Somewhere along the way, however, it settled. A peace came into that chasm between us.

I only realized this a few weeks ago. Just before Christmas I went to a hotel for a night alone and had a lot of hours to reflect on the year. It was there that I suddenly realized something:

"Oh! Bryce and I have not had a painful conversation about my faith for a very long time!"

In fact, I struggled to remember the last time we'd had one of those stomach-wrenching conflicts about faith. No wonder I’d managed to be cheery on this SUM site. Somewhere along the way, it had got better. But when and how? It fascinated me. My train of thought continued ... And I realized the moment it changed was just after the worst period of battles I'd had.

It was mid 2019, and I really was embattled -- Spiritually embattled. Sometimes these things are recognizable. Bryce and I had some major conflicts about my church involvement, then two other battles hit in quick succession – Terrible, terrible battles. Amidst them, God actually did say to me: "These are efforts of the enemy, the persecution towards you is coming in a cluster of three, and the enemy is trying to discourage you. You are in my will and you need to keep moving forward."

How helpful it is when God shows us something like that in a battle. It’s not always clear, but this time it was. So I kept stepping forward.

With these battles fresh, I found myself standing over my coffee machine one Sunday morning. I was due to be at church, but as I made my coffee my mind went to my troubles and I began to cry.

Now, a good old cry is a cathartic thing. And that soft little weep began to crank up as the coffee machine whirred away. Before long, you got it, a full-blown wail was coming from my end of the house that made my beloved stop what he was doing and come running … ‘What is it?’ ‘What’s wrong?’ 'Tell me!' ….  Wail. Wail. Wail. Then I let it out:  ‘I can’t – be – a --- Christian any morrrre! It's too hard.’ Tears splashed into the coffee, and now over his shirt.

He stood and hugged me, possibly feeling a bit bad about some of the things we’d gone through the past couple of weeks, and then spoke three, wonderful words:

"Yes you can."

Just three words. Yes you can. You can be a Christian, Ann.

Sometimes, we don’t realize the significance of what’s just happened. Sometimes a significant moment in our faith life can seem small. But in that hotel room just before Christmas I saw it: When my husband said those three words a whole year and a half ago, he said 'yes' to my faith.

And he’s continued to say yes.

I now fast forward a year and half. Over the past year, he and I have talked about God as real and personal. We've talked about prayer. We've talked about the demonic realm and how it influences people. We've talked about church life. We've even talked about his dreams at night, half-expecting that somewhere in them God speaks. In these conversations we're in agreement - Pretty much.

What does this mean for his own decisions about faith? I honestly have no idea. I'm not sure it matters for me to know that. All I know is it's gentler, better, and our marriage is not suffering.

What tickles me a little is that this is certainly not happening anywhere near a church. Which is perfectly fine. I think a few husbands out there are that way inclined, and God gets around these things. 'Church', anyway, is the one sleeping beside him every night who tries to be a good wife.

Do you have tough conversations with your spouse? Has it become gentler over time? It'd be interesting to hear how things are with you. We can be honest, we all understand.

Nice chatting!

Ann


The New Year - Beholding Jesus!

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Image courtesy of KAZITAFAHNIZEER at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Happy New Year, dear friends. Wow, 2021 has come upon us and for many of us it hasn’t been a great start with lockdowns, restrictions and political chaos.

I’ve been thinking about this post for a few weeks now. In the past few years, I’ve shared my ‘word for the year’ in this first post. And guess what I’ll be doing that again. Interestingly, it also links in well with Ann’s previous post .

I hadn’t given it much thought until I happened to reflect on some of the verses I’d been reading in my Advent readings. Two in particular caught my attention:

The first is from Isaiah 11: “His delight is in the fear of the Lord.” (v3a). The ‘he’ the prophet is referring to is Jesus.

The second is in Mary’s Magnificat in Luke 1. I’d encourage you to read Mary’s song. It’s a beautiful love song about God. But the verse: “His mercy is on those who fear Him from generation to generation.” (v50).

We’re told that Jesus would ‘delight’ in the fear of the Lord. And then his mother who is carrying him in her womb, personifies this ‘delight’ in fearing God through singing this song and allowing her life to be turned upside down by Gabriel’s news.

Fear of the Lord

Before we get to the ‘word’ for the year, I want us to reflect a little on ‘fear’. I’ve lived with it all my life, at times paralyzing me with anxiety. I expect all of us can relate to fear that has kept us up at night, woken us up at night, or given us sheer terror.

