113 posts categorized "Breakthrough Living"

The easy yoke ...

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Hello, dear friends. Ian from a very chilly Sydney. I’m hoping those of you in the northern hemisphere are having lovely vacation time in warmer climes.

We just finished a marvellous series from Ann on slaying giants. I was particularly grabbed by Ann’s idea of taking hold of 5 stones (like teenage David) as a weapon against our giants. In my comment to that post I mentioned my 5 stones. I wanted to explore one of them a little further in this post.

Stress and anxiety

For several years now I’ve been a significant carer for my elderly parents. They’ve both recently spent some time in hospital and delightfully were housed a few rooms away from each other. Mom is now home, and Dad is being discharged as you read this post. I’m continually surprised how draining it is. Managing the hospital staff, my siblings while acting as the go between for my parents and the staff.

And so I get quite stressed and anxious. About fixing things and getting everything sorted. Because that’s what I do. I get things done.

But God has a different approach. And He doesn’t want us to burden ourselves.

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)

For a while now the Lord has placed these words on my heart. As some of you will know I’m prone to anxiety and much of mine is self-induced and I’ve been asking the Lord to show me how to ‘take his easy yoke’ and let go of my need to fix everything or get it done while raising my anxiety levels.

I’m still very much on training wheels but here’s a few points that I’ve learnt about accepting/receiving the Lord’s easy yoke:

1. Be still and know that I am God

Stillness. I’m increasingly discovering how important this is. But it’s hard isn’t. When I have a racing heart, sometimes to slow down and stop is difficult. I must fight the urge to get up. Using meditations help me do this by regulating my breathing (slowing it down) and listening to particular worship songs, generally ones that have only a few words.

And then I wait and listen. ‘Come, Lord Jesus, come’ I repeat quietly and then I wait some more. And go off in my mind to a lovely spot and find Jesus where we sit down together and often just do that. Sit. Jesus might put his hand on my shoulder and we watch a beautiful sunrise or similar.

Sometimes I receive reassuring words. Often, not.

2. Surrender

And then I hand off my struggles. Solving Dad’s catheter bag issue, frustrations at my brother for not doing something, worrying mom will be sick again today. These three matters were top of mind this morning for me.

I send them down the stream that Jesus and I sit beside. Or I hand them to him.

And let go of them.

This last point is vital. We gotta let go. That doesn’t mean we do nothing. Absolutely not. We still make the phone call to the nurse to organise the bags, etc, etc. But we let go of the outcome and the stress related to getting that outcome.

I only read this yesterday: “Living a life of faith often requires us to leave things alone.” (A.B. Simpson) God can sure do a better job than we can.

And then I receive peace. Just like Paul says in this very popular passage on anxiety and peace.

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7)

We don’t know what tomorrow will bring. Yes, it may be a day full of stress because something doesn’t work out with getting Dad discharged. But God knows. And His easy yoke is there for me to grab a hold of tomorrow. And the next day and on.

What’s one way that helps you take the ‘easy yoke’? Be lovely if we could build up our own little collection of helpful practices that will encourage all of us.

Grace and peace.


Born to Be Lovers

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Hi! Ian from wintry Down Under.

Love! It tends to be something we compartmentalize, don’t we? It’s how we feel about our spouse and children, our parents and there’s this industry around romance, the books and movies. Strangely, or perhaps not so, it’s actually not talked about a lot. When asked what I’m writing about, people often give me strange looks when I mention it’s a book about love. “It’s unusual for a man to talk and write about love,” said a lady I met picking my mom up from a dental appointment when I happened to mention what I’m writing about.

I will often squirm when I’m sharing it with a new group of people especially one only of men. I get these strange looks and the subject quickly changes because it’s an uncomfortable subject. Why is it something we find uncomfortable discussing and even if we do we might confuse it with sex (men more likely too)?

We were made in the image of God. Right. And He’s a God of love. Right. That must mean we’ve been made in love and love is an inherent characteristic of our makeup. John 3:16 is perhaps the most recognized verse in the western world. Why? Because it’s written in big bold print at most major global sporting events like the Olympics and the football World Cup. Most of us reading this book probably recall it immediately: For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (NIV). Besides being a statement of the gospel, it also clearly states God’s modus operandi, that is, the particular way He works.

By love!

God loved the world and everyone in it so much that out of that love He sent Jesus to live incarnationally amongst us, to then die and be raised from the dead. God did it out of … love. This is how He works. Whether it’s in the macro way of the world or within the micro way of an individual, He only knows the one way of operating: in love. Certainly, this love takes different forms depending on the circumstance but everything He does reflects love.

Love in Action

If God’s way of working is by love, is He not inviting us into His world to operate the same way. I wonder if the big question of what’s life about has a relatively simple answer:  to live a life of love.

Jesus even reminds us, “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another. (John 13:35)” No wonder so many in the world struggle with the church and Christians because we so often don’t do very well at loving others. It grieves my heart when we see evidence of abuse within churches, churches breaking up, Christian marriages ending, supporting acts or individuals whose behaviors and words clearly don’t reflect the principles of love.

Yes, we can excuse ourselves for being human. We make mistakes, we sin, because we’re human. The church is full of fallible humans who make mistakes all the time. I know I do. Every. Day. It’s important we be compassionate and extend grace to ourselves and to others.

Love is hard work, isn’t it? Especially when your partner is grumpy or worse, your kids are driving you nuts, or someone hurts you and we can go on. We can’t really love in our own strength and the wonderful thing about walking with Jesus is we don’t have too. And we’re not supposed to. God invites us to love like He does. With a compassionate heart.

As I go deeper with God, the more I find I need to go even deeper, and I want to because through Him we can learn to love better, even when we struggle to. But how do we do it?

Here’s a few suggestions. Why not add your own to the list in the comments? What’s something that’s helped you love better?

  1. It starts with time with God. Prayer, solitude and silence are so pivotal to growing our connection with the lover of our souls. Like any good relationship quality time is essential. Solitude and silence help us listen. Prayer is more about getting God into us; it helps us detach from ourselves so our hearts can be transformed (slowly) into being better lovers.
  2. Actions speak louder than words. Choose to do something that’s about another. It might be a simple text to a friend asking after them or specifically praying for them. I always find that when I pray the Spirit nudges me to do something for another. This is God’s way.
  3. Listen first and hold off giving your own advice or opinion. I struggle with this all the time. We like to solve people’s issues, don’t we? Before expressing an opinion, ask a question. Listen. Ask another question. Listen. Wait for your partner, child, friend to ask for your input. Eek.
  4. Pray for someone who hurt you. Express your hurt to God. Remember, He’s the compassionate one. Imagine Him hugging you and after a while see if you can simply ask God to bless the one who hurt you.

I’m continually amazed by this little community of ours and reading of how various members love one another and their partners and kiddies, even under some very challenging circumstances.

Let’s continue to be known for our love.

Much love, my friends.


"How long, Lord?"

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Hello, dear SUMites, Ian from sunny Sydney. The world was turned on its head this time last year when the first people outside of China began to be diagnosed with this new virus strain which the medical community named COVID-19. The virus soon spread exponentially (a term that became part of our daily lexicon) throughout every land, borders in many countries were quickly shut and panic set in.

A year later, some countries are still in the thick of it. Vaccines are being rolled out to the masses and everyone’s hoping and praying that by the end of 2021 the world might go back to normal.

Lament

The loss of life, both in terms of deaths but also change in daily routines, access to family and friends, loss of employment, and so on has been immense. The world has been crying out, ‘how long will this go on?’ The shock and disbelief still reverberates.

For those of us who follow Jesus it’s made many of us question where God is in all of this. “How long, Lord?”, like the Psalmist has become a common refrain along with many other cries from the heart. Lament, a passionate expression of grief or sorrow, is a very acceptable posture before the Lord. As Pete Greig states, “struggle and travail are important expressions of biblical spirituality. Lamenting is more than a technique for venting emotion. It is one of the fruits of a deepening spiritual life that has learned to stand naked before God without shame or pretense …”1

If you’re familiar with the Psalms2, you’ll most likely be aware that at least one-third of them are laments where the writer is in the midst of some unresolved pain.

If you’re grappling with some unresolved pain, may I encourage you right now to express your pain, sadness, grief, disappointment, fear or frustration to the Lord. Sit quietly and be gentle with yourself, grab some tissues and simply ask Jesus to be present. And now share whatever you’re feeling. Take your time. Jesus won’t leave.

If you expressed your emotion and feel up to it please let us know in the comments so we can join you in your lament.

Solution or a Person

I was struck the other day by two stories of lament, one Biblical (from Job) and another about a marriage breakdown. We’re all familiar with Job’s story of incredible loss that occurred suddenly. He lost his family, his possessions, his health, everything. Friends came to counsel him while Job cried out to God. And heard nothing in reply nor was his situation resolved or fixed.

I find when I’m struggling with unresolved pain, I just want God to fix it. Heal me, open a door, provide something and so on. Or at the very least an explanation. ‘Why has that friend suddenly deserted me? What have I done?’ Anyone else with me?

We want the answer, the solution, the explanation, so we can control the situation, make sense of it. When we understand something, we are able to exercise greater control over it.

But so often, nothing happens. Right? Like Job, it makes no sense. ‘How long, Lord?’ we cry for the umpteenth time.

Let’s go back to Job. After 37 chapters, God finally responds. And what a response it is. Let’s look at the first few verses, but I’d encourage you to read the rest.

‘Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?
   Tell me, if you have understanding. 
Who determined its measurements—surely you know!
   Or who stretched the line upon it? 
On what were its bases sunk,
   or who laid its cornerstone 
when the morning stars sang together
   and all the heavenly beings shouted for joy? (v 4-7)

What tone do you hear in God’s voice as you read these verses? A harsh demanding one or a loving Father that speaks tenderly and honestly? The former makes God to be a critical judge that chides his impatient underling, while the latter makes Him to be a caring Father who happens to have the entire universe in His hands. Included in this universe is suffering Job.

God has never left Him. Not for a minute. Everything and everyone is in His loving care. Similarly, to Job, God hasn’t left us during this past year. He’s still very much in control.

What do we prefer? The solution or Him? The provision from His hands or His warm embrace saying He’ll never leave us or forsake us?

