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14 entries from August 2021

An Unusual Prayer

Happy Monday, SUM family!  Last week on our Facebook page I did a video about an evangelist's wife who once prayed this prayer: Help me love my husband more, but help me be less 'in love' with him!

Is that a good prayer to pray? Well, take a listen to this video about her story, see what you think, and perhaps we'll chat in the comments!

 


Something Outside Of My Normal Confessions

Hey SUM family, Tiffany here!

When I write I try to share my life experiences with you. I want you to know that you are not alone. I aim to help you see that if God can do it for me - He certainly can do it for you!

Today I feel a different route is in order. I am seeing so much going on in our community that I really felt it is the time to pray and intercede for you. For us.

Daddy God,

We come before You in awe and wonder. We humble ourselves before Your throne. Our grief, our hardships, our lack, our tears are like diamonds before you. Precious jewels rising up like incense to Your throne. We hold a special place in Your heart as we talk with one foot in Heaven and one foot in the world. It is so good to know that we are not mistakes. We are not forgotten. We are seen. We are heard. We are known.

Thank You for Your grace, mercy, love and blessing over our marriages. Thank You for giving us strength beyond what we can ask or imagine. Even the devil trembles in fear at the inheritance and influence we have in our Spiritually Unequal Marriage. The battle and war is tough. We have been bruised. We have been beaten. We have been taken advantage of. We have often been misunderstood.

BUT God! Our Valiant Warrior. You come in to save the day. You come in with fresh healing; fresh anointing; fresh perspective; fresh wisdom. You lift us up to be seated in the Heavens with You. Our Rock. Our Salvation. Our victory. Our song.

Help us to remember that we are chosen for a very specific assignment. We have been crafted with patience, endurance, wisdom, intuition. You have instilled in us from before time began a fighting spirit. You have equipped us with supernatural weapons to break down strongholds. With our words - prayer, encouragement, petitions and Kingdom-led decrees over our spouses - we are chipping away at the walls that have been put up over the years. With our actions we are serving, training, equipping and sending out the next generation to pull down Heaven to earth.

Your Kingdom come, Your will be done - on earth as it is in Heaven. This is our battle cry. This is our heart's desire. We seek deliverance, healing, signs, miracles and wonders. We beat on the door of the Throne Room and claim what is rightfully ours. We come before you day and night on behalf of our loved ones. We are the workers in the field ripe for harvest that our spouses, children, family, friends, co-workers, neighbors and government officials need.

We are the leaders of "the pack." We run with endurance and spur others on who are new to the journey. Those who have not had to walk this path will come to us as a model for loving and walking along side their loved ones who are lost or misdirected.

May we see the honor, the privilege, the glory that we have! In our hardship and trial we are strengthened for the fight. Walking with our SUM family may we not turn to gossip, slander, complaining or grumbling as our comfort zone. May we cast aside all unforgiveness, records of wrong doings and contempt. Help us chose to walk in humility and love - regardless of our spouses actions. Though it seems like we may be unseen, forgotten, abandoned or misconstrued - we cling to the Truth of who we are. We remember Your words, decrees and promises over us individually - Rhema words whispered personally to us and our specific situations. Your written Word the precious Bible - alive and breathing as we wait upon your precious Holy Spirit and seek You.

In our weakness, remind us that You are our strength. Not by might, nor by power but by Your Spirit. We come into one accord. Thank You Daddy for lifting us up, dusting us off, healing our wounds and sending us out again. 

Right now Jesus - we apply Your blood over ourselves and family members from the top of our heads to the bottom of our feet. We apply a supernatural camouflage over our families, homes, vehicles, pets and property. We are concealed and hidden in You. The enemy cannot find us. The enemy cannot seek us out. The enemy cannot record us and take things back to the devil's camp. The enemy has no power, right, authority over us or any of our comings and goings - this includes our family, property, jobs, health, finances, relationships, minds, thoughts, will or emotions. We are completely surrounded by angels on assignment over our lives. The president's security detail looks non-existent compared to ours. We are highly fortified now and forever.

Holy Spirit fill the atmosphere so full of You that we cannot help but breathe You in. We cannot help but become infused with who You are. Our thoughts, will, emotions, actions, attitiudes, beliefs, behaviors, worldviews, preconceived notions, and perspectives cannot help but line up with the Kingdom of God. As we breathe You in we are breathing in love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. You have instilled in us Your fruit. We embody who You are. We are one.

Give us our daily bread. Just enough for another step; another moment; another day; another season. Change our hearts and minds toward our spouses. Help us to not only love them but like and enjoy them. Help us to see them the way You see them. May we cherish the moments we have with them. Help us to raise our children the way they should go so that when they are older they will not depart from it. Give us the words to say, life lessons to share. Give us divine inspiration to be creative at home where our spouse prohibits Your Kingdom work. Empower us to keep moving - regardless if we must do it alone. Like Aaron and Hur - Jesus, Holy Spirit raise up our arms to victory.

In Your victorious, mighty, conquering name, Jesus - King of Kings and Lord of Lords, Amen.

If you need specific prayer requests, please comment or email. We would love to pray with and over you!

