181 posts categorized "Bible Study"

So What Happens Now?

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Photo courtesy of Adrian Cogua at Pexels.com

Hi everyone, Ian from Sydney here. How was your Easter? We hope it was full of goodness and happiness, especially with the wonderful message of the Resurrection. Jesus is Risen!

Easter has passed for another year. What happens now? Did the message of the Resurrection change anything in our lives? Is anything different in our hearts and/or lives since Maunday Thursday, less than a week ago?

Maybe? Maybe not?

Why not take a few moments simply to reflect on what’s going on in your heart now. Check in with yourself to see how you are? Perhaps jot a few notes in your journal or phone.

Peace is Available

I love the scene in John 20, the night of Jesus’ resurrection. The disciples are locked in the Upper Room terrified the Jewish leaders are going to break down the door and haul them away. They’re confused. Word is out Jesus is alive. But where is He?

Let’s read it together1:

“On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them …”

Let’s stop there. Did you catch it? Jesus appears out of nowhere. The door is still locked. If he’s risen from the dead, surely, he’d have to use the door to enter? Wouldn’t he? Then the being standing in front of them must be a ghost?

Let’s read on … 

“and said, “Peace be with you!” After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.

They’re frightened because they’re unsure who or what is standing in front of them. Jesus comforts them with “Peace be with you!” To further convince the disciples he isn't a ghost, Jesus showed them his wounds that were healed but scars were still evident.

That seemed to do the trick. The disciples were convinced. Interestingly, in another Gospel (Luke 24:41-43), Jesus asks the disciples for something to eat. Which is quite funny when you think about it, but another way of demonstrating he’s not a ghost. Never say, Jesus doesn’t have a sense of humour.

The disciples are now convinced their friend and leader is here in the flesh. What a mixed set of emotions they must be experiencing. I expect relief is one of them which would bring such a comfort at this scary time.

Breath of God.

I imagine there’s a lot of good banter going on as this group is reunited, but Jesus isn’t finished with making this night even more special for his tribe.

Let’s see what he says next:

Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone’s sins, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.”

Jesus offers them peace and then breathes on the group. Wow! Can you picture what a moment this is for everyone present. The breath of God is life! Remember, Adam was formed from the dust and given life by God breathing life in him.

Closed Doors

What doors have you closed in your heart and mind? Invite Jesus into them, if you're able.  And picture him saying those wonderful words, “Peace be with you.” Not just once, but twice.

And then picture Jesus, the lover of your soul, breathing into you. Breathing new life, new love, new strength, new hope, and new joy.

Receive it. All of it. Breathe in His peace. And breathe out the stress, the worry, the fear, the whatever, that has locked you up.

Now step out boldly. Spirit is with you. Spirit is never leaving for. Your heart no longer needs to be locked up.

Jesus is Risen! Holy Spirit is alive in us!

Grace and peace, dear SUMites and enjoy the peace and release.

Note 1: The Bible passage referred to is taken from John 20: 19-23 (NIV)


Ephesians Chapter 6 Part ONE

image from www.spirituallyunequalmarriage.comHello SUM Nation. Lynn Donovan here.

Wow, July is coming to an end, and we have reached the last chapter of Ephesians. Let’s jump in. Get out your paper Bible and read these verses. Numerous researchers have proof that retention is much greater when reading from a paper book verses a screen. True that!!!! I agree!

In Paul’s letter to the Ephesian church, he provides very practical advice for marriage and relationships in and through chapter five. Chapter 6 continues on in this course with several short and specific instructions.

  • Children obey your parents
  • Honor your father and mother
  • Dads, don’t provoke your children
  • Bondservants be obedient
  • Masters, show difference to those who serve you.

This portion reads like the book of Proverbs, with practical information. But did you catch the undertone? This is all about family.

Family is everything to God. We fit into family through our identity, strengths, roles, our genders, our responsibilities as well as our positions of authority or service. Even the slaves are included here. This unwritten but very clear message is a reflection of God’s heart toward family. His family.

Honor, respect, protection, kindness, difference to one another. Afterall, this is exactly how it will be for all eternity within our eternal family.

The difficulty in these instructions is the dysfunction in families today. And that my friend, is a topic to which I could write book upon book. Through my prayer ministry, I have worked with believers who have lived out or were raised in every kind of dysfunction. Alcoholism, drugs, perversion, abuse of every kind and things to horrendous to write. However, I have watch Jesus bring healing to the trauma of many hearts.

None of us were raised in a perfect family. And we are likely lacking in these areas in our own family. Yet, it’s the effort that touches God’s heart.

Is it possible to honor a parent that abused you. Yes, through forgiveness and asking Jesus for understanding. Often, he reveals how your parent was raised in horrible trauma themselves and it helps to process your pain. It doesn’t make it right. Nor is restoration of that relationship necessary. But through the great love and healing of our Savior, all things are possible and healing will come. You must want it and allow it, and work through the pain.

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. Ephesians 6:10-11

Finally, we arrive at the back half of chapter 6. The Armor of God. Currently I’m writing a book about spiritual warfare and I use this passage in the teaching. I have dedicated nearly half the book to verse eleven, alone, because it’s so powerful.

Grasping our stance is everything when we battle evil. And I hope to have the book pounded out soon. It’s deep and will change the way you view warfare. In the meantime, Paul isn’t kidding about these weapons.

Here me now: these are real and they work.

Believe you are equipped with the whole armor of God. Then stand and swing your sword. Here is an excerpt from the manuscript with an example of how I swing my sword.

I’m sorry. I just realized………. This post is too long. Tune in Wednesday for a prayer that kicks butt and takes names. Hugs, Lynn


Book of Ephesians -- Chapter 5

Ephesians 3Hell0 all! Amanda here. Hasn't this study been incredible? I don't know about all of you, but I will definitely be looking back over this study again and again! Lynn, Ann, and Ian have all done an incredible job sharing their insights into the wisdom of God. I feel so very blessed to be  a part of this team! With that being said I am anxious to dive into chapter 5 with all of you!

 There is so much wisdom and instruction packed in to these 33 verses. Nearly everything about how we should conduct ourselves as children of God is summarized here. And yet there was a time in my life when I would have found a chapter like this too overwhelming to read, let alone study! As a teen and young adult I struggled greatly with condemnation and perfection. I would read chapters like this and feel so much despair, thinking to myself "Lord, I love you so much! But I fail at some of these things DAILY! How will I EVER be good enough for you?!" It was several years before I finally fully accepted and understood (or began to understand) God's grace and mercy. My friend I want you to know that God does NOT expect perfection. He just wants our hearts!

Now then, I am particularly interested in focusing on the last portion of this chapter. Which I feel is VITAL, especially as SUMites, so we will discuss the first part a bit quicker. In verses 1-5 we are instructed to "be imitators of God". We are to walk in love and refrain from immoral behavior of all kinds. It is not coincidence that one of the first things this instructional chapter tells us to love like Jesus loves. My friends, we must never underestimate the power of that kind of love! It draws those who are lost nearer to him.

Verses 6-14 give us a wonderful image of us as "children of light". We are to use our light to expose the darkness. While reading this I had this mental image of the children of God walking around in the dark with a soft glow about them. They would lean towards the darkness and it would turn into something vine-like, shriek and curl up! The children of God would simply smile and move on. It was pretty amazing! 

Verses 15-21 come in as a warning. They tell us to pay attention! Watch your behavior and don't be foolish. Speak of him often with each other. Share his wisdom with one another, praise him together! And remember to THANK HIM always (verse 20). This section shows us community is a BIG part of staying strong as a believer.

Finally we come to verses 22-33. Oh boy, I dare say I have seen the first few verses of this section misused and abused more than any other part in the bible. Though it is not always intentional, it can nonetheless be damaging when misinterpreted. SUMites especially have an extra layer of complexity added when we read and try to understand these verses. It is my hope to shine a bit of light on this issue here.

"Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord,..." Lets talk about the word "submit" for a moment. Especially in this context. What it is NOT saying here is that a wife is her husband's footstool, doormat, or slave. It is also NOT saying that the wife is less valuable, less loved, or in any way less important. What it IS saying is that wives are to be the ultimate helper and team player for their husband. We are to be a listening ear, a calm during chaos, and a comfort to them. We recognize them as the head of our household and treat them with respect. This works especially well when the husband does his part of loving their wives as Christ loves the church (verse 25). When a husband loves his wife selflessly she is much more inclined to behave in the ways previously stated! God intended for marriage to be a beautiful and reciprocal giving of love, protection, and care for one another.