May I encourage us to choose to believe that our loving God is always with us irrespective of our circumstances and He wants us to continually turn to Him, for Him and not just the solution. He is always the answer! He wants us to surrender control, even if we can only do it with gritted teeth. Yes, cry out for the solution you seek, and He may well provide but most importantly He will give Himself which is the best thing we could ever hope for.

Much love, my friends.

Notes:

  1. Lectio 365 App, Tuesday 2 March 2021 “Learning to Lament” Words taken from Pete Greig’s book, ‘God on Mute’
  2. Some of the well-known Lament Psalms include: 6, 10, 38, 42-43, 130.

A Blessing of Peace

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Hello, my SUMite friends. Ian, from Down Under here. I trust everyone is holding up okay under the continued stress of the global pandemic. It has sure been an unsettling time for all of us and finding ‘peace’ can be especially difficult.

One of the blessings of the Beatitudes refers to being peacemakers. (Matthew 5:9). However, to be a peacemaker we first need to be able to receive peace. I know I often struggle to engage the peace that is already present inside us through Christ. If I’m grappling with some internal struggle or feelings of anger, fear, bitterness or lust I may hide these away instead of drawing closer to Jesus and engaging the peace that resides in me.

Jesus Walking in the Room

I love the scene in John 20, the day after Jesus’ resurrection, when the disciples are locked in the Upper Room terrified the Jewish leaders are going to break down the door and haul them away.

Let’s read it together:

“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 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.

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.” (John 20:19-23 NIV)

Jesus appears. Yes, he simply appears. He doesn’t need to open the door in his resurrected body because he has taken on his divinity that he let go of 33 years earlier.

And what are his first words: “Peace be with you.”

Put yourself in the scene. Yes, if you can listen to this scene and picture yourself as one of the terrified disciples it makes the experience even better. And God appears. Offering His peace.

Receive it. Breathe in His peace. And breathe out the stress, the worry, the whatever.

When Jesus says it for a second time, receive it. And picture yourself receiving his breath upon you as he breathes the Holy Spirit over you. Breathe it in, breathe out the worry.

Closed Doors

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

Breathe in the peace, breathe out the shame, the anger, the fear, the worry that has been locked up in that room.

Our Shepherd

Psalm 23 is my favourite Psalm. I’m sure I’m not alone in that. And what I love most about it is the peace I receive as I meditate upon it. We have a shepherd who says ‘we want for nothing’. This is what living in his Kingdom is all about: living in continual peace, irrespective of our circumstances.

And the Kingdom is here now. “The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!” (Mark 1:15 NIV)

May I encourage us to meditate on Psalm 23. Once again, you may enjoy listening to it. Picture yourself with Jesus, our shepherd. And after each verse, perhaps say, “I can relax”.

May I close with this blessing over us all. One we’re familiar with I’d suggest. Receive it as you read it:

“The Lord bless you and keep you;

The Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you;

The Lord turn his face towards you and give you peace.” (Numbers 6:24-26 NIV)

Peace be with us all. In Jesus’ wonderful Name. Amen.


How Do We Linger Long with the Lord?

Dear friends, Ann here. Linger

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

Wonderful!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Living an Extra (Ordinary) Life

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Hello, dear friends. Ian from sunny Sydney here. It’s a big few days in America with the election and we all around the world watch on eagerly with prayerful hearts.

Recently, I came across a little-known Saint, Alphonsus Rodriguez, who lived in Spain in the 1500s. Rodriguez was in his 40s, a widower, with no children and a bankrupt,  who on seeking to join a Jesuit monastery was told he was too old and too uneducated to become a priest. He was sent to a Jesuit College on the island of Majorca where he served as a porter and doorkeeper. He turned door-keeping into a sacramental duty. Every time the doorbell rang, he would say, “I’m coming, Lord!” and would then welcome the visitor as Christ himself.

Many brilliant young priests passed through the college. Alphonsus welcomed each one lavishly and many of them turned to him for spiritual counsel. One of them was a man named, Peter Claver, who began meeting with Alphonsus, now 72, on a daily basis. The doorkeeper encouraged the young priest to travel to South America where he devoted his life to caring for slaves, for which he was later recognized as a saint.

Alphonsus Rodriguez was also made a saint, canonized for his own brand of quiet heroism expressed in a life of humility, hospitality and friendship that impacted vast numbers of people across the globe.note

Our Little Lives

Sometimes we can question whether we’re making our lives count. We’re just going about our days as spouse, parent, employee/employer, friend, sibling, child and on wondering whether we’re really making any impact. Inherent in all of us is a desire for significance. Perhaps this drive is stronger in men, I don’t know, but we can also let it lead us astray in chasing after the ‘big’ thing that will make us feel better about ourselves and fill us with pride for being a ‘somebody’.

We’re already significant, aren’t we, in the simple fact that God, the creator of the universe has chosen to give each of one of us, life. That’s right, our God thinks we’re pretty awesome because He made us. We were significant before we were born because God thought of us before we even made an appearance in the womb.

The Great Commission

Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:19-20a NIV)

We’re all familiar with these verses and for many of us we can feel burdened by thinking we’re not doing anything ‘great’ for the Kingdom. Or we might feel this is someone else’s responsibility, that is, those people specifically called to a ministry role of some description.

But, no, we are all called to make disciples. Yes. Every single one of us. But we don’t have to be burdened by it; we can in fact be playing our part by continuing to live out our own little lives. For most of us, the Great Commission will be outworked in our own homes, schoolyards, workplaces, cafes and such like.

How?

Alphonsus Rodriguez provides us with the example. “Do everything in love.” (1 Corinthians 16:14 NIV). We get to choose how we treat everybody we come across today: “I’m coming, Lord!”

Like Alphonsus, we may never know the impact such an attitude might have on our legacy. He most likely had no knowledge that Peter Claver was canonized for his role in South America having passed away long before.

Just Start

Often, we get stuck in thinking we have to do something significant.

“Start where you are, where you can be of service, not a hero.” (Joan Chittister)

Start with your spouse. Start with your kids even if they’re driving you nuts. Start with your work colleagues. Choose love. Choose to think you’re addressing the King of Kings. You’ll be surprised how once you start, you’ll keep doing it. And then it spreads. Love begets love. Care begets care.

And in the ordinariness of life, something extraordinary begins to take root.

“I’m coming, Lord!”

Grace and peace, dear friends

Note: my inspiration for this post came from Lectio365 Monday 2 November 2020 Devotional titled: Alphonsus Rodriguez: Hero of Hospitality.


Graves into Gardens

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Dear SUMite friends, Ian from wintry Sydney here. It's just turned July 1 here and it's incredible that half the year has already passed. Who could have anticipated what would go down this year? As I've mentioned previously, the Lord put on my heart the word, 'Awakening', in January but I had absolutely no sense of what that meant. Much has occurred for me personally, but it pales compared to all the global events.

Awakening

There is an awakening happening across the globe and it's important for us to hold on to the belief that God is in charge. And good has come out of these difficult times and will continue to I expect for years to come. 

Life for all of us is going to look different for a while, isn't it. Everything we're used to (outside of our homes) is having to be adjusted, whether it's the simple things like hugging friends, attending church, schooling for our kids, working out at gyms or eating at our favourite eateries. The list goes on.

Stay Connected

Even when it's challenging to be physically close, choose each day to stay connected with friends. Here are a few suggestions:

  1. Schedule at least one contact per day - ring someone, Zoom/Facetime someone and be very present with them. Switch off other devices, email, clutter all around you so you can be fully focused on your friend. And be slow to share rather ask questions seeking to listen and care for your friend. Your turn will come to share, maybe not this time but the next.
  2. Embrace solitude with God - enables us to simply pause and take some time out from the world, family. Breath deeply a couple of times and try to clear your mind. There are a lot of apps that help us do this but I'll refer you once again to John Eldredge's One Minute Pause app which I and a number of my friends have found particularly beneficial in these crazy times.
  3. Encourage someone today - I have a saying that 'everyone needs a Barnabas in their life' and I try to be one every day. It can be as simple as a smile to a passer by, a quick check in to your neighbour, a text message with a heart emoji ("I'm thinking about you") or a note to say well done. Don't seek a thank you. God knows, that's all that matters. 

Worship

Who loves singing worship songs? At home? In the car? It's good isn't it! It awakens (that word again) our hearts and pours faith and belief into us.

I expect many of us will have seen the various collaborative versions of Kari Jobe/Cody Carnes "The Blessing"; the churches down under even did a version which I love. But it's this one from Elevation Church that is particularly relevant for these times.

Sing along and believe these lyrics because our Lord does indeed "turn graves into gardens, bones into armies, seas into highways and mourning to dancing" We are living in a moment in history that God has deemed for us to live in and oh, the wonder we are going to see. 

Get ready!


Calm in the Storm

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Hi, Ian here from sunny Sydney. Wow, who could have imagined when I wrote about supernatural happenings and wilderness experiences in my last post that a few weeks later almost the entire would be thrust into wilderness.

It’s scary with how fast things have moved. Our lives have been turned upside down haven’t they, normal routines (as Ann reflected yesterday) for entire households have been dramatically changed, there’s no short term certainty about many of the physical things of life: jobs, incomes, schooling, church attendance, exercise regimes and of course the health of our families, particularly those of us who are in the ‘more vulnerable bracket.’

God is Unchanging

But God. He is the one certainty we have, and I also believe it is certain that this wilderness experience will end, however, none of us can be very sure either, when it will end, and what the next season will look like for each of us.

God is good. All the time. All the time, God is good.

What we Focus on is Important

Lynn in her weekend post shared of the bombardment of bad news. My morning routine usually involves me reading the paper before heading off to the gym. But I found I was carrying this understated anxiety and tension as a result of allowing myself to receive the bad news. The Holy Spirit nudged me one day as I trudged off to the gym and told me to stop reading the news. Now it’s been a habit since I was about eight years old (I used to sit with Dad reading the paper together eating breakfast), however, the next morning, I went straight to a meditation app as I sat down over my morning coffee. I’ve enjoyed the freedom of receiving good news first thing in the morning while setting my eyes on the Lord as soon as possible in the morning.

