36 posts categorized "Gospel of Love"

Let's Talk about Love

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Image courtesy of Dan at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Hiya! Ian from Springtime Sydney. Yes, we in the Southern Hemisphere are beginning to experience the blooming of flowers, the tweeting of baby birds (and unwanted attacks while walking by overzealous magpies) and longer days.

I was excited to know that Ann is to be leading us over the next month on a series on the great love chapter of 1 Corinthians 13. Hands up, how many of us had this read at our weddings? Mine is up. Interestingly, my wife, though not a believer and hence not a reader of the Bible, thought this chapter to be such a wonderful explanation of ultimate love and therefore, was very happy to have it read at our nuptials. To be honest, by that time I was a little over 1 Corinthians 13 having read it and heard it so many times over the years. My heart had become a little cynical towards it.

But no longer. I think it’s an extraordinary passage on both how we are loved by God but also how we can love our spouses and others. Being one for practical demonstrations of love (rather than just words) it’s significant in those 5 verses, four through eight, there are 16 verbs. Love is an action. Yes, words are important but the agape love as demonstrated by Jesus is one of unconditional love or sacrifice. Sacrifice typically requires an act, whether it’s simply choosing to text a friend asking them how they are or the ultimate of laying one’s life down as Jesus did.

Knowledge and Action

I’m a Learner. I’m always looking to learn. I’m curious about many things. Having grown up with a Dad as a Doctor surrounded by medical journals and body part molds, I’m forever enquiring about loved one’s symptoms, side effects, and so. Mum was just in the hospital last week having experienced fluid on the lungs which impacted her breathing. When the cardiologist visited, I asked him all sorts of questions of why this occurred, why does that happen, how does this restore her heart to normal rhythm and so on.

Being a learner can be addictive. So much so that we gain all this knowledge but don’t do anything with it. But very early on in 1 Corinthians 13 we’re warned of the danger of just acquiring knowledge. Look at verse 2:

“If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing” (NIV)

So I have to take deliberate and intentional steps, some of which I mentioned in my previous post to ensure I am acting in love each and every day.

We all share the same purpose

For years I struggled to understand my purpose. Why was I here? What did God have me to do? Particularly, after leaving the Corporate world a decade ago I grappled with the ‘well what now’ question. It was only after saturating myself in the Word of God and developing a closer relationship with Him that it all of a sudden became very clear.

And it’s summed up in one simple four letter word: L.O.V.E.

That’s it. For all of us.

The two great commands: Love the Lord our God with all of our heart, soul and mind and love others as we do ourselves.

That’s what should get us out of bed each day. Simply to love. And it’s in loving we discover the things God would have us do. Maybe it’s to start a new ministry, like our dear friend Dineen did a few years ago. It might be to start a new church. Or it might be to care for our aging parents as I’m increasingly being called to do.

Everything we do is significant when it’s done in love. Whether it’s moving mountains or moving an aging mom from hospital to home. When it’s done in love.

I’m going to stop there. I have more to write but I might leave that for another time.

To finish I thought I’d share something I just read today about something Billy Graham’s Pastor (yes, he had a Pastor who met with him every week for more than 15 years) said when questioned about his prayer requests: “He would ask me to pray that God the Spirit would fill him to the extent that he would be totally hidden behind the cross and people would only see Jesus,” and “His entire life was in pursuit that he would decrease so that Christ would increase.”[1] That’s agape love there and what did the world see: a man possessed by the love of God and loving others so they would also come to know God.

On reading this I too prayed the same prayer and hope it becomes a standard part of my prayer life. It’s in the secret place with God where we discover His love and our prayers should build our faith so we can step out into the day seeking to love those people we encounter.

Grace and peace

 

[1] Nancy Kane, Stages of the Soul: God’s Invitation to Greater Love (Chicago, Moody Publishers, 2019), 107


What Happens While We're Locked In?

Hi friends, Ann here! Door SUM logo

How are you all doing, I wonder?

Well, here we are with a new normal that has been thrust upon us: That of being house-bound with all regular routines interrupted.

As far as I’m concerned everything has been interrupted, including my routine with God. And that last part is the hardest. Because right now I need my time with God.

Here’s the thing: Lately I'd developed a lovely routine of waving my family off to work and school, making myself an enormous pot of coffee and settling in for a couple of hours with God. I had time for prayer, reading scripture, and recording any things I seemed to hear from Him. It felt oh so healthy. I relished those times of stillness, it can get addictive being with God. In fact, I wanted more. What would happen, I thought, if I gave God my entire morning every day?

Well, some can now do that more than they could before, which is a beautiful treasure. But here in my home it's not quite so. The pandemic struck, and suddenly my family and I found ourselves together in our tiny little house, 24-7. When I say tiny house, we really do have a tiny little house. We’re talking one living area, and a small TV room off the living room.

For me, at points in this pandemic story the world's situation has felt intense. At times I've needed to do battle with fear and, to do that, I've been retreating into my precious prayer room (TV room). However, it quickly became clear this was not going to work. My family wants me around. And my husband wants me. He doesn’t want me sitting in that room being a hermit. He doesn't even want me 'mentally checking out' by spending too much headspace on spiritual matters. He's noticing my mind is elsewhere and he wants me to be present. This is a new challenge.

This is just one way that our faith difference is bubbling to the surface within this situation. We have different ideas about how useful my ‘quiet time with God’ is.  And hey, we have completely different responses to the whole situation. This could lead to frustration, and I’m battling that too.

What's the solution? Stay … Happily married. Be kind. Work hard on my family life. But also somehow carve out some time for stillness. Through it all, be kind, be kind. 

Love is patient; love is kind … (1 Corinthians 13:4)

Meanwhile, what is God saying to me during this time? He has been gently present, showing me that it’s all ok, it's all part of some grand renovation. This is a potentially strenuous time, but He knows it. If I can paraphrase what I’ve heard over the last few days, it’s something like this:

Ann, focus your eyes entirely on Me now, make that your strategy. It's ok to keep it simple.

Ann, yes it’s a dark period but My kindness is coming.

Why don’t you pause your usual scripture reading? How about instead you feed on parts I give you from the Gospels?

On that last point, over the last few days He has pointed me to little gems in the gospels here and there. He is speaking to me about the word ‘Abide’, calling me to consider what it means to 'Abide in Him' now. Perhaps in this current lockdown situation, where I am a busy Mum, 'abiding' doesn’t require me to fight my husband for quiet time but instead it means walking in a posture of trust, awareness, and waiting, through every hour of every day. While closed in my home, I can be closed in with Jesus.

This means I invite Him in while I’m washing up, I chat to Him under my breath while tucking my kids into bed; I acknowledge Him while I play with my kids, I wait on Him and stand still whenever I see a faith difference emerge, I acknowledge His presence while I’m watching the news, I stay believing, I remain hopeful and fearless, I last this thing out, and I dip into Gospel material – Because, after all, that is the good news. Who wants to watch the bad news when I’ve got the Good News -- Jesus -- in front of me?

So, friends, that’s me. How are you doing, and how is your faith routine changing during this period of staying at home?


Could This Be The Answer You've Been Waiting For?

Hey SUM family, Tiffany here!

I have worked for my employer for a little over three years now. I do the same thing all day everyday. Monday through Friday, eight hours a day. I see the same computer screen as I fingerprint the numerous people who come into my office. The other day Holy Spirit alerted me to listen and pay attention to people's reactions to seeing their fingerprints on the computer screen, many of them for the first time:

Wow, that is so cool!

I have never seen this before!

Sorry, I am just amazed by this!

Look at that!

Can you believe that we all have different finger prints? No two prints are the same!?

Was I looking at the same machine? It is cool to see the detail, I guess.....

There are some of us who have forgotten how to be in love with and romanced by our King. Groom help bride up sillouetteWe have been on this journey for a long time.  Our eyes have adjusted to the normalcy of life. We've braced for life's storms for too long that we've gone into self-preservation mode. We have forgotten what is like to have childlike faith. This isn't a rebuke but a call to see things from God's perspective. Be refreshed! Be renewed! Be invigorated again!

I felt a strong impression from our Daddy God to lavish you with love today. If anything today resonates with you, my challenge is for you to take it and meditate on it. Don't allow the familiar to blur your vision of God's great love relationship with you. Don't doubt that you aren't good enough to receive it. Don't think, "He must be talking to someone else..."  This word is for you...yes YOU!

I have loved you, [insert your name here], with an everlasting love.
With unfailing love I have drawn you to myself. (Jeremiah 31:3)

I will make you, [insert your name here], my wife forever,
showing you righteousness and justice,
unfailing love and compassion.
I will be faithful to you and make you mine,
and you will finally know me as the Lord. (Hosea 2:19-20)

My thoughts of you are countless for you are very precious to Me. (Psalm 139:17)

You can give me all of your worries and cares. They are not meant to be carried by you. I love you so much! (1 Peter 5:7, Psalm 55:22)

I am for you. You are my beloved and I am yours. (Song of Solomon 6:3)

I will give you everything that you need. You mean that much to me. (Romans 8:31)

There is nothing that can separate you from My love. (Romans 8:38-39)

I will rescue you. I will protect you. You can trust me. When you call on Me I am there. (Psalm 91)

One of my favorite things to do is watch over you as you sleep. (Psalm 3:5)

I will show you my goodness in the land of the living. (Psalm 27:13)

I will never forsake you. I will never cast you off. (Psalm 94:14)

You are my masterpiece. My workmanship. I am so proud of you! (Ephesians 2:10)

You are my special treasure. You are so valuable to me! (Exodus 19:5, 1 Peter 2:9)

There is so much more that I could share. Every word in the Bible is dripping with His sweet love for you.

Beloved, stop striving. Stop trying to meet unattainable expectations of yourself...they're not from Him. Daddy God is so pleased with you. He delights in you so much that He breaks out in song over you. (Zephaniah 3:17)

I want to wrap up with this song. This is one to sit and soak in the love of your Daddy.