Of course we know it isn't always so simple. In those cases we must lean on the Father to guide and direct us! For us SUMites, we are still called to be the best helper we can be. And what better way to help our spouses than by prayer and petition on their behalf, loving them as Jesus loves us, and being the peace when the chaos rises! It is a tall order I know, and one we can only accomplish with the help of the Father.

Okay I must wrap this up now, but I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments! I love you all!


Book of Ephesians – Chapter 3

6a00d83451ee9f69e202c1a6cc4dc3200b-320wiWhat a great introduction we’ve had from both Lynn and Ann on this wonderful epistle of Paul’s. Ann mentioned how much I love Ephesians and one of the reasons is that Paul is prayerful throughout it. It starts with a prayer, includes a couple of great prayers (chapter 1 and 3) and then ends with prayer. And I love to pray!

Now we come to Chapter 3. I want to focus on the prayer that ends this chapter because it’s one of my favourites and one I pray often.

The First Half 

The chapter starts with Paul sharing how God told Paul to bring the gospel to everyone, and not just to the Jews. As we know this caused a dispute with the disciples and Paul (with the Spirit’s help) had to win them over. As Paul states in verse 6, the Gospel is for everyone, and is ‘welcoming to everyone’. I love that notion of welcoming.

Paul sees his role is to help everyone to understand the mysteries of God, ‘to make plain’ what God has been doing all along.

The Prayer

There’s more to learn in those opening verses but I really want to spend time on this great prayer. We’re at the halfway point of his letter and here he brings us back to prayer. The epistle pivots after this prayer.

Firstly, I invite you to read it. Here it is in NIVUK version:

“For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge – that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.”

And simply sit with it. And read it again. IS there a word or a statement that jumps out or shimmers for you? If yes, ask God about it. What might He be saying to you?

A few points that I especially love about it are:

  • Paul kneels before the Father, this magnificent Father (MSG version). Straight away, Paul adopts a posture of surrender, acknowledging who He is praying to. It’s simply breathtaking. I’ve been challenged in recent weeks that I’ve been a little too casual with God, adopting the ‘human’ aspect of Jesus’ nature and not reflecting enough on His divinity.
  • Paul intercedes for the Ephesian church (and us) with four powerful statements: ‘strengthen you with power through His Spirit’, ‘Christ may dwell in our hearts’, ‘that we grasp how wide …’ and finally, ‘may be filled with His fullness.’ They’re powerful statements to pray. I encourage you to pray these over yourselves, your family and community.
  • This is a highly relational prayer. It’s a prayer that demonstrates the prayer, Paul, has a close bond with God. He asks God to give more of Himself to the church of Ephesus. He doesn’t pray for healing, for provision, but He asks God for more of Himself. I think one of the great reasons why we struggle to pray is we’ve grown up with a transactional view of prayer. We ask God for things. Don’t get me wrong, God wants us to pray these prayers but what happens when we don’t receive what we’ve prayed for? We lose interest in prayer? But prayer is highly relational. Paul demonstrates that for us.
  • Fullness of God. Wow! How does healing come? How are our needs met? How do we evangelise? How do our spouses find Jesus? With the fullness of God. Think of yourself overflowing with the fullness of love. God is love! That’s His essence. If we’re overflowing with His fullness, we become incredibly attractive to everyone. Because people see God in us!
  • What does fullness bring? Immeasurably more than we can ask or imagine! Wow! I want that fullness. It makes me weak at the knees just picturing it. God wants to pour through and out of us with Himself. The fullness of His love.

The prayer ends with a desire for God to be glorified by the church. Church is very very important to God. And therefore, to Paul. The divine and human elements of the church. With His power flowing through us, His community, His church is glorified.

Let me stop there. I could go on as there is so much ion this great prayer. May I invite you to pray it over the next few days. Pray it boldly and with reverence and we might be surprised how God moves us all.

Why not share in the comments what particularly stood out for you as you read this chapter. We'll see you there.

Go well, dear Sumites. Grace and peace.


Summer Bible Study - Book of Ephesians- Chapter One

Letter to ephesiansBook of Ephesians

Lynn Donovan here. SUM Nation the book of Ephesians is one of my all-time favorite books of the Bible. That’s because this is a letter to the church that has overcome. This group of believers lived in the middle of a morally bankrupt society that is filled with idol worship and every kind of debauchery. However, they found Jesus. AND they have learned how to live and thrive in difficult surroundings.

Sound familiar?

What I find fascinating is this church is powerful and faith-filled body of believers, however just a mere 30 years later, the Apostle John writes to the Ephesians and reminds them of the many miraculous things they have done and how they have persevered. Yet, he calls them out in verse 4: Nevertheless, I have this against you, that you have left your first love.

This is the call of the Ephesians letters: Never relent, persevere and LOVE. Love God. Love people in an ever-increasing capacity of the heart.

Open your Bible to Ephesians, chapter one. I’m teaching from the NKJV. We know that the Apostle Paul is writing to the believers in Ephesus and offers these believers some astonishing reminders of what belongs to them.

Read from verse one through verse twelve. This greeting and introduction is filled with promises of completeness. What IS ALREADY accomplished for our benefit through the atonement. THIS IS OUR HEAVENLY BANK ACCOUNT. Let’s take a look:

  • Every spiritual blessing
  • Chosen, before time began to be holy, blameless and in His (Christ’s) love.
  • Adopted because it pleased our Father. (If we can wrap our head around this, we will never give into the fear of man, manipulation or deception. We KNOW who we are and whose we are.)
  • Redemption from sin, transgression and iniquity. (I could write books about this stuff. What we are redeemed from is so massive and horrendous, that most believers don’t fully understand our greatest gift is redemption.)
  • Riches of grace abounding toward us in wisdom and prudence. (Does anyone want to give an explanation of these amazing attributes in the comments? I would love to read your take.)
  • Obtained and inheritance in accordance with His will and all of this to the glory of God in Christ Jesus.

These are amazing. If you dwell upon each and research their possibilities and ask God to reveal their reality in your life today, it will blow your mind. Let me give you an example.

We have every spiritual blessing. What does this mean. It means that everything in the spiritual Kingdom of God that we need or desire is already ours. It is our great privilege to learn to apprehend these spiritual blessings. Many of these blessings look like the gifts of the spirit (Galatians 5). Spiritual blessings also is angelic support and influence in the heavenly places because we are seated with Christ. It’s everything we need and more. 

Blessing aren't just spiritual. It is God's great pleasure to give us the Kingdom. Blessings in the here and now. Health, family, finances, community, weather, etc.

What does this mean practically? I don’t need to beg God for a morsel of His goodness, kindness and provision. I can believe He has provided me with all that I need to accomplish my work here on earth and thrive. I pray in support of these purposes. For example: Lord, this book I’ve been writing is creating great demonic attack, so I call upon your protection that is mine as your child. Also, Father, I need downloads of the words to write and time and the energy to write them down. I thank you that you hear my prayers as I am seated in the heavenly realms with Christ. And now I wait expectantly for your provision of words, protection and everything I need to thrive in my home and relationships as we write together. In Jesus name. AMEN

I could spend weeks unpacking all of these blessings. But alas, we must move on to the BEST PART of the entire chapter.

Paul’s prayer for the overcoming church, beginning in verse fifteen.

I’m going to pray this passage how I prayed it for months and months a number of years ago when I was in the middle of my search for my true identity and to really KNOW God. This is how I prayed this scripture:

Father, God of my Lord Jesus Christ, you are the Father of glory! I ask that you give to me the Spirit of Wisdom (read more about this spirit in Proverbs, beginning in chapter one.) that I may be wise on earth in my work, my worship, my relationship with You and others and in everything I do and say. I also ask for the Spirit of Revelation that I may really know you in a deep and abiding and powerful intimacy. Father, open my eyes to understanding and enlighten me to the amazing truth that you have a calling on my life. Reveal my calling(s) and teach me to walk in them now. Father may Your calling fill me with great hope and contentment. I also ask for understanding of the riches of glory because I have an inheritance here on earth and also in heaven. Reveal this to me.

Father, what is the exceeding greatness of power that is granted to me as a believer? Reveal this working of your mighty power in my life. This same astonishing power is made available to me which is the power that raised Christ from the dead. Teach me how to partner with Your power. And show me how to engage this power with Christ over and far above all principality and power and might and dominion and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come! Hallelujah! I will defeat the Kingdom of darkness for the cause of Christ Jesus!