We’re probably all familiar with the following verses in Hebrews:

“And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us,fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:1-2 NIV)

How do we keep our eyes fixed on Jesus when everyone is home ALL THE TIME and trying to get some alone time is near impossible. I know there are many couples (put aside the kids for the moment) are just not used to spending so much time together and these couples have to work our new habits for both their relationship and each other.

May I encourage you to talk often about each other’s needs and how the other can help out. For example, for most of our 25 years together I’ve known it’s important for my wife that we spend time together in the evening. It’s not so much about doing the same thing but simply being present and enjoying each other’s company and presence. And so that’s we’ve done.

I suspect for many husbands this is a very unsettling time as we’re used to heading off to work, having a clear plan for the day and being away from the home. Similarly, for the girls, it’s strange having hubby around 24x7. And then there are the kids. Can’t take them anywhere, can’t have friends over and so on. There are only so many jigsaws you can do, right?

It's hard and unsettling.

But God knows this. He loves us so deeply and understands all that’s going on inside and outside us. He knows our needs and so staying close to Him is really good for us in this season.

Ann wrote about abiding and I want to share a little about how one can do this.

1. Start in the morning. If you are able.

I’m a morning person and it’s easier for me to do this because of the season I’m in. Getting the house up and running is a very normal daily activity for moms. A particularly important one. But may I encourage you though to consider tuning your soul in the morning. Why do you think Jesus went off to meet with the Father every morning?

Our souls get out of whack overnight. I’m continually amazed how I can be on fire for the Lord when I put my head on the pillow, only to wake in the morning like He’s a complete stranger. And that’s why our soul’s need tuning. Think of it like a piano or guitar; before we play them we tune them. It doesn’t have to take long. It can just be a few minutes of prayer, inviting God into our day and checking in on our heart, asking ourself how we’re feeling and giving those feelings, good or not so good over to God. Even ask Him, why am I feeling like this Lord? And listen for an answer. It may not be immediate but sometime during the day you’ll probably discover why.

2. Repeat this process during the day.

As often as you are able. You might even give yourself a reminder using your phone.

What’s important is connecting how your feeling in your heart with God. He knows, He cares, He wants to help us. If you’re reading say Psalm 23: v1 “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.” And you’re feeling tremendous lack of something: peace, hope, money, etc tell God that (He won’t be offended) and repeat the verse in your own words, “You tell me you’re my shepherd, Lord, I really need a shepherd now, help me see you as my shepherd today, taking care of my needs.” Gradually, God’s Word comes alive in our hearts as we discover that He is indeed a good good shepherd.

3. Ever so slowly it will become a habit.

A habit you’ll look forward to even when you’re at your crappiest because you’ve discovered how much God loves to be the one who tunes our hearts and souls.

It would be great for us to encourage each other with what we do to fix our eyes on Jesus in these strange and unsettling times.

Be blessed and keep fixing our eyes on the Lord. He’s a good, good Father.


To Cherish ...

Hi friends, Ann here! Cherish

The other day I noticed something new about marriage in scripture. It was like a big flashing light going off in my mind, so I thought I'd share. See what you think of this:

In the Bible there are a few key scriptures about marriage, as we know. But what I noticed this week is that in two of those scriptures (one from the Old Testament and one from the New), it says that your treatment of your spouse determines whether your prayers will be heard.

What a thought!

Here are the scriptures in question, and I've highlighted the parts about prayer:

1 Peter 3:7 (NKJV):

“Husbands, likewise, dwell with them with understanding, giving honor to the wife, as to the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life, that your prayers may not be hindered.”

And

Malachi 2:12-15 (NKJV):

“May the Lord cut off from the tents of Jacob the man who does this, being awake and aware, yet who brings an offering to the Lord of Hosts.

And this is the second thing you do: You cover the altar of the Lord with tears, with weeping and crying; so He does not regard the offering anymore, nor receive it with goodwill from your hands. Yet you say, ‘For what reason?’ Because the Lord has been witness between you and the wife of your youth, with whom you have dealt treacherously; yet she is your companion and your wife by covenant.

But did He not make them one, having a remnant of the Spirit? And why one? He seeks godly offspring. Therefore take heed to your spirit, and let none deal treacherously with the wife of his youth.” 

**

All of this got me thinking: I often have to guard my heart to stay good to my husband in relation to our faith difference. The spiritually mismatched nature of our marriage raises particular challenges that other couples might not have. I have to make sure I don't hold negative attitudes about certain things. I also have to guard my mouth to make sure when I talk about him my words are good words. The bar is high and I'm a total work-in-progress. 

The Old Testament passage in Malachi might have been addressing the letter of the law, perhaps physical infidelity; but we go beyond that in the spirit of the law, mirroring God's character and trying to be faithful in wider things, like our words. 

This thought takes me meandering back to a moment in 1999, when Bryce and I were getting married. In our heady twenties it was all fun fun fun. But, when we booked in a minister to officiate at our wedding he told us it was his code to give us marriage counselling and we agreed. There was not much that was sensible about the two of us so it was all we could do to stop ourselves losing it in giggles at various points -- Especially when the session turned to the topic of sex. It was all so serious -- Did we really have to be talking about this?! 

But, here's the golden question this minister asked us: “What does it mean to CHERISH someone? Your vows include the word cherish. What does that look like?” This man in his sixties knew what he was talking about. 

Fast-forward twenty years and here we are living with a faith difference that - if we aren't careful to cherish - could fracture us. Yikes, it's not exactly small stuff. What does it look like now for us to cherish each other?

Here's what my favorite old dictionary says about Cherish: "To protect and treat with affection: to nurture, nurse; to entertain in the mind." 

Honestly, I can think of many points where I have not been the shining star at cherishing Bryce. But what I’d like to do is treat him as my most treasured one. This is my heart, so I say 'Help me, God!' My marriage is entwined with the Kingdom. It’s part of that thing I want to seek first. And as I cherish him, then when I march in prayer around my 'Jericho' could it be that those walls of unbelief have a greater chance of falling? The above scriptures suggest perhaps so.

Do you have any thoughts on the concept of cherishing our spouse? We'll chat in the comments!


Soul Care

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Image courtesy of Yongkiet at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Hello, my dear friends. Seems ages since we’ve ‘met’. I trust 2020 has started well for you all and your hearts are in good places.

My family’s had a tough start to the year. Besides the constant trauma on the TV each night as the bushfires raged through the land Down Under (we have been gratefully spared from having it too close) which cast fear and foreboding over people’s spirits, we and dear friends have had own personal traumas. Like our nation, we are recovering and walking, a little bruised and battered, into the future with hope in our hearts.

Maybe you’re in a similar place. Or maybe you’re just feeling a bit frazzled with all that’s going on: juggling being wife, mom, friend, daughter, employee or boss. It’s at these times when it’s important we take care of our souls.

The Easy Yoke

I’ve reflected, meditated and prayed over Matthew 11:28-30 repeatedly these past weeks. These words of Jesus have sustained me continually refilling me with hope and refreshment. Let’s have a look at them. If you don’t mind, I’m going to provide it in three versions because they each bring something extra. I’ll start with the more traditional one that most of us perhaps are most familiar with:

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (ESV)

“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.” (The Message)

“Are you weary, carrying a heavy burden? Then come to me.I will refresh your life, for I am your oasis. Simply join your life with mine. Learn my ways and you’ll discover that I’m gentle, humble, easy to please. You will find refreshment and restin me. For all that I require of you will be pleasant and easy to bear.” (The Passion Translation)

Rest and refreshment? Anyone? Yes, we all shout out in unison. But let’s not confuse this to mean life will all of a sudden be fun and games. Our circumstances may still be tough and uncompromising, but the Lord enables us to rise above the angst and pain by filling us with His peace, hope and joy.

There is so much more I could share on these three verses, as it’s a wonderful statement of Jesus’s nature (meek, gentle and lowly of heart) and He suggests we learn to be similar by “joining our life” with His. But today I just wanted to encourage us practically in how we can ‘take his easy yoke’ upon ourselves.

Invite Jesus In

Whatever you’re doing: washing the dishes, preparing school lunches, attending a meeting, having coffee with a friend, etc, etc …  may I encourage you to add these two small steps:

1. Simply invite Jesus into the situation: ”Jesus, I invite you into this …” and he’s there. Remember, he’ll never leave you. All of a sudden you’ve become aware of His presence even though you may not feel anything different. Yes, nothing may change but there'l. be situations where you'll get little nudges from Him.

Remember the story of the two disciples who walked to Emmaus with resurrected Jesus sharing the best Bible study ever that was all about Him? They didn’t recognize Him, even though He was with them for seven miles. All they had to do was ask who He was? Like Moses and the burning bush, we need to always ‘turn’ towards Jesus. Be intentional about seeking His presence.

2. While you’re doing whatever you’re doing, turn your mind towards Him. Try it, you’ll find it takes some practice so you don’t suddenly ignore your friend who’s revealing their heart to you.

It’s something I’ve been doing for a while now and it’s wonderfully freeing. I’m constantly asking God, “where are you in this?”, “what’s this about, Lord?” “give me your heart in this moment”, etc etc. I think this is what ‘learning the unforced rhythms of grace’ might sort of look like.

What’s also important is to do practical things to help yourself. Remember following Jesus is a physical act as well as a spiritual (one of the heart) act. Eat healthily, get outside and experience some natural beauty of God's creation, exercise at least moderately, try to get extra sleep, and regularly have date night (just the two of you) with your partner. And involve Jesus in each of them. 

May I encourage you to spend some time these next few days simply meditating on the verses from Matthew above. Look at other versions and talk to Jesus about His easy yoke. Ask for it. Ask Him to show you how to learn His ways in order to be refreshed and rested. 

Here's to a year of refreshment and rest.

Blessings, my friends


Divine Moments

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Image courtesy of BlueSuedeBallroom.com

Hello, dear SUMite friends. Ian from sunny Sydney here. I returned this morning from a whirlwind trip to San Antonio to attend the American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) annual conference. This is now my fourth conference and the reason I keep returning is that each time I go I experience a significant God-moment, writing and non-writing.

My first experience of this was at the 2012 event where I met our dear friend Dineen Miller who introduced me to SUM. I’ve written about our meeting a few times but in a nutshell prior to this conference I doubted I could ever have a ministry role outside my small little world as a result of being a SUM. Dineen both at the conference and, later through her contribution to SUM, clearly demonstrated otherwise and it dawned on me that I’d allowed myself to be deceived by the enemy.