I was shown this video in my early college years. Even to this day - every time I see this, I am so strengthened. It stirs up a fire in me to keep marching.

Be blessed, mighty warriors!

 


The Spirit of Zerubba-Who?

Hey SUM family, Tiffany here! Foundation 2

This last week, God said something very strange to me. I was in a weekly prayer meeting and at the end of the meeting He said, "the spirit of Zerubbabel." Huh?

I mentioned it to the other ladies that were in the room. I said, "I don't know what it means but God said ' the spirit of Zerubbabel.' I will have to look into this."

I was thinking that it was a word for that moment and what we had been praying about. However, as I sat down to write this post, I thought of the phrase again.

Zerubbabel was born in Babylon during exile (his name meaning begotten in Babylon). He traveled to Judea when King Cyrus allowed the captives to return home to rebuild the temple. 

"And the LORD stirred up the spirit of Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and the spirit of Joshua the son of Josedech, the high priest, and the spirit of all the remnant of the people; and they came and did work in the house of the LORD of hosts, their God" - Haggai 1:14 (KJV)

So it begins. Just like Zerubbabel, God stirs our heart with a passion and desire to fulfill the plan that God has in mind. We are excited and ready to take on the task. We begin to
enthusiastically walk out the calling...until opposition, trial, heartache, or lack comes.

Did you know that Zerubbabel, Joshua and the remnant began working on the temple, only to have to stop at the foundation? A long time passed (I want to say 17 years - check out
Haggai and Zechariah for the whole story) until they had permission to continue building.

How many of you have started living out a passion, vision or calling that God has had on your life? How many of you for one reason or another had to stop pursuing it?

I'll be honest with you - I've written before about the leading to run for the local school board. I was passionate and excited...until my husband said some hurtful things. The conversation the first night I talked to him about it left me feeling alone, vulnerable and unsupported. It was rough! I kept pursuing...trying to network and go to local meetings. Each time I would mention it, it was met with eye rolls, loud sighs and sometimes hurtful words. I didn't end up getting elected. It wasn't God's timing.

This year, there is talk with some local school parents about next year's election. I have kept really quiet. I still have the desire to run. I feel like now is a better time - more resources, more networking, more urgency. However, I have found myself much more reserved. It is hard putting myself out there. It is hard to imagine opposition outside of my household (the political scene can get pretty ugly) when I don't have a strong support from my other half.

I struggle with being embarrassed that my husband isn't by my side. I struggle with the seeing other men in the community rise up and support the cause; support their wives who are supporting the cause. It has felt like another "big thing that I can't share with my husband."

Seventeen years later, God gives a word for Zerubbabel through the prophet Zechariah:

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. Who are you, O great mountain? Before Zerubbabel you shall become a plain. And he shall bring forward the top stone amid shouts of ‘Grace, grace to it!’” Then the word of the Lord came to me, saying,  “The hands of Zerubbabel have laid the foundation of this house; his hands shall also complete it. Then you will know that the Lord of hosts has sent me to you. - Zechariah 4:6-9

Can you imagine how stagnant and apathetic and hopeless it would feel to have started a project for the Lord...to have a daily reminder (the foundation in the ground) of a dream unfulfilled for SEVENTEEN YEARS? In my case, it has been a year. I am much less enthusiastic and confident as I was last year. Good ol' social media giving me a memory of the day I filed with the county commissioner.

Here we have a reminder for Zerubbabel. He may have given up after 17 years - settled with, "I guess it will never happen. It is what it is. Oh well." We may forget or give up on the vision that God has given us. We may say, "It is what it is. Oh well." But God! He gently reminds us. He comes in and revives us again. He NEVER forgets His plan or your destiny.

Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit. Thank the Lord for the Holy Spirit! I can't tell how many times He has picked me up. Dusted me off. Strengthened me. Sent me out again.

The story continues with the school board. I am not giving up. I have a lot of forgiving and healing in my heart to do concerning my husband. Lord bring my husband and myself back together. Strengthen us. Give my husband a word or sign from You (whether he is able to recognize it is You or not) to ease and turn his heart and mind.

It is the Lord who promotes and makes low. I know that whether this next year's election or not, He has called me for the board. He has called me to stand and fight for my children and the future generations. I feel so ill-equipped and under qualified. However, I have to remember it is by His Spirit. His timing and His way - nothing and no one will be able to shut the door that God opens.

I wonder - what vision, calling or passion has God given you that you've had to set aside? Is God calling you to pick it back up? What is stopping you? Is there anything you need prayer about as you begin to run with it again?

See you in the comments.


One Husband and his Jesus-Freak Wife

SUM family, Ann here! Hoodie right way up

It was lovely going through the Paul study with you over the past fortnight. Our final topic was that of bold speech in our homes, and we had some great comments there. Well, today I want to share a story along that same theme.

See this hooded sweatshirt with the words 'Jesus Freak' on it? Would you say it'd be a good idea to wear that at home with our spouses .... Or not?!

Most likely it depends on the spouse and where they are at. 

Well, this hoodie and I have been on a little journey. A journey where I practiced boldness.