And I declare Jesus Christ is over all things and all things are under the power and dominion of His church AMEN and AMEN!

SUMITE, if you don’t know what to pray, pray this prayer. Open your Bible to Ephesians one and just pray the words aloud straight from the pages.

As our world darkens, I see all of us SUMites who have walked this long road of challenges to our families and faith, as Kingdom leaders who walk in all these promises of Ephesians. We, who have persevered in long crushings of worldly desires to arrive in a life of power and connection in Christ. We are those who will bring healing to many. Who will share God’s wisdom and perseverance to show the people who are deceived the truth that shall set them free.

And that truth is a person. He is Jesus.

Can I get an amen in the comments. I bless you today to perceive the spiritual blessings that are all around you and that you feel deep in your person the abiding and transforming love of our Lord and our God. Amen

I adore you, Lynn


Wednesday, Two Days Before the Crucifixion

6a00d83451ee9f69e202b68530647d200dAnn, thank you for guiding us through Holy Week. It’s such a good practice as others have mentioned in the comments to deliberately walk through each day alongside Jesus.

Now it’s Wednesday. A quiet day. Well, it is in the Scriptures but there was still a lot of activity, some in public and some of it in secret.

A day Jesus’ enemies plot against him. We’ll get to that in a moment.

Jesus Teaches (Luke 21:37-38)

As he has done each day so far Jesus leaves Bethany to travel to Jerusalem to teach in the temple. Remember, there are millions of people in Jerusalem for the Passover Festival and Jesus is taking every opportunity to teach as many people as He can.

What do you think it would have been like in Jerusalem this week? I’m not good in crowds but the opportunity to hear Jesus would be something special, wouldn’t it?

Plotting to Kill Jesus (Matthew 26:3-5; Mark 14:1-2; Luke 22:1-2)

We’re told in Matthew that the leaders of the Sanhedrin are meeting at the home of their boss, the chief priest Caiaphas. They want to surprise Jesus by arresting him by stealth, so that there isn’t an uproar from the masses of people in the city.

The decision is made. But they must wait until the end of the Passover Festival which is tomorrow (Thursday) night. The crowds would leave the city on Friday so there’s less chance of a riot.

There is now an increasing sense of darkness in the city. The plot is hatched, they have their spy, Judas, and now they just wait for Thursday to be over.

I’ve always found it incredible that one of his followers would betray Jesus. I wonder if Judas wanted Jesus to be that messianic King who would take on the Romans and help the Israelites live a life of peace?

Judas challenges us to wonder if we have expectations of Jesus that maybe He doesn’t meet? Perhaps healing of a relative, rescuing a prodigal child, or salvation of our spouse? Why not take a moment to talk to Jesus about any hurts or disappointments you might have regarding any expectations you have of Him.

And now to Maundy Thursday we go.

Have a blessed Easter, dear SUMites. May I remind us to keep our eyes and hearts firmly focused on Jesus. He’s right here with us.

Rather than leaving you with a song as Ann has done this week, I thought I'd leave you with some reflections on this day from the pen of Ann Voskamp. I've been following Ann now for over 1o years and she has such a gentle soul for Jesus which I so admire. I trust you find Ann's words encouragement as we step into the next couple of tough days. Grace and peace, dear friends.


And Onwards We Go!

Dear friends Bible and clock

Well, we’ve reached the end of our How I read my Bible series. I hope you enjoyed it. I always say 'God made us each as unique as a snowflake'!

Some of us have a special place where we curl up to read each day …

Some of us have a favorite book of the Bible …

Some of us have a creative method we use …

And as we read, we encounter God.

For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart (Hebrews 4:12, NIV)

Ahh..

Well, with that wrapped up I'd now like to share some ministry updates:

The team is going to take a couple of weeks off while our American SUMites enjoy their Thanksgiving season. We’ll pause the ‘Let’s Talk Live’ videos too, restarting early December.

While off, I'm going to be doing some planning and praying using the feedback from the SUM community survey. I want to say a huge thank you for completing that survey and sharing your hearts with us. It painted a picture of who we are writing for, and I have to say I shed a few tears reading the responses and getting to know you a little. Sometime next month I’ll share a little more about the demographics of our community, and a summary of what our survey showed us. I think you'll find it interesting like I did.

Well, that’s all. To our USA SUMites, have a wonderful thanksgiving. To the rest of you, stay standing! And we’ll see you - fresh and raring to go -- when we're back.

Ann and the team


How I Read My Bible

How I read my Bible 2Hello my lovely SUMites, Amanda here! I have loved reading Ian and Ann’s posts on how they read their bibles! It is always inspiring to me to hear or read how other believers like to study Gods word. 

I have loved bibles since I was a teenager. I wanted the one with the trendy cover or cool maps inside. I ended up with several bibles in a variety of styles over the years. Sadly, I was more interested in the look of them than actually reading them.

You see, I struggled badly with condemnation in my teens. I felt I could only study when I was “being good”, once I stumbled and did something that wasn’t good, I would feel too guilty to keep studying. This was a cycle that repeated itself into my early twenties. The Bible, especially the New Testament, was a book of rules in my eyes. It was a list of all the things I would never be and could never do. The enemy had twisted my mind into being afraid to open the word! I was completely missing out on Gods grace and denying myself His forgiveness and mercy! That all started to change when I was introduced to two things: a fantastic couple of local pastors, and page on YouTube called The Bible Project.

I have so much to share so I will keep this part brief. I started regularly attending church alone when I was 25. I met the sweetest couple who were joint pastors of this precious little church. This husband and wife opened my eyes to Gods grace. I specifically remember the wife preaching on grace one Sunday and at just the mention of it she was close to tears. I remember her voice trembling, and how passionately she spoke to the congregation. Her message that day was a big step towards me believing that I was worthy of it too! And so, opening my bible got a little easier.

A few years later, my younger sister introduced me to these guys on YouTube who called their page The Bible Project. I had never seen videos like these before, and soon I was hooked! Not only were their videos beautifully done, but they were FILLED with the goodness and truth of Gods word. They helped me begin to understand the importance of context; the when, where, and why a book was written. And the creators of the page were so passionate and excited about the Word that I began to feel excited too! I ate it up like candy! It replaced my condemnation and fear with joy and hunger! I began to read my bible even more ;).

Fast forward to now, in my early thirties, the condemnation still tries to see where it can creep in, but I know how to kick it so it doesn’t stick around long. The way I prefer to read currently is one book at a time. I like to start by watching a Bible Project video on the book and learning as much context as I can beforehand. My favorite mornings start with me grabbing my bible and journal as soon as I wake up. I write down 5 things I am thankful for, a declaration for that day (something like “I will speak lovingly all day” or “Today I will walk in health and peace”), I pray, and I read. I typically read one or two chapters at a time. After that it is time to get up with my littles and start our day. My kiddos are still pretty young (7 and 10), so not all mornings are this peaceful! But I can definitely tell the difference between when I start my days this way and when I don’t. 

I also really enjoy reading with my kids! I usually stick with one chapter, or even half a chapter, and make sure it is something I know well enough so I can answer questions (ALWAYS pray for wisdom before you start answering questions!). My daughter is very inquisitive and asks all the hard questions, which I love! It was this very thing that lead to her asking to get baptized a few weeks ago! Praise God! Even if you never get quiet time, read the Word to your kids in the noise. It plants a seed, even if you can’t see it!

That’s all for me folks! I would love to hear about your favorite ways to study in the comments! 


How I Read My Bible: Ann's Story

By Ann Hutchison How I read my Bible 2

When I was 19, I was at University in Texas. My parents, who were in England, sent me money from home: "Go and buy a Bible, our gift," they said. 

So I did. I chose a beautiful leather-bound New King James Bible in a box.

Well, that box sat mostly unopened for the next nineteen years. But now I'm now going to fast-forward to myself as a 38-year old agnostic, living in New Zealand:

I had met Bryce in Texas shortly after buying that Bible, and moved to New Zealand, his homeland. The Bible moved with me. And one day while my two children were at school, in my house in Auckland I knelt down beside a cupboard to retrieve that precious box.

A golden moment!

Setting the box on my bed, I peeled back its lid and withdrew the treasure within. I ran my hand over the red-brown leather, fingering the gold leafed pages. Would I find the Bible to be supernatural, or the hand of man? Bible in a box

And so I carried it over to an armchair, settled in and started to read. The house was peaceful. Genesis 1:1 'In the beginning...'