Clearing Obstacles

I had felt the Lord’s nudge to attend this year’s event. It surprised me because it’s a fiction event and my energies this year have been focused around a non-fiction project. Surely, there was a disconnect. But the nudges kept on coming.

But there were some clear obstacles, the biggest being a financial one. We simply didn’t have the money for flights, conference and hotel accommodation. I kept saying to God, well, if you want me to go then you’ll need to clear this obstacle.

Six weeks before the event, mid-August, I received a completely unexpected financial gift from my parents. They were unaware of my desire to attend the conference. I was amazed. The Lord said to me, ‘well, that’s no longer an obstacle’.

I left chatting to Fiona about it for a week or so until she asked me what I’d like to do with the gift. And so I told her. She was kind enough to let me attend and when booking flights I was able to use frequent flyer points to get me across the Pacific meaning I didn't have to spend as much as first thought.

I’m continually amazed at God’s goodness.

Expectant Heart

I boarded my flight last Wednesday still unsure of why I was attending. I had set up some meetings but there was no guarantee they would provide anything of any great value. However, my heart was expectant both because of my three previous experiences but also because of how God had made it possible for me to attend.

It didn’t take long for things to start bubbling. The first worship session included the mention of a verse from Revelation that had been important to me during the first half of the year. Aha … is this it, Lord?

Even though I was able to share the significance of this verse to the two people who mentioned it and had a lovely moment with both, it soon became apparent it was simply a minor precursor to what the Lord had in store.

Feedback

The second day proceeded uneventfully until an afternoon appointment I had set up week’s prior. It was with a man whose counsel I admire and on discussing my non-fiction project with him, it wasn’t long before I realised this was the ‘gotcha moment’ and the reason for my attendance. The feedback wasn’t exactly what I would have liked to receive but it was exactly what I needed to hear. Two subsequent meetings with agents confirmed the same.

I felt pretty flat and a little discouraged by the time night came about. I thought my project was headed in the right direction but it was clear it wasn’t.

Worship clears the cobwebs of discouragement

The conference always has a late night worship session where writers can sit and write as they listen to worship. I didn’t want to write. I wanted to worship. I needed to because it’s something that always lifts my spirits. And the worship band at ACFW is one of the best I’ve sat under.

The enemy hates worship. I reckon it’s like a persistent jackhammer banging away at their heads. They have to flee – remember Paul and Silas in the jail set to be executed the next day? What did they do? They “were praying and singing hymns to God” (Acts 16:25) What happened next? An earthquake happened, cell doors opened, chains fell off, freeing the two heroes.

Ephesians 5:18-19 is even more clear: “Be filled with the Holy Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, making melody to the Lord with all your heart.” The Holy Spirit is the one who changes the atmosphere and being filled with the Spirit through singing and praying weakens the enemy’s power.

The discouragement I had soon lifted even though I was unsure of the next steps in my project. I woke the next morning feeling refreshed and energized. The morning’s worship was tremendous even more so as the Lord’s presence was thick as He touched a number of people in a very gentle healing way.

The Dance of Dependence

God never lays out the blueprint of the future, does He? It’s always one step at a time so we continue to trust in Him to lead us. We have to depend on Him. I was reminded of how a dad dances with a young daughter. She places her feet on his and as He steps, her feet automatically follow. It’s a wonderful picture for how we can follow His lead don’t you think?

When was a recent time you followed one of the Lord’s nudges out of obedience even though you were unsure of what was to occur? Be great for us to encourage each other in the comments below.

Blessings, my SUMite friends.


The Enemy Cannot Handle This!

Hey SUM family, Tiffany Here!

Sunday, September 29th is the beginning of Rosh Hashanah. We've talked about this Jewish holiday over the years. In fact, the first time I'd ever been made aware of it's significance was because of a blog post from either Lynn or Dineen. For those who are not familiar or are new to this holiday, a simple "Rosh Hashanah" search on this site will provide you with a wealth of information. Feel free to check out the archives!

My prayer for us today is that we will each take away something fresh and new. Holy Spirit, reveal to us the heartbeat of God. Amen!

Rosh Hashanah isn't actually a biblical holiday but a traditional Jewish holiday. The term "Rosh Hashanah" means "head of the year" and is celebrated as the Jewish New Year. This is a two-day celebration that proceeds Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement).

In the beginning of this month, the Lord really pressed upon me to watch Patty Tower's talk that was given at the SUMite Summit this last April. I decided to go back and watch it again. (I will provide a link below so you can revisit that as well. It is absolutely worth a re-watch!)

As I sat down to think about Rosh Hashanah and what I would include in this post, I went back to my notes from Patty's message. There is so much good in this message but I want to point out one theme:

  • Joshua 6 - God gives specific instructions about the destruction and taking of the city of Jericho. In verse 20 we see the result of following God's plan and not their own: "So the people shouted when the priests blew the trumpets. And it happened when the people heard the sound of the trumpet, and the people shouted with a great shout, that the wall fell down flat. Then the people went up into the city, every man straight before him, and they took the city."
  • Patty called us to march around our house 7 times and shout, declare, pray and praise things into existence. It was in the great shout that the walls fell flat down.

Rosh Hashanah isn't in the Bible; however, the first day of Rosh Hashanah, is. Let's take a look.

Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying,  “Speak to the children of Israel, saying: ‘In the seventh month, on the first day of the month, you shall have a sabbath-rest, a memorial of blowing of trumpets, a holy convocation.  You shall do no customary work on it; and you shall offer an offering made by fire to the Lord.’ ” - Leviticus 23:23-25

The Hebrew word, Teruah, in Leviticus for blowing trumpets is the same word used in Joshua 6 where they shouted with a great shout. The first day of Rosh Hashanah, Yom Teruah, is a day of blowing trumpets or shouting.

Notice what else it says in Leviticus about this day - you shall have a sabbath-rest. Yom Teruah happens to fall on a Sunday. The day we, as children of God, call our sabbath!

So, why is this important for us? If we are not Jewish, what is the point of celebrating this time of year?

We've already seen in our community some amazing things worth celebrating. Many professions of faith and baptisms with our spouses, children or others we love. Libby gave us a beautiful word about the SUMite community with her picture of the mountain. The SUMite Summit where some gathered in California being at the top and from that trickle, the waters of our faith continued to pool together to create a river at the bottom.

I truly believe something was activated in the heavenlies and we have set off a chain reaction. The enemy has been stirred to anger and we have seen much push back from illness, discord with our spouses and children, financial struggles, backsliding, strongholds etc.

However, I truly believe that God is calling His children deeper. I believe that He is stirring in us a hunger and thirst that can no longer be quenched by fear, pain or opposition tactics from the enemy.  I believe that NOW is the time for us to press in all the more into the God of Miracles. NOW is the time to storm the gates of Heaven for our spouses, children, our complete freedom and healing. I believe that NOW is the time for us to suit up and prepare for battle.

There is a shifting going on right now. As we are in this transition period, it is up to US if we are going to take God at His word - for our destinies, purposes, signs, miracles and wonders. We cannot afford to give up or give in. The future of generations to come hangs in the balance. It sounds intense but don't worry! Greater is He that is in us than he that is in the world (1 John 4:4).

Patty's talk at the SUMite Summit: https://www.facebook.com/SpirituallyUnequalMarriage/videos/387269661859875/

There is so much more I could say but I've gone on a little long.

As we approach this Jewish New Year, what are the things you are coming to the Throne of Grace for? What do you hope to see in this new season? Shout

Oh, clap your hands, all you peoples! Shout to God with the voice of triumph! -- Psalm 47:1 (Shout here is the root word of teruah ::grin::)

We are going to shake the heavens and the earth with our shouts! In the comments, give a mighty shout to the Lord. Thank Him for the victory you've been praying and waiting for! Decree and declare that these prayers are answered in Jesus' mighty name! Now it is up to you to take Him at His word. Trust. Believe. Wait and see. God is so good. And He is worthy of the wait. Hugs!

 

 


Like a Child ...

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Photo courtesy of photo stock and FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Hello, dear SUMites. Ian from Down Under here. Spring has begun and the Lord is spoiling us with some delightfully beautiful days.

It was Father’s Day here on Sunday and Fiona had organized an afternoon tea with our two sons, their partners and grandchildren at our eldest son’s home. It was a gorgeous sunny day and we had a splendid relaxing time, six adults and two littlies. As you’d expect the latter received most of our attention and I rejoiced at strolling around the garden with our dear little Willow (8 months now) while two-year-old Moses entertained us with his ‘new words’ and racing around on his various tricycles.

There was an interesting moment when Daniel swung his son around on a makeshift swing (Dan being the swing). It was delightful seeing the joy on Moses’ face – he kinda went into a zone of contentment as he flew through the air for a few moments. There was no sign of fear as he trusted in his dad to swing him high and low then bring him down for a safe landing.

The Law of Three Strikes

We’ve talked about this ‘law’ a few times in the past. I woke yesterday to find two of my readings featured Matthew 18:1-3 – “’At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, ‘Who, then, is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven?’ He called a little child to him, and placed the child among them. And he said: ’Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the Kingdom of Heaven.’”

Okay Lord, you’re trying to tell me something here. And so I reflected on that moment Dan swung his son around. Moses simply trusted. He couldn’t experience the fun moment without his dad and let himself go so he could simply experience the magic of it.

It’s a wonderful picture of that verse above, isn’t it? The Kingdom of Heaven is here (Mark 1:15) and God wants us to experience it all and all we have to do is believe and let go with child-like trust so we can enjoy the magic of it.

Ooo … it’s exciting, isn’t it.

Being a Parent

You might be asking: “where’s the third strike, Ian?”

Almost immediately after reading the Matthew verse (twice) I read Psalm 71:6 – “Upon you I have leaned from before my birth; you are who took me from my mother’s womb. My praise is continually of you.”

God is our true parent (to quote Sara Hagerty). But it was the “leaned” that lingered as I read the verse a number of times. God wants us to lean on Him. We were never meant to live lives of independence, rather dependent ones. It’s a characteristic of being childlike – dependence. Trusting in your parent. Little Moses trusted Dan, his father, completely. And loved every moment of it.