I mentioned in my last post that us SUMites get used to 'winning our spouse without words'. We learn to be loving and -- we hope --  winsome. That part is good. But then perhaps the next part is to learn to exercise our voice all over again, this time with care. 

Many of us feel we've been knocked back verbally to such a degree that to talk about Jesus with our spouse is difficult. That's certainly how it is for me. With all that history it's not easy for me to stand up and articulate to my husband, 'This is how it is... This is who Jesus is ... This is what I stand for."

Well ... This year that situation has morphed a little in my marriage, and my new church seems to be playing a part. As many of you know, I began attending that church earlier this year and it's full of millennials. Not only that, but they are the most enthusiastic crowd of Jesus followers you could find.

As one of the older ones in the room, I watch them, mesmerized. Their gift is evangelism, which I learn from. Where I have grown weary from being knocked back by unbelievers, these young ones spur me on afresh.

One day I walked into church to see that these young leaders had made some special hooded sweatshirts. They were chocolate brown, with the words 'Jesus Freak' splashed across it. The pastor told me he wears this sweatshirt out on the street. I raised my eyebrows at that. New Zealand is not the place where that's easy to do. "You're brave and sold-out for Jesus. Good on you." I thought.

But that pastor's approach gave me pause for thought about my own faith life. "I've had enough of unbelief, and I'd like to be less silent," I concluded. And so I duly bought the sweatshirt, and on it went at home.

"Jesus Freak??" Exclaimed Bryce. "Um.... Is that not a bit weird?" He was probably hoping with every fibre of his being that I would not wear this thing out. 

"Nope." I said, gently. "Personally I find the phrase ok. It's a bit of fun and Jesus is real, so hey..."  

"But Ann ... If someone sees a Christian calling themselves that, won't it make the Christian look even weirder?"

"Look..." I said. "Society finds us unusual anyway, they dislike Jesus as it is, so what difference does it make? The fact is we are freakish to others: They used to throw us to the lions in Roman times."

Then I wandered off, to do some washing up and the usual Mum/wife bits and pieces. Wearing the hoodie, I left hubby to digest the fact that Christians like his wife were thrown to lions.

A day or so later, there I was in the confronting sweatshirt again and Bryce came up, ruffled my head, and smiled. "How's my little Jesus freak?" This time off he sauntered, non-plussed.

Did I do the right thing, or did I overstep it, I wonder? Well, it seemed strangely on point, so the sweatshirt has stayed a feature in our home - - Freakish as it is. I read a quote recently by a British evangelist's wife, Jean Rees, who said "An evangelist is one who precipitates a spiritual crisis in the life of another." Sometimes perhaps it's ok, then, to shake things up a little.

Every SUM is different. We go with the Holy Spirit as to what seems right for our particular spouse and where they're at. But I do hope this story gave you a smile today.

Let's carry on the conversation about bold speech in the comments, I would love to chat more about this one with you! 

Ann


Bold Speech in Our Homes

Dear friends, Paul 2

It's Ann here, and today we’re looking at our final story in Paul’s life. A story about Bold Speech.

Yep, Bold Speech! 

It’s funny to talk about bold speech here in our community because a motto of our ministry, for years, has been ‘Winning him without words’. Most of us will know that motto comes from 1 Peter 3:1 which encourages believing wives to focus on good conduct rather than being too pushy towards their husbands on the matter of conversion.

Wives, likewise, be submissive to your own husbands, that even if some do not obey the word, they, without a word, may be won by the conduct of their wives (1 Peter 3:1, NKJV).

The essence of that scripture is perhaps that the believing spouse should focus on their own conduct and heart. And I think that is the journey we've been on in this community -- A helpful journey. I can certainly see how it helped in my own marriage. But, alongside that there is a place for bold speech in our home. And I do wonder if God is taking us in that direction more. We’ve just got to learn to speak when the Holy Spirit says, that’s all.

After converting to Christianity, Paul spent three years quietly with Jesus (Galatians 1:18). I imagine much of that time was spent delighting in his Savior, but there was also a deep time of learning. An equipping. An absorption of truth. And then he came out.

To everything there is a season and a purpose under heaven. While away with Jesus it was mostly not Paul's time to speak. Afterwards, it was.

After coming out, one of the first things we see Paul do is publicly speak out in a very difficult situation. It is right at the beginning of his ministry, in Acts 13:4-12, and he is to speak a hard word of truth. It wasn't something fluffy and feel-good at all. No, instead he was to call out and curse a false prophet. Not just that, the guy was a sorceror. Gulp!

Paul had everything he needed, though: He had a close relationship with Jesus, and He had the Holy Spirit. The false prophet’s name was Elymas. And he was actively in full swing, deceiving those in authority. Paul arrived, and took a careful look. I can imagine this was a longggg, drawn-out look; a look where he narrowed his eyes, watched for a while, and gave space for the Holy Spirit to whisper to him.

He might have said quietly, "Lord, I think this is what you're asking me to say. Can I just check this is right?" Then he might have waited a while.