Well, once I opened that book, I can tell you, something happened to me. All the way through the laws of Leviticus and Deuteronomy I read with fascination. The minor prophets felt like gripping page-turners. I realized there was a man called Paul who wrote much of the New Testament -- who knew? And by the time I reached Revelation 22, I sat back and closed its pages. "WOW", was my reaction.

That first time through I googled as I read. For example, I looked up the historicity of every king in Kings and Chronicles. The empires in the book of Daniel, I googled. I asked God questions throughout, sticking those questions on post-it notes into the Bible. My mind and heart were hungry. It was a highly personal experience.

And needless to say, by the fact I'm writing this, it's clear that I decided the Bible was supernatural. After that, it became my daily food.

Now I'm going to fast-forward to 2022: Old Bible

I rise with bleary eyes, throw on a robe and brew a cup of tea. I grab Bible, ruler and pen, and carry all that 'equipment' to my bed. I prop the pillow up, throw myself back into bed and read, luxuriously. I underline things and write prayers, thoughts and questions in the margin.

Bryce potters in the kitchen or gets dressed while I'm reading.

After that, the Bible and I move into the main area of the house, where I carry on reading, this time with the boys pottering around me, getting ready for school.

And then after they've gone and the house is peaceful, I read a little more.

How do I do it now? I read all sixty-six books of the Bible in no particular order, and tick off every book once I've read it so that I give all the books attention. I say to God, 'which book shall I read next?' and then I dive in, letting it speak to me. I've just finished Judges, and then jumped into Philippians today.

Why do I read all of it rather than just the New Testament? I feel that the whole thing is God's love letter to humanity. What's more, the Old Testament tells me just as many valuable things as the New Testament does about how God works with people, and about Jesus.

I write lots of questions for God as I read, but I don't mind mystery either.

And what I love is that the Bible I bought all those years ago was so fit for purpose -- God knew exactly what I'd need and like. It has wide margins for all my questions, and references to show where the same word or idea is found in other verses. I use those references daily, looking up linkages across the Bible and seeing how the different parts link to each other.

Wow... I could write so much more, but my word count's up. Funnily, I wrote this before I read Ian's post on Wednesday, and it delighted me to read his version. Amanda is next -- I can't wait to see her take on it.

In the meantime, have our two posts so far brought anything to mind for you? Share away in the comments!

Ann


How I Read My Bible

How I read my Bible 2Hello, everyone and welcome to this short series on reading the Bible. I’m excited to learn as much as I can and have the honour of kicking us off with my own Bible-reading habits.

I would suggest my Bible reading is a little eclectic. I read passages from the Bible every day in some form or other. These days, I rarely read a book of the Bible from start to finish (with one exception) tending to focus on specific topics or passages that my other reading has led me to.

The Psalms

The one exception is the Book of Psalms which I tend to continuously read from start to finish using some form of ‘guide’ to prompt my reading. At present, I’m working through a book called “Openings” which each day introduces the reader to a saint or sage and works through the 150 Psalms over the course of a year. Previously, I listened to the Psalms read by Dane Ortlund in his podcast series based on his book “In the Lord I Take Refuge”

Why the continual focus on the Psalms? I just love them as they are so expressive of the human situation. All our emotions are on show, and I feel I get to encounter God when I read them.

Information or Encounter

I’m a learner. In all those personality strength tests ‘learning’ comes out top or near top for me. It’s a family trait, all my siblings possess it; we’re constant learners. When I had my wakeup call over 10 years ago about not knowing God well enough (He prompted me), I dived into reading the Bible and acquiring knowledge. I’d study the Bible, research things, read commentaries, and so on which was all wonderful for the learner in me. My mind was filled with all good things.

Knowing God is very important. But interestingly, when the Bible refers to knowing God it often refers to an experiential knowledge of God. God doesn’t want us to just have an intellectual knowledge of Him but to experience Him, paralleling this nuance of ‘know’ (‘oida’ in Greek) with sexual intimacy. In John 14:7, Jesus says, “If you really know me, you will know my Father as well.” Jesus and the Father had a very intimate relationship, one that we too can learn to develop.

Bible reading is a way of developing that intimate knowledge of Jesus. Remember, Jesus is the Word (as described in John 1). God has given us the Word, both the written and Jesus, to encounter, to experience. Not just to gain head knowledge.

Around five years ago I began reading the Psalms. And I haven’t stopped. I found in reading the Psalms that I began to develop an experience of God through my emotions. I praised, I cried, I lamented, I got mad, sad and happy all through reading the Psalms. Typically, I did this through putting myself into the Psalm. Psalm 23 is a beauty as I visualised myself with the Shepherd as I prayed each of the six verses. Try it.

Encountering Jesus

I was challenged a few months ago by God to go deeper in the gospels. As a friend of mine wrote, “… if I want to interact with Jesus as His disciple, I must keep company with him in the gospels.” Trevor goes on to say,” The Gospels offer us far more than information and inspiration. When read with expectant trust and faith, they make interaction with the living Jesus a living reality.”1

It prompted me to read ‘John’ slowly and mindfully. And now I want to continue with reading the other three gospels. Jesus is there in the gospels. We can encounter him, God, each time we read the Word.

Well, that’s me. Love to read any insights, thoughts you might have about your own Bible reading habits in the comments below.

Grace and peace,

Note: 1. Trevor Hudson, "Seeking God" (NavPress, Illinois, 2022)


New Series: How I Read My Bible

Hello SUMites How I read my Bible 2

It's Ann here and I want to quickly tell you about our next series, starting next week: How I read my Bible. The writers here at SUM are each going to take it in turns to share our personal stories about what the Bible means to us and how we go about reading it. 

I feel like I can't wait to hear what my fellow writers have to say... I've never asked them that question.

Maybe you'd like to share in the comments how you go about reading your Bible? What routines do you have? How do you tackle the trickier passages? The more comments, the merrier, we say!

Anyway, Ian will be kicking us off with that next Wednesday, so tune in for that.

I also want to say a big thank you for your survey responses so far -- I will write more on that later. It's been a joy to read your input. And, if any of you still want to complete the survey you can do so by clicking here.

That's all for today, much love,

Ann


Book of James Study

Book of James GraphicOn Monday registration opens for the LIVE Zoom study of the Book of James. This is a five-week study of the entire book. This book is all about practical faith. Ann and I will be teaching this study for five consecutive weeks. Martha is writing a few questions for our homework assignment. This will help to flesh out the lessons in our daily life!

Bring your Bible, your hunger, your pen and paper. Have coffee ready to go because I talk fast!!!  grin

Check in here on Monday, August 15th and sign up. It will only take a minute. After you register, the Zoom link will be provided. Plan to copy and store it somewhere to be ready when it's time to meet up.

We will have a great time of community and learning!

Jesus is King!  Hugs, Lynn


Up Coming Events

Hey SUMites!  

Lynn Donovan here. While Ann is traveling, I'm going to pop in and take the reins for a few weeks. So here is what I have planned.

First, on Wednesday, August 3rd at 3 pm pacific time, I'm LIVE on Facebook and YouTube to talk about some miraculous salvations. This talk is to explain what happened and how after 30-year friendship, Jesus shows up. AND the Holy Spirit went wild. It's a fantastic and unbelievable story that includes the supernatural.

The following Wednesday, August 10th, I have another salvation story that still blows my mind. I'm sharing these stories because they release hope into your life for the salvations you are waiting for. YOU WILL BE IN AWE! Because Jesus is on the move and He uses ordinary people, like us!  

MARK YOUR CALENDAR! DON'T MISS IT!

Book of James GraphicNext Ann, Martha Bush, and I will be leading a LIVE video teaching of the Book of James. This book is all about Practical Faith. You MUST have this down to advance into greater faith practices. After this teaching, you should be able to teach this book at your church, home group, your kids, etc. More details ahead. Begins second week of September. And it will include homework. Ya, it takes work to enter the Kingdom of Heaven! 

You will be blessed. I promise.

 

Additionally, I'm pondering about doing some live teaching through Lynndonovan.com regarding healing. Physical healing that comes from Christ. I'm still pondering about when, how and if I have the capacity to handle all of this while still settling into our new home. 

I wanted to share with all of you one of the great blessings that Father has given to me in our new home. 

I love nature. And here where I live the deer roam the streets, nearly unafraid of humans. 

The other evening, I was walking from the kitchen toward our bedroom and happened to glance outside our dining room window toward the front yard. 

This is what I saw:

Doe at Window July 2022

A doe resting under the tree, eating her cud. She stared at me. I at her. I smiled. 