Let's share in the comments - sometimes life gives us a hard beating! What are some things that you do in order to remember the love God has for you? What are some things we can share with one another to fan the flames of our heart and fill us with hope? What keeps you standing firm and grounded in your relationship with Daddy God, Jesus and Holy Spirit?


MORE From The Summit...

Hey SUM family, Tiffany Here! 

During the leader's meeting on the Friday morning before the conference I said I would share a spoken word piece during the offering time. I didn't have anything prepared at the time of volunteering. In fact I just heard the words come out of my mouth. You know those moments when you realize after the fact that you were pushed into things by the Holy Spirit? Maybe it's just me. It happens quite often. *grin*

The rest of the day seemed to fast forward pretty quickly. Filled with fellowship, food and fun. I was exhausted after the meet and greet at Lynn's house - in a good way - and went to bed shortly after everyone left. Saturday morning I wake up and realize that I didn't take time to prepare a spoken word! Out of desperation I laid flat on my back with my arms outstretched (my body in the shape of a cross) and said, "Holy Spirit, I need You to give me a spoken word for today. I want those who hear it to feel your deep love. I want them to know that they can have a close relationship with You. Give me something."

In that moment of asking Him, I could feel the atmosphere change in the room. It was like He was waiting for the invitation to share what was in the deep recesses of His heart. The following is the spoken word. I have posted it on Facebook so it may be a repeat for some. In my humble opinion, Holy Spirit really delivered!

More, Tiffany Carter, 4/6/19

 

Remember when I first revealed myself to you?

The relief you felt?

Just wait there’s more.

 

Remember when you heard me speak life into your bones?

The comfort you felt?

Just wait there’s more.

 

Remember when you received my loving embrace?

The warmth you felt?

Just wait there’s more.

 

Remember when you needed Me and cried out for help?

The deliverance you felt?

Just wait there’s more.

 

Remember when you sought me for clarity?

The answers you felt?

Just wait there’s more.

 

More. Love that is unendable. River w SUM logo

More. Passion that is unshakable.

More. Desire that is unquenchable.

More. Joy that is uncontainable.

More. Intimacy that is unthinkable.

More. Wisdom that is unmatchable.

More. Peace that is uncontrollable.

More. Power that is undeniable.

More. Faith that is unbeatable.

MORE.

 

Remember when you stepped into your destiny and calling?

The freedom you felt?

My beloved child…

Just wait.

There’s MORE.

Ephesians 3:20-21 (TPT) - Never doubt God’s mighty power to work in you and accomplish all this. He will achieve infinitely more than your greatest request, your most unbelievable dream, and exceed your wildest imagination! He will outdo them all, for his miraculous power constantly energizes you.  Now we offer up to God all the glorious praise that rises from every church in every generation through Jesus Christ—and all that will yet be manifest through time and eternity. Amen!

Do you want more? I know that I sure do!

Let's talk in the comments. In these weeks since the conference, what are some things that God has been showing you? How has He shown up in your life personally? In reference to Libby's visions, how have you been feeling the residual affects of the river flowing from the conference? I love you all.


God takes our little to produce an abundance

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Image courtesy of Sura Nualpradid at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I was reading the story of Jesus feeding the 5,000 the other day and was challenged to reflect on it from the eyes of the boy who had the five loaves and two fish. If you wish to read along I used the version in John 6.

I don’t think I’ve really even considered it from his perspective and with the SUMite Gathering this weekend I thought there were some wonderful insights to encourage all of you who will be attending. And especially for those of you who might be nervous or a little apprehensive as is very normal before such an event.

Jesus asked the boy for his loaves and fish. Conceivably the boy could have refused the request. But he didn’t as I suspect Jesus, like he was with every child he met, was kind and considerate in making his request.

The boy as an act of love for both Jesus and all the other people hands over his goodies. He shares what is his to participate in Jesus’ mission: to feed the masses of people.

This boy’s ‘little’ gift produced over-abundance as Jesus got a hold of it and we all know what happens – twelve baskets of leftovers. Amazing.

Parable for our Lives

I was struck by how the boy’s action is a practical demonstration of what Jesus calls us to do. The strongest command in all of the gospels is simply to love.

Let’s go now to the night of the Last Supper in John 13. Jesus is sharing his last meal with the disciples in the Upper Room on the night of Maundy Thursday. A few hours later he would be arrested. Jesus starts the night by washing his friends’ feet and encourages them to do likewise in demonstrating one’s love for others by performing such menial tasks. Soon after, Judas leaves having been ‘found out’ by Jesus as to what he was about to do. Immediately thereafter Jesus states once again that he is leaving and shares with his much loved and very confused friends these words:

“I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13: 34-35 NRSV)

Now back to our boy. Like Jesus, his act of handing over the loaves and fish was an act of love. For Jesus and the community. And Jesus used them to fulfil his mission to feed the community.

God’s in the Multiplication Business

Love is an action. Jesus commands us to love. Very little else, in fact. To love Him and others. If we continue to abide with Him we will come to understand His mission. I suspect the boy knew what Jesus wanted to do with the loaves and fish. It would have been very normal for Jesus to tell the boy when he asked for them: “Would you help me feed all these people by giving me your loaves and fish?”

This weekend some of the SUMite community will come together in one place. Yayyy! What a blessing and an answer to so many of us who’ve prayed about it for a long time. There won’t be 5,000 but a group of people where Jesus will be amongst you fulfilling his mission. Be like the boy and simply respond to Jesus with love for Him, the Sumites who are present, those of us who can’t be there (I’m one of them) and our spouses. 

And believe that your gift (you!) will reap an abundance that will be felt around the globe in all of our homes. Expect the unexpected and step into 'our' community full of faith and boldness.

Blessings for a wonderful couple of days together, may the Lord’s presence be thick and may His Kingdom come over Southern Cali this weekend.

Grace and peace.


Who Wrote the Gospels?

Hi everyone, Ann here!

This morning, I want to share a special story that happened to me last Christmas. It was an event that wowed me and as we're deep in the gospels it seems timely to share. Joy to the world

The story began when I sat sipping coffee with a favorite colleague. He’s twenty years older than me, a lovely man with a sharp mind. He also happens to have different views to me about Jesus. We agree to disagree, and we stay polite. Yet, this particular morning he couldn’t resist throwing an argument my way:

“Ann, the gospels weren’t written by Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.”

I did not hold the same view, but to my surprise, out of my mouth came this: “I know.”

Why on earth did I say that? As I left him to go back to work, it bothered me. Grrr. I could have engaged in a debate, but I didn’t. Perhaps I was just too fatigued by the constant pressure to not believe, pressure that was coming from so many close to me.

I continued to be bothered by my response until Christmas, when God turned that moment on its head and reminded me how genius He is compared to men. Here’s what happened:

I was lying in bed, found myself thinking about the 'gospel comment' once again, and said to God: “What would You have said to him? Can you tell me?” Then I drifted off to sleep…

The next morning, as I woke to birds singing, an inaudible voice hit me, clear as day, with these words:

"Which author wrote the Augustus books?"

“Augustus?  Augustus?” I went, rubbing my sleepy eyes. “Who’s that?” I’m chuckling as I write this, I’m probably one of the few who didn’t know. As a teenager I messed around during history lessons, missed a lot, and Roman history was never my thing. This meant I had to look Augustus up. Here’s how my Wikipedia search went:

Who was Augustus?  Augustus was Emperor of the Roman Empire during the time of Christ.

Did Augustus write any books?  Yes. He wrote a series of books about himself, a multi-volume set of memoirs.

How can I get hold of these books? The books are lost (sorry, did Wikipedia say lost?? How on earth?!) Only fragments remain. According to one website, they might have been one of the most revealing texts of Roman history, had they survived. But they didn’t.

Ok, here I paused my search: The leader of the Roman Empire, Caesar Augustus, wrote a set of memoirs, which would have been historical gold, and yet they were lost. In contrast, four biographical accounts of a homeless carpenter survived intact from the same period with this much manuscript attestation?   

In conclusion:

Who wrote the books of Augustus?  Augustus did. And they got lost.

Who wrote the four gospels?  God did.  And for that reason: 

“Their sound has gone out to all the earth, and their words to the ends of the world.” (Romans 10:18, NKJV)

Indeed, the revelation of Jesus Christ, the Bible, is the world’s best-selling book, having spread just as Jesus prophesied when He said that the woman who broke her flask of oil over him would be celebrated throughout the world:

“Assuredly, I say to you, wherever this gospel is preached in the whole world, what this woman has done will also be told as a memorial to her.” (Mark 14:9, NKVJ)

The four gospels are a beautiful gift to us; they are like four puzzle pieces that, when put together, bring to life the most beautiful tidings of great joy which will be to all people (Luke 2:10). Their genius is only magnified by their differences that so cleverly fit together; and I can never get enough of them.

So like the woman with the alabastar jar, I hope I never stop wasting my life on Jesus and digesting the beauty of his birth, life, ministry, death, resurrection, and ascension.

No, Matthew, Mark Luke and John didn’t write the gospels. God did.  And that's why those words came out of my mouth so readily: "I know". 

"Marvellous are Your works, and that my soul knows very well." (Psalm 139:14 NKJV)

SUMites, do you have any further thoughts about these amazing gospels? Let's keep sharing our insights as we wander through the gospel together this Christmas season.

I wish you all a wonderful Christmas!

Ann


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.


Who IS Jesus?

Jesus SUM Series 2018Hello My SUMites Friends,

I’m so excited to chat about Jesus over the next several weeks. Sometimes I read the passages in the four gospels and marvel at what is truly offered to us in our human condition through the new covenant. The ideas Jesus taught, and his examples are truly brilliant and life-changing. He was radical and defiant with those of religion. He was kind to the poor and offered compassion and healing to the ailing, lost and broken.

I thought it would be awesome to start off the discussion with a question.

Who is Jesus to you?

What I mean is, how do you relate to Jesus? How do you interact with Jesus?