Finally, this:

Then Saul, who also is called Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, looked intently at him and said, ‘O full of all deceit and all fraud, you son of the devil, you enemy of all righteousness, will you not cease perverting the straight ways of the Lord?

And now indeed, the hand of the Lord is upon you, and you shall be blind, not seeing the sun for a time.” And immediately a dark mist fell on him, and he went around seeking someone to lead him by the hand. (Acts 13:9-11, NKJV)

Not easy to do. But Paul seems so strong. I imagine his strength to be a quiet confidence, the kind that comes from Jesus.

For when I am weak, then I am strong (2 Corinthians 12:10, NKJV).

Anyway, in this situation the Holy Spirit asked him to stand up and speak specific words. And Paul continued to do that in his ministry, as we see in his letters to various churches. Whether or not Paul was a natural out-spoken sort didn't matter. It was the Spirit of Christ working in him. Boxing gloves

I suppose the lesson here is that God does usually ask us to be warm and gracious to people, but sometimes he does the opposite and asks us to speak direct truth into a situation of deception. This might even happen in our marriage. Either way -- Wherever we are at with this -- We must speak when the Holy Spirit nudges us to, and in the manner he asks us to.

Next week I'll share a journey I'm having with 'bold speech' in my own home. But for now perhaps we can share in the comments: Have you been bold by speaking out in your home about something lately? 

Much love,

Ann


Are You Fighting the Right Battles?

Hi SUM family, Ann here. Paul 2

What a treat to have Martha write for us on Monday -- Thank you, Martha! And, phew, the titles of our latest blog posts may look like we're being challenging. Are you kicking against the goads? was Martha's post. Now, mine is titled: Are you fighting the right battles? That said, the Apostle Paul was convicting; so, I guess a study about him will lift our game.

Nothing wrong with that! In fact, I always think that's a sign of a good church, if people are challenged to better discipleship.

So, yes, are we fighting the battles God wants us to fight? Are we putting our energy into the right places?

In the Book of Acts, there is a story where Paul was forbidden by the Holy Spirit to preach the Gospel in a particular place, Bythnia. Paul wanted to go there -- He had huge passion and truth to share. Surely the people of Bythnia needed him ...? And yet he was forbidden. Why? Only God knows. 

Now when they had gone through Phrygia and the region of Galatia, they were forbidden by the Holy Spirit to preach the word in Asia. After they had come to Mysia, they tried to go into Bythnia, but the Spirit did not permit them.

So passing by Mysia, they came down to Troas.

And a vision appeared to Paul in the night. A man of Macedonia stood and pleaded with him, saying, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” Now after he had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go to Macedonia, concluding that the Lord had called us to preach the Gospel to them. (Acts 16:6-10, NKJV)

We don't know what would have happened if they had gone to Bythnia. It's like a movie plot where Bythnia is the mysterious path not taken. What we do know is what happened in Macedonia: They met a lovely lady, Lydia, in Philippi, and baptized her and her household (Acts 16:11-15). Angels would have sung at that! Perhaps they were always meant to meet Lydia. What's more, they had their massive Midnight Hour miracle, where they were broken out of prison and the jailer's household was saved too (Acts 16:25-34). Yes, the power story that Lynn told last week about Paul and Silas happened in Macedonia. If they had gone to Bythnia .... Well, we would never have had that story. But they did go, they obeyed God, and these salvations occurred.

Hallelujah to that! And, Lord, help us to listen to your voice carefully.

I believe this story is relevant to the craziness we find ourselves in today. Right now, there are all kinds of battles we can fight, all kinds of things we can speak to. But where and how does God want us to speak or act? Some of us might be called to one battle, others to another. But, we must keep listening to him.

I suppose it's a little like Peter who gets told by Jesus, after the resurrection, what his commission is to be. Jesus specifically tells him that he will die a hard death. Peter turns and gestures towards the other close disciple, John, "But what about him?" Jesus's reply is this: "If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me." (John 21:21-22). In other words, you do your bit; and your bit might look different to someone else's.

There are only so many hours in the day. Who knows, there could be a Lydia waiting around the corner for us, but if we're too busy throwing ourselves into 'Bythnia' rather than 'Macedonia', yikes, we might miss it!

I guess, then, this whole story says this: In doing good works for Jesus, I must pay careful attention to where he wants my energy, and walk that particular path.

Then -- if I do -- I will say this with joy:

“Now thanks be to God who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and through us diffuses the fragrance of His knowledge in every place.” (2 Corinthians 2:14, NKJV)

My friends, in the comments, perhaps we can share where we feel God might be asking us to put our energy/words at the moment? And where he is asking us not to go? 

Much love to you all,

Ann


Spiritual Gifts Training with Lynn Donovan

image from www.spirituallyunequalmarriage.comDo you want to know what your supernatural gift set is? How about how to grow in another area of gifting. Why does the New Age movement call "Empath" something that is a gift from God? And can Christians walk in this gift? What are you supposed to do with your gifts to use them to honor and glorify the Lord?

This seminar will explain all the gifts. Offer you a gifting inventory. Share how you can ask and receive other gifts from the Lord. We will walk through how to discern spirits. Prophetic gifting. What is foretelling vs. forthtelling and why does the Lord place this gift within the body of Christ.

