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12 entries from April 2022

Prayer Strategies from the Parable of the Sower

By Ann Hutchison Sword bird

I often think it's great to use scripture in our prayers sometimes. That way we know that the words we speak in prayer are spot-on. 

Of course, there are many other ways to pray too, like having a big heart-to-heart chat with God. But using scripture is one creative little thing we can do; it's a specific prayer strategy.

With scripture, what we can do is take certain truths, turns of phrase, or key words, and speak them out. It is powerful to do that.

I remember once in church a minister came up to me and spoke a single line of scripture over me as a prayer. I fell over there and then!! Literally, the power of the Holy Spirit knocked me to my knees. All she did was speak a line of scripture. 

That has never happened to me before or since, but it taught me a big lesson about just how powerful the word of God is.

Anyway, there are all kinds of scriptures that can be used creatively as a basis for a prayer and today I thought I would look at a particular passage that applies to our unsaved loved ones: The Parable of the Sower. 

I say that parable is appropriate to our loved ones because it's all about what's going on in people's hearts when they don't believe. That parable explains why some people don't receive the Gospel, and why some people fall away even after they have been strong Christians. That last one is sobering. I often come back to this parable and re-read it, just to help myself understand.

The parable goes like this --

“A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop—a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown. Whoever has ears, let them hear.” (Matthew 13:3-9, NIV)

Then Jesus interpreted that story:

“Listen then to what the parable of the sower means: When anyone hears the message about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in their heart. This is the seed sown along the path. The seed falling on rocky ground refers to someone who hears the word and at once receives it with joy. But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away. The seed falling among the thorns refers to someone who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, making it unfruitful. But the seed falling on good soil refers to someone who hears the word and understands it. This is the one who produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.” (Matthew 13:8-23, NIV)

It's such a helpful parable, I love it. But it's even richer when we turn it into a prayer strategy. If we take the above truths and turn them into prayer for our spouse, we can pray like this:

"In the Name of Jesus:

  • I declare with absolute authority that the enemy will not be allowed to snatch away the message of the Kingdom that is sown in my spouse's heart.
  • I pray for a deep root of belief to grow in my spouse so that when they do finally have faith it will withstand trouble and persecution.
  • I declare that the deceitfulness of wealth and the worries of this life must not be allowed to choke the word of God in my spouse's life.
  • I pray that my spouse will hear the word, understand it and produce a crop that yields much."

Amen!

Dear friends, how about we pray these things for our spouses and children this weekend?

Ann


The Risen Jesus Versus Our Circumstance

Hi everyone, Ann here. He has risen

After Friday's post I've had a little thought stuck in my head that's somewhat creative but it's been speaking a powerful message to me. It's this:

When attending church alone, many of us lament, naturally. This thing is tough, and even those who have attended church alone for decades will say that. For those of us women, we think about our husband: 'He is not here,' and it can be painful enough to bring tears. For the guys, the version of that is 'She is not here.'

However, what's struck me is that those words, 'He is not here', also happen to be the words that were used by the angels who announced Jesus's resurrection at the empty tomb. For them it carried a completely opposite message -- A message of victory and joy:

He is not here, He has risen! (Luke 24:6; Matthew 28:6).

Amen, amen, amen to that.

So, for us we could say we have two versions of 'He is not here' in our life. We have the version where we're looking at our spouse's spiritual condition and seeing it as a dead situation. And then there's the version where we're looking at Jesus and his resurrection, awe-struck. These are two very different things in our life.

I wonder if we can take that little 'play on words' and think about it some more. There is a real counter-truth to our pain of doing faith alone, and that counter-truth is that JESUS is fighting for us in this situation, as are the angels. Knowing that, if we say 'our spouse is not here' about a hopeless situation we can then follow it up by declaring the same words were used by the angels about Jesus: But He (Jesus) has risen! 

In other words:

He is not here (my husband, that is).

BUT, hang on, there is power working in my family:

Jesus is risen! And that means the enemy is disarmed in this situation, death has lost its sting, and the power of God is working in my family for the salvation of all my household.