Yes, there will be times we trust God and frankly don’t have much fun at all but I sense in that Psalm verse, we’re being told that God is trustworthy, even in birth. Hey, birth is pretty rugged for both mom and baby. But we can lean on God then and always.

 

What childlike quality to find most compelling when Jesus invites us to become like little children to experience His Kingdom? I’d love it if we could share in the comments below.


Rainbow Prayers

Hi everyone, Ann here!

We’ve recently been discussing the power of words here and on the Facebook group, and these conversations have brought back something that happened to me three years ago. I thought I would share the story. It was a time when God showed me two alternative scenarios in terms of how I use words: One scenario was awesome, the other sobering. With words being a theme, I'll have a go at telling it. Mum's Rainbow Prayers

I’ll start with the awesome, which is the best bit. It was a bright February day, and God showed me something that gave me warm fuzzies. He gave me a vision of rainbows coming out of a person’s mouth, accompanied by these words:

The prayers of a faithful person are like fountains of rainbows pouring over the one(s) for whom they pray. 

Wow. Rainbows represent God’s goodness, I loved hearing that. What’s even better is that sometime later I came across an article by an author who had had the same picture: Rainbows coming out of mouths, hitting situations with power. 

That Easter I also found the attached drawing, done by my little boy. There's a rainbow across our family and what looks like a fighter to the left with cape and sword. It reminded me of the rainbows and made me think, “This is how I care for my family -- Through prayer.”

However, it seemed God wanted to show me an alternative perspective, one more sobering. This ‘alternative view’ came on another bright morning but it was a less cheery vision. In this vision I saw some Christians who were doing wonderful work, and, consequently, a man in their life was giving them atheist banter. The Christians began to talk about this man. With good hearts, they weren’t talking that badly but, nonetheless, labels were used. As they spoke, a see-through dome formed around him, a barrier from which he could not escape but could see out of. Outside the barrier was a chocolate Easter egg in foil wrapping. Containment words  2

In the spirit of childlike faith, I’ve constructed a visual of this scenario in the attached picture. I couldn’t find an Easter egg so an evil foil-wrapped Easter Bunny will do. We’re God’s kids, and we’re learning, so a childlike depiction seemed fitting. The Easter bunny will be explained in a minute. 

What this vision told me is that words construct barriers and walls. In this vision, unintentional words were keeping the ‘atheist’ contained to the point that all he could see of the Easter message was chocolate and emptiness.

James 3 tell us that the tongue, though seemingly harmless, is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison. Yikes, that’s strong. Stronger still, though, is the fact God spoke the universe into existence. Made in God’s image but living in a world where light and dark collide, how powerful, exactly, are our words? Scripture shows examples of God encouraging his children to speak impact. Moses, for example, was told to speak to the rock so that water would come out; Ezekiel was told to speak life into dry bones. But, on the flip side, what power Jesus had to limit the fig tree with one apparently harmless sentence:

And seeing a fig tree by the road, He came to it and found nothing on it but leaves, and said to it, “Let no fruit grow on you ever again.” Immediately, the fig tree withered away. Matthew 21:19 (NKJV)

As believers, are we saying about any fig tree, “Let no fruit grow on you ever again?” Who in our life do we refer to regularly, for example, as ‘atheist’? Are we even tearing down places, families, and churches with our words? I’ve been sitting with the thought asking myself what degree of ROAR, as a daughter of God, my tongue holds and whether I'm being wise enough.

Finally, what I like about these two visions is that the arch of the rainbow contrasts with the arch of the dome. It’s as if they are two contrasting choices a Christian has when speaking about another person. For us, as friends, I guess it's one more story for our war-chest.

“Set a guard over my mouth, Lord; keep watch over the door of my lips.” Psalm 141:3 (NKJV)

It'd be interesting to chat about what situations this might apply, keen to hear your thoughts?

In friendship,

Ann


The Power of Prayer

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Image courtesy of thepathtraveler at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

We’re a praying SUMite army, aren’t we, dear friends? Ian from freezing cold Sydney here. I trust those of you in the northern hemisphere are enjoying the warmer temperatures and having fun on summer vacations.

Prayer. It’s one of those little words that we’re all familiar with, it’s a practice we all do, some of us I expect more than others and for most, if not all of us, it can be hard work.

And it’s powerful. Really powerful. It changes hearts, saves people, heals people, restores people and most significantly it connects our hearts with God. The triune God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. 

“Through relationship, we carry and release the Kingdom onto the earth. This is what joy-filled prayer looks like.” – Beni Johnson

Prayer is Relational

It’s completely relational and usually reflects the state of our connection with God. If you’re finding your prayer life has become transactional (‘Help me, God!’ Thanks, God! etc) it probably reflects one’s relationship isn’t very tight, that there’s some distance between you. But if you find you’re always dialoguing with God throughout your day it more than likely reflects a strong relationship that is growing deeper.

Prayer is simply that … communicating with God. Most often it’s just us and God, other times, it’s with two or three of us and God, and other times it’s in bigger groups, like a Church Prayer meeting. 

It’s often hard because of its relational nature with someone invisible. But it becomes easier when our heart desires to be connected to God's heart. He wants to share His heart with us. 

Three Keys

There are lots of great stories in the Bible that provide us with examples of how to posture ourselves in our communications with God. Here are three thoughts that I’ve gleaned through my readings.

  1. Seek to know God’s Will

“Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” – Matthew 6:10.

We all know this verse from The Lord’s Prayer. God invites us into His Kingdom, there’s stuff going on that He wants us to participate in, so the more we seek after knowing His will the greater the intimacy we’ll develop with Him. Often we’re guilty of asking for our plans and our desires to be approved by God rather than coming to God and dialoguing with Him about what’s on His heart about a certain matter. Jesus provides the great example of this: at the Garden of Gethsemane the night He is betrayed He pleads with His Father to be freed of His responsibility (“if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me?”). But moments later Jesus determined that His Father’s way was best for him (“Yet not as I will, but as you will.”)

Praying God's Word is a great way of praying His Will. I start many mornings praying Psalm 23 over myself and over others the Lord puts upon my heart.

  1. Praise God Always

“pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of Godin Christ Jesus for you.” – 1 Thessalonians 5:17-18 (NKJV)

Did you catch those words I underlined: “for this is the will of God”. What is? To pray without ceasing and give thanks in everything. Start thanking God immediately, praising Him for the outcome of the prayer you’ve just prayed even though it hasn’t happened yet. Praise God before you receive the answer.

Remember when Paul and Silas were chained up in prison (Acts 16)? What did they do? They sang praises to God. What happened? An earthquake that shook the foundations, doors and chains keeping everyone captive, happened. Paul and Silas were freed.

  1. Continue to Stay Close to God and Follow His Ways

Like any relationship, our connection with God can experience peaks and valleys. Hey, we get distracted. Sometimes very easily. I know I do.

Daniel trusted God even when he had to spend a night in a den full of lions. God rescued Daniel and he continued to follow God’s ways rather than the King’s and we’re told he “prospered during the reign of Darius and the reign of Cyrus the Persian.” (Daniel 6: 28)

The more time we spend with God, in reading His Word, and fellowshipping with other believers, we gain greater understanding of His heart, His mission and His ways. His desire is for us to join Him. But the world has it’s own ways and it’s natural for us to follow those ways. But we’re told in Isaiah 35 that there is a highway called the “Way of Holiness” (v8) and is available for all of us who follow God’s ways. There is neither lion nor ravenous beast to be found on this Way. And those who follow it will “enter Zion with singing and everlasting joy will crown our heads, gladness and joy will overtake us and sorrow and sighing will flee away.” (v 10)

Follow His Way and we will pray prayers that reflect both God’s desires and ours.

 

May we encourage each other in our prayer walks by sharing a little in the comments about what works for us in staying connected with God throughout our busy day.

Blessings my friends.


Jehovah Perazim - The Lord Who Breaks Through

Hey SUM Family, Tiffany here!

I don't know about you but I have really been yearning for breakthrough! It gets me fired up thinking about the breakthrough needed in my life as well as others. I am really struggling to completely detach from my old self. I am not saying that I am not growing, maturing or bearing fruit. Please hear my heart. I am talking about the hard reality that the more I press into God, the more I realize I am in rough shape and need Jesus. Can anybody relate?

I recently came across this scripture that has been really stirring in my heart:

Dam breaking

 

So David went to Baal-perazim and defeated the Philistines there. “The Lord did it!” David exclaimed. “He burst through my enemies like a raging  flood!” So he named that place Baal-perazim (which means “the Lord who bursts through”). -- 2 Samuel 5:20

 

Some context: David is now king. He captures Jerusalem from the Jebusites and makes it his home. The Philistines find out this news and come to capture him. David goes into a stronghold and the Philistines spread out across the valley of Rephaim. It is really interesting to note that the valley of Rephaim means "the house of the giants."

David could have been afraid. Sure, he had a run in with them before (remember Goliath, their once great warrior?); however, this time they were after him!

I love the conversation that happens just one verse before:

So David asked the Lord, “Should I go out to fight the Philistines? Will you hand them over to me?” The Lord replied to David, “Yes, go ahead. I will certainly hand them over to you.” (5:19)

Isn't there something so "magical" about the promises of God being fulfilled in front of your eyes? The New Living Translation sums up the child-like faith that I believe that David had - the Lord did it!

There are some things that I have been praying into for some time now - outside of salvation and surrender for Jason - full and forever breakthrough from the spirits of poverty and self-preservation in my life. There are many layers that have been broken but I still have a ways to go. It's been tough, especially with me as the toughest critic. These giants have taken camp in the valley of my heart and mind.

The Lord keeps impressing on my mind the idea of breakthrough and I praise Him for this recent revelation in this passage of scripture! Tiffany, I am your Daddy but I am also Jehovah Perazim. I am Your God who breaks through. Do you trust me? Do you believe it? Will you stand in faith - even when you can't see what is on the horizon?

I want to close with the song I heard for the first time today. It is so raw and honest. I can relate so well and I'm sure you can too.

Verse 1:

If I’m honest, I don’t know what to do
With this battle that I’m going through
And how to trust you.