I'm so thankful that Father has provided this haven for Mike and myself. A lifetime of faithfulness is seen in His goodness.

Hugs, Lynn 


How do we Shift our Focus?

Pexels-italo-melo-2356140
Photo by Italo Melo from Pexels

A month ago, I wrote this post about shifting focus onto Jesus. Why do we want to focus more on Jesus? Because in discovering how to continually draw close to God, we learn how to let go of control which helps us to worry less and to love more. And now I start fulfilling my commitment to you on how to do it. Well, on some ways I've found to do it. :)

Lent starts Today!

It’s significant that this post lands on Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent. Perhaps you don’t pay much attention to Lent. And that’s okay. Lent marks the forty days that Jesus spent in the wilderness and perhaps more significantly, as we journey through this season, we begin to appreciate with greater understanding the gift of Jesus' death. I love Lent as it helps me shift my focus. By choosing to be intentional in fasting, taking up a new spiritual practice, and reading specific Lenten resources, I find my focus shifts. A little. And a little is good enough1.

A Trouble-Free Life

I was thrilled to read Tiffany’s post of a few days ago where she wrote about shifting her focus towards a calling she believes God has put on her heart. She took her eyes off worrying about how her husband might react and turned them to her calling.

I think all of us can relate to that conundrum. Out of fear of upsetting our spouse and/or homelife, we elect to choose the safe option. I get that. I’ve lived like that most of my married life. And please don’t get me wrong, sometimes (maybe often) God will guide us to choose that safer option.

But God wants all of us. His love for us is so deep and intense, it is better than life as David says in Psalm 63. He knew it from personal experience. God knows our marriage, He’s all over it. And in always choosing the safer option as I’ve mostly done, I’m not sure it’s drawn my wife closer to meeting Jesus. Because when I've done that perhaps I’ve chosen her and my marriage over God.

I’ve come to realise God can handle our marriage and my spouse. We need to intentionally hand both over to Him in the process of shifting our focus towards Him.

In doing so, does it mean our spouses will soon discover Jesus? Possibly not? But it’s not ours to control. It’s God’s. Does it mean our troubles suddenly disappear? Possibly not. God will walk with us through each and every one of them. Because He can’t help Himself not too. It’s our choice whether to keep holding onto Him through the trouble.

Meditating on the Word

For many years of my life as a believer, I’ve been more a ‘devotional’ reader of the Word. I’ll grab a handful of verses each day, read a Psalm and then move onto my day. But I’m realising I’m limiting its power. The Word is alive, it’s living. That’s one of the many mysterious aspects of following Jesus. And Jesus is in it. He is the Word.

Learning to meditate on the Word shifts our focus. Why? For many reasons, but I’ll just share one. Because we invite God into reading it with us. And wow, it then gets really exciting.

I’m not going to say anymore other than to lead us in a little exercise. I did this yesterday and found it so powerful and know I should share it. Bill Gaultiere was the one who led me through it (well his book did2)

Here we go. We’re going to read Matthew 11:25-30. Three times. Three times slowly. And after each time you’re going to ask yourself a different question. Bill suggests you give 30 minutes for the exercise. Maybe you can't do this now. May I encourage you to set aside some time to do it in the next few days. Save it up for the weekend.

Here’s the passage. Bill used the Message version so I’ll do that too.

“Abruptly Jesus broke into prayer: “Thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth. You’ve concealed your ways from sophisticates and know-it-alls, but spelled them out clearly to ordinary people. Yes, Father, that’s the way you like to work.”

Jesus resumed talking to the people, but now tenderly. “The Father has given me all these things to do and say. This is a unique Father-Son operation, coming out of Father and Son intimacies and knowledge. No one knows the Son the way the Father does, nor the Father the way the Son does. But I’m not keeping it to myself; I’m ready to go over it line by line with anyone willing to listen.

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”

Questions to Mediate Upon (perhaps write your responses)

  1. After 1st reading: What is one word or phrase that shimmered or stood out to you? Meditate on it.
  1. 2nd reading: Enter into the passage. What do you feel? Is there a specific situation in your life today that relates? Why not pray about it? Ask God about it.
  1. 3rd reading: Do you sense God inviting you to something specific? Write it down and pray about it with God. Wait on Him to speak to you. Or simply rest quietly with God.

That’s it. How do you feel? Perhaps we can share some of our thoughts in the comments.

BTW, this form of Bible reading is known as Lectio Divina which is simply Latin for ‘Divine Reading’. It’s not supposed to replace one’s standard Bible reading rather complement it. It’s not something we need to do every day, but perhaps it might be a new practice some of us might like to introduce, gently move towards.

I’ll be back next time with another shift enabling practice. Remember, little by little. As Kate Bowler says, ‘good enough’ is well, good enough.

Grace and peace, my friends.

1. We place too much pressure on ourselves to be the best at everything, to control and we get disappointed when we miss the mark or don’t grow in our relationship with God, our spouse or our children. Kate Bowler in her little book is teaching me how to simply be ‘good enough’. It’s what I’m reading for Lent. 2. Bill Gaultiere, “Your Best Life in Jesus’ Easy Yoke’, Soul Shepherding.org, 2016.


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

SUMite Summer Study 2021

Vignettes of Paul

Paul and Silas

-----


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


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

 


JESUS AND THE CHURCH ARE THE ULTIMATE MISMATCH

Wedding Supper of the LambLynn here. THIS IS FROM THE LORD!

The entirety of our years on earth are rushing, headlong toward ONE SPECIFIC DAY! A Day that’s been destined in our future for eternity. A day the has been promised before time began. The greatest day of all eternity!!!

The wedding supper of the Lamb!

And SUMITE NATION, we have been given a beautiful gift that most the rest of the world completely cannot grasp.

We have been walking this spiritual mismatch with a human spouse for years. AND, OH, WHAT WE ALREADY KNOW!

  • We understand what it feels like to be a spouse who loves in the face of pain, rejection, and disappointment. —Just like Jesus loves His Bride.
  • We feel deeply the struggle to build a moral family life, raise children and grow in our faith without the support of the one we chose to be our life partner. —Just like Jesus!
  • We pray without ceasing for our spouse of this world to be awakened and embrace the Living and True God. —Just like Jesus!
  • We sacrifice dreams of life together in harmony, church attendance, strong family and ministry with our spouse. —Just like Jesus!

WE THE UNEQUALLY YOKED. We understand Jesus. He lives in this scenario with 7.5 billion human souls that He died to save, heal, and set free. We see it so clearly. We understand Jesus. We know how He feels. He grieves over the lost and broken of this world, the spiritually mismatched Bride.

But through the long years of faithful perseverance we comprehend the heart of Christ for us, our family, our spouse, and humanity.

  • And just like Jesus, we will never surrender hope and will fight hell itself for the souls of those we love.
  • And just like Jesus, we will always believe a heart and a home can and will be redeemed and changed.
  • And just like Jesus, we know without-a-doubt that all things are working for our good to the glory of the Father.
  • And just like Jesus, we believe that it’s the goodness of God that leads to repentance.

Today, and every day, we continue to stand in the gap for a lost generation of spouses that are cloaked in darkness. And we stand alongside Jesus.

My SUMite brothers and sister, we know this better that any other person on the plant. Because we live this out every…..single…..day.

Jesus always believed for us. And in response we have followed His example in very challenging and extraordinarily difficult marriages. And in seasons when our heart breaks and disappointment vows to swallow us up, just like Jesus, WE WILL NOT RELENT! Jesus will never stop hoping, interceding, protecting and believing for us.

We can, AND WILL, do the same for a lost and broken man or woman.

AND YOU KNOW WHY? BECAUSE WE ARE THE CHURCH!!!!!!!!

Then I heard what seemed to be the voice of a great multitude, like the roar of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder, crying out, “Hallelujah!

For the Lord our God the Almighty reigns.

Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his Bride has made herself ready; it was granted her to clothe herself with fine linen, bright and pure”— for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints. And the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.” And he said to me, “These are the true words of God.” —Revelation 19:6-9

But you have come to Mount Zion, to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God, the Judge of all, to the spirits of the righteous made perfect. —Hebrews 12:22-23

So what say you, Church??? Will you be at the Wedding Supper of the Lamb. Will you be standing by your spouse, your children, grandchildren and their children’s children?

This is this your legacy! YOU are the one person who took one small brave step into faith and you changed an entire family line for a thousand generations. Let revelation bring this profound truth of your life’s impact for the Kingdom of God into your reality today. Then sing, praise, and walk in complete faith.