How powerful is the resurrection for our life circumstance? Can we trust God to do a miracle and raise the spiritually dead? Absolutely. Yes, our spouse has free will, but we can at least know that the resurrection power of Jesus is a force as mighty as an atom bomb. 

When the women went to the tomb on that morning of the resurrection expecting to anoint a dead body with perfume and spices, they instead got the shock of their lives to encounter angels. Angels in shining garments declare to the women:

Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here but is risen! (Luke 24:6, NKJV)

And, an angel with a countenance like lightning and clothing as white as snow, says:

Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here; for He is risen, as he said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay. And go quickly and tell His disciples that He is risen from the dead (Matthew 28:5-7, NKJV)

That is our God! That is his truth. Whew, mighty power.

Knowing that power, I wonder if we can challenge ourselves to do the following: Next time in church when we feel that sadness of our spouse's absence, perhaps we can try to put that thought away deliberately because it is us focusing on a dead body. Instead, let's say out loud --

But, He (Jesus) is not here, he is risen! And that same power of the resurrection is working in my family.

I'd like to finish with a prayer --

Dear Jesus, thank you that you did conquer the grave and you did give us power and hope. We ask for every single person in this SUM community, that you will help us not fall into lament when we sit in church alone, but help us instead to focus on your power and the resurrection. Show us more of what your resurrection power can do in our families. Thank you, Lord.

Love you all, 

Ann


It's a Quandary!

By Ann Hutchison Disco ball

Often-times a spiritually mismatched marriage can make us feel we're in a real quandary. I wonder if that's how you'd describe it too?

Dictionary definitions of the word 'quandary' include:

A state of perplexity

A hard plight

A state of difficulty

A state of perplexity or uncertainty over what to do in a difficult situation.

Yes, I'd say that's how it's often been. But today I'd like to share something that God seemed to show me about that state of quandary. What he seemed to say is that a quandary has its purposes Here's the story:

Three years ago I was sat in my church's Easter service. The pastor put on some music and said "Let's sit and reflect for a while." The soft music played.

Gazing down, my eyes began to wander. They wandered over to a certain molded indentation on the plastic seat beside me, where my husband should have been sat. And still the music played. Instead of thinking about the empty tomb I began to think about a different empty thing: That empty seat, and my absent-from-church husband.

"He is not here," I thought to myself. And I wasn't thinking about Jesus now.

One thing led to another then, and yes this may sound dramatic but I threw myself forward, hurled my head into my hands, and let my shoulders heave in quiet sobs.

He is not here. He is not here.

Meanwhile, the reflection music just kept on playing.

It was at that moment that little thoughts came to me that seemed to perfectly articulate my problem, like some kind of 'eureka' moment. I grabbed my phone and began to type. Here's what I wrote:

"I can't do faith without you, Bryce.

You won't do it with me.

I can't be without you.

I can't not do faith."

"Wow" I thought, clicking the save button with a sense of resolution. "That there is what's going on. I'm in a constant quandary." Indeed, what I realized from writing those four statements is that this SUM situation was bringing me a set of tensions that seemed impossible to hold. Well, at least that's how it felt.

At that moment, however, God seemed to give me the following as a way of countering the problem I had just typed out. It landed in my heart as an analogy, a quiet answer from the Holy Spirit:

"Ann, there are numerous facets to your character, just like a glitter ball has many facets. These tensions in your life enable the different facets of your character to be examined by Me. These tensions have their purpose: They enable Me to test your heart. Know this, then: Every time you hold two contradictory things in tension in your marriage, you are being tested and refined. I am watching to see how you navigate it and what choices you will make."

Amazing. "I think I understand, Lord," I said, and I have thought a lot about that image of the glitter ball and its facets ever since. Is this whole SUM situation one big set of tests, even?

The refining pot is for silver and the furnace for gold, but the Lord tests the hearts. (Proverbs 17:3)

Well, that was three years ago and of course I've had numerous thoughts about spiritually mismatched marriage since, just like I imagine many of you do. But, three years on, some of those things I'm holding in tension don't seem so hard to combine any more. I can't say why exactly. Perhaps it's that Jesus has come into the middle of it and brought ease.