But clearly this isn’t the fear that Isaiah and Mary are referring to. Because they’re delighting in it. I think all of us would agree that the fear I just referred to is one that we don’t delight in.

For some of us we’ve grown up fearing God in the I’m scared-fear way. I know I did. And I can relate that back to the fear I had for my father. For many people, their first impressions of a fatherly figure dictate their initial response to God. I was one of them.

There is a ‘right fear’ of God that makes us long to be more like Him. Jesus and Mary possessed that ‘right fear’. We often swap out fear for ‘awe’ or ‘reverence’ but I’m wondering whether they really have the same impact as the word, fear. We’re all probably familiar with Paul’s encouragement to the Philippians:

“Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling,” (2:12 ESV)

Once again, awe or reverence doesn’t have the same impact, does it. We should tremble in our delight of God. His goodness, His almightiness, His power, His creation (breathtaking), and His tenderness and love for us. We’re simply breathless with tears in our eyes full of all this incredible [good] emotion. As David exclaims in Psalm 145: “God is magnificent; he can never be praised enough. There are no boundaries to his greatness.” (v3 MSG)

Does that make sense?

I’ll be doing some study on this notion of delighting in the fear of God and if it’s okay with you will share some more down the track. I want to experience that delight!

A Word for the Year

As I contemplated this delighting in the fear of God, two things happened on the same day. I’m big on the three strikes test being a little sign that God wants one’s attention.

I received an email from Bethel, just their weekly email that all subscribers receive. It featured the word: ‘Behold’ and provided the dictionary definition: 1. To perceive through sight or apprehension; 2. To gaze upon. The email advised ‘behold’ appears ‘roughly (?) 1,527 times throughout Scripture.’ That’s a lot.

I listened to a song I’ve played most days for the past few months, simply titled, ‘Behold Him.’ It’s a beautiful song. I start my mornings with it as it helps me ‘behold’ Jesus.

I had my word: ‘Behold’.

Yes, perhaps an old word, some even might describe it as archaic. You might not find it in the modern Bible translations, rather the older ones. But the notion of fixing my eyes, to gaze upon the Lord and to learn from Him each day excites me.

Do you have a word for the year? Don’t worry if you don’t. But I like it especially as I try to start everyday doing something in relation to it. It provides a focus for my day. Well, at least the start of it.

If you have a word or a reflection for the year, would it be okay if you shared it in the comments below? Be lovely for us to come around each other and encourage one another with their words.

Here’s to a special year ahead, one where we all draw closer to the Lord and discover more of the delight in His Word, in His love and His magnificence.


SUM Community 2021 - Marching Forward!

Dear SUM family, Ann here.Mountain

I hope you are relishing the moments from last week's community fast. I’m still smiling at it all.

And now we turn our minds towards 2021 in earnest.

As you know, I’ve been praying about this coming year for us. But somewhat surprisingly, it seems that the word God wanted me to share for 2021 takes our minds off our families a little. Perhaps the pressing issue now is that we need to cope with a challenging year ahead regardless of what is happening with our spouses. So, here is what the Lord seems to be saying right now:

SUMites, come up higher. Come and learn more from Me about being part of My remnant!

The remnant? This one is an interesting phrase. It refers to those who keep their love for God burning (Matthew 25:1-13), and who will never allow themselves to fall asleep spiritually. They hold a fire in their hearts for Jesus, are willing to go deep with the Holy Spirit, and will always try to obey the Father, however uncomfortable. It’s a heart attitude, and from it flows a strength that will fortify us in what is going to be a turbulent year.

The way God gave me this word was through a vision, so I will share a little of that. In it I saw a bird’s-eye view of his remnant spread across the Mountain of the Lord. But they were not a congregated crowd. Instead, they were in groups of two, three, or four, scattered. Further, they were dressed in dark red, the color of Jesus’s blood.

The sense I had was that the Father smiled on these ones. In his eyes they were lovely.

Then I heard the Lord speak something else alongside this vision:

"Too many Christians do not enter the inner sanctuary of holiness. They stay in the outer court of the temple because it is comfortable there for them. They prefer their own comfort over walking with me."

My friends, it’s as if God is encouraging us today: Be My remnant. And keep going. You have come so far, beloved SUMites.

In our marriages, we’ve already been so brave. We’ve dared to be Jesus’s regardless of our spouse’s views. But I guess God is leading us towards even more. Like those little clusters of two or three people in my vision, we might find we swim upstream and/or walk alone with a few other remnant friends.

What’s more, the dark red color of the remnant says this: The blood of Jesus is the message. The message of his blood is that there is no other way to salvation but by repentance. It is his blood and sacrifice that brings abundant life. Will we stand up for it?