We have overcome by the blood of the Lamb and the word of our testimony!! THAT is the power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ!  Hallelujah!!!

I love you SUMite Nation! March ON!!!  The world is the Lords and we shall see every knee bow to the name of our beloved, Jesus Christ. Hallelujah. AMEN Hugs, Lynn


Nabal, Abigail, and David -SUMITES in the Bible- Summer Bible Study

image from www.spirituallyunequalmarriage.comWe left our story in 1 Samuel 25 with Abigail meeting David with provisions and a great big “SORRY.” Whew, that sorry and the honor she bestowed upon David saved probably more than 100 people from bloodshed. (verse 33 & 34)

She went home and arrived to ANOTHER drunken banquet. – Ugh!

Abigale was likely exhausted, angry at her mean husband, overwhelmed by the thought of what could have happened to everyone she loved on the ranch. And she came home, perhaps, somehow hoping her husband might ask her where she’d been and where she had disappeared to.

NOPE.

He was very drunk. The next morning when he sobered up and was in his right mind, she told him all about it. And the craziest thing happened.

Then in the morning, when Nabal was sober, his wife told him all these things, and his heart failed him and he became like a stone. 1 Samuel 25:37

It’s believed he suffered a stroke. Whoa! I wondered how Abigail processed this? The servants?

Then in verse 38; About ten days later, the Lord struck Nabal and he died.

Double WHOA!

The Word tells us he was struck by God. Yikes. Now, this sounds all like crazy goodness in that Abigail was rescued from a vile and evil man. It is good however, we can’t look at this story as the happily ever after we all desperately want.

We do know that David honors her request and remembers Abigail and offers her marriage, as the estate would surely not pass to her, as a woman. And she would likely be married off to Nabal’s brother. So David took her in through marriage. But her life wouldn’t have been a picnic. She left wealth to live in a camp with a bunch of hooligans. She wasn’t his only wife and David took on more wives, Bathsheba who we know he really loved. And Michal was with Paltiel.

Good grief!

So what is it about Abigail that God has included her story in the Word?

She was a believer in Yahweh. She trusted Him to save her. She was humble. She was wise. She walked in a beauty in her countenance. She was quick to react and she followed the Lord’s instructions. She was aware of her reality and what was going on around her (David and his past, present and future and what God was doing in him). She loved people and acted quickly to save them, even a wicked man.

Verse 41 & 42: She bowed down with her face to the ground and said, “I am your servant and am ready to serve you and wash the feet of my lord’s servants.” Abigail quickly got on a donkey and, attended by her five female servants, went with David’s messengers and became his wife.

That’s the last we hear about our beloved, Abigail. But we know one day she will be a queen and live in a palace.

My dear friends, isn’t that what is ahead for all of us?

Where is God calling you to bow down? Where is He calling you into divine wisdom and humility? Where is the Lord asking you to wash the feet of others for a season? Is He calling you to the palace right now?

A queen in the Kingdom of God is a servant. Just as Jesus came to serve, our 80 years here are just that we are called to serve like Jesus. All we need is already provided in our King Jesus and the wedding supper of the Lamb will be our invitation just as Abigail was invited into a wedding by David.

Hallelujah! I love you, SUMites. Next time Ann will be writing about the GREATEST SPIRITUALLY MISMATCHED MARRIAGE in the Bible.

Okay, was this study of 1 Samuel 25 helpful? See you in the comments. Hugs, Lynn


Who Is Abigail? SUMites of the Bible Summer Study

image from www.spirituallyunequalmarriage.comTodays passage, 1 Samuel 25.

Abigail was married to a wicked, unbeliever, Nabal (Hebrew name means mean, base, vile, unbeliever) who denied support to the future King of Israel. And if you read through 1 Samuel 25 again today, you will notice how much this woman was a woman of deep faith. And just as it is today when we face enormous challenges and situations, that we often cannot change, it’s our faith that develops and lives strong within. Hallelujah.

Now we know David sent men to ask for supplies after protecting the House of Nabal all summer. Nabal denied all provision and insulted the men who then turned back and told David all about it. David, being a passionate man, arose, dawned a sword along with 400 of his gang and set out to kill and ransack the House of Nabal.

Fortunately, the servants, by the way the servants always know what’s really going on. That’s why it’s great to be a servant of God. Well, they servants alerted the one person who was wisest of all on the ranch, Abigail, the Godly wife of this wicked man.

Abigail acted quickly. She took two hundred loaves of bread, two skins of wine, five dressed sheep, five seahs (=60 pounds) of roasted grain, a hundred cakes of raisins and two hundred cakes of pressed figs, and loaded them on donkeys. Then she told her servants, “Go on ahead; I’ll follow you.” But she did not tell her husband Nabal. – 1 Samuel 25:18-19

Wow, so much in these two verses. Abigail acted quickly. She “KNEW” what to do because she lives in intimacy with God and follows His voice. And interestingly she didn’t tell her husband. Could it be that there are times we just need to take action and we don’t need to pass everything we want to do for God by our unbelievers? I’m just asking?????

I’ll share my experience here. YES, there are times that I’ve made decisions to send someone money or to tithe into the Kingdom or to give something I own to someone else because it’s the right thing to do. And I didn’t run it by Mike. Now, I didn’t give away the car or our dog. But I’ve over the years I’ve chosen to give and Mike was gleefully oblivious. It’s okay. Just don’t give away the house without consulting your spouse. *humorous grin*

I love Abigail. She immediately sets out with a tremendous amount of provisions toward David. She finally meets up with him and listen to her words:

Vs. 28-31 - “Please forgive your servant’s presumption. The Lord your God will certainly make a lasting dynasty for my lord, because you fight the Lord’s battles, and no wrongdoing will be found in you as long as you live. Even though someone is pursuing you to take your life, the life of my lord will be bound securely in the bundle of the living by the Lord your God, but the lives of your enemies he will hurl away as from the pocket of a sling. When the Lord has fulfilled for my lord every good thing he promised concerning him and has appointed him ruler over Israel, my lord will not have on his conscience the staggering burden of needless bloodshed or of having avenged himself. And when the Lord your God has brought my lord success, remember your servant.”

Wow, look at how her faith in God. It's at the center of her life. She knows what God is doing and is affirming her belief to David.

David responds: Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, who has sent you today to meet me. May you be blessed for your good judgment and for keeping me from bloodshed this day and from avenging myself with my own hands 1 Samuel 25:32-33

There are a number of lessons we can take from the life of Abigail:

  • Abigail responded quickly. She didn’t let fear of the potential geocide nor her vile husband stop her from responding rightly and with haste.
  • She had wisdom from heaven to know what to do. She provided the supplies and the “honor” that was appropriate.
  • She took responsibility herself even though she didn’t create the toxic situation.
  • She humbled herself and sought mercy.
  • Eventually she discusses the events the following day with her husband AFTER he sobered up.
  • She did what was right without knowing there was a rescue around the corner.

My dear SUMites, is Abigail’s story in the Word just for us? Is her example our example. Is her faith our faith? Do we choose to do the right thing in our difficult marriages?

Oh the Word of God, it makes us look deep within and challenges us at the core. I love Abigail and I can’t wait to meet her in heaven one day. She isn’t merely a character in a book. She is/was a real woman who we will one day meet face-to-face. I can’t wait to sit at her feet and ask her questions. What a blast that will be.

Okay, what do you think about our Abigail? What details did I miss about her character and response. Do you agree with what she did. How do we take her example and apply it to our modern marriages and life?

Next post: What about Nabal? What happens to Abigail and where does this leave David?


Here's One For the History Books - Literally- SUMites in the Bible

image from www.spirituallyunequalmarriage.comSUMers, I could write for days about 1 Samuel, chapter 25. Whoa. There is so much in here. So, get a cup, sit down, strap in, and hold on as we jump in and learn from God’s Word. Hallelujah!

PLEASE go read the chapter, click here for the NIV version. I’m going to be teaching from the NIV as well as the One New Man Bible which is a direct rendering from the Hebrew. Ahhhhh, we are granted a rich and deeper understanding when we look at the original language.

The setting: The books of Samuel are a history of the Priesthood in Israel and the Kings of Israel. It’s the telling of how the people of God left Him as their King and turned to an earthly King. Samuel means heard of God. This was because his mother prayed for a baby and God heard her. Read that story, it’s awesome as well.