There is one part to that quandary that I can say has actively changed, though. My first statement that Easter three years ago was this: "I can't do faith without you, Bryce." Well, I have learned that I can do faith without him, and I do. For, after all, though I am one flesh with my husband, I do stand on my own two feet before God.

Overall, then, perhaps our lesson is today is that we mustn't despise the quandary, but instead see it for what it is: a tool for us to draw closer to God, and a tool for him to refine our characters.

Do you have a quandary you're wrestling with at the moment?

Let's chat in the comments!

Ann


Community Bible Study?

Want Your Feedback SUMHi Everyone,

Lynn Donovan here. I'm considering offering a 10-week, LIVE Bible study through Zoom. We would study together the book of James. Everything in the book of James leads us to live the Christian life with success. 

My questions are below. Please respond in the comments. Please, please take a minute and share your thoughts. They are important to me. 

  1. I know you are likely tired of Zoom meetings, but would you tune in to Zoom for about an hour to an hour and a half?
  2. Would you be willing to commit a meeting once a week for ten weeks? 
  3. What areas of learning would help you? For example, finances, relationships, physical healing, prayer life, life balance. Please think about what you need and list as many as come to mind in the comments. There is NO condemnation. Let's study what we really need. 
  4. Should this study begin in August or September?

This study will be live only, no recordings. To get the good stuff you have to show up. Faith takes a commitment, but I promise you this. IT WILL BE GOOD STUFF. Training and info you won't get in church. Wisdom from heaven that will grow your faith and lead you into a better life.

Okay, See you in the comments. Thank you for taking time to share with me. Hugs, Lynn Donovan


The Glorious Resurrection

My friends, today it is Resurrection Sunday, and along with the wider Body of Christ around the world we're celebrating this wonderful, wonderful event. Passion of Christ

It's funny to think about how that group of people in first-century Jerusalem (e.g., the disciples) were so normal ... And yet what they experienced that day was completely mind-blowing.

That day, that Sunday of the Resurrection, the women went to the tomb to find a stone rolled away, and men dressed in white -- Angels. One of the women, Mary Magdalene, even saw Jesus with her own eyes. Was she crazy??

Peter and John raced to the tomb to find it was indeed empty. The burial garments were lying in a pile, including the body's head covering neatly folded in a corner. What on earth had happened?

Two men were walking on a road to Emmaeus and Jesus appeared to them to explain the scriptures and what had just happened. As soon as they recognized him he vanished from their sight. "Didn't our hearts burn within us?" They said afterwards, trying to debrief with each other.

And finally, the grieving disciples were in a locked room hiding from the Jews when suddenly their beloved Master appeared from the dead in front of them! They nearly fainted with shock, but then got to touch his side, saw his hands, and sat back in awe, hearts pounding.

That was the immediate reality, though several of these people might have wondered if it was real. The Bible says many doubted, and it's not surprising. It was an extraordinary day which they would never forget.

What they couldn't possibly have imagined, however, is what would happen to the world after that. That, to me, is as big a miracle. That resurrection power swept through the world, beginning in Jerusalem, and changed individual life after individual life, eventually reaching yours and mine. It first touched people in the places where the twelve apostles took the Gospel, and then continuing to explode like an atom bomb from generation to generation, like a powerful domino effect. Signs and wonders often accompanied the message, as did a lot of prayer behind the scenes by saints past and present.

The resurrection message of Jesus had the power to spread without compulsion or force and it changed whole nations. Every authentic conversion that occurred did so by that same resurrection power that lifted Jesus from the dead.

That you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power which He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead .. (Ephesians 1:18-19, NKJV) 

Today almost one third of the world's population calls themselves Christian, and the resurrection power of Jesus Christ continues to touch individual lives, one after another. 

And there are also many other things that Jesus did, which if they were written one by one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that would be written. Amen. (John 21:25, NKJV)

The above verse is the very last verse of the four Gospels. Though it is speaking of all the things Jesus did in first-century Israel, it feels to me like a prophecy too. Indeed, the world truly cannot contain the number of the things that could be written about what Jesus has done ever since the Resurrection. Testimonies of changed lives are now as numerous as the grains of sand on the seashore.