Finally, the Lord gave me three points to think on, things that characterize his remnant. And these have really got me thinking. They are:

  • Spend time in worship – He says if we spend time in private worship, he will bring the nets full of fish in!
  • Spend time lingering with him. It is this time that will lead to us carrying a greater measure of his presence.
  • And third, an obedient heart is one thing, but so is standing in the Lord's counsel. It’s possible for any of us, as Christians, to think we are being ‘obedient’ to something, but not be within his will (yikes). God's counsel is what directs us to speak the right words at the right time and place. So we need to practice hearing his voice as well as deeply engaging with scripture, then help others do the same.

Ahh … What a challenge.

Ultimately, perhaps a key message here is: The higher we go with him, the safer we will be. And he's got us. He is going to be holding us tight this coming year.

I would love to hear your thoughts on this remnant word when you get the chance – Whether in the comments, or by just touching base on email or Facebook messenger (feel free to friend me on Facebook.) And let’s keep praying!

With love,

Ann


SUM Fast Day Five: Walking with Jesus into 2021

Dear SUMites, SUM fast 2020

Ann here on our final day of the fast. We've made it!

It's Friday morning here and my brain is pretty foggy. Yesterday I began to find I could no longer construct proper sentences due to lack of food, which caused my boys a great deal of laughter. That's how hard this thing is.

Amazingly, I've managed these five days with no food. It has been quite the exercise: It has been tough doing all the usual 'Mum' activities (e.g., taking my kids places) in such a state. Still, fasting is a state where you 'afflict your soul' (Leviticus 16:29-31), so that's the deal.

We've talked a lot about our individual purpose this week. I've so enjoyed reading your comments - Really, really enjoyed reading them.

And now, to finish off the fast how about we take communion together? Here's a photo of mine, a little glass of juice and a cracker. Perhaps at some point today we could each make ourselves a communion meal and take it. Communion

A prayer:

Lord Jesus, you are the potter and I am the clay.

I thank you for your blood shed on the cross and your body broken.

I align myself with the words of purpose you have shown me this week, and I ask you to help me walk in them.

Finally, help me be a good ambassador for you in 2021.

My SUM friends, I send you much love. Thank you for journeying on this fast this week, what a special week. I hope you thoroughly enjoy eating food again, and we'll connect again after the weekend. In my next posts I might share a little about what I seemed to hear from the Lord for 2021.

For now, do you have any final stories to share from your week of fasting? Anything that God has shown you? We'll chat in the comments.


Fast Day Four: Which Bible Character Captures Your Journey?

Ann here today, on Thursday morning, day four of our fast. SUM fast 2020

How are you all doing?

So far, I’ve had no food since Monday sunrise and am feeling doddery. Time with the Lord at this point is simply about ‘being’. I don’t have mental sharpness so am floating around the house, popping on a bit of worship music, and doing little else.

I think Bryce secretly likes this quiet wife!

Today I wanted to float a little idea, and it comes wrapped in a story of something that happened a few years ago. It's this:

If God ever gives you the name of a Bible character, it might be an indication of how he sees you and the kinds of experiences or tasks he might have ahead for you.

Now, here’s the story. A few years ago, I woke with a phrase in my head: ‘You are specifically Elizabeth’. A phrase like this is so unusual it would seem to be God, so I duly went to the story of Elizabeth in the Bible. Mm, it didn't mean anything. So I put it on the shelf and left it.

However, weeks later I was having a sick day, lying on my couch, and I put on a podcast by Graham Cooke called ‘How God speaks through scripture’. I laid back with my eyes closed and listened while Graham recounted a personal story. In this story, God had told him he was a kind of ‘Caleb’. That was interesting, but then he said this:

“If God gives you the name of a Bible character it tells you how you are known by him. Expect to have some of the same experiences as that person.”

As he said that, I sat up -- 'Ohhh - Elizabeth!'

Speedily I lifted myself from the couch, got my Bible, and devoured her story. This time it made sense. I pulled towards me a special notebook I happened to have just received as a gift, and started to write my thoughts. Notably, Elizabeth was someone who carried a promise while keeping others company. Her name means ‘God has promised’. Importantly: She had a mute husband whose mouth later opened miraculously to declare that Jesus is Lord.

‘I’ll take that!’ I said to the Lord. And it was a moment of awe. 

Months later, Bryce and I were on a plane together, and I started to drift off to sleep. My head lolled over towards his shoulder and as it did so, I heard a phrase from the Holy Spirit: ‘God remembered.’