I PROMISE you this. This is be one hour that will be fast-aced and filled with exciting information. You will not be bored and take a ton of notes. My purpose is to release you into your original design and bring His Kingdom to earth as it is in heaven.

Sign up today. Thursday, August 26. 11 am Pacific. (You will receive a link to the video teaching afterward.)

 

In this seminar you can expect:

  • Biblical teaching about supernatural gifts
  • Defining the difference between gifts and how they manifest in an individual.
  • Discover your gifting set. 
  • Discover your children's gifts, your spouse. 
  • Exercises to continue to develop supernatural gifts.
  • Pray to reactivate your gifting, cleanse it from demonic interference and dedicate it to God.

There is new material in this class that isn't in most teaching on the Gifts of the Spirit.

This will be a one hour Zoom seminar on August 26, 2021 at 11 am PACIFIC. The live seminar will offer you the most effective portion of our prayer time. However, if you are unable to attend, you will receive the video. All purchasers will receive the video link after the seminar. 

Sign up now. $10 for the class. Live Q&A at the end. Come with your questions. I can't wait to help you launch into your gifts. Hugs, Lynn

Click on the Buy Now button.


"Are You Kicking Against the Goads?"

By Martha Bush Fight-of-faith

I'm joining Ann and Lynn today to talk about the life of Paul for our Summer Bible Study. 

When I think of my favorite story from the life of Paul, I immediately think of Paul’s conversion experience. Ann has already written about Paul's powerful testimony of that experience when he stood before King Agrippa in Acts 26.

Today, I want to take us back to where it all started in Acts 9 for the words of Jesus:

           "Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me? 

          It is hard for you to kick against the GOADS”.  

          (Acts 9: 5)

I kid you not, every time I have read this scripture over the years, my mind races back to the farm I grew up on in Georgia. Not only did my daddy grow peanuts like most farmers do in Georgia, he had a large herd of cattle and hogs also. Once a month, Daddy would load up about 50 hogs that he had been fattening to take to the market to sell. He’d back his big truck up to the fence and line it up with the “hog shoot.” For all of you city folks, a hog shoot is a narrow wooden passage that the hogs walk up to enter the truck from the field.

Now, the old hogs did not “gracefully” walk up the shoot. They had to have a little prodding. Daddy had just the thing to get them going in the direction of the back of his truck – "a hot stick." This was a battery operated device that gave them an electric shot in their rear that guided them up the narrow passage way into the back of the truck. Poor hogs – they had no choice, but to enter the truck.  In Paul's day, Daddy's "hot stick" was referred to as goads, which were typically made from slender pieces of timber, blunt on one end and pointed on the other to get an animal moving in the right direction.

Now, think about this goad with me in terms of the power of the Holy Spirit moving upon Paul on the road to Damascus.  Here we see a man who was actually on his way to kill more Christians, and boom!  The light shone upon him, and down he went.  I see two things happening at that time. Not only did he accept Jesus, but he accepted the call of God upon his life.

What can we learn from Paul's salvation experience?

In our SUM marriage, we often cry out, "How long, Lord, how long? I don't see any changes." As with Paul, we may not see a warming up to the gospel. And with that I want to share with you a prophetic word I have received about my own spouse. "That rebellious tongue will cease; it will happen so quickly, it will be the working of a miracle." May that word encourage you, too.

My faithful SUM friends, one way or the other, God’s guiding hands will get our loved-ones in the back of His pickup truck just like my Daddy did his hogs. It may take a hot stick to give him/her a shot in the rear to guide him, but He has heard our prayers, and has them going up "the salvation shoot." And, as Lynn said in Winning Him Without Words, “we get to have a front row seat watching the action take place."

What we can learn about God's calling on Paul's life in accepting our own calling?

#1 God Meets Us Where We Are

Paul was on a mission to stop the spread of Christianity. Instead, God met Paul right where he was and used him to help Christianity spread around the world. No matter what sin we have committed, no matter how un-equipped we feel we are, God will meet us where we are to fulfill that call. 

#2 God Only Gives Us The Next Step, Not The Whole Plan

When Paul asked Jesus what he would have him do, Jesus didn’t say, “Brother Paul, you are going on several missionary trips for me, you are going to write over half the New Testament, and BTW, Paul, you’ll be beheaded, and die as a martyr for the kingdom of God."  No, God only gave him the next step, “Go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.”  (Acts 9:6)

#3 Paul Didn't Give Up

As Paul stood before King Agrippa giving his testimony, he said, “I was not disobedient unto the heavenly vision God gave me.”  (Acts 26:19)  And folks, all we have to do is read Paul's story to see how he faithfully carried out that vision no matter what came his way: storms, beatings, shipwrecks, imprisonment, in danger from bandits and from his own countrymen. and at times, he went hungry and naked. (2 Corinthians 10) 

Paul gives me courage to "keep up the fight of faith." And above all, may I always remember: 

  "It is hard to kick against the GOADS.  

Just go ahead and get in the back of God's pick-up truck!"