Every part of me, wants to figure out my own plan
Wants to take things in my own two hands
God help me to understand

CHORUS

You are enough, You are enough for me, for me
Take my doubts, drown them in the sea
Cause you’re more than enough for me

VERSE 2

Every part of me, wants to figure out my own plan
Wants to take things in my own two hands
God help me to understand

BRIDGE

Even if I lost everything, you would still be enough for me.
Even if I lost everything, oh
Even if I lost everything, you would still be enough for me.
Even if I lost everything, oh

Can you feel the breakthrough coming or has your hope been lost? Admittedly sometimes I am teetering on the fence between the two. Sometimes life is tough. But GOD! He is so so good.

Let's pray:

Jehovah Perazim, You are our God who breaks through. You come forth against our enemies like a raging flood. There is nothing that can thwart the plans You have for us. When we are weary may we always remember that You go before us. You give us victory. When we are weary like Moses, bring others to surround us and hold us up. We can't do this alone. Thank You for this amazing community. We can all relate to the true struggle not against flesh and blood but against the forces of darkness. Thank You for always saying to us, like David, "I will certainly hand them over to you." We love you and praise you for the great big shout - You did it! We trust you. You are enough. In Jesus' name, amen.

See you in the comments! How can I intercede for you today?


Hold on Because Your LIFE Depends On It

Hello SUM Family, Tiffany here!

I shared with you at the conference that God has been speaking to me about cedars. Legacy pendantI saw a vision of a tree that was my family

legacy. The deep roots were the word of God so deeply hidden beneath the soil. I wanted to share with you something that I have been working on. These are words that He has been saying about me. (To keep it from getting too long I will only expound on a few)  Let's call today, "Motivation Monday." May these words be a motivation for you to believe what God says about you.

Cedars of Lebanon, Tiffany Carter, 5/31/19

Champion - (1 Corinthians 15:57; 1 Corinthians 9:24; Romans 8:37; Deuteronomy 20:4; Isaiah 6:8)

Elevator - one that lifts or raises someone/something up; exhorter - one who incites by argument, or advice; strongly urges; exultor - one who is extremely joyful; leaps for joy; rejoices); exalter - to elevate by praise; raise high; to enhance the activity of; intensify. (Deuteronomy 18:18; Proverbs 14:34; Psalm 68:3; Proverbs 27:17; Hebrews 3:13)

Deeply rooted - existing for a long time and very difficult to change; firmly established; deeply implanted. (Psalm 1:3; Colossians 2:6-7; John 15:5; Jeremiah 17:7-8; Daniel 2:22; Isaiah 45:3)

Ancient - (Jeremiah 6:16; Jeremiah 1:5; Ephesians 2:10; Ephesians 1:4-5)

Righteousness - (Psalm 92:12-13; Proverbs 21:21; Psalm 112:6-8; Matthew 6:33; Hosea 10:12)

Stalwart Matriarch - woman that rules or dominates her family, group or state who is marked by outstanding strength and vigor of body, mind or spirit. (Psalm 68:11; Proverbs 22:6; James 5:16; Psalm 102:18; Psalm 103:17; Proverbs 14:1)

Overarching Protector - (Matthew 6:10; Ezekiel 22:30; Proverbs 11:11; Jeremiah 29:7)

Freedom - (Psalm 18:48; Ezekiel 3:12; Psalm 119:45; Romans 6:14)

Legacy - something transmitted by or received from an ancestor or predecessor or from the past; carried over from an earlier time. (Psalm 145:4; Deuteronomy 30:19-20; Joshua 24:14-15; Proverbs 13:22; Psalm 78:2-4; Exodus 20:5-6; Deuteronomy 6:5-7; 2 Timothy 2:2)

Emanate Love - (1 Peter 4:8; 1 Corinthians 16:14; Colossians 3:14; Ephesians 5:2; Matthew 22:37-39; Hebrews 10:24-25; Proverbs 17:17; Proverbs 20:6-7; 1 John 4:11; 1 John 3:16-18)

Bethel - house of God. (1 Corinthians 9:26-27; 1 Corinthians 6:19-20; 1 Corinthians 10:31; 1 Peter 4:1-2; Psalm 119:37; Romans 8:5-7)

Anointed - to smear or rub with oil or an oily substance; to apply oil to as part of a religious ceremony; to choose by or as if by divine election. (Isaiah 22:22; 2 Corinthians 1:21-22; 1 John 2:20-21; 1 John 2:27; John 15:16; Psalm 45:7; Isaiah 44:3)

Non-conforming - (2 Corinthians 3:12; Romans 12:1-2; John 17:14-16; Revelation 12:11; Luke 6:27-36)

Ornamental - one who lends grace or beauty; adorned - to enliven. (1 Peter 3:3-4; 2 Corinthians 4:16; Proverbs 31:30; Ecclesiastes 3:11; Genesis 1:27; 1 Timothy 2:9-10; 1 Samuel 16:7)

New - (Hebrews 12:24; Galatians 3:26-27; 2 Corinthians 5:17; Isaiah 43:18-19; 2 Corinthians 4:16-17; 1 Peter 1:3; Mark 2:22).

Storms, temptations and trials will come and try to divert your eyes. The deceiver will come and try to cause you to doubt if not forget these life fulfilling promises.

Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lordyour God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.

--Deuteronomy 6:4-9

Do whatever is necessary to remember and cling to these promises. I love making jewelry (see photo above) so this is a good tangible way for me to see His word on a regular basis.

How great of a Daddy we have that He would speak something so special and unique to you individually. Let's talk in the comments: What are some ways that you remember His promises in your own life? What helps you to keep your eyes on the prize set before you?

 


Milestone Made Possible Because Of You

Hey SUM Family, Tiffany Here!

I have some wonderful news to share!

Today I graduated year one of ministry school. This was the first half of a two year program that will lead to ordination.

I was very surprised to receive "The Heart of David Award" along with my certificate of completion. What an honor and joy!

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The words "thank you" are not enough to express the gratitude I have for you,  my beloved family without walls. Your love, encouragement, and support  has tremendously helped carry me to this beautiful moment. Thank you to everyone who has given time, prayer, finances, Scripture and hugs. My accomplishment is your accomplishment.

So we keep on praying for you, asking our God to enable you to live a life worthy of his call. May he give you the power to accomplish all the good things your faith prompts you to do. -- 2 Thessalonians 1:11

Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken. -- Ecclesiastes 4:12

You all have helped me accomplish my dreams. In the comments, share something that God has laid upon your heart to accomplish. I want to pray over you and bless you today.


Going Deeper ...

Diver-diving-exploration-163313
Photo courtesy of Pexels.com
 

Hello, dear friends. Ian from sunny Sydney here. It seems ages since I’ve written.  I trust the New Year has started well for you and you’re excited for what 2019 holds for you and your family.

Recently, I was reading something written by Will Graham, the grandson of the late Billy Graham, where he sought some counsel from his famous granddad on navigating the challenges of a ministry that required a lot of travel around the globe.

He was expecting some advice on how to run meetings better or how better to emphasize a point but instead received this simple message, “Pray, pray, pray” and “study, study, study.” It made good sense as this was what Will had seen his granddad doing most times he visited, praying and studying.

Abiding and Bearing Fruit

“I am the sprouting vine and you’re my branches. As you live in union with me as your source, fruitfulness will stream from within you—but when you live separated from me you are powerless.” John 15:5 (TPT)

We desire to make an impact, don’t we? Even in the smallest way. Often we apply ourselves to various efforts and activities in order to make an impact. But what’s clear from the impact Billy Graham had was that he knew what was required to produce it – ‘live in union’ with God.

What I find fascinating about this verse is that Jesus tells us the answer to doing life well. And the answer is very straightforward: ‘live in union’ with God.

Living in Union

You’d think we’d all be doing this, right? It sounds pretty straightforward. Okay I’ll have my time with the Lord in the morning and everything will be sweet. Right? Well, that lasted 30 minutes (add you own number here), now what do we do for the next 23.5 hours of the day? BTW, how long do we need to spend with God to be ‘living in union’ with Him?

I’m no expert at any of this and I’m also very conscious of becoming overly religious about it all but what I sense matters is it all starts with the state of our hearts. As I think I’ve mentioned before, we gotta want Him. In order to love the Lord with all our heart, mind, body and soul we gotta want to do it.

Listen to David’s heartbeat:

“Here’s the one thing I crave from God,
    the one thing I seek above all else:
    I want the privilege of living with him every moment in his house,
    finding the sweet loveliness of his face,
    filled with awe, delighting in his glory and grace.
    I want to live my life so close to him
    that he takes pleasure in my every prayer.” Psalm 27:4 (TPT)

When I read this verse last week I was challenged by David’s ‘one thing.’ What’s my ‘one thing’? This is a man after God’s own heart as David is described. It’s very clear what’s his ‘one thing’. But he stuffed up. He got fearful and anxious many times but he kept coming back to the North Star of his heart: his desire for God.

Now back to Granddad Graham. I expect the North Star of his heart was similar to David’s and he kept fuelling his desire by always praying and studying the Word. The reason we need to do both is that the Word is a key way in which the Lord speaks to us (not the only way). We can be continually reminded of God’s greatness and goodness, His immense love for us through studying the Word. In so doing it helps build up our faith and so prayer becomes easier.

(One thing a lot of us forget is the best way to enhance one’s prayer life is by building up one’s faith. The greater our passion for the Lord, the stronger the desire we have to spend time with Him.)

I struggle with being intentional about studying the Word. It’s very easy to quickly read a passage or a few verses and then move on. But I find the more time I set aside meditating and reflecting on some verses the greater my desire for prayer and reading even more of the Word becomes. As I mentioned before, one of the things I’ve done these past few years is to continuously read the Psalms (because I want what David has!) I love how they’re full of emotion: joy, anger, anxiety, fear, love and passion.

May I encourage you this year to set the North Star of your heart to more of God, not more from God, but more of Him. Dive into the Word. Try different methods, mix up which books of the Bible you read, do it with friends, journal some notes each day on what you discovered, use a commentary, listen to it in your car, etc etc.

Share in the comments something about how you study the Word as it's likely to give all of us some different ideas.

Would you mind if I finished with this blessing from the book of Numbers: (pray it over yourself :))

“The Lord bless you and keep you;
The Lord make His face shine upon you,
And be gracious to you;

The Lord lift up His countenance upon you,
And give you peace.” ’ (Numbers 6:24-26 NKJV)


You Are Making New Wine

Hey there SUM family, Tiffany here!