Let’s start with the couple we will be reading about today:

Nabal: The Greek meaning from the NIV, fool. Ah, yep we knew it *grin*. Hebrew: Naval, means mean, base, vile, unbeliever. (Whoa, didn’t know that. So interesting.)

Abigail: NIV describes her as an intelligent and beautiful woman. But I LOVE the Hebrew rendering of her name, Avigayil means, My Father rejoices exuberantly. And she is described as a woman of good understanding and beautiful countenance. There is a striking difference here, in that the Hebrew describes her spirit and the Greek describes her physically. Interesting. Personally, I believe her countenance is what provided her with tremendous influence and also favor with God. Her favor with God brought her great understanding and wisdom.

David: In this portion of the story David is an outlaw. Truly, he is being hunted by the King, Saul, who has been abandoned by God. What I find fascinating about David is that he led a band of marauders who ransacked entire towns, killing the people and taking all the spoils. Say WHAT??????

Does that bother anyone else?

Well, let’s add to the understanding. Most of the people of Israel know David. Remember the army watched this 12 year-old-boy defeat the Philistines as David slew Goliath. They knew Samuel anointed him to be King. They knew of his exploits in battle to defeat the enemies of the Crown. And this is all in line with God’s purpose and plans. God still intended Israel to cleanse the Promised Land of the filth of the nations who practiced divination, idol worship, and who sacrificed their own children in the fire to Molech. And if you know anything about this practice, it’s absolutely revolting. Trust me on this.

So, David’s ransacking may not have been an evil in the eyes of God. ---- Doesn’t the Bible really mess with your head?---- That’s a good thing.

Another note I find fascinating is that Nabal is described as a mean, vile, and an unbeliever with whom no one can reason. Wow, I wonder how many of us know people like that??? And in this scenario in 1 Samuel 25 he is living up to his reputation. I wonder, however, how many of us would reject helping someone because a person was an outcast of society, a law breaker, an intentional defiler of all that we adhere to? Dang, I like to ask the challenging questions. *grin*

An overall summary of this passage is David protected Nabal’s men while they shepherded the flocks during the summer. Come fall and harvest, David needed provisions and naturally assumed he would be rewarded for his service. Nabal said, “No way. I’m not giving anything to a gang of fugitives.” Even though he knew David was anointed the next King and was likely aware that he protected his men and possessions.

At the core here is absolute arrogance and greed. And likely a lifetime of little repentance, consequence, nor love for others. People of great wealth rarely face consequence. It's a travesty that leads many of wealth into a poverty of soul.

God is so patient. Even waiting for a man like Nabal to experience a change of heart. Even giving to him a wise and beautiful wife and a life of comfort. The truth surrounded Nabal each and every day. He chose to ignore the truth: David will be King and this future King had protected his possessions and servants. Nabal was selfish and felt untouchable. What is fascinating about this scenario, Nabal was going to die either way.

Now it’s easy to go down this road that my spouse looks like Nabal. Don’t do it. Most of us are married to good men and women who are honorable and love us. Even if we might think they could do a better job of it.

What the real story in the chapter is all about is Abigail. And I can’t wait to talk with you about this woman.

Okay, did I mess with your head looking into the introduction of this story? I hope so, *grin*. What do you think about the Nabal? Why is the Lord sharing so much of this man’s character, his name, his behavior? I really want to hear your opinions. There is wisdom in here. Let Jesus show you. And I’ll see you in the comments. And I can’t wait to chat about Abigail next time.

Hugs, Lynn


The Story of David and Michal

A warm welcome to any new readers of the blog today! My name's Ann, and we are in the middle of a study of marriages in the Bible with a faith difference. I hope you enjoy it as you read along.
Sumites in the Bible

As for our regular readers, I so enjoyed reading your comments and insights on Monday's post. Keep them coming!

Now, today's couple is David and Michal. Unlike Elizabeth and Zacharias (from Monday's post), David and Michal seem to be a classic couple with a clear faith difference. If we turn to 2 Samuel 6:16-23, we see David dance to the Lord, a whirling passion that came straight from his hunger for his Lord. Michal, meanwhile, looks out of an upstairs window and despises his faith. I wrote a little about that back in March -- You can re-revisit it here.

Essentially, Michal sees David dance and comes out with a cutting comment about his worship. She was not right to do so. But today I wanted to ask the question: Could it have been avoided?

Here's the thing: Michal had a raw deal. Her relationship history with David is shown in the Bible, and we can see that somewhere along the way it turned into a bit of a disaster. The day she looked out of the window and despised David might have been the culmination of a few things.

Early on she loved David (1 Samuel 18:20). These are sweet words. Perhaps he loved her too: To win her hand he was asked by King Saul (her father) for 100 Philistine foreskins (1 Samuel 18:25-27). That's some commitment. 

They started out settled, but then disaster struck: David had to go on the run from Saul; Saul married off Michal to another man. David was busy surviving for so many years, and then when he became King there were wars to fight, alliances to make. Years went by before he saw Michal again, and by that time he'd married six new wives!

Only AFTER marrying the six wives does David manage to get Michal back, snatching her from her new husband who follows her weeping (2 Samuel 3:13-16). We don't know if she loved the second husband, or what her will was; but as I write this I think to myself, 'Would any woman be happy to be one of seven, when previously she was the only one?' Biblical times were different, but I just can't imagine this being fun.

The thing is, men were meant to be husbands of one wife. God gave Adam one woman: Eve. It wasn't Adam and six women. Centuries later, admittedly the heroes of faith like David and Jacob did have more than one wife; but while God honored them for their open hearts of faith and their many acts of obedience, their sexual actions did have some dysfunctional consequences. Perhaps it was simply that they were products of their society.

My hunch, in any case, is that all this drama that Michal went through didn't help.

"Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish. So husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies; he who loves his wife loves himself." Ephesians 5:25-28 (NKJV)

Could it be possible that Michal's heart may have been hardened more than it otherwise would have been? She had the choice to receive God or reject him, as we all do, and scripture makes it clear that God made her barren because she rejected David's worship (2 Samuel 6:23). She was certainly in the wrong. But, could it have looked different?

As a man after God's own heart I imagine that David constantly grew in his honor of others, including his wives. After all, in this very story he moved straight away to bless his house after dancing for the Lord (2 Samuel 6:20). But I just wonder about that history and the brokenness it might have caused Michal. For me, I guess it's a reminder to cherish my own husband at every single turn, so that nothing I do -- oh I hope nothing -- gets in the way of his ability to love God.

Over to you, friends, for your insights. I'm looking forward to chatting more.


Summer Study: Let's Look at Elizabeth and Zacharias

Hello SUM family, welcome to our summer study! Sumites in the Bible

It’s Ann here, and this whole month we’re going to be looking at different couples in the Bible who had a faith difference. Today, I have the pleasure of kicking it off, and so let’s turn to Luke 1 to meet our first couple: Mr and Mrs Zacharias – That is, Elizabeth and Zacharias. We know the story well, but is there a SUM twist to it?

We find them living a settled life with friends and neighbors. Having each grown up in tradition they were always on the same page (Luke 1:6), but one day – Oh SHOCK– the power of the Kingdom broke in and divided them. Aggh!

That 'breaking in' involved the barren and elderly Elizabeth receiving a miracle pregnancy. The Lord put a seed of faith inside her, she conceived and, SUMites, we all know what happens next. A seed of faith comes into a marriage and it does interesting things – One spouse can respond quite differently to the other, which then has different consequences for each.

Now, Elizabeth and Zechariah were each given the opportunity to believe this miracle, but faith is belief in things unseen (Hebrews 11:1) and for Zacharias it was just such a stretch. His go-to response was to say a ‘logical’ “Yeah? ... er....  Nah.” An angel was right in front of him telling him the GOOD NEWS, and yet he questioned it. Not even the visible presence of the supernatural could crack him. I'm smiling a little at that because I know what that looks like.  

He says: “How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is well advanced in years.” And he receives a response:

“I am Gabriel, who stands in the presence of God, and was sent to speak to you and bring these glad tidings. But behold, you will be mute and not able to speak until the day these things take place, because you did not believe my words which will be fulfilled in their own time.” (Luke 1:19-20; NKJV)

Now, here's the SUM part: In the same passage, Elizabeth’s response is pointedly different. She says, “Thus the Lord has dealt with me, in the days when He looked on me, to take away my reproach among people.” (v. 25), choosing to hide herself -- go deep with God -- for five months in wonder. Although it is unclear what then happened with Zacharias, the contrast between the two of them is a symbolic part of the story.