Sometimes sitting down and writing (in comments) our thoughts creates a beautiful awareness of the fullness Christ brings into our lives. Also, reading how others are interacting in their faith life with Christ is inspiring. Isn’t that why we listen to testimonies? They are accounts of the Lord interacting in the lives of people.

So I’ll start.

My entire faith life, even as a small girl, I somehow sensed that Jesus was always with me. Even in my years of doubt and fears, He was always there. Perhaps that is because I was raised in church. My mom made certain I attended Sunday school and VBS and the bits of teaching landed on my heart and have always been there. I was baptized at age nine. Grew up in church, learning about God and Jesus but honestly, I didn’t understand that I could “know” the Godhead personally.

I look back now all these year later, even upon my ugly prodigal years and Jesus never left me. In fact, I can think of two distinct times I should have died but was saved because of divine intervention. One day, remind me to tell you what happened in the public swimming pool. I was six. It still boggles my mind.

I became quite serious about my faith-life when in my third year of marriage, I was desperate. Ya, desperately unhappy, confused, scared and finally had no place to turn but to my faith from my childhood. I know most of you have heard this story a million times. But, it’s still so sweet to me. The prodigal gal ran home to the Father’s arms, held open wide, and I was home.

But, I was radically disobedient and in the need of heavenly wisdom. God received home a gal who needed A LOT of work.

Thus, the years of hard work, morning prayer and Bible reading, church attendance, Bible studies, and small groups. This faith life isn’t for those who have little motivation. It’s for those who are so desperate for change and hope, they will do whatever it takes to find and follow hard after Jesus.

I was that girl.

I am that girl.

The pursuit of Christ is mostly a cost-up-front proposal. You pay the cost first (time, obedience, prayer, learning the Word, practice), then the miracles, hope, healing and prosperity arrive. How do I know. I’ve lived it. But as a woman who is seeing the inheritance of all my years come into fullness now, I assure you, IT’S WORTH IT!

Jesus to me for my entire life has been the greatest teacher. He instructed me years ago where there were virtually only two resources to thrive in a mismatched marriage. Did you know Jesus taught me, Himself? And Jesus is the one who told me to share what I’ve learned back in 2006 and this blog was born. He continues to teach me and what I’m learning right now, if I told you, would blow your heads up. I’m hoping to be able to share more about this season with you in the near future.

Jesus, for me is my savior. He has saved me not once but a million times over and over. He saves me from poor choices, the pit of hell, saves me from my selfishness and so much more.

Jesus is the BEST listener, ever! So is our Father.

Jesus is the absolute power in the room when in a deliverance prayer. You should have seen Him at work this past week during a prayer session. He is all about setting the captives free. His blood alone is more powerful than most Christians understand. Jesus has taught me so much just about His blood and the power of His name. Hallelujah.

Jesus is my friend, confidant, advisor, provider, savior, teacher, Bridegroom Prince.

And Jesus isn’t kidding about our mandates and commands in the Word. He truly expects us to meet them, but He also empowers us to do so in every way. How cool is that?

I’m just scratching the surface. But today, more than anything, I want to know who Jesus is to you. I’ll see you in the comments. And take a minute to encourage another SUMite when they share in the comments who Jesus is to them in their current season.

I can’t wait.

In all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. —Romans 8:37-39 (KJV)


Life Is Too Short to Live Any Way but Happy! By Lori Lyn Skipper

Welcome back to the adventures of Lori Lyn Skipper. My son, Brad, and I made it just fine after his dad left us because we had God on our side. Yes, there were definite struggles, but I had such a peace about me, Philippians 4:7 NLT: Then you will experience God's peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.

The Lord called me to the ministry in 1998. I preached my first sermon in March 1999.  I eventually moved to Benton, IL by the leading of the Lord where I continued serving in the ministry. I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia, lupus, arthritis, and chronic degenerative disc disease.  In 2005, I almost died from these and other afflictions, such as Barrett’s esophagus and bleeding internally, but God! 

I know that by Jesus’ stripes I am healed because the Word of God tells me so in Isaiah 53:5. I have since been healed of many afflictions and diseases. There are some that I am still working on catching my healing, but it is well with my soul. I believe these are in direct relationship to the life I lived before Christ. Yes, I believe He will completely restore me, but I also believe I am suffering the consequences of my actions and need to walk some things out. I actually appreciate the miracles I’ve experienced more because of what I have to walk out.

 

Brian Lori Adult
Brian & Lori Reacquaint 2009

Not only did the Lord restore my soul but He restored my relationship with Brian in March 2009. I had sent letters numerous times to Brian via his grandmother’s address and never heard from him. In mid-2008, I located him via Myspace, prayed and sent him a message. About three weeks later, I received a response from him, he said he reread all of the letters I had sent him, but he was not ready for a relationship with me. 

Finally, in Feb of 2009 he said he was ready to meet for the first time since 1993. My family had a surprise birthday party for my mom on March 8, 2009. Brian came to become reacquainted with me and the rest of my family. Since that time, Brian and I have worked on developing a relationship. He now lives in Portland, OR but we stay in touch. The best part of all of this, he came to know Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior living in Missouri. He is currently not on fire for the Lord, but I believe he will be again one day, as well as my youngest son Brad will be also. In Jesus name!

                                  

image from https://s3.amazonaws.com/feather-client-files-aviary-prod-us-east-1/2018-06-17/c7a2b45b-2c1b-48b0-9f40-4a58cb1a6a5c.png
Brad & Lori - During Brad's service in the Marines

Fast forward to December 2015, I was not looking for a husband, but I met mine. John was not looking for a wife, but he found one. From the day we met, the Lord spoke to me that my husband was going to be an integral part in me fulfilling the dreams and calling the Lord has put on my life. My husband is a pre-believer, but I thank God every day for him. He is very supportive of me. He also encourages me in the new adventures I am on with the Lord. We have our struggles due to his life style, but I have learned when to speak up and when to let it go. I have learned to lay down boundaries and will not accept any disrespect towards me. When it has happened, I have been quick to nip it in the bud. I daily thank my husband for his support, encouragement, for his hard work to provide for our family, for his love for me and my sons, for doing dishes, taking out the garbage, whatever it may be. I thank him and let him know how much I appreciate him. It’s vital to our marriages to show love, honor, and respect.

Life is too short to live any way but happy. I have come to the place where I know who I am in Christ Jesus and I won’t accept anything less than His best for my life. I know in Whom I serve, and I don’t forget for one day Who He is or what He has done for me. 

I close with Lamentations 3:58 NKJV: “O Lord, You have pleaded the case for my soul; You have redeemed my life.” Amen!

 

Lynn Donovan: Thank you Lori for your heart of love for our community and for your courage to share your story. Your life brings great honor to our Father. Well done good and faithful servant.  SUMites, give a shout out to Lori in the comments for sharing her heart with us. Hugs. Lynn


You Are Loved: Why Do We Wait and Hope?

Remember to share what you're learning in the comments. What is your believing statement? Share your heart, your doodles and your coloring pages! Hugs! ~Dineen

TWEETABLE TRUTH: 

“God’s Word will transform you. Reed it, believe it, and trust Him to do it—because He watches over His Word to fulfill it (Jer. 1:12).” pg. 37 #youarelovedcoloringbiblestudy  goo.gl/qG9HBT

You Are Loved Coloring Book Study Schedule

Aug 23: Bonus Coloring Page Download

Aug 25: (Share pages!)
Video: Is God Good?
Decorate, Delight & Discover!: How Much Does God Love Us? (pages 49-53)

Aug 28: (Share pages!)
Video: How Much Does God Love Us?
Wrap up!

Romans8BookCover

Order from The SUM Shop or Amazon


Our Perception and God’s

17322952_sI’m fascinated by Jesus. I’m fascinated by how He interacts with people in the Bible and today. And I’m fascinated by the deeper meanings the Holy Spirit brings to us as we move closer to the truth of who we are and find healing in that process.

My friends, one such story is found in Luke 7, the story of Jesus being anointed by a sinful woman. If you have a moment, read this account in Luke 7:36-50.

As I read this story recently, the Holy Spirit answered a long-held question I had in a very unexpected way. This question came from Jesus’ statement, “But whoever has been forgiven little loves little.”

I asked the Lord once again, “Lord, do I have to be forgiven of a lot of things in order to love you better?”

The question sounded ridiculous to me as I wrote it in my journal, because I knew that sin is sin to Jesus and that He took care of it all on the cross. But I wanted to understand the heart of this story at a deeper level. And if the Holy Spirit was telling me to read this particular piece of Scripture, then I could be assured He had something to reveal to me that would move me closer to the truth.

He brought me back to the beginning of this story and said, “Read it again.”

I did. I read it again, repeatedly over several days. I read of the woman’s weeping and reverent treatment of Jesus. I read of Simon’s thoughts toward the woman. And I read what Jesus says of Simon and how he welcomed Jesus into his home.

Jesus saw Simon and the woman in the very same light. His love for each of them was equal and His gift of forgiveness the same. In fact, the story isn’t at all about how Jesus saw these two people at all.

It’s about how they saw themselves. The woman knew her need and saw Jesus as the answer. Though the perfume was costly, her tears and love were priceless to Jesus. Only He could receive her sacrifice with love and forgiveness.

And restore her…”Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”

Simon didn’t see his need. He didn’t see himself at all actually. He lived in the deception that he was good, because as a Pharisee, he’d followed all the rules, therefore keeping himself blind to his need. He saw the woman as the sinner, not himself. 

Simon saw the woman as who she used to be. 

Jesus saw the woman as who He always created her to be.

My friends, that is how Jesus sees us. He always sees us from the place of our complete identity and destiny. And everything He is doing in us right now is to reveal more and more of that, what He’s already declared us to be.

On Friday I plan to talk a little bit more about this subject and share more of what the Holy Spirit is teaching me right now about connecting our identity in Christ to our destiny and how to live it right now. It’s an adventure full of the mystery of God and abiding in Him with peace. I can’t wait to learn more!