Amazing.

What do we do with that? Well, I'd say we must stand on the fact that the power of the resurrection is such a powerful force that it changed our world. If that is the case it can change our home too.

And that brings us to the end of our time of commemorating the passion of Christ. Dear SUMites, I hope you have a meaningful day and let's celebrate the Resurrection today with all our hearts, souls, minds, and strength.

Love,

Ann


"It is Finished."

Dear friends Passion of Christ

It's Ann here, and we've reached Friday, the very last day of Holy Week and the day where Jesus was eventually taken to his death.

This particular year I have been thinking a lot about the visual signs of power in that last moment on the cross:

"From noon until three in the afternoon darkness came over all the land. About three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eli, Eli,lema sabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”).

When some of those standing there heard this, they said, “He’s calling Elijah.” Immediately one of them ran and got a sponge. He filled it with wine vinegar, put it on a staff, and offered it to Jesus to drink. The rest said, “Now leave him alone. Let’s see if Elijah comes to save him.”

And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit.

At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook, the rocks split and the tombs broke open. The bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. They came out of the tombs after Jesus’ resurrection and went into the holy city and appeared to many people.

When the centurion and those with him who were guarding Jesus saw the earthquake and all that had happened they were terrified, and exclaimed "Surely He was the Son of God!" (Matthew 27:45-54, NIV)

That picture stuns me. The brooding darkness, the rock-splitting earthquake, and the curtain in the temple being violently ripped in two. I'm picturing the shock of those who discovered or saw that curtain. Would they have registered at all what was going on?

At that very moment humanity was being given free access to an intimate relationship with God. As Jesus breathed his last, he said: "It is finished." It's done.

The earth shook, the rocks split, the tombs broke open. Dead people would start waking up and coming out of their tombs days later. Can you imagine?! The sheer power of that moment leads me to ask a question of myself: What exactly does the power of the cross mean for my own life?  

I had a chat with a Christian friend last week. She told me that she was facing a distressing situation at work that was proving to be quite severe. A colleague of hers was displaying some very dark behavior and she was being challenged in a number of ways that actually seemed spiritual. She then told me God's answer to her had been this:

"Lean on the finished work of the cross."

She and I chatted a little about that, and both felt it was a somewhat elusive phrase, but nevertheless a phrase that really made us think. What does it look like, exactly?

Lean on the finished work of the cross.

In our lives, the finished work of the cross means that the enemy is disarmed. It means that good is more powerful than evil. It also means that Jesus has cleared our own sin to such a great degree that we know we are loved.

Lean on the finished work of the cross.

The finished work of the cross is power in our lives, and it means we have the kind of access to God that we otherwise never could have had. It means rock-splitting power. Resurrection power.

So, with all that said, here's a little idea: Consider sitting with the Lord to ask him about what the finished work of the cross means for your current circumstances. Share in the comments any insights you come up with.

And .. We will be back on Sunday!

Ann


New Perspective This Holy Thursday - What Do I Have To Offer My Spouse?

Hey SUM family, Tiffany here! Emre-RuqOeMvPlzQ-unsplash

I have been thinking about the timeline of Holy Week. I was blessed to be able to write for Thursday's post. I didn't realize until recently that Thursday is referenced as "Maundy Thursday." Doing a quick online study I found that Maundy comes from "mandatum" which in Latin means: mandate, command, law, order to do something, commandment. How neat! Of course, the night before Jesus' crucifixion, we see the Last Supper and instructions that Jesus gives to the disciples.

I want to focus on what happens afterwards. I want to talk about Gethsemane.

Did you know that Gethsemane is comprised of two Hebrew words?

Gath + Shemen = oil press

In the Garden of Gethsemane, we see Jesus take His disciples there to pray. He tasks them with praying so that they would not fall into temptation. A little further ahead He goes to spend time with Abba Father. No matter how close that He had become with the disciples, He still could not take Him where He had to go. Isn't it like our SUM? No matter how receptive, how supportive, how loving, how attentive our spouses are to us and our lives...they still cannot be where we are. Hear my heart because I don't want that to be taken the wrong way. Even with a household with two Christian parts to the marriage, the relationship with the Father belongs to the individual.