We are on the verge of a major breakthrough. I believe that this is both  individual and corporate for our SUM community and our families. Already we have seen a few wondrous accounts of spouses getting baptized into the faith! Hallelujah! Strongholds are breaking in our lives as well as our spouses. We are seeing addictions begin to cease. Affections returning in marriages. What a great time to be alive!

I wanted to share something that God is stirring in my heart. During the fast and even recently, I am hearing the phrase "new wine." I am barely scratching the surface of where Holy Spirit is trying to take me but I wanted to share my heart because I feel it is important. When breakthrough is upon us, there is always a push back from the forces of darkness. Freedom, identity, purpose, birthright. These are all things that scare the enemy. Satan and his minions know that when we step into the calling and purpose that God has ordained for us and we walk in our authority they are in big trouble! Is it any wonder that there are flair ups and illness, death and financial strain?

Back to new wine. Let's take a look at what Jesus had to say:

14 Then John’s disciples came and asked him, “How is it that we and the Pharisees fast often, but your disciples do not fast?” 15 Jesus answered, “How can the guests of
the bridegroom mourn while he is with them? The time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them; then they will fast.
16 “No one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment, for the patch will pull away from the garment, making the tear worse. 17 Neither do people pour new wine into old wineskins. If they do, the skins will burst; the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. No, they pour new wine into new wineskins, and both are preserved.” (Matthew 9:14-17)

Side note: it is interesting that Holy Spirit brought me to this scripture during the community fast. John's disciples originally asked Jesus a question about fasting.

When thinking about the process of making wine in ancient Israel it always begins with a pressing and crushing of the grapes. Grapes did not last very long when harvested in the heat New wine flagand climate of the season. The farmers would instantly turn the grapes into wine and store them in the wineskins to preserve them for longer periods of time. It was actually the process of crushing the grapes that started the fermentation process. During fermentation, carbon dioxide is released so new wineskins were needed for their elasticity to allow for expansion as the gas was released.

In Acts 2 the Holy Spirit came and filled the apostles in the Upper Room during Pentacost. A crowd gathered as they heard a noise and realized that they could understand men speaking in their own native tongues. The people in the crowd were amazed and perplexed. There were also some who accused the apostles of being drunk on "new wine (NKJV)." Paul urges in Ephesians 5:18 to not be drunk on wine but be filled with the Holy Spirit.

What does this have to do with what Jesus said in Matthew 9? For us as believers today, being filled with the Holy Spirit we need to realize that He is the one who leads us into all truth - He speaks what He hears from the Father through Jesus (John 16:13). He is the new wine inside of us. We are the wineskin (vessel). Just like the fermentation process as carbon dioxide is released in the wine making process, Holy Spirit releases things in us. He is always releasing, always leading. His job is to stir in us a call to become more like Jesus. He gives us guidance and direction. As the expansion happens to a wineskin, so does the pressure in our lives.

Being the wineskin, we are the ones who decide whether or not we will allow for this movement of Holy Spirit. Will we choose to listen? Will we be flexible as He calls us into the uncomfortable? We will refuse to allow the fermentation (preservation) process?

I am being drawn into a new level of worship. One that is completely uncomfortable and will really challenge me to worship the Lord with my WHOLE body. Take a look at the video below. I would love to explain my hearts desire further, maybe for another time. This is my inspiration into the new and exciting journey of flagging.

Let's talk in the comments. I would love to hear: What are some things that Holy Spirit is challenging you to do? What areas are you being drawn into the uncomfortable - for your preservation and God's glory? 


A Table Set For Victory

Hey SUM family, Tiffany Here.

I pray that you had a wonderful Thanksgiving! This is absolutely my favorite time of year. I love gathering with family, eating fantastic food and reflecting  on all of the favor, mercy, and goodness of Daddy that has happened for the year.

As I was thinking last week about what Holy Spirit wanted me to share, I fingerprinted a man with a business logo on his sweatshirt that said "Stillwater." This prompted me to look up "still water" in the Bible. The main passage that came to mind was in Psalm 23:

 The Lord is my shepherd;
I shall not want.
He makes me to lie down in green pastures;
He leads me beside the still waters.
He restores my soul;
He leads me in the paths of righteousness
For His name’s sake.

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil;
For You are with me;
Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;
You anoint my head with oil;
My cup runs over.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
All the days of my life;
And I will dwell in the house of the Lord
Forever.

TABLE BEFORE ENEMIES*Photo credit: Loving Grace Ministries

Reading this familiar passage again I was shocked to see verse 5, "You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies..." I had completely forgotten that this verse was in this Psalm.

That is when Holy Spirit brought to my mind the song Surrounded (Fight My Battles) by Elyssa Smith from UPPERROOM. Forgive me if I've shared this song before. I love it so much. My favorite verses in this song say, "my weapons are praise and thanksgiving, this is how I fight my battles"

I have been seeing Psalm 23 all over the place since I first saw this man's sweatshirt. I know that of the Psalms, this one is so common and well known even in the secular world; however, this particular passage has not been on my radar for quite some time. Each and every time I am seeing a reference to Psalm 23 there is a different verse that is being highlighted. I think I need to dwell here for a while! I was inspired so much so that I committed this passage to memory. This is a first for me to memorize an entire passage. Woot!

I think with all of the apparent darkness and chaos going on in our community (illness, death, financial struggle, marriage breakdown, depression, chronic pain, etc) and in the world today I want us to meditate on this phrase, "I am beginning to see the darkness around me is just the shadow of Your wings." *Note: this is not my phrase, this gets me every time I listen to this song...SO SO GOOD.*

God has gone up with a shout,
The Lord with the sound of a trumpet.
Sing praises to God, sing praises!
Sing praises to our King, sing praises!
For God is the King of all the earth;
Sing praises with understanding. (Psalm 47)

Please know that our Daddy is surrounding you with His love, presence, favor, mercy, and grace. I know we all know this but may we truly rejoice and sing praises with understanding! Understand your are highly favored. Understand you are loved. Understand you are cherished. Understand in your weakness He is strong. Understand that even in the toughest time of your life He is in control. Understand you are seated with Christ Jesus. Understand you have authority. Understand you are the victor. Understand it. Is. Finished!

Let us lift our voices in one accord today:

I don't know about you the Lord uses songs to get me through the darkest days. Share in the comments some songs that see you through tough times. Your suggestions could be healing salve and oil of joy to another. I love you SUM family.


Deliverance After YEARS Of Torment! Hallelujah!

Hello SUM Family, Tiffany Here!

The last couple of months I have been sharing a bit about what I have learned from reading a book called From Dream to Destiny by Robert Morris. I was assigned to read this book in class and I am so glad that I read it! This book has been truly amazing. To read the previous two posts I've written in this "mini-series" click on the links below.

This Is Just The Pits!

Do You Want Evidence Or The Truth?

In September I began to take steps to transition into a new church. As you read this, I have now been at this new church for 3 weeks. Each and every week has been so powerful and effective. Today I want to share with you a recent experience unlike anything I've ever had. It happened a little over a week ago on October 14, 2018. The following is what I posted the next day on Facebook (sharing here as well since a lot of you may not have Facebook or seen it because we aren't "friends"):

 Worship at Hub is amazing. God is there. Holy Spirit presence is thick and tangible. We were singing a song I had never heard before. The lyrics were powerful and the words that floored me at the time were talking about laying my whole life down before Jesus our Savior. I was already worshipping on my knees but I couldn't help but crouch face down before God. I felt so heavy and overloaded. I was just crying and crying before God. My words spoken in tears and sobs. All of a sudden it was like God said, "get up." Not in an angry way but an empowering way...if that makes sense. I sat up and it was like I saw myself in the place of the woman caught in adultry that was brought before Jesus. The crowd, stones in hand set to stone her. Jesus calmly and matter of factly said, "He who is without sin, let him cast the first stone." Slowly, one by one the people left. Once everyone was gone, I pictured Jesus Freedom foreverlift up my chin so I would look him in the eyes. Crouched on the ground seeing His eyes intent on mine. Looking into my soul. Just like He did with the woman that day, He said, "who condemns you?" Looking around I reply, "No one Sir." In that instant...I felt all the weight of condemnation lifted. It was like I had an hour long deep tissue massage. Every fiber of my  being, relaxed and stress free. I realized later after worship and after the service...reflecting on what happened in that moment. Those people standing and surrounding me so quick to condemn and judge...were different versions of ME. How often I have shot myself down, I have stoned myself for a mis-spoken word, a harsh tone, a forgotten task, a wrong thought...I have been stoning myself for years and as God clearly told me to get up - it was giving me my life back. It was His GRACE UPON GRACE. His mercy. His true love. He doesn't keep record of wrongs...and neither should I. NO LONGER DO I. This morning, as life went on as usual...I reacted in ways I am tyring to change (short with my daughter when she cries about everything she wears - meltown after meltdown this morning and my shortness with her, attitude from tired children, etc) but the major difference was this. No one condemns me...not even myself. I made a mistake, asked for forgivenenss and moved on. The first instance my flesh tried to condemn me I heard the words "no one Sir." Loud and clear and it reminded me of the freedom that I was given. Once and for all. I will never go back. Once that transaction was finished Jesus said, "Go and sin no more." Can you image the freedom, the joy, the apreciation she felt with that moment? I can...because I do.

 You may have to click on the picture to better see but I found the moment in worship where this exchange happened. Today I stand free from years of mental torment. As I think about this moment it still brings tears to my eyes because every moment since then has been a blessing. Please know that it doesn't mean that I am perfect or care free. I still have some struggles that God is working on in me. Holy Spirit is still pruning and I've got a lot of work to do. However, I am no longer hopeless.

I've gone a little long this time so let me wrap up with this:

I have been blessed to be a blessing. So today, I bless you with joy unspeakable; freedom from weight (even YEARS worth) of torment - mental, emotional, spiritual, physical; victory beyond belief; confidence in your Daddy; hope to weather the storm; faith, life, salvation for your spouse and loved ones; light in the darkness; advancement in the Kingdom where you feel backslidden; fire shut up in your bones; fight and fierceness; and love beyond compare.

Below is the song that brought me to the feet of Jesus and ushered me into freedom.