I love you, SUMites. I see you through the eyes of God’s love and you are more amazing than you can ever imagine!
Dineen

Copyright: semisatch / 123RF Stock Photo


The Heart of God

GodsLove
Good morning, SUMites! I loved reading your prayers yesterday on Lynn’s post. I prayed in agreement with each one of you and prayed over our community for complete healing. Many of the things you prayed mirrored my own prayers too, my dear friends. I’m so glad we are taking this journey of healing together.

And that’s part of what I feel the Holy Spirit planted in my heart to share today, that some of you out there have been on a very lonely journey in your pain. You have felt alone, as if you’re the only one, in this struggle and even abandoned at times. 

Today the Lord wants you to know that is not true. You are not alone, you have never been alone. And as you walk this path of healing, you will see others walking along side you who have suffered in the same way, you will walk in a new hope and strength like never before, and you will finally reach your breakthrough.

My first breakthrough (yes, I am believing for many more!) happened last week with the help of dear friends who prayed with me, loved me and contended with me. And that is what I feel the Lord is doing in our SUM family as well—uniting us even in this time of healing to uphold one another and rejoice for each other as our breakthroughs come. This is not a journey we are intended to walk alone.

My friends, today I asked the Lord to reveal His heart for our SUM family. He showed me Jesus. He said Jesus is the full representation of His heart for us. Even unto death…

Wow, that just continues to blow my mind and bring home even more the magnitude of God’s love for us. Jesus is not only our Savior, He is our Healer. In the Bible, the Greek words for salvation (sōtēria) and saved (sozo) encompasses more than just our eternal residence but our health and wholeness as well. 

Here’s another nugget God showed me recently in Romans 8.

And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord. — Romans 8:38-39 (NLT)

Did you notice that Paul only says present and future? No mention of the past? That’s because Jesus dealt with the past on the cross. He even said, “It is done.”

And we know what happens with today? It becomes the past, so whatever heartache or challenge we face today, tomorrow it will be the past and Jesus declares it done! And as tomorrow becomes today, we can say the same about it as it passes into yesterday. It is done! 

Jesus is the heart of God. So whatever healing we are in need of, my friends, know that the Heart of God, Jesus, says it is done. He has already set our healing in place. It’s one of His promises to us. And He’s inviting us to walk in this truth.

I’m believing this is my year to be healed of emotional eating. Whatever is at the root of this issue will be revealed and healed. This is my need and the mountain I refuse to keep circling. I believe Jesus will move it and say, “It is done!” In the name of Jesus, amen!

Love you, my friends! Contending with you.
Dineen

 


Reaction Mode

Dear friends, the following is a post I did a few years back. The Holy Spirit has continually reminded me of this post the last week or so, but I wasn't sure if it was a needed subject at the moment. Then on Thursday as I was working on the registration details for the Hope Ignited conference our healing rooms and my church were hosting, I heard the Holy Spirit say over and over again throughout the day, "Don't take offense."

I assumed it was for me, specifically something the Holy Spirit knew I would encounter at some point over the weekend at the conference. Then our worship leader gave a word on this very subject Friday evening. I knew then it was a corporate word. And then Lynn's post yesterday confirmed that! Wow! Don't you just love how the Holy Spirit speaks to us?

God is on the move, my friends, to restore this nation to peace and righteousness. I truly believe we will be astonished in how He does this through His amazing love.

So, I present to you, "Reaction Mode," originally posted in September of 2011. I pray it speaks to your heart and encourages you. I've updated it just a bit for our community needs right now.

 

Reactions Mode

6a00d83451ee9f69e2014e8b804fe8970d-320wiAre you in reaction mode in your marriage?

I remember to this day when I made this revelation about my marriage. I stood in our home office, about to react to something my husband said. I believe at that moment the Holy Spirit stopped me and then gave me a complete picture of the situation. And it wasn’t pretty. If this pattern didn’t stop soon, my marriage would soon crash and burn.

And even more sobering (i.e. convicting)? I was the heart of the problem, because my heart was in a bad shape. Years of resentment toward my husband and unmet expectations had created a barrier between us.

What I call “reaction mode” is this highly destructive and very draining place where you and your spouse are walking in your marriage more like adversaries than partners. Every comment is scrutinized under suspicion and communication has completely broken down.

Though not always true, I find this often starts with women. We stop communicating out of unforgiveness and resentment. Or, like me, we never learned to communicate in a healthy manner.

The saddest part of reaction mode is that it leads to contempt toward one another. And where there is contempt, respect and love no longer exist. They simply can’t coexist. For example, a husband reacts back to his wife harshly, because he’s not receiving his deepest desire, which is to be respected. The wife then retreats or closes herself off, feeling unloved when her deepest desire is to be loved.

Do you see the vicious cycle? That’s the first and most crucial step to breaking reaction mode—seeing this pattern in your marriage. Whether you are male or female, this pattern will not stop until you make the first move. What does this change look like?

  1. Be Careful What You Speak.

You know, there were times that I realized my reactions to my husband bordered on the behavior of a sarcastic teenager. Not a pretty sight but very convicting when recognized. Our words have the power to build or break down. If you’re inclined to speak without thinking first, stop right now and ask God to help control your mouth. This is a biblical principle and He will help you. Trust me on that.

A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. — Proverbs 15:1

We can also seek the Holy Spirit for the right words to speak as well. If we choose words that are honest and without an agenda to prove we’re right or place blame, we can be instrumental to restoring peace to our marriage.

  1. Dwell on the Positive.

It’s easy to fall into this place where we think our spouse has an ulterior motive to his or her words. Even simple requests can turn into a battleground, because we’ve somehow fallen into the lie that our spouse intends to harm us. This suspicion perpetuates the reaction mode and is its fuel. Suspicion can also be fueled by lies, so the best way to combat this is to counteract with the truth. What does your spouse do well?

Make a list. My husband is great about making sure the garbage goes out every week. I appreciate this even more when he’s out of town and I have to do it. Yuck! He’s also great about going grocery shopping with me, and he’s quick to show his love and affection. Start with small things and your list will grow. Then study it whenever you fall into thinking those negative thoughts about your spouse.

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. — Philippians 4:8

A negative thought feeds the enemy and breeds more negativity. This can even evolve into scenarios playing out in your mind of how your spouse could potentially hurt you. Then you wind up hurt and defensive over something that never even happened.

A positive thought feeds the spirit and releases the Holy Spirit to work in your mind for transformation (Romans 12:2). He also works in your heart to help you forgive and allow God’s love to flow more freely to and through you.

Which one do you want to grow “fatter” in your life?

  1. Respect Him Even When You Don’t Want To, Love Her Even When She’s Unlovable.

Our hubbies need to know we will still stand by them when they mess up. And they will mess up, just as we do. We need to extend that hand of grace and acceptance, just as we want it extended to us. I’ve never seen anything quite as destructive to a marriage as contempt. And it is subtle in its presence. This goes right back to number one in how we use our words.

Add to that how you sound. What is your tone? Are you speaking in a way that solicits cooperation or are you condemning and accusing? This was the biggest area that I needed to change, and I know I could not have done it without God’s help. Sometimes we aren’t even aware that our tone and words hurt those we love. Pull out that list you made and go over it again. When it’s hard to show respect to your husband, find the things you can respect and show it to him. Then watch him bloom under your praise.

… and the wife must respect her husband. — Ephesians 5:33b

And loving someone when they are unlovable is one of the most powerful and sacrificial things a person can do. I have watched a woman be astonished by the fact that my church was assisting her out of our own desire to help and we weren’t getting paid by the government to do it. I have been deeply humbled by my husband's love when I was in pain and cranky. Love speaks louder than anything. Anything! Love changes hearts, marriages, families, cities and nations.

God is love so when we love, even when a person hasn’t “earned it,” we display His heart and presence in the most powerful way possible by revealing His very nature. Love (1 John 4).

  1. Keep a “We” Mentality.

Isn’t this really the truth we forget? We enter in to marriage as two “I’s” and suddenly have to figure out what it means to be a “we.” This requires putting our spouse first, this means loving and respecting even when we don’t feel it, this means seeing our marriage truly as a team effort and pulling our weight even when we feel our spouse isn’t. God sees our heart and our efforts. Your actions to honor Him in your marriage are never wasted!

Don’t quit the team. Be the one who stands strong and keeps Christ in the middle—your faith and prayers do that (1 Cor. 7:14). Whatever issues you’re dealing with, remember that you and your spouse are a team. Blame solves nothing. Teamwork always gets the job done.

For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh. —Genesis 2:24

Finally, remember that we can’t make these changes on our own. We need God’s help. Start with prayer and trust that God really can work in you, in your spouse and in your marriage to bring change and healing. It takes time, but when we desire God’s will for our marriage—a partnership built on love and respect—He will give us the desire of our heart (Psalm 37:4).

SUMites, I want to leave you with one final thought here (and this is a new part I'm adding). No matter where we are in our faith journey, God sees us the same way through His love and according to who He created us to be. We are His righteousness through Christ Jesus. And He never changes for He is the God of today, yesterday and tomorrow. He doesn't function within time as we do. He is present in all places—past present and future.

Now this is where it gets really interesting and may blow your mind a bit. Just as He sees us in this way, as who He created us to be, He sees our spouse the same way. He does not define them by their lack of faith but according to the measure of faith He has set aside for them. He sees them as they are intended to be, His children. I believe that is the heart of Eccl. 3:11 too. 

Father God, give us Your eyes, Your perspective of our spouse. Help us see them in the potential and in the light of eternity that You've placed within them so that we can love them according to that image and be part of releasing the truth of Your love in them. Thank You, Lord! Thank You! In the amazing name of Jesus, amen!

Love you so much, SUMites! And God loves you even better. ;-)
Dineen

 


The Tale of Two Houses

NewHouseMy friends, I pray you are still discovering sweet revelations and blessings from last week's fasting and praying for Rosh Hashanah. Dawn did an amazing job leading us. Thank you, my friend! We love you so much! 