But in a SUM, the weight of life, circumstances, loneliness, heartache, stress, responsibility, revelation, is so much heavier when we have to carry it alone.

In His anguish, Jesus prays that there might be another way...BUT not His will but God's be done. Coming back to check on the disciples, He finds that they've gone to sleep. This happens a few times!

I sometimes feel this way...especially in this fight for the children in the public school system. I pray, I press in, I grieve what I've learned is happening...in coming back to my husband, it seems that he is asleep...unaware, uninterested, unmoved.

What about in your life? Many questions swirl around in this hardened season. How do we school our children? How do we deal with job loss? Impending divorce? Financial hardship? Health scares?  Progress, breakthrough and victory impeded by strongholds and backsliding?

I think that we know the process of the press is brutal to the olive. A lot of us are in various stages of pressure and hardship, as if we are the olives being turned into oil.

Olive oil had many uses in Jesus' time...it was integral to society. It was used to light lamps for seeing in the dark. I was used for medicine, anointing, cooking, making bread.

Could it be that we the believing spouse are being prepared in this season for husbands and wives benefit? We are the light of Jesus in our darkened households. We are the nourishment as we carry the Word (remember Jesus said that man does not live by bread alone?!). We bring the anointing and healing as we intercede for our families.

The process of the press is uncomfortable, painful and seemingly unbearable. BUT God! He refines, purifies, transforms and refreshes us into the useful, essential thing needed in our household.

In the pressing, remember that it is only for a season. Remember that you are integral to your home. You are a benefit and a treasure. You are essential. You are powerful. You are made for such a time as this.

For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband; otherwise your children would be unclean, but now they are holy. - 1 Corinthians 7:14

My prayer goes out to you on this Holy Thursday. I bless you with the nourishment, light, anointing, healing of Jesus Christ who first went through the press for you.


The Silent Day! At Least That's What Satan Believed!

Passion Week 2022The Passion Week – Wednesday- by Lynn Donovan

The Silent Day

SUM Nation, on this Wednesday as we remember and honor the Passion of Christ, let’s focus on what happened on Wednesday leading up to the resurrection. The Bible offers little information regarding Jesus, His disciples, and their activity that day.

But we know many things were rumbling underground that day. This is when I believe satan issued his command to kill the Christ. The devil knew from the beginning who Jesus was and believed it would be catestrophic to allow him to live. Evil foresaw the future where the entire world became healed, prospered, and stepped into our original design and destiny as children of God.

The satanic evil counsels conspired plans to stir up Judas Iscariot and the Sanhedrin to torture and kill the Son of God. Their wicked laughter shook the blackened ruins of hell, as the tempters planned Christ’s death with a mere pieces of silver placed before a very broken and greedy man, Judas Iscariot. Demonic generals inhabited the religious rulers and they formed a plan to kill LIFE itself.

BUT……. If satan knew what would happen with the death of Jesus, he would have stopped it at all cost!

In the silence this is what God was doing!!!!!!  Jesus aligns fully with His destiny. He is resetting the entirety of humanity back to our original design and purpose.

  • Death is DEFEATED. 1 CORINTHIANS 15:54
  • He creates a new species of beings on earth. 2 CORINTHIANS 5:17
  • The Holy Spirit arrives in power and with comfort. ACTS 1:8
  • We become Children of God and co-heirs with Christ. ROMANS 8:17
  • Our eternity is certain. 1 JOHN 2:25
  • Daily life is covered with hope and promises. 2 CORINTHIANS 1:20
  • We reign with Christ forever. REVELATION 5:10
  • We have life abundant. John 10:10
  • We have a renewed mind, a healed heart, a firm foundation and a life of promise. ROMANS 12:2, 1 PETER 5:10, MATTHEW 7:24-27, ROMANS 10:13

In the silence of a single day, Father, saw His Son and affirmed Him. He saw His many children lost and deceived and knew they were about to experience the greatest moment of all time.

The death and the glorious resurrection of the Messiah. Yeshua, who is Christ the Lord!