Share your thoughts in the comments.   

 


How to Convey Our Personal Testimony

Hi SUM family, Ann here! Paul 2

How often do you tell your conversion testimony to unbelievers? 

If you do it often, how do people react? 

Me: I try. But writing today's post has got me thinking a whole lot more about this. Specifically, it's been making me think about how to tell a testimony effectively.

In the Book of Acts, there is a critical moment where Paul role-models how to tell a testimony. It's the end of his ministry, he's an older man, and he just goes for it. It's a wild, hair-raising story of how he became a Christian. 

"Paul, you are beside yourself, much learning is driving you mad!" Someone shouts on hearing it (Acts 27:24).

"I am not mad..." answers Paul, respectfully.

We see him tell his testimony twice in quick succession: The same story, the same details, same manner of telling it. You might like to read both versions in Acts 22:1-21 and 26:4-23, they're pretty short passages. 

This is all so far so good. What a wonderful testimony Paul has been given! But do they all fall over in amazement and think it's wondrous? Nope! 

When Paul stands up in front of a mob of Jews in Jerusalem, he starts by saying, "I am a Jew ... I used to persecute Christians too ..." before launching into his story about how Jesus completely changed him.

"And they listened to him until this word, and then they raised their voices and said, "Away with such a fellow from the earth, for he is not fit to live!" (Acts 22:22-23, NKJV)

Not fit to live? Yikes.

After that, he quietly has the opportunity to tell his testimony to Felix, a Roman Governor of Caesarea. We don't see Paul tell the testimony here; the Book of Acts just says they talked. Felix is initially open, but then:

Now as he reasoned about righteousness, self-control, and the judgment to come, Felix was afraid and answered, "Go away for now; when I have a convenient time I will call for you." (Acts 24:25, NKJV)

The cross makes people feel convicted, uncomfortable. They want it to go away for a while until they have a 'convenient time.' Go away. Go away.

Undeterred, Paul has a cast-iron spirit, and he will not curl up into a defeated ball. No, he is fighting fit and ready to speak all over again. The final re-telling of the testimony is to Caesarea's new governor, Festus, and the visiting King Agrippa. Paul tells the testimony and it is Festus who shouts out:

"Paul, you are beside yourself! Much learning is driving you mad!"

But he (Paul) said, "I am not mad, most noble Festus, but speak the words of truth and reason." (Acts 26:24-25, NKJV)

BUT, here comes the kind of response that makes it worth the while:

Then Agrippa said to Paul, "You almost persuade me to become a Christian." (Acts 26:28, NKJV)

'Almost persuade me' is not a bad response. What if King Agrippa were to then hear ten more testimonies like this, from ten different Christians? Would he then cross the line into belief? Perhaps so. And that is what makes our testimony-telling important.

I titled this post, How to convey our personal testimony, because we can look at how Paul did it. Here are some key points:

  • He told his audience how he was similar to them.
  • He described what he used to be like.
  • He referred to witnesses who could attest to who he used to be.
  • He described the supernatural encounter that changed his mind
  • He described in a sentence the Christian faith. "Arise, be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord"

And, finally, he did not give up. 

My friends, all of this is making me think about prepping and practicing my own conversion testimony a little more deliberately, using the above points, and thinking a bit more carefully about what kinds of places I am to speak it out. Even at a party, or when having a casual chat with an unbelieving friend.

What do you think about this topic of personal testimony? Let's chat in the comments!


Paul and Silas Show Us What To Do in 2021 -SUMMER Bible Study

SUMite Summer Study 2021

Vignettes of Paul

Paul and Silas

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Paul 2SUMites,

Lynn here. I’ve noticed that many of us are living smack in the middle of the fight. And the fires are burning molten. For me, I experience more enemy push back than in any other time in my life. EVER!!

There was a day I felt battle weary, bloody and broken. I ask you, have any of you ever thought of me as broken? I was. I truly relate to the scars that are healing on your soul. Mine are too.

And for all of us who find ourselves beaten and chained by the enemy forces of evil, I want to say one thing:

IT’S ONE HOUR UNTIL MIDNIGHT! 

Let’s take a look at the midnight story from the life of Apostle Paul. -ACTS 16:16-34

  • Paul and Silas rebuke a demonize girl and set her free. (Doing the right and Godly thing.)
  • The greed of men rocked the city and set the “government officials upon Paul and Silas (This sound far too familiar to our current day.)
  • Beaten and chained in the depths of a prison. (They were completely helpless.)

Around midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening. Suddenly, there was a massive earthquake, and the prison was shaken to its foundations. All the doors immediately flew open, and the chains of every prisoner fell off! The jailer woke up to see the prison doors wide open. He assumed the prisoners had escaped, so he drew his sword to kill himself. But Paul shouted to him, “Stop! Don’t kill yourself! We are all here!” -ACTS 16:25-28

SUMites, we are facing a countdown to the midnight hour.  We may be rounded up.  Shut up. Denounced and abandoned by those who should love us. But midnight quickly approaches and God will show Himself and the prison doors will open. The chains will supernaturally pop off. This TRUTH is an utter mind blow!