And my friends, your comments were moving and inspiring. If you didn't read Ann's comment about her revelation dream for us that she posted on Thursday, please go read it in the comments. It's very encouraging and confirmed many things for me. In fact, God used her comment and Dawn's story about her house to show me what I was to share with you next. 

Can I just say, I love our Father's heart for us and our spouses? He is so passionate about us, my friends! I'm overwhelmed by His love and heart for us.

Now about our house...we are just 16 days away from closing. We have watched our house transform from a cement slab and framed walls to a nearly completed home full of details—cabinets, counters, painted walls and landscaping. My husband and I are so excited that we go by our house about twice a day just to see what new things have been done that day.

Now something happened early on in this process that came full circle just a week ago and God has show me it's a word for us. But first, I need to tell you a story of how this all began.

Back in 2004...

My husband and I decided it was time to buy a house. We'd moved back to the U.S. (to California) from Switzerland two years prior and had rented a house so we could get acquainted with the area and figure out where we wanted to settle. However, as you may or may not know, the housing prices in California were/are quite high. And the houses that were in our budget sold fast, usually through bidding wars.

One Sunday I went to church full of despair. We'd not found a house and had decided we would continue renting. I asked my Sunday school group to pray for us. We planned to check one more area that afternoon, but if that didn't pan out, we'd call our landlord and negotiate another lease.

That afternoon we drove to the area a friend had suggested but didn't find it. We had a fairly small area to work in because of our oldest daughter's high school district. When we reached that outer street, we resigned ourselves to just go home.

Just a few blocks down, we saw an open house sign on a house that was just renovated and hadn't even been officially listed yet. We debated stopping and finally did. 

My friends, I kid you not, as I walked into that house and barely saw more than just the front living area, I said to my husband, "This is our house."

We contacted our realtor, who was (is) a believer and told her to make an offer. And then we went to war. Several offers came in for that house. We'd offered the full asking price but knew the chances were slim to get it. Mike and discussed offering more and decided we'd take the risk. Our budget would be stretched, and we weren't sure how we'd do it, but my ever-optimist husband said we'd figure out a way. 

I called our realtor and asked if we should offer more. She asked for a little time to pray about it. A half hour later she called and agreed it was a good plan. Then we waited. 

The next day my husband came home with a story of his own. He'd received an unexpected raise that day, and it was exactly what we would need to afford the higher price mortgage. 

We got the house. SUMites, every time I looked at our house after that, all I saw in my mind was this big red bow around it, because it was a gift from God. We walked through a lot in that house (including the miracles of my daughter’s cancer recovery) and God us blessed us richly, even in the sale of the home to a sweet family with a little boy.

Now, fast forward to our house we are building now. As I shared in my post in July, God showed me this new house is a also a gift from His hand and that I was to rejoice in it. 

On September 8th, God led me to the book of Haggai. 

"'The latter glory of this house shall be greater than the former, says the Lord of hosts. And in this place I will give peace, declares the Lord of hosts.’” — Haggai 2:9 ESV

As I read this, I began to tremble, my friends. That may sound crazy, but I knew that God had spoken something very deep to my spirit. And He reminded me of two other times this Word was spoken over me in the last year and half. Now He was affirming that the house He was giving us  ow and all that He has planned and purposed for it (which He's given me just a glimpse of His kingdom plans there and let me just say, "WOW!") will be greater than our former house.

SUMites, as I have shared in this past, this new house has become a monument of God's presence, provision and plans for this community. Our SUM family.

This word, that our latter "home" will be greater than our former one is for all of us. Ann's comment last week confirmed this for me. And showed me now was the time to share it as we near the completion of this home.

But God has given me another specific word, my friends. One that starts with an event that would require me to forgive someone connected to the completion of this home for lying and breaking our trust. It's a crazy story of God's unexpected justice and protection of His provision and plans. You will be utterly amazed.

Please be sure to come back for the rest of this story on Friday and to hear God's heart for us right now. This is a message you don’t want to miss, straight from the Father’s heart.

We are on the precipice, my friends. I know it's challenging to be on the mountain top with an assuredness and determination to pray into what God reveals to us, then to wait and pray, wait and pray, wait and pray and not see any visible change. But let me be the voice of truth to you and reassure you that our God is working diligently to bring forth His promise in reply to our prayers. 

Today I'm asking you to make a new declaration in the comments that you trust the Lord for all that He has promised you because He is your God.

But I trust in you, O Lord; I say, “You are my God.” — Psalms 31:14

Declare what you are trusting Him for too, my friends. Let's speak out into the natural what God is setting into place in the heavens! (Heb. 11:3)

I love you, SUM family. Please know that I am faithfully praying Jer. 24:7 and the Scriptures you sent me over you and your spouse. God is faithful to His Word!
~ Dineen

 


Guest Post: The Mismatched Family by Dee Rusnak

Dear friends, I'm traveling this week and will be in Nashville for the ACFW conference. I'm thrilled to share this most encouraging post by SUMite, Dee Rusnak. How amazing to think our Lord and Savior Jesus understands our mismatched places because He lived it too. 

Thank you, Dee, for once again sharing your beautiful heart and encouraging words with us! Love you!
See you next week, SUMites!
Dineen

The Mismatched Family 
By Dee Rusnak

JesusTestedHow often have we learned that God is never in a hurry, or at least within our time frame? Or better, never in the way we expect? We read in Joshua how ripe Jericho was for the taking, but God said not so fast with the Israelites who were hungry to take the land. And, when they did, it was in such an unorthodox way (Joshua 6 - marching around the city). Why do we want to rush things and do it in our own way? For me it's so I can rest knowing my ducks are all in a row. If my entire family were saved, then peace would be upon me, or so I think. But God is drawing them in His time and according to His ways. I struggle with that.

In reading through God's Word we find that the family of Jesus didn't believe while He was among them, even to the point of sarcasm. "But when the Jewish Feast of Tabernacles was near, Jesus' brothers said to Him, 'You ought to leave here and go to Judea, so that Your disciples may see the miracles You do. No one who wants to become a public figure acts in secret. Since You are doing these things, show Yourself to the world' For even His own brothers did not believe in Him." (John 7:3-5)

Mark (3:21) recounts that His family thought "He is out of His mind!" How did Jesus handle the fact that His own family didn't believe? Matthew 13 lists them as James, Joseph, Simon and Jude, and some unnamed sisters. Jesus certainly had the power to change their hearts. After all, time was ticking and He wasn't going to be on earth much longer. Time to get Your ducks in a row here, Lord! Did Mary teach them and groom them as they were growing up, especially nearing adulthood, about their older brother as Savior? Did His true identity come as a total shock to His younger siblings? Where were they during His crucifixion? Didn't they love Him or try to defend Him? Interestingly, none of this is mentioned in God's Word.

However, we know that some were saved. In 1 Corinthians 15:5-7 Paul writes "He appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve. After that, He appeared to more than five hundred of His followers at the same time...Then He appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all He appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born." Mary and His brothers waited in the upper room for the Holy Spirit following His ascension, "They all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with His brothers." (Acts 1:14) But, which brothers, if not all? Two brothers that we know of, James and Jude, were converted and wrote books in the New Testament. James later became a leader in the Jerusalem church. What about His sisters? Did He pray for His Father to draw them? Were there still family members who did not believe? Aunts? Uncles? Cousins?

If Jesus was tempted in every way just as we are, was He as concerned for the souls of His family, just as we are for those in our lives? "For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are - yet was without sin." (Hebrews 4:15) Jesus was quite familiar with God's ways and His timing. Never do we see Him fretting throughout His life. As Psalm 37 says "Do not fret - fretting only brings harm." Yet He entrusted God with all things, including Himself, and the salvation of His earthly family…and us!

Jesus prayed…

“I do not pray for these alone (disciples), but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me. And the glory which You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one: I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me.” (John 17:20-23)

SUMs, Jesus had a mismatched family! We are literally walking in His shoes (sandals)! When we read that He has experienced everything we go through, did you ever consider this situation? We’ve never been alone, SUMs, nor will we ever be! He’s been where we are! He gets it! In His great compassion and love for us, He has given us an example to follow of what we’re to do while we wait: Pray. Trust. Obey. Look what happened with James and Jude! Not only did they believe, but were used by God as Bible authors! Forget the ducks. Instead, together let’s listen intently to God’s very heartbeat: "who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth" (1 Timothy 2:4), and let us watch Him do what's impossible for us but is so very possible for Him!

Dee and JerryDee Rusnak and her husband of 44 years, Jerry, both retired, live in Westerville, Ohio. They have three grown sons and three adorable grandchildren, with one more on the way due Christmas Day!


Lord of the Harvest

15753952_sHe said to his disciples, “The harvest is great, but the workers are few. So pray to the Lord who is in charge of the harvest; ask him to send more workers into his fields.”

My friends, I don’t know if you remember me sharing in June of 2013 a dream God gave me, which I believe was a precursor to our salvation word this year and what’s to come. There are several pieces to this that the Holy Spirit is showing me, and I am excited to share with you. So let’s start with a refresher of that dream and then pray in this harvest!

May 2013 (date of dream)

I was half awake, half asleep, but the dream was very vivid. I stood before a tall cornfield—taller than me. Jesus stood next to me.

He gestured to the crop and said, "This is the Great Harvest.”

I said, "Lord, I can't see past this, can you show me more?”

Suddenly I was up higher and could see tall mountains in the far distance. The crop spanned all the way to the mountains!

At the time I found it very curious that I saw corn in this dream as opposed to wheat. With some investigation and research, I discovered that the Bible references to grain can mean either corn or wheat and are often connected with oil and wine.