Is silence your companion today? Is the enemy plotting-destroying your hope and peace? Is it a struggle to see a way forward because all is silent and dark?

My friend, stand up because Sunday is your destiny. It IS WRITTEN. IT IS ACCOMPLISHED ALREADY! And life within the Kingdom is not just a wish. IT IS OUR BEAUTIFUL REALITY!

We can do all things through Christ, because He LIVES!

Leave me your prayer requests and let’s destroy the silence and live a loud and bold life. In Jesus name. AMEN. Blessings and hugs, Lynn


Not My Will, But Yours Be Done.

Garden picture"Then He withdrew from them about a stone's throw, knelt down, and began to pray, 'Father, if you are willing, take this cup away from me - nevertheless, not my will, but Yours be done.' Then an angel appeared to Him, strengthening Him. Being in anguish, He prayed more fervently, and His sweat became like drops of blood falling on the ground" (Luke 22:39-44, CSB).

Jesus felt fear, He felt anguish, He felt overwhelmed, He felt exhaustion. We know this because of scriptures like the one above. But what did Jesus do about it? What was His response to this event He knew was causing all these feelings? Even in the face of pain beyond measure, He told the Father, "Not my will, but YOUR will be done." Jesus had human feelings. That is one of the beautiful things about conversing with Him in prayer, we can be honest with Him and take comfort in knowing He truly understands what it is like to be human. We know Jesus NEVER sinned, yet He did have feelings. It was His response to those feelings that we can learn so much from!

Jesus did not take human emotions lightly. He knew exactly how much trouble they could cause if one gave in to them. I am sure that is one of the reasons He frequently sought alone time with God. He knew He HAD to stay close to the Father, every moment of the day. This was one example He gave us of how to survive in the flesh and not fall into temptations. Constant communion with Father! He also showed us how to fight against Satan, using God's word (Matt 4:1-11), resting when we need to (Matt 8:24), and in the gathering of the disciples He showed us the importance of a supportive faith community!

His simple, yet profound prayer in the garden showed us what we should all do in times of great crisis and pain, times of fear and exhaustion, times of sorrow and anguish, even in times of hope and anticipation: "Not my will, but Yours be done."

I recently had a sort of come-to-Jesus moment in my life. Emotions were running high and I was faced with a hard decision. One that would very much change my life. I could run towards this issue. Face it and work it out. Or I could run and choose the easy way. The calmer waters full of instant gratification and self righteousness. So I prayed, but it was one of those prayers where you THINK God is going to agree with you, ya know those? Well just imagine how I felt when He gave me very clear instructions to do exactly what I DID NOT want to do! Funny how that works isn't it? ;)

So, after crying my eyes out and having a little pity party, I said, "Okay, not my will, but Yours be done." And you know what? The weight of this issue, which before felt suffocating, was suddenly lighter. Peace has been filling me ever so slowly and gently as each day passes that I keep choosing to live in His will. I have not seen the fruit of this decision yet, but the obedience and trust in the Father is more important than the result itself. I know I am on the road God wants me to be on. I just need to quit thinking I know a short cut, because He has the map! ;) "Not my will, but Yours be done." Not my way, but YOUR way Lord!

Is there anything in your life to need to let go of? Or maybe even trying to let go of before God has told you to? Ask God about it today! With a humble heart and listening ears say "Not my will, but Yours be done," and see what peace comes when you walk in His will! I would love to discuss this with you all in the comments. Have a blessed Holy Week my SUM family!

Amanda


Holy Week: Monday - Stillness

6a00d83451ee9f69e2027880758f75200d-320wiThis is one of my favourite weeks of the year. Walking with Jesus to Easter, to be reminded once again of His sacrifice for us and the hope His life, death and resurrection give us.

Daily Events

Years ago, I read the four Gospels to follow along with the 8 days of Holy Week, starting with Palm Sunday, and culminating in Easter Sunday, the Resurrection. It was a fun experience as I was able to read the different passages each Gospel writer used to describe the various events.

On Easter Monday, Jesus leaves Bethany, the house of his great friends: Martha, Mary and Lazarus, to go back to Jerusalem. It’s the day he walks past a fig tree that has no fruit and also the day He cleared the temple.