See you in the comments. I would love to pray over you for your own deliverance.


Do You Want The Evidence Or The Truth?

Hey SUM Family,

Tiffany here:

ev·i·dence -  

a : an outward sign : indication

b : something that furnishes proof : testimony; specifically : something legally submitted to a tribunal to ascertain the truth of a matter
(Merriam-Webster online dictionary)

Last post (This Is Just The Pits!) we began to take a look at the life of Joseph. We discovered that there are ten tests we must face in order to fulfill our God-given purpose (I highly suggest you read From Dream to Destiny by Robert Morris for more on this topic). I want us to really dive into the deep end of the pool as we learn more about the pit test.

First, let's continue on in the story of Joseph. At this point he was ambushed by his brothers and thrown into the pit. Changing scenes, we see what happens with his family next:

So [Joseph's brothers] took Joseph's tunic, killed a kid of the goats, and dipped the tunic in blood. Then they sent the tunic of many colors, and they brought it to their father and said, "We  have found this. Do you know whether it is your son's tunic or not?" And he recognized it and said, "It is my son's tunic. A wild beast has devoured him. Without doubt Joseph is torn to pieces" (Genesis 37:31-33).

F.E.A.RJoseph's brothers did not flat out lie and say that Joseph was killed. Jacob came to that conclusion because of their leading question, "Do you know whether it is your son's tunic or not?" This is what we would call fabricated (false) evidence.   Remember evidence is an indication or something that furnishes proof. This evidence in Jacob's mind was proof that his favorite son was dead - to him it was the truth.

For over 20 years, imagine Jacob as he says in v. 35, "For I shall go down into the grave to my son in mourning." Imagine a father so heartbroken that he was not able to be consoled. I don't know for certain but I can imagine countless nights of crying himself to sleep, restlessness, no appetite, deep depression...unable to move on. Not only that but his other sons could have easily freed him from all of it...over 20 years of seeing and living with their father. What callous and prideful hearts!

What about you? What fabricated evidence has been stacked up against you? Your marriage? Your parenting? Your identity in Christ? What lies of the pit have kept you trapped for far too long? 

We live in a sin-hardened world, and we will be tempted by fabricated evidence just as Jacob was. And like Jacob, we will suffer unnecessary grief if we allow the lies of the pit to determine what we believe.

This is very important. If you want to get out of the pit, you must learn to discern the lies of the enemy. Because when you are in the pit, you are especially vulnerable. When you are in the pit, circumstances usually don't look very favorable - and that is exactly when Satan will manipulate those circumstances in order  to deceive you. He will hold up those circumstances before you as evidence that you should believe him rather than have faith in God. But fabricated evidence is not the truth. Joseph's brothers held up a bloody coat as evidence, and that evidence looked pretty convincing. But it was fabricated evidence. It was not the truth. If you want to overcome the lies of the pit, you must learn to focus on what God has said. When you are in the pit, you must remember that nothing is too hard for God, no matter what evidence the enemy might produce...

Yet even worse than his fabricated evidence is Satan's biggest lie: "You've messed up too badly. It's too late for you. You've messed up too badly to ever fulfill God's destiny for your life." Do you realize that the Bible is a book entirely about restoration? The Bible is filled with stories of people who messed up so badly that it seemed even God couldn't do anything about it - and yet He restored every one of them. He wants you to know that nothing is impossible for Him. As long as you have breath, it is never too late to call out to God. It doesn't matter what pit you are in. If you call out to God, He can fix it. And that is the real purpose of the pit. (pp. 38-39, From Dream to Destiny, Robert Morris)

Next time I want to finish up with the hope we have - the light at the end of the tunnel - in times of experiencing the pit test. But for now, let's meet in the comments. Let me speak truth into you and pray with you as we debunk the lies of the pit. Lean into this reality that fabricated evidence, no matter how convincing or real it appears, is NOT the truth. I promise you that this assurance will transform your life and catapult you out of the pit.

You were dead because of your sins and because your sinful nature was not yet cut away. Then God made you alive with Christ, for he forgave all our sins. He canceled the record of charges against us and took it away by nailing it to the cross. In this way, he disarmed the spiritual rulers and authorities. He shamed them publicly by his victory over them on the cross.

-- Colossians 2:13-15 (NLT)


Five Smooth Stones

Hi everyone  Somewhere over the rainbow  SUM

As I write, it’s Thursday morning here in New Zealand, and I'm a hungry girl. Each fast I do more than I did before; and yet, this fast, like my others before, has been an imperfect one.

Yesterday, for example, I went to work hungry. By 1pm it was awful. I left my office where I was putting on a cheerful front, shut myself in the toilet cubicle and said to Jesus, “HOW did you do this for 40 days?” It made me realize I hadn’t ever considered Jesus’s 40 days of no food or water.

At 2pm, I freaked, I had a class to teach: “What if I faint in front of the class?” That was it. Seizing control of my situation, I reached for my bag, pulled out a small wrapped bar called ‘one square meal’, and gobbled it up. My hunger disappeared and I missed it instantly – “Oh no, come back!!”

Fasting. What does it do?  I still don’t understand it, but this time round I’m feeling it crash me to my knees – if not physically, in my heart. In my fasting state, there are no first-world problems. I’m hungry, that’s it. I bow my knee to the Father.

“For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named.” Ephesians 3:14, NKJV.

Fasting has got me thinking about the five smooth stones that God gave David to fight with. David knelt in obedience, gathered the stones, and stood up. Then he simply popped a stone into his sling, and - plop! - down went Goliath. Obviously, there were emotions around it, but the fact was he held these precious little stones in his hot hand. They were like secret treasure.  Five smooth stones

These five smooth stones were gentle weapons: small, rounded, easy to pick up, simple to hold. They make me think of fasting, rest, delight, dancing, and worshipping; things that represent a lifestyle of intimacy. Little lightweight stones.

"Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light." Matthew 11:28-30, NKJV.

On Tuesday I woke with a picture of myself and my kids sinking colored pool balls by connecting with the white ball. Plop, plop, plop, went the balls. It made me think, “For victory, you have to get your connection with the white right.”  Similarly, to sink the giants, we seek first – above all else -- our connection with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. That's what I'll teach my kids.

This SUM community is a place I have been learning how to do that. The example of all of you has made me grow. For that I’m enormously grateful.

“My response is to get down on my knees before the Father, this magnificent Father who parcels out all heaven and earth. I ask him to strengthen you by his Spirit—not a brute strength but a glorious inner strength—that Christ will live in you as you open the door and invite him in. And I ask him that with both feet planted firmly on love, you’ll be able to take in with all followers of Jesus the extravagant dimensions of Christ’s love. Reach out and experience the breadth! Test its length! Plumb the depths! Rise to the heights! Live full lives, full in the fullness of God.

God can do anything, you know—far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams! He does it not by pushing us around but by working within us, his Spirit deeply and gently within us.

Glory to God in the church!
Glory to God in the Messiah, in Jesus!
Glory down all the generations!
Glory through all millennia! Oh, yes!”

Ephesians 3:14-21, The Message

Tomorrow I’d love to take communion with you, the SUMites, who I find to be my happy place. So, if you would, come to the blog with bread and wine and we'll eat the best possible meal together.

Love to you all.

Ann


His Light Shines on a Fasting Heart

Hi SUM family  Somewhere over the rainbow  SUM

Welcome to day one of our fast, and happy new year! From what I’m hearing, we’re not the only ones who are being led to fast right now. Quite separately, even my home church is fasting and I know other Christians are too. We’re led by the same Spirit. 

This is my eighth fast with the SUM community, and every time it has been extraordinary. From these shared adventures, I now know that fasting does something very special. With that in mind, I thought I’d share my first ever fasting story. It’s a fun story, but it illustrates the fact that fasting shifts things.

It was just before I found the SUM community. I’d noticed in scripture that fasting makes the impossible possible, and so I quietly planned to try it. The opportunity finally came when my husband and boys planned a trip away, leaving me home alone. I marked it, like D-Day, on my calendar.

D-day came. I began with a coffee and my journal, and wrote down some things to talk to God about. For the rest of the day I sat on my couch and chatted to God. So far, so good.

But then -- oh the drama – things took a turn for the worse: Suddenly, my stomach twisted and lurched and I began to feel like I was going to be sick. Now this, to me, was absolute horror (I have not vomited for 19 years and don't plan to again!) I staggered to the kitchen with no small amount of distress, desperately shoved crackers down my throat, scraped myself to bed and spent the rest of the day in the fetal position, recovering. The fast, it seemed, had been an epic fail. Or had it?

Thankfully, it has never been anywhere like this bad again; it seems to get easier each time. But anyway, on with the story.

My evening in the fetal position subsided into sleep, and soon I was much better and sleeping like a baby. It was then – there in the dark – that something unusual happened: Tumbling words (in English) began pouring out of my mouth like a bubbling fountain, waking me up! I was praying, but it was certainly not my own doing. One thing that struck me was how articulate and well put together these words were.

I was left stunned.

It’s interesting how God knows just how to speak to our souls at a particular point in our lives. For me, this experience was strange, beautiful, and vividly showed me the Spirit interceding on my behalf (Romans 8:26-27). I’d been struggling to believe in God till then, but after that event I struggled much less. I kept thinking, “I cannot be atheist after what I experienced that night.”

It was the breakthrough I needed. It made me go “God is real. God really is real. Yikes, God is really, really real!!!!” In this way, my foot was lifted onto the next rung of the faith ladder, and I was able to keep on climbing.

Today, as I think about the power of fasting, I have one more lovely thing to share: This morning, as I woke, I had a little picture in my head. It was of a sharp, focused beam of light shining carefully onto a target. It made me wonder whether God is saying that when we fast, we open our heart to the light that He wants to direct onto a specific area -- and that light will surely come. In the case of my fun fasting story, that light was a healing experience that helped me overcome atheism. This time round, it’ll be something different. In any case, I will ask Him to bring His light, as He sees fit, to whatever places of my heart need it right now.

SUMites, lovely chatting today, and I’ll see you again tomorrow. In the meantime, what is your favorite fasting story?  And how has your first day gone? I look forward to hearing in the comments. 

“.. For assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith as a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you. However, this kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting.” Matthew 17:20-21, NKJV