“From the dew of heaven and the richness of the earth, may God always give you abundant harvests of grain and bountiful new wine. — Genesis 27:28

Isaac said to Esau, “I have made Jacob your master and have declared that all his brothers will be his servants. I have guaranteed him an abundance of grain and wine—what is left for me to give you, my son?” — Genesis 27:37

“If you carefully obey all the commands I am giving you today, and if you love the Lord your God and serve him with all your heart and soul, then he will send the rains in their proper seasons—the early and late rains—so you can bring in your harvests of grain, new wine, and olive oil. He will give you lush pastureland for your livestock, and you yourselves will have all you want to eat. — Deut. 11:13-15

Look at this Scripture from Joel, which is part of God’s promise of restoration:

The threshing floors will again be piled high with grain, and the presses will overflow with new wine and olive oil. — Joel 2:24

Grain and wine were such integral parts of the Israelites lives and culture that it makes complete sense that Jesus would use bread and wine to bring such powerful symbolism, connection and power to what we practice today as communion.

And harvest time is always about prosperity, provisions and promise—of abundant life. The Old Testament displayed this in the physical sense first through manna and then provision from the promised land. Jesus took this provision of physical sustenance and connected it to our spiritual need as well. 

Then Jesus declared, "I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty. — John 6:35

Now recently several SUMites have shared stories of how their spouses have walked away from their faith either on this blog or on our 1Peter3Living Yahoo group. My friends, I can’t tell you how deeply this grieved me. These are the stories that break my heart and bring me to tears before God. 

And that is what I did one day last week. It made no sense to me in light of the promises God has been sharing with me—with all of us. I went to Him in tears and asked, “Lord, what is going on? You’ve promised us salvation and even shown me this is coming. Have I missed something, not prayed enough? Is the enemy winning this battle?”

I saw only two possibilities, but our God of the impossible replied with His, “I’m revealing the greater glory.”

Dear friends, my tears turned to laughter as the Holy Spirit whispered this to my heart, “The prodigals are being called back and the unbelievers are being drawn in.”

Our Papa God is so good! He’s bringing our loved ones to His Son just as Jesus said He would. 

“No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them, and I will raise them up at the last day.” — John 6:44

SUMites, I believe this with all my heart, soul, mind and spirit! Will you pray with me?

We praise You, Mighty Lord Jesus, for You are the bread and wine to our lives, our souls and our spirits. Thank You for giving this provision to our spouses too! Lord, send the workers needed for this Great Harvest. Send people into our midst to reveal Your presence and love to our pre-believers. Reveal and show that love to them through us, for we are Your workers too, Lord! 

Lord Jesus, there is Resurrection Life in all You do. We ask for this resurrection life to be released over our pre-believers, our lives, our marriages, our children and every place in our lives where dry bones need to be called back to life. Breathe Your breath of life over all of us. We call these dry places to life, in the Saving and Life-Resurrecting Name of Jesus. 

Lord Jesus, we ask for vengeance against the enemy and the demonic for all they have stolen from us, the SUMites, from our pre-believers, from our children and even from our ancestors. We ask for full recompense and restoration of what has been lost and stolen (Isa. 35).

Lord, call in the harvest of our pre-believers and prodigals. Bring them to You, Lord, every single one of them. Lord Jesus, when You walked this earth, every person who came to You was healed. We present our prodigals and pre-believers to You like the man lowered through the roof and ask that every single one be saved and healed. In the Mighty Name of Jesus, amen!

Love you, SUMites!
Dineen


Foundations Series: INHERITANCE & IDENTITY

HeartDear friends, in this foundations series we’ve talked about the foundational truths of salvation, love, hope, faith and specifically God’s love. That one seems to be the one I keep coming face to face with. I’ve grappled with the full truth of God’s complete love for us and now God is connecting me to others that need the same truth. As desperate as I was for this truth to come to full bloom in my heart, spirit, soul and mind (something that is still happening even now), I am even more desperate for others to know it and find myself hating the enemy for stealing this truth from us. And I am not one to use the word “hate” lightly. 

SUMites, I honestly didn’t plan to write more on this subject, but it is a very near and dear subject to my heart. Most likely because this was a huge struggle for me, one that nearly made me want to give up on trying to be a Christian. And that is exactly what I’ve had to do—let go of trying to be a Christian and simply live in the truth of who I am in Christ and the truth that God really and truly loves me. It’s a very freeing place to be!

God loves us because that is who He is and He chose us. And all that God has for us comes from His love for us, including Jesus. When we struggle in that truth and continue to believe the lies the enemy throws at us that say, “God is angry with me, I can’t please God no matter what I do, or there is no way God can work through me,” we aren’t living in the truth of God’s love for us. And His love is a foundational truth of our inheritance and our identity, which are intertwined and inseparable—another mystery of God.

So, let’s talk about what these words mean, because I know my journey to understanding required a choice and a question.

  1. I chose to believe the truth of God’s Word that told me He loves me and that nothing can separate His love from me (Romans 8) and to go after the lies and the feelings that told me otherwise. As I did this, intentionally capturing every thought and bringing it before Jesus (2 Cor. 10:5), my thinking changed and the truth that was in my heart finally came to sit on the throne of my intellect. Along with Jesus!
  2. I asked what did this mean for me in terms of identity and inheritance. These are words we see used a lot, but I’m not sure we fully understand their meanings. So that is where I am now with the goal to bring deeper understanding and wisdom of what this truly means for us.

In the Old Testament, the Lord called Israel His inheritance and in Ezekiel 44 God declares that He is the inheritance and possession of the Levitical priests.

whom the Lord of hosts has blessed, saying, “Blessed be Egypt my people, and Assyria the work of my hands, and Israel my inheritance.” — Isaiah 19:25 (ESV)

“This shall be their inheritance: I am their inheritance: and you shall give them no possession in Israel; I am their possession.” — Ezekiel 44:28 (ESV) 

When God spoke to Jeremiah of His plan to restore Israel, He said of their enemies that they “have filled My inheritance with their abominations.” 

Now this I find so fascinating—when we look at inheritance in the New Testament, we see that the saints (that’s us—all believers) are Jesus’ inheritance. The Israelites were symbolic of what was to come—the fulfillment of God’s plan for a people set apart and made holy through the final blood sacrifice of the Messiah, Jesus. And as the Levitical priests were set apart, so too are we set apart as the inheritance of Jesus through salvation.

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. — 1 Peter 2:9 (ESV)

I pray that your hearts will be flooded with light so that you can understand the confident hope he has given to those he called—his holy people who are his rich and glorious inheritance. — Ephesians 1:18 (NLT)

Again, I’m fascinated with the symbolic and prophetic connections between the Old and New Testaments. God intended to build a strong example of legacy and inheritance, because what He had in store for us was the ultimate inheritance in Jesus—our identity as children of God. The Israelites learned about inheritance through the possession of the promised land. We learn about inheritance through our “possession" of the Holy Spirit and the Kingdom of God. Both are given as rights of ownership (co-heirs with Christ) through the love and bequeathal of God.

Okay, my friends, I will stop here for now and let you digest this a bit. On Thursday I will continue this search for understanding of inheritance and identity and how they are so very much inseparable. Until then, be sure to come back tomorrow for a beautiful guest post from a fellow SUMite. 

And please share your thoughts in the comments. What has Jesus shown you about His love and your inheritance and identity in Him? I can’t wait to read your comments. 

Love you!
Dineen


Foundations Series: GOD'S LOVE

God's love is complete. Jesus made sure of that at the cross. So if God did that in order to love us that way, why would He be angry with us or withhold His goodness from us? Something to think about. The truth always turns the lie upside down.
Love you, my friends!
Dineen


Foundations Series: FAITH, HOPE, LOVE

GodsLoveMy friends, how are you doing? There’s a lot going on in the world right now that is discouraging and heartbreaking. The more I watch how God is working in our community here; at the healing rooms as we pray Jesus’ truth into hearts, lives and bodies; through the connections and bridges I see Him building and creating between all of us—the more I understand His heart for us to know these foundational truths. Our foundations need to be firmly built in His truth.

And, SUMites, perhaps it sounds a bit trite and cliché because it’s been said so many times, but we are not of this world. We live in it, we have a mission and a purpose here, but God’s plans, purposes and HIS PROMISES go way beyond the now and span all of eternity. In other words, He’s got us covered. We can rest in the reassurances He’s given us and walk in the truth of Who He is and who we are in Him. That’s our identity—another part of this foundation series I sense is coming.

Today’s foundational truth is found in a verse we know well, and Paul is the scribe who wrote these words of God’s truth.

So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love. — 1 Corinthians 13:13

As I sought Holy Spirit’s help to understand what He wants us all to understand about this truth is that these three are like the Trinity—Father, Son, Holy Spirit. They cannot stand alone as they are part of the whole. 

Love is, as Paul says, there greatest of these three and represents the God-head.

Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. — 1 John 4:8

So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.  — 1 John 4:16

Hope represents Jesus, who is the hope of the world. 

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. — 1 Peter 1:3

Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus according to the commandment of God our Savior, and of Christ Jesus, who is our hope, — 1 Timothy 1:1

When I did a search for the word “hope” throughout the Bible, Psalms had the most references, but can you guess which book came next? The book of Job. Did you know that in the Old Testament the words hope and wait are used interchangeable because the Hebrew word is the same? And in the New Testament the definitions for the various forms of the Greek word for “hope” used always included the definition “joyful and confident expectation”?

Which then sheds a whole new light on this verse:

…looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross… — Hebrews 12:2

Faith is representative of the Holy Spirit, whose highest purpose is to teach us about Jesus and grow the seed of faith we are given when we received salvation. 

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. — Ephesians 2:8-10

Like the three fold cord spoken of in Ecc 4:12, faith, hope and love are intertwined and purposed to function as a whole. The real clue, amazingly, came when I looked up that fascinating word, abide

menō — to stay (in a given place, state, relation or expectancy): abide, continue, dwell, endure, be present, remain, stand, tarry (for), to wait for.

Without love, hope and faith lack the soil for their roots to grow deep and strong. Without hope, love wanes and faith dies. Without faith, love shrivels and hope fades. My friends, as a wordsmith of sorts I find it very difficult to fully explain this mystery for a mystery it truly is.

What I do know is that God’s love is the substance, the birthing place, of miracles. That hope is a divine expectation of God’s love to overcome and save. That faith holds love and hope in the birthing room of those miracles with great tenacity and perseverance. 