Focus on Jesus

I don’t want to reflect on those events even though both have significant meaning but rather to continue my short series on how to set our focus on Jesus. Last time  I shared the importance of meditating on Scripture but today it’s on a discipline that is one of the hardest for we overly busy, too distracted types.

Stillness

“Be still and know that I am God” (Ps 46:10)

We’re all very familiar with this verse. I’ve written on it many times but I’m increasingly discovering the wonder of its truth. Because it is in stillness and ONLY in stillness where we come to know God. I’m discovering this truth. We need quiet to listen to and hear God.

It’s been the practice I specifically picked up for Lent: to simply be still, quiet and wait on God. For a few minutes each day. Most days I’ve succeeded in doing it. It’s hard to do. Because our worlds are so noisy.

Jesus and the Quiet

As we know, Lent’s 40 days mirror those Jesus spent in the wilderness soon after being baptised. Besides the noises of animals, birds, and insects, He would have spent those days in silence. As he didn’t eat, I expect Jesus spent much of his time simply being quiet communing with the Father.

In the quiet, we discover how to let go and surrender our hold on everything that’s going on in our worlds. We like control, don’t we. Even of bad things. When God wants us to let go and discover the wonder of learning to depend on Him and Him alone.

As I walked this morning I talked to Jesus about His time in the wilderness. I wondered if He was ever frightened, of starving, of being attacked by animals, of being at the mercy of Satan’s minions. I sensed that in reinforcing the 30 years of learning dependence, Jesus had to let go of the worst outcomes. Yes, He had to acknowledge that they were a possibility.

It confirmed in my mind that letting go requires the willingness to acknowledge bad things can happen, but God is indeed our refuge and fortress, irrespective of our circumstances.

“The Lord will fight for you; you only need to be still.” (Exodus 14:14 NIV).

Indeed, God will. But we need to be still. I’ve found this invaluable when anxiety strikes. For much of my life, I would hold onto Jesus, but at the same time, hold onto the ‘thing’ that’s stressing me. But Jesus says, let go of the ‘thing’, whatever it is, and then I’ll fight for you. Does that make sense?

“In repentance and rest will be your salvation;

In quietness and trust shall be your strength.” (Isaiah 30:15 NIV)

“Stillness is your strength because it shows your trust in God. In your stillness, God moves.” (Ann Voskamp)

An Exercise for the week

There are so many more good things to chat about stillness. It's one of my favourite subjects, not because I'm good at it but because I'd like to better at it. But this post is too long already.

This week, may I encourage us all to minimise our distractions and simplify our schedule (postpone things to next week or beyond if you are able). Take some time each day to simply be still and quiet with God. This isn’t about prayer. But one may flow into the other.

Just find a comfortable quiet spot and use a word, a phrase, for example, ‘Come Holy Spirit’, ‘Jesus, I’m here’) and listen. When a distracting thought comes (they will and that’s okay), simply say the word/phrase again.

You might hear nothing. That’s okay. Come again tomorrow.

Why don't we share in the comments, only if you want to, what we discovered during the week. Even if it's nothing. :) I'll keep popping back each day. 

Wishing all the SUMite family a very Happy and joyous Holy Week and Easter. Lean into Jesus and be amazed.

Grace and peace.


Some Special Plans for Next Week

Dear SUM family, Passion of Christ

It's Ann here and I wanted to tell you about some special plans we have for next week -- Holy Week.

Next week we are going to take some time to honor Jesus by focusing on his final week on earth, his death and his resurrection.

Lynn, Ian, Tiffany, Amanda and I are going to take it in turns to write a devotional each day, and we'll walk through Holy Week together. Ian is going to kick us off on Monday, and we so hope you'll join us.

We're really looking forward to it. We all love this time of year, and it's a good chance to lift our eyes off our circumstances and onto this incredible LOVE story.