As this hour draws near, there is no longer space for powerless Christianity. There is no place to hide our faith. Many of us are in a prison right now. A prison of our fears. A fortress of perceived failures. A marriage of iron resistance to Jesus.

BUT…….. Midnight is at hand! We have done the hard work of sanctification. Our vessels are filled with the midnight oil and we linger wide awake, waiting with anticipation for the King!

We will watch as the prison doors fling open. Then we will follow the angels as they lead us through the gates of our personal hell into the freedom Christ purchased. We will watch as Jesus sets captives free and release the oppressed from from their distorted prison of lies.

Keep singing. SING A LITTLE LOUDER. Shout to the Lord. Raise a Hallelujah.

We are not forgotten orphans. We are sons and daughters. Our Father awaits for the midnight hour at the gates with Jesus. Jesus holds the keys to death and hell. He paid the price. 

THE WAR IS OVER.

Thank you, Paul and Silas, for showing us the way. Your faith and example will save many of us from a fate worse than death.

Hallelujah.

I love you my friends. Keep marching. We will comfort one another. Bear with one another. Tend one another’s wounds and celebrate when one comes home. Love and hugs, Lynn

Paul & Silas Summer Study 2021


Saint Paul -- What a Man!

Dear friends,Paul 2

Welcome to our Summer Bible Study on the Apostle Paul! It's Ann here, and I can't wait to dive in to some of his stories, taking a leaf or two out of his book.

Somewhat ironically, only this past Saturday I had a more difficult time as a Christian than I've had in a while. I spent the evening with a crowd of unbelieving friends, and loneliness crept up on me. That night I lay in bed thinking:

"Being a Christian is hard core, and there are spiritually some very hard places." 

Well, the Apostle Paul specialized in the 'hard-core' places, and he did it so well for the rest of us. I'm sure when he was in prison for the Gospel it wasn't easy.... But his faith enabled him to write positive letters to the church, showing us how to do this thing well.

In today's post we're just looking at an introduction to Paul; but there's so much to his life that I can't do him justice in 750 words. Instead, then, I'll start with his most honored moment:

Paul was martyred for the Gospel. 

“For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all those who have loved his appearing.” (2 Tim 4:6-8)

Not long after he wrote the above, he was beheaded in Rome (as best we know). In dying that death, he joined the other apostles, also likely martyred*. Their blood formed a foundation of courage and truth for the church. 

How on earth could Paul have been strong enough to walk into this? He knew it was coming, and said 'yes'. Well, Jesus equipped him. Part of this equipping was that Paul knew what was true. Just like we -- the SUM community - learn to do. In Paul's case, he had encountered Jesus and experienced the miraculous repeatedly (in the book of Acts). He'd also put up with so much hassle during his years of ministry that he became the ultimate in resilience:

"Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches." (2 Corinthians 11:24-28)

My friends, I have to say this made me feel a whole lot better about my lonely Saturday night with unbelievers! Emotionally difficult, yes; but Paul went through worse. Therefore, so can I.

We read about Paul's life in the book of Acts; but his character and life also ooze out of his epistles in the New Testament. Fourteen out of the 27 New Testament books were likely written by him and they add brushstrokes of color to the main story in Acts. Fate of the apostles

Interestingly, Paul was a blend of different cultures. A heftily educated Pharisee, he was also a Roman Citizen, and entrenched in Hellenic/Greek culture. Coming originally from Tarsus in modern-day Turkey, he went all over the place for the Gospel, and his mixed background meant he could speak easily to a range of different audiences, opponents, and friends.

Those influencing skills were needed: His two primary issues were godlessness and doctrinal error. He tackled those two things in truth and love while dealing with tremendous opposition.

So yes, what a man. And can this help us navigate the hardship of a SUM? I believe for sure that we can get strength from his story.

Here's a question for today: What is your environment like? What kinds of people are in your sphere of influence? 

Nice chatting! Lynn will be here on Wednesday to continue the study.

Ann

* Sean McDowell (2008). The Fate of the Apostles: Examining the Martyrdom Accounts of the Closest Followers of Jesus.


SUM on Radio Rhema, New Zealand

Hi friends, Ann here. Ann Rhema 2

This week I did something fun: I went on the radio here in New Zealand to talk about 'How to continue to be strong in your faith when your husband or wife is not a believer.'

New Zealand, where I live, only has 4 million people, but nevertheless there are a good few SUMites who live here. Of course, most of you live in the USA, UK, South Africa, and Australia, along with other parts of the world. Isn't it just amazing how we can congregate online, despite our diversity!

Anyway, I hope you enjoy this 'Kiwi' chat at Radio Rhema, with Diane Campbell who's pictured here. You can have a listen by clicking on the link below: 

https://www.rhema.co.nz/shows/show/article/spirituallyunequalmarriage

Have a great weekend, everyone!

Ann


Invite the Lord into the Ordinariness of Every Day!