Once home, I looked up the meaning of the name Zacharias, Elizabeth’s husband. I didn’t know it before. It means: ‘God remembered.’

Boom!

All of this has since morphed into more of a guiding word for my life. I guess I've learned to be content while I wait for my husband's faith. But ‘Elizabeth’ has helped me understand the kinds of things I enjoy talking about, and why I get connected with certain people. Often I make friends with people who have an impossible promise, like Mary, and my job is to say 'I believe you.' I LOVE that job. Made for it.

The moral, perhaps, is that there is a lifting that comes from understanding who we are in God’s eyes. It is one thing to know our identity in Jesus Christ as a son or daughter (sonship). But it is also important to understand our unique purpose. 

“Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed. And in your book they all were written, the days fashioned for me when as yet there were none. How precious also are your thoughts towards me, O God! How great is the sum of them! If I should count them, they would be more in number than the sand; when I awake I am still with you.” (Psalm 139:17-18, NKJV)

So the question today, perhaps, for the Lord might be something along the above lines. Something to ponder. You could even ask him the following:

Lord, is there a particular Bible character that can tell me a little about how you see me?

I'm looking forward to chatting more in the comments. What has this week been like so far for you? Let's share!


FAST DAY THREE - TWO PRAYER POINTS

Prayer and Fasting 2021My SUMer friends,

I have LOVED Ann’s posts for this fast. I literally teared up yesterday. So touching.

I am thrilled to lead today’s focus for our prayer and fasting. This is the midweek stretch. It will be very difficult today. But press in. I’m finding I’m overwhelmed by tremendous fatigue. Weird. I think it’s more spiritual than physical. So, I have a large cup of tea present most of the time and I’m making myself sit with my laptop. Need to finish this next book!!! Thank you, Jesus.

Two things. I can’t ignore the significance of what is happening in America today. Please pray for America. What happens today and the weeks ahead have long lasting implication upon our world, our faith and freedom, and our future.

Today let’s ask Papa what purpose is ahead for us in 2021. Ask Him for a word. In years past my good friend, Dineen, would ALWAYS receive a word for her year. This never happened to me. However, I wrote about my first word in Marching Around Jericho.

So, let’s ask the Lord about the Word that is written over our lives right now.

Also, ask the Lord this question. Father, what is your purpose for me this year?

Please, PLEASE, write what you hear, your word, purpose and more in the comments.

I will echo each of them as a witness in the heavens. I love all of you deeply. Keep pressing in as breakthrough is imminent. Love and hugs, Lynn


Fast Day Two: The Tenderness of the Father

Ann here! SUM fast 2020

It’s the morning of day two here, and so far so good. Amazingly, my family are talking about ‘Mum’s fast’ and encouraging me along, which has been a new feature this year and it captures how things have shifted in my home. I have a little more to share on that shift below.

First, though, I want to say that it's common to set a goal with fasting and find you don't make it. It's just so hard to fast -- That's the truth of it. If that's you, don't beat yourself up and think it's a failure. It's not. Just get back on the horse and try again the next day. It's definitely worth continuing.

The truth is, our Father smiles on the heart of one who fasts. And this morning I'm reminded of a little story that seems to illustrate that:

Every Christmas, Bryce and I put pressies under the tree for our teenage boys, Travis and Miles, and that’s fun. But I’ve never encouraged my children to buy me a present or even buy their Dad a present. I just haven’t; and so they haven’t. Instead, the boys and I go out and buy something for Bryce from all three of us and we have fun doing it.

Anyway, this year, those two boys did something very nice.

I was sitting in the lounge when Miles (age 14) said to me “Mum, you haven’t yet noticed what’s under the tree.” So I got up and looked. There, under the tree was a little package, clearly wrapped by a teenage boy. Wrinkley, ragged edges, and Sellotape all over the place. It said, “To Mum, from Travis and Miles”. And there, next to it, another package: “To Dad …”. 

Oh my heart. I looked back at my boy and his face showed how excited he was by this little wrinkled package. Thankfully he still doesn’t mind a cuddle from his Mum, and he got one.

The two of them had clubbed together their pocket money, gone out and done it. Teenage boys aren’t always the best at this sort of thing, nor is it at all easy parenting teenagers, and so I really can’t express how it felt to see that package. It was their little gesture of love and it meant the world.

Later in bed, Bryce and I looked at each other: “How CUTE WAS THAT?” We were giggling at the wrapping job, but then we both said in all seriousness that it was pretty much the highlight of our year.