The entire Bible is about these three words, because the Bible is about God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. And these three words embody the heart of God.  

Perhaps the mystery isn’t so mysterious at all and is simply and ultimately a decision to believe the Truth (Jesus) and trust and look for God in every part of our lives. We are not meant to live our faith only during our quiet time with God and church attendance, but as part of every aspect of our lives. To do otherwise keeps God in a box and leaves us disappointed. But to live the abundant life, full of God’s love, hope and faith brings joy, peace and prosperity.

Faith, hope and love. Love is the greatest, the most powerful force on this earth. And all we have to do is ask for it, my friends. Ask God to overwhelm and flood us with His love so that it pours out all around us. Ask Him to love others through us. Ask Him to show us how He loves others and do likewise. There is no set formula, no pattern, no correct way to do this. Just simply follow His lead. He’s an expert!

I love you, SUMites, with the love of God, with the hope of Jesus and with the devotion of the Holy Spirit. May the Lord drench you with His amazing love and renew your spirit. In the name of Jesus, amen!
Dineen


It's Palm Sunday - How Did You Come To Faith?

It’s Palm Sunday! I’ll finish up the remaining few posts about my mom’s story in April. Also in April, I’m compelled to talk about weariness. In the last few months, my heart has ached for SUMites who have told me they are weary in the waiting. Man, do I ever feel a revelation of the Spirit coming to speak to weariness in our community!! Look for that in April as well.

Three-crossesBUT TODAY!!!!  Let’s turn our focus, thoughts and worship toward Calvary!

My friends, did you know that everything we will ever need, was accomplished through the cross! Everything, in that moment, was made available to us who believe in Jesus, the Son of God, our Redeemer! 

So often the enemy gets us to look at our struggles. Our challenges. Pain. He is relentless to make sure we focus on the galactic mountain we are facing. He draws us away from the truth of our inheritance, our authority, our provision, and our faith to see the dark and thrust us into fear.

Hallelujah for the Cross!

When we remove our eyes for just a second to look clearly on the truth of the Resurrection, we see that we have everything we need to say to that mountain….. MOVE!!! 

Our resurrected Jesus became a man, to show us, to model for us, exactly how to live a life of victory, love and receive our inheritance as a Child of God right now on earth as well as in eternity.

I know the very mountain that many of you are facing right now. And there are many SUMites who are facing what appears to be unsurmountable cliffs of doom that I can’t even imagine, However, our Jesus is bigger than all of it. Truly!

Today, this hour, take out your Bible. Turn to Matthew 17:20. Underline it! Write the name of the Mountain you want to move and then put 2016! And say aloud the passage.

He replied, “Because you have so little faith. Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.”— Matthew 17:20 NIV

The truth of this single verse just ROCKS my world.. Nothing will be impossible… Jesus, I dream pretty big. I pray even bigger. Lord, the SUMites aren’t cowards. We stand in the cross-hairs every day in our own homes. Jesus, MOVE OUR MOUNTAIN! We cry out. We believe. We believe. WE BELIEVE!!!!

So, today my friends, tell me, how did you come to believe? How old were you? Share your salvation experience. Together let’s thank Jesus together as we were chosen to be children of the Most High God before time began! (Ephesians 1:4) Hallelujah!!

I can’t wait to hear your story and pray over your mountain in the comments. Have an astonishing week. Make plans to attend church. Attend a Friday service if you can. Do some kind of activity with your kids that brings the significance of this week alive in their hearts. I share in our book, Not Alone, how the Resurrection Eggs, greatly impacted my young daughter. This year, I get to open each one with my granddaughter. Oh, my heart swells!

SUMites….. He is risen! Just as He said! AMEN!

I love you, Lynn

Matthew 17 20


Specifics of the Spiritually Mismatched

Well I realize that that past few posts have challenged us as we consider suffering. We also looked at what Jesus clearly told us. Jesus said:

“Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to turn “‘a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law— a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household.’—Matthew 10:34-35

Sometimes I find that Christians only want to read the passages that affirm. But becoming a mature believer, means that we must wrangle with these difficult and challenging passages. When I read this scripture, it offered me two things. One, I realize my life with an unbeliever is actually not surprising to God. And two, it relieves me of guilt or condemnation that somehow I’ve failed because my husband hasn’t come to faith.

And by the way, most of us who have been unequally yoked have felt that guilt. Many of you have told me that your pastor or some other “well-meaning” person from church has asked you the stupid questions such as:

  • Didn’t you know he was an unbeliever when you married him?
  • Perhaps you haven’t prayed enough for his salvation.
  • Maybe if you just witness a little harder he will find Jesus.
  • Perhaps you aren’t living enough like Jesus in front of him.

Can I just tell you these irk me? Now hear me, THESE ARE LIES FORM THE PIT OF HELL.

You can’t save your spouse. Only Jesus can save him. Your responsibility is to love. Love God the Father, Jesus Christ and the Spirit first and obey His Word, then love your spouse the best that you can and finally believe that God will do all that is possible to reach your spouse.

So today I want to speak to your heart. I stand in faith and through the truths of the Word and by the power and blood of Jesus Christ, I speak over you truth. You are not responsible for your spouse’s salvation. Only Jesus saves.

I release you from guilt and fear over this issue. I say to you that your heart is made whole in Jesus and words of pain from others now lose their power. I speak to your heart and life and say that the condemnation you have carried over your marriage to an unbeliever is broken. I also refute and renounce the lie that God is mad at you or is punishing you because you find yourself in an unequally yoked marriage.

The truth is that God desires families to thrive and His plan to demonstrate love begins in marriage and family.

I understand that our unique marriages are very difficult and there are some marriage situations where oppression and abuse are present. Hear me clearly now as well. God doesn’t want us to cling to some ideal version of marriage where abuse and oppression exist. Get help and separate yourself from the abuse and find your healing.

Today, I once again want you to realize the great authority to pray and protect your family through the Word of God.

For the believing wife brings holiness to her marriage, and the believing husband brings holiness to his marriage. Otherwise, your children would not be holy, but now they are holy. — 1 Corinthians 7:14 NLT

This verse has become a powerhouse in my life. I hope to tell you one day all that has resulted in my family and marriage because God in His great love and mercy placed this passage in His Word. Stay tuned *grin*

Okay, how many of you have receive words of condemnation from other "well-meaning" believers? How did you process through their words? What passages of scripture have been life-changing in your marriage?

I will see you in the comments my family. Today, live in utter confidence because 1 Corinthians 7:14 is for us. Just as God is for us! Hallelujah! Thank you Jesus!!!!!  Hugs, Lynn

Romans 8 1


Love Conqers All

IMG_4126My friends, I am overwhelmed by the force of God's love. It is powerful, relentless, consuming and vast. It is tender, gentle, perfect and complete. It is who He is, what we long for, what the world needs, and the answer to every thing.

Love. God's love. The greatest force on earth and the conduit to faith. The longer I walk this path of the mismatched the more I am seeing—now—that love is the key. Lynn and I have said this all along and you know it, but right now in this time and place, I sense a greater call to love than I have ever discerned before.

God's love enables us to love Him and love others. All we have to do is let go and let Him do this in and through us. That's faith expressing itself through love.

What is important is faith expressing itself in love. — Galatians 5:6b

On Tuesday I put my youngest daughter on a plane to go back home. I wept to see her go, yet my heart was so full of thankfulness for all the love God has put in my life. It's not been easy at times and moving 3,000 miles away from my girls is not the direction I thought my life would go. But God has filled every aspect with His love and presence.

He showed me as a child that love is what "makes the world go round." And I am understanding more and more I that it is His love that holds all things together (Col 1:17). 

All things. Everything.

SUMites, as we enter this time of Thanksgiving, let's take stock of the love God has placed in our lives. The people He has given us to love. The ways He is has shown and is showing us to love. And the incomprehensible, relentless and unending love He has for us.

Our greatest impact on this world is our love. Let it shine, SUMites. Look upon everyone you know and meet with love. Let them see God's love shining in you and watch what happens. I’ve noticed that as I do this, as I meet people eye to eye, they hesitate at first and then smile. I’m just starting to notice this, and I know it’s the love of Jesus shining through. 

This is how everyone will recognize that you are my disciples––when they see the love you have for each other. — John 13:35 (MSG)

We change the world by loving the people in it, my friends. We are the SUMites, and we know how to do that better than most I think! You are amazing! Love you!
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How Do We Love?

3KeysMy friends, I’d planned to talk briefly about love and then move into thankfulness, but the Holy Spirit impressed our Father’s heart on this subject upon me and I want to give that ample space. So today we will talk about love, the second key in this Abundant Life series. 

I want to tell you that this series simmered in my heart for a few weeks and at first I thought love should come first since it is so foundational to all we feel, think and do. But I realized that unforgiveness needed to be covered first because when we hold that unforgiveness we are actually trying to control a person or situation, and we have talked in the past about how love and control can’t coexist, especially in a marriage.

And your comments were so good, so honest! Never discount how much sharing your heart here ministers to others. That is one of the aspects of our community that I love so much, SUM family. You’re amazing in the love that you show!

As I prayerfully prepared for this post, the Holy Spirit told me to read Galatians. I suspected He had a nugget for me there and wow, did He. This one piece of truth from Paul in his letter to the Galatians says it all:

For when we place our faith in Christ Jesus, there is no benefit in being circumcised or being uncircumcised. What is important is faith expressing itself in love. — Galatians 5:6 (NLT)

Paul wanted the Galatians to return to the truth of their salvation in Jesus and not listen to the group of Jewish Christians who had come and was teaching they still need the Law in order to be saved. Paul’s statement was a powerful truth for the Galatians then and for us today.

Without love, we can’t represent Jesus accurately, because He is love. 

All who confess that Jesus is the Son of God have God living in them, and they live in God. We know how much God loves us, and we have put our trust in his love. God is love, and all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them. — 1 John 4:15-16

This piece of truth reveals that it is because of God’s love and His love for us that we are able to love others. And not only love others, but love Him. And that is what I feel the Holy Spirit wanting us to truly embrace today about God’s love. 