Elizabeth and Zacharias are then catapulted into strange things, and who knows how much is seen by the relatives and neighbors. Often a SUM situation is kept quietly in a home, a deeply private thing between man and wife. It’s something you often can’t explain to others. All the while, Elizabeth endures a spiritually intense time: Five months of believing something with no physical evidence is probably very difficult but does something profound to her. Emerging from her secret place (Psalm 91:1), she eventually begins to pour out the Holy Spirit:

“ ... and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. Then she spoke out with a loud voice –" (Luke 1:41-42)

She speaks. He stays mute. My friends, how much is this like our life? But then the effortless way in which the Holy Spirit pours out of her is her visible reward for time spent believing.

The words Elizabeth spoke, in turn, were a banquet for the lonely teenage Mary, who had herself been divinely connected to Elizabeth for Kingdom purposes (Luke 1:26-36). Elizabeth’s faith propelled Mary into being able to understand her own difficult walk and to say: “My soul magnifies the Lord!” or, "Oh, Praise God!"

It occurs to me that God took Elizabeth on this lonely path so that she could support another. And so I ask, today, “Who am I here for, Lord, during this SUM time?” It doesn’t matter that my beloved Zacharias is on his own path; God has stuff for him ahead, but he also has stuff me to do so I will roll up my sleeves and get on with it.

I love this story and hope you enjoyed this first post in our study. Now over to you -- It would be great to chat in the comments. What thoughts would you like to share?


Be Like Nehemiah: Rise up and Rebuild

Rebuilding-the-wall

By Martha Bush

During this Thanksgiving season, I am so grateful for the “rebuilding blueprints” Neheniah passed down to us as he rebuilt the broken down walls of Jerusalem.

Join me today as I outline his plans for rebuilding. Let’s start in Chapter 1 and listen in on a conversation he is having with his Jewish friends.

How are the Jews getting along who have returned to Jerusalem from their Babylonian Exile?”  “Well, things are not good; the wall of Jerusalem is still torn down, and the gates are burned,” they replied (Nehemiah 1:2-3 TLB)

Nehemiah knew that the Temple in Jerusalem was being reconstructed. Now, his friends were telling him that the city had no protection from its enemies while they were rebuilding the Temple.

Weeping and fasting for several days, Nehemiah asked God to use him to save the city. God answered his prayer by softening the heart of the king who gave him permission to rebuild the walls around the city. In spite of opposition, the wall was rebuilt in 52 days.

I was drawn to this story years ago when everything in my marriage was crumbling. Even though we were spiritually unequally yoked, we had a loving marriage. But, when I followed a new direction the Lord had given me, it was as though an army invaded our home stealing, not only our relationship, but our earthly goods as well. The comfortable lifestyle we had grown accustomed to was gone. Added to this scenario, serious health problems arose. With all the devastation around us, we both wanted to vacate the premises, as in SEPARATE.

Nehemiah’s example of rebuilding was a trumpet call to me to “rise up and rebuild” the broken down walls.

1. Nehemiah confessed the sins of his country, himself, and his ancestors.

I’m praying day and night in intercession for your servants, confessing the sins of the people of Israel. And I’m including myself and my ancestors among those who have sinned against you. (Neh. 1:6 MSG)

Like Nehemiah, I first confessed my sins for the part I had played in our situation. Next, I confessed generational sins on both sides of our families.

2. Nehemiah EXAMINED every broken wall.

By night I examined the walls of Jerusalem, which had been broken down, and its gates, which had been destroyed by fire. (Nehemiah 2:13 NIV)

I asked the Lord to show me where the walls of protection in our marriage had broken.

  • Communication: We’d never learned how to communicate effectively, so when the hard times hit, we yelled and screamed because that was the only way we knew how to communicate.
  • Finances: Our financial strain was due in part because of bad decisions we had made, but some of it was a result of the enemy using various means to steal from us.
  • Parental Influence: Though we both had great parents, we had brought their problems into our own marriage.
  • Not understanding one another’s temperaments: When Mr. Choleric and Miss Phlegmatic came together in the heat of the battle, our opposite traits produced quite an explosion.

3. Nehemiah Had a Vision.

“Face it: we’re in a bad way here. Jerusalem is a wreck; its gates are burned up. Come—let’s build the wall of Jerusalem and not live with this disgrace any longer.” (Neh. 2: 17 MSG)

Andy Stanley, author of Visionary said, “Visions are born in the soul of a man or woman who is consumed with the tension between ‘what is’ and ‘what could be.’ Vision often begins with the inability to accept things the way they are. Over time that dissatisfaction matures into a clear picture of what could be.”

Something inside me clicked. “Rise up and rebuild!”

4. Nehemiah Faced Opposition.

“What are these miserable Jews doing? Do they think they can get everything back to normal overnight? Make building stones out of make-believe?” What do they think they’re building? Why, if a fox climbed that wall, it would fall to pieces under his weight.” (Nehemiah 4:1-3 MSG)

Unfortunately, for a long time, my husband did not share the same vision for rebuilding as I did. “Do you really think God can fix this mess? You need to get your head out of the sand, and face reality! It is over!”

5. Nehemiah’s Response to Opposition.

“Hear us, O Lord God, for we are being mocked. May their scoffing fall back upon their own heads, and may they themselves become captives in a foreign land! Do not ignore their sin. Do not blot it out, for they have despised you in despising us who are building your wall.” (Nehemiah 4:4-5 TLB)

Nehemiah said nothing to his opposition,  prayed, and kept on building. Jerusalem was a city worth fighting for.

I finally realized it was useless to fight back with words at the opposition. By the grace of God, my husband finally joined me, and we have restored most, (not all yet) of those broken down walls that almost destroyed our marriage. Granted it took more than 52 days to get to the place we are today - we are a stiff-necked couple. The fullness of the vision is for an appointed time.

*****

My Sumite Friends, in the comments tell us how Nehemiah’s example for rebuilding the broken down walls applies to your marriage, finances, health,  church.  Together, we can "rise up and rebuild."

 

 

 

 


SUMites, You Are Brave Enough.....

EstherSUMites,

All of the undertones that we uncovered in Esther are powerful and new gifts to our faith.

Today, I want to talk about the unequally yoked aspect of this story. I also want to point out Esther’s divine calling and how it’s fulfilled.

In reality, all of us that are unequally yoked, could take a few notes from Esther. What truly is astonishing is the influence she extended over the most powerful man in the world. Whoa!! So, how did she achieve this kind of power?

She listened. Esther must have been extraordinarily bright. Upon her arrival in the Kings palace, she was intentional to keenly follow the instructions of Hegai. Now, most of you know I have a vivid imagination so go with me here. Hegia was no fool. He knew what the King liked – in the bedroom- I’ll bet money he told Esther what and how to do…. It…. *grin* Also, she wore and took with her only what the King’s eunuch suggested (Esther 2: 15)

What is suggested all over the place but isn’t mentioned emphatically is this: Esther realized the implications of her potential. She was selfless and willing to follow advice from wise counselors. She listened to Mordicai. She listened to Hegai.

I wonder, who are we listening to? Where are we obtaining our truth? Esther listened to the right people and she perceived the greater assignment that awaited. She saved a nation! One little girl!

Esther fulfills her highest and greatest destiny that God wrote in her book before time began (Psalm 139:16). She gathered her courage and stepped before the scepter, risking her life. She was brave in the face of fear.

If we take anything from this study, let’s choose to be brave. We must petition the King for the deliverance of our unsaved family members. It’s risky to stand up for what is right. Let’s choose to be self-less in our pursuit of the highest and best.

So today let’s choose BRAVE:

  • You are brave enough when you choose to believe the impossible. (With Christ all things are possible.)
  • You are brave enough when you forgive. (Forgiveness frees you.)
  • You are brave enough when you are patient (The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. 2 Peter 3:9)
  • You are brave enough when you wake up every morning and choose LOVE over fear. (For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind. 2 Timothy 1:7)
  • You are brave enough when you say “NO” and when you say “YES.”
  • You are brave enough when you ask for help and prayer.
  • You are brave enough to show your love even in difficult and risky relationships.

Well done Warriors! Esther has nothing on you. For you were born for EXACTLY such a time as this!

SUMITE, what are you being brave about right now? What holds your heart in the night? What do you pray in the morning? What is your brave heart asking of God today? Share with me. I want to pray with you in the comments. Your petitions will be heard in heaven because I’m asking with you.

Keep showing up! You are BRAVE!

Hugs, Lynn