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Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Hello, everyone. Ian from Sydney here. Last month I wrote a post on the seeking to live in the unforced rhythms of grace by taking on the Lord’s easy yoke. Increasingly, I’m discovering how important it is especially amongst the everyday stresses and strains that we all experience. Accordingly, I wanted to reflect a little more on living such a life.

Beholding

“We become what we behold” – William Blake

My word of the year is ‘Behold” and it doesn’t take long to understand the truth in it. The more time we spend thinking about something, focusing on something, the more entrenched it becomes in our minds. It’s now commonly acknowledged in science that the more beholding we do the more it will affect our thought patterns, our feelings and behaviours. Addiction behaviour is often  a reflection simply of beholding something too frequently and for too long. Hence, the studies that have identified the negative associations of too much video gaming, watching inappropriate content and such like. It literally changes our brain.

And it’s the same with beholding God. The more time we spend with Him, the greater influence the Spirit will have in our lives. We only have to look at Paul’s quote in Philippians 4:

“Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse. Put into practice what you learned from me, what you heard and saw and realized. Do that, and God, who makes everything work together, will work you into his most excellent harmonies.” (v 8 MSG)

A Recurring Invitation

I expect we’re all familiar with the blind beggar who Jesus heals in Luke 18. Here we have a situation where Jesus approached Jericho accompanied by a crowd of people which clearly doesn’t happen every day in these parts. A blind man happened to be sitting on the roadside and asked what all the commotion was about, to be told that Jesus is passing by.

The blind man has clearly heard about Jesus and what He can do so he yells out to get his attention: “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”

Yes, this is quite a bold desperate cry. It reminded me a little of the woman with long term bleeding who stretches through a packed crowd simply to touch the edge of Jesus’ cloak. She, like our blind man, believes the stories that Jesus can indeed heal.

Jesus is always passing by. Wherever we are, He is present. Jesus desires relationship with us. Not just in our prayer times, not just on Sundays in church, not just in our home groups. But all the time. Why? Because He knows that our best life is with Him. In constant communion. To abide. To be with Him. He knows we can only produce lasting fruit if we stay connected like a branch to a vine.

So He waits to be invited. He’s respectful and considerate. And as we can see, He’s not opposed to a desperate cry or act. Because he looks at the heart.

Paul prays we will invite Jesus in in his famous prayer of Ephesians 3:14-19 (MSG): Here’s just the one verse -

“ … that Christ will live in you as you open the door, and invite him in … to live full lives, full in the fullness of God.”

How do we do it?

I’ll start with some practices I do and then it would be wonderful if others could share some that work for them in the ordinariness of every day. Here goes:

  1. I say, “Lord you are here”. I might say this at the breakfast table, walking the dog, driving in the car to pick up Dad to take to a medical appointment, sitting in the waiting room at said appointment. You get the idea. Anywhere, anytime. You might have your own little welcome.
  1. Express gratitude. I walk the dog early and typically I will be grateful to God for the beautiful blue sky, the breath in my lungs, for the new day.

            I find gratitude opens my heart and sets me off praying.

  1. Praise, praise and more praise. I praise God. Most mornings and many times a day I will often simply say, “You mercies are new every morning, great is your faithfulness.” Praise opens our hearts and serves as a great fear disabler. Have a look at Psalm 34.
  1. I close my day with Examen. It’s an Ignatian practice for reflecting on your day. It’s brief and once you get in the habit of it, you’ll find you’ll look forward to it. And you can do it any time during a day and multiple times if you like; my Pastor does it 3 times: morning, noon and night. Here’s a link if you want to know a little more about it. Like most practices there are different forms and different organizations have developed mobile Examen apps which you can download.

Okay. Over to you all. What practices have you found beneficial to enabling you to continue to behold God during the ordinariness of every day?

We’ll see you in the comments. Warmest blessings.


Coming Soon: Our Summer Bible Study

Hi SUM family, Ann here! Boxing gloves

Last week, upon reading Lynn's post, I found myself nodding my head rather vigorously in agreement with this statement:

"I believe that as followers of Jesus we are amid one of the most challenging seasons of our faith life." 

Yes ... What an intense spiritual time we're navigating right now!

Here in this community I suspect many of us would say that our primary faith challenge has always been our spiritually mismatched marriage. But, I wonder if our challenges have now morphed considerably, due to the array of 'hot' issues that are noisily emerging within society and the church? Gah! Hard times. 

Thinking about the role models we have in scripture, there is one man -- A minister of the Gospel -- who stands out as having tackled a lot of hot issues. Crazy, gnarly stuff. He advised his various church flocks on how to handle these things, and we also see him in action in the New Testament -- Speaking out and walking in practical wisdom. Paul 2

For me, he's the perfect role model for us in this time we're in. It's the Apostle Paul.

And so, our Summer Bible Study is going to be on him. We've called it Paul -- The Fight of Faith. The study will start next Monday, and it will take the form of Lynn and I choosing some of our favorite stories from Paul's life.

We're rolling up our sleeves and rubbing our hands together waiting to start, so ... Watch this space!

In the meantime, I'd love to hear a little from you: What are the trickiest issues you're facing at the moment in your faith life?

Looking forward to going on this 'Paul' study with you, and love to you all,

Ann