Turning back now to the heart of our Father, a friend of mine recently said to me "We may never truly understand the tenderness of the Father until we reach Heaven". Our Father is tender, and how does He feel when we – His children -- do something like fast? It’s our gesture of love, devotion, and honor to Him.

So now here's more on that shift I mentioned:

“Why do you fast?” Bryce asked me yesterday.

“Well ..  It’s a gesture of love to God. To go without food is a sacrifice.”

“Mm, now you say that I can imagine it.” he said. “Food is a big deal.”

I carried on:

“God shines his face on someone when they make a gesture like that. It might be attractive to him, so to speak. Power comes, things happen in your life then.”

And then I said a bit more:

“Jesus said certain things can only be shifted through prayer and fasting. So fasting is powerful in that way – It can help people overcome certain challenges …”

“Hmm, interesting.” He nodded and took it all in. Perfectly nice; genuine interest. What's more, I didn't feel awkward talking about it.

A lot has shifted there. We didn’t have that kind of conversation a few years ago as faith conversations used to bring this mega wedge between us. But now it’s easier. And, quite honestly, I am enthralled by that change which has happened in only the last year.

Could it be that even this conversation yesterday with my husband is a testimony that the SUM fasts have made a difference? A gentle nod from the Father's tender heart. I'll take it.

Onwards and upwards, SUM soldiers, and I wish you all the best for day two. What has day one been like for you?


Fast Day One: What is the Story God Has Written?

Dear SUMites, here we are on day one of our SUM corporate fast! SUM fast 2020

It's Ann here and I can’t help but think that this particular fast is going to be meaningful. There is so much for us to inquire from God about. Our world is literally groaning for healing, and so are we. 

So we fast.

As I write I have a cupboard and fridge full of drinks, ready to embark on a brave five days. No food from sunrise Monday to sunset Friday. I will keep you posted on how this goes. I know from our chats that many of you are doing this fast. In the spirit, then, we link arms.

During this week, one theme I hope to talk to God about is this:

Lord, what do you want the SUM community to know for this coming year?

To elaborate a little, this year the Body of Christ has been blessed by ministries that have spoken out about the time we’re in. And then, as always, there have been some counterfeit versions of that. Privately, as Christians we seek the Lord’s wisdom ourselves in prayer, and the counsel of Christian friends we trust. But the whole thing has been an exercise in discernment. It's been a year-long journey in understanding what God is asking of us.

We’ve also had to learn through our mistakes. Many of us might be looking back thinking ‘Oops – I didn’t represent Jesus accurately to every single person in my life.’ Honestly, this year has been crazily tough – Let's have grace for ourselves. Onwards.

So there’s that. 2020. In the middle of it all, we have our own little community here at SUM, and here we can ask God for a customized picture:

Lord, what is your heart for the SUM homes in 2021?

How do we walk the upcoming challenges of 2021 with our pre-believing spouses?

In my own faith life, a striking feature of 2020 has been that I have thought a lot about the story God has written for my life. He seemed to nudge me often during this COVID stress: "Come away with Me, daughter, and take your mind elsewhere for a while. Here's what I want you to think about in relation to your life." I recently chatted to Ian and know that he has been experiencing something similar. And then, over on Lynn’s new ministry blog (www.lynndonovan.org), Martha has been blogging about moving into new seasons. So, many of us are having those stirrings.

With that idea of ‘life story’ and ‘what’s next?’, I thought I might gear this week’s posts around the fact that God has a really interesting story he has written over our lives, and he wants us to find out about it.

I believe that's one of several things that Jeremiah 6:16 conveys, along with Holy living: 

Thus says the Lord: 

"Stand in the ways and see, and ask for the old paths, where the good way is, and walk in it; then you will find rest for your souls. But they said, 'We will not walk in it.' " (NKJV)

Perhaps you think about your own life and feel you went off God's map at some point in the past as a prodigal (so many of us have that story). So then, that’s a detour and the question for God is ‘Now what?’ Somehow, because God is awesome, beyond what we can think or imagine, and blows our minds, could it be that he will bring you, through Plan B, back into his purpose for you?

And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. (Romans 8:28, NKJV)

My friends, how about we make a point in day one of our fast to come before the Lord and ask him some of these personal, delightful questions? 

  • Lord, what are the good works you made for me to walk in? 
  • Lord, what did you make me to be from before the beginning of time?
  • What is your purpose and will in my marriage?
  • Would you tell me something new and profound about my life story?

As for the fast, what kind of fast are you doing this week and what would you like to ask the Lord? Let's share a little about what we hope this week will look like.