You see, God designed us with a need to be loved. This need is even stronger than our need for food. I remember as a child somehow understanding that love was the answer to everything and the key to solving all problems. My understanding was limited though because I only understood love as the world defined it.

But now, as I walk closer and closer to God, I realize I was almost right. God’s love is the answer to everything—to all our needs, wants, conflicts and dreams; physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually.

God created us to need love, to need Him. And He created us to love Him and others. Thus our primary commandments to love God and love others isn’t just a command to please God. It is basic instruction to do what we have been created to do.

God living in us means Love is in us—His love. When we let Him increase and overflow in us, we are transformed. And that ripples out to everything around us. We’re not the only ones changed. Those around us are affected, influenced and changed. Lives, communities and nations.

God’s love is the most powerful force in heaven and on earth, because it’s Him. God is love. No matter how many times I say and think it, I’m astounded by the magnitude of this truth. He is vast. No wonder we need the Holy Spirit’s help just to understand it!

So that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith —that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. — Ephesian 3:17-19

My friends, we will spend our entire lives here on earth and eternity learning about God’s love. And you know what? That’s what our Abba Father wants most. To love us, for us to love Him, and then to release that love into others. And it happens in that order. Faith expressing itself through love. The abundant life...

Earlier this year I prayed and asked the Lord for a key to breakthrough. He said, “Love.” And He led me to this verse, the first one that follows 1 Corinthians 13, the love chapter.

Let love be your highest goal! — 1 Cor. 14:1.

Love as our highest goal…that’s so powerful, my friends. And that is the story of my marriage. I made loving my husband my highest goal. Not to change him or convince him God was real. Just to love him because I believe in God and I believe He, His love, transforms everything. And it has transformed my marriage and filled it with so much love, I’m blown away by it almost every day. That’s God, present and living and loving.

Share your thoughts in the comments, my friends. Share how God’s love has touched and changed your life. Share how loving someone changed a life, a heart—possibly yours. Because love always ricochets as a blessing.

And I love you, SUM family! With all the love God pours into my heart for you! He is love and He is GOOD!
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Even Bullies Need Love

NotAloneStudyImageHello, SUMites! Welcome to week three of the Equipping Our Kids in a Contrary Culture series. This week I’m zeroing in on chapter six in our book, Not Alone, about Generous Kids

I share some stories in this chapter about my daughters, stories that are near and dear to my heart and one that nearly tore my heart out at the time. I bet just about every one you out there has a parenting story like that. I’d rather suffer myself than see my children suffer. Anybody else out there feel the same? 

Years ago, I asked Jesus to help me love others as He loves them. I still pray this prayer and ask Him to help me see others as He sees them, including my kiddos and my hubby. And without judgement. That can be a tough area to walk in today’s world, especially when we are being mistreated. Or our child is being mistreated.

How do we love the kid that’s bullying our child and making him or her miserable? How do we love the friends our children bring home who have an attitude of entitlement? How do we love our own teenager when we find out they’re not as “well behaved” as we thought? 

Moms and Dads, as I get older and hopefully just a little bit wiser, I’m finding it has everything to do with love—God’s kind of love that is full of mercy, forgiveness and grace. We can’t love people like that on our own and neither can our children. And as we learn and model this, they will learn it from us. 

As much as I wanted to hate the pint-sized bully who terrorized my youngest daughter, I knew I couldn’t. I knew for my own sake and hers, we had to pray for him. I prayed not only for the situation but also for understanding of what caused this young boy to behave so horribly. I had a hard time believing a child capable of such actions. And helping my daughter understand was no easy task. 

But as I prayed, God revealed the situation to me and to my daughter. We discovered this was a boy who had a father who traveled all the time and a mother who was a severe alcoholic. Just a few months after I began praying for this boy and his family, they moved away. My daughter and I both learn a valuable lesson about God’s faithfulness.

Today, my daughter sees this experience as part of the experiences that have shaped who she is today and even now, her first reaction to an offense is to try and understand the why behind the what. 

My friends, I think most people expect one kind of reaction to the offenses of this world, but when we, as believers, don’t react but reach out with a heart to love and understand, we shock the world. We bring the truth of Christ into full scope—and the evidence of His salvation.

And I believe we walk in God’s favor to do such things. When we seek God’s heart first, we can work with our child’s teacher to peaceably find a solution to stop the bullying with a heart to not only help our own child but the one doing the bullying. You could very well be the answer to the prayer of a hurting or abused child.  

When we seek God’s heart first, we can see the more challenging friends our child brings home and welcome them with the love and grace of Jesus. We can be firm in our rules, but loving and encouraging too. You may plant a seed of truth in a child that will sprout and bloom at just the right moment when they are faced with a decision that could take them down the wrong path.

When we seek God’s heart first, we can help our own children navigate the challenging and painful places in their lives, and teach them that no situation or person is beyond God’s reach. And we can teach them to love others without judgement, no matter where they come from or who their parents are.

My friends, this is the hope we carry and are called to pass on to our children. This hope burns bright like an torch, and we are called to carry it everywhere we go. The light we carry brings solutions by changing atmospheres. That is what truth does—when revealed, lies and darkness can no longer operate. The atmosphere shifts and brings change. And hope.

A servant of the Lord must not quarrel but must be kind to everyone, be able to teach, and be patient with difficult people. Gently instruct those who oppose the truth. Perhaps God will change those people’s hearts, and they will learn the truth. Then they will come to their senses and escape from the devil’s trap. For they have been held captive by him to do whatever he wants. — 2 Tim. 2:24-26 

Question: Do you have an area in your life in which God is calling you to love others specifically? How can you teach this to your children?

Prayer: Lord Jesus, help me to see and love people through Your eyes and heart. And help me teach my children do the same. In Your name Jesus, amen!

SUMites, our ministry verse is 1 Peter 3:1-2 and tells us our godly lives will speak for themselves. We are mismatched with this world too, my friends. Our godly lives and love, and the growing godly lives and love of our children will show Jesus, the hope of the world.

All in His love,
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The Goodness Of God

FreeMy friends, I’ve shared many a time over the years that my life verse is Romans 8:28. I’ve built my faith life upon it and in 2014 went through a dark night of the soul that made me question that stance for the first time ever. I questioned whether God was really good.

But what I really ached to know without a doubt was this: Is God good to me?

At the time of this revelation, I didn’t feel like He was, but as the Holy Spirit helped me identify the lie that I’d mistakenly built my foundation upon, I realized I’d somehow connected His goodness to me. To who I am, to how hard I work for Him, to how good I was at being a Christian. 

It’s called a striving mentality and it isn’t pretty. I was striving to earn the very things God had already given me. Specifically His love and acceptance as His kid.

As much as I hated going through this process, and I don’t use the word hate lightly here, my friends, I know it was necessary to go through the transformation of my thinking as it says in Romans 12:2.

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. — Romans 12:2 ESV

Amazingly, I think many believers are coming to this understanding, because God is focused on not only transforming His children but also His church. He is focused on the message of His love, clear and simple. And He wants that to be the message in the church as well.

I must say, I’m learning that these truths often take time to settle in and take root. I had one of those moments at church one recent Sunday, and I could even feel the shift in my mind. Here I’d thought I had this down finally, for the most part anyway. I can now recognize when the enemy tries to shoot the darts of those old lies, and I deflect them.  

But this wasn’t a day for the enemy’s darts. It was a day about God’s goodness. It was a simple phrase the pastor said, and I can’t even tell you what exactly he said. I do know that the Holy Spirit brought it front and center to my attention so loudly that I no longer heard anything else the pastor said. 

Here’s what I perceived this day—a truth that still overloads my brain to think about it. And maybe that’s because of the place I used to function in my belief system and can now clearly see it was just so slightly off center of the truth.

God is good. Just as the Bible says in 1 John 4:8 that God is love, God is good. That’s actually part of the definition of the Greek word used, agapé—goodwill.

The part that overloads my brain is that it has absolutely nothing to do with you, me, our pre-believers (though the good Lord knows they need to have something to do with it!), this planet He created, the work we do for Him, and not even our faith can affect God’s goodness. Nothing. At. All.

Even evil and worldly goodness world have no effect upon His goodness, because His goodness is completely dependent upon Him. His goodness simply is. It’s Who He is, Who He has always been and Who He will always be.

This causes me to look at a Romans 8:28 in a whole new way.

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. — Romans 8:28 NIV

God works for the good of those who love Him because He is good. Not because we love Him, but dare I say in spite of it. We are imperfect and can never love Him perfectly. Yet He works for our good, because in our love for Him we invite Him in to do so in order that His plans and purposes for us may grow and flourish in our lives. 

In other words, His love and His good plans for us were set in place way before we ever knew Him. We simply have answered the door to His knock when we said yes to Jesus.

And that brings me to a little experiment. Another verse that has meant so much to be in this last year and half journey of intimacy with God. Another verse from Romans 8…

And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord. — Romans 8:38-39 NLT

Let’s try a little change in wording to bring out this beautiful truth that is the final piece of my transformation in this area. 

And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s goodness. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s goodness. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the goodness of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.

I don’t know about you, my friends, but this blows my mind. And brings God’s love and goodness into clear cut focus like never before. A focus that has no dependency upon my thoughts, beliefs, interpretation or acceptance. 

It simply is fact. God is love. God is good. Nothing changes that either. Absolutely nothing.

BUT…this truth changes everything…if we let it. How we see ourselves, our lives, our marriages, our children, and even our pre-believers. Even their unbelief can’t separate us from God’s love and goodness.  

My friends, walk in that reassurance everyday. Speak it out loud even if you don’t fully understand or believe it yet. I promise you, hearing the truth will change your heart and mind and set you free. And as you do this, everything around you will begin to shift.

“And you will know the truth, and the truth shall set you free.” — Jesus (John 8:32)

Praying for your freedom, my friends!
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