For God so loved the world that He gave his begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16, NKJV)

Many of you know we also have a Facebook group. That group is led by two wonderful SUMites, Gladys Arias Rosario and Barb Twigg. Well, several of the ladies in that group are going to do something special on Resurrection Sunday. They're each going to put a picture/photo on their own Facebook profile with the words 'Jesus belongs in my city'. They'll be a little creative, so no two posts will look the same. Once they're up if you'd like to take a look at these posts you can search for #Jesusinmycity, #Resurrectioninmycity and #SUM. And hey, if you feel like joining in and doing the same, please do!

Well, I will leave it there but we will see you on Monday, ready to journey through Holy Week.

Love,

Ann


The Word - A Sword

By Amanda Pace Sword

Hey there SUMite family! As most of you know this is my first blog post, and I am so excited to be able to share with you all what God puts on my heart! Are you ready? Because I am! Okay, lets dive right in!

As I was preparing for this new venture I sat down at my kitchen table, which tends to be my favorite prayer spot, and asked God what He wanted me to share with you all. And almost immediately I felt Him telling me to discuss the power of words. I know this is something we have covered before. But it has been a while, and this is definitely a subject we need to be refreshed in on a regular basis!

As I was beginning to write I thought it would be about our words, the affect they have, and the power they carry. But when it came down to actually writing God kept bringing to mind this verse, "For the Word of God is LIVING and EFFECTIVE and SHARPER THAN ANY TWO EDGED SWORD, penetrating as far as the separation of soul from spirit, joints and marrow."  Hebrews 4:12 (CSB). As we can see, this verse is about GODS Word and it's power. So because God knows better than I do 😉 I am writing today about the power - the WEAPON that is the Word of God. I felt especially pulled to that description of a double-edged sword. So lets dive a bit deeper into that!

What is a double-edged Sword?
A double-edged sword is, in a word, a weapon. A very powerful weapon, one that can cut from either side of the blade. When we open and USE the Word of God, speaking it out, reading it, declaring it, teaching it to our children etc. We are wielding a weapon! The mighty and powerful Sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God (Ephesians 6:17)

What does a sword do?
First, it protects! I don't know about you, but whenever I imagine angels guarding myself and my children, I always picture them with swords. Swords, in my mind, are symbols of protection. How can we wield this weapon for protection? One way is by praying the WORD over our homes and families. Pray the Lords prayer with fresh eyes and an open heart to really hear the words you're saying, Psalm 23 is a favorite of ours right now to pray before bed. The Word is FULL of protection verses! Use them!

The next thing this double-edged sword does is defends! Use the Sword of the Spirit to defend your home from attacks of the enemy! Remember, this sword cuts from both sides, so you can attack and defend forwards and backwards! 😉 So, knowing this, march around your house declaring Gods promises, "All your children will be taught by the Lord and great will be their peace" Isaiah 54:13 (NIV)! Lay hands on your electronics and screens and rebuke temptations and addictions, anoint your home while speaking Gods blessings out loud over every room! Put on your armor every day and teach your children to do the same. Pray over your spouse while they sleep! In the past, I have seen breakthrough when I pray Ezekiel 36:26 over my husband, "I will give you a new heart and place a new spirit within you; I will remove your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh." (CSB)

Finally, a sword deflects. Use the Word to deflect the lies spoken about you and your family. Remind yourself of His promises whenever the enemy comes knockin'. Whenever someone mentions how alcoholism runs in your family, that you are likely to get cancer, that depression is genetic, or you will never cure your anxiety ect. Even the lies your own mind tries to tell you, like you're a failure, you'll never be good enough, you can't do such and such. Knock those words back to the pit of hell where they belong with that Sword! Open that bible and FIGHT BACK!

My dear SUMites, realize when you hold, and read, and speak the Word of God you are wielding a WEAPON! That Bible you hold, it is not some flimsy piece of leather with bits of thin paper wound up in it - oh no! That Bible is MIGHTY, it is a source of TERROR to the enemy, it strikes fear into them and drives them out! We are NOT helpless my SUMite family! We are NOT alone! And we most certainly ARE NOT DEFEATED! Hold up your swords, shout a battle cry (in your heart, or out loud! 😁), and fight for your family! 

What are some practical ways you all fight for your family with the Word of God? I would love to read them in the comments!