516 posts categorized "Jesus"

Are You Emotionally Mature? Your Spouse?

Emotional MaturityHi SUM Nation,

Lynn Donovan here today for a chat.

I have a question to get started. Have you ever looked at someone (meaning your spouse :grin:) and wanted to say, “Grow up already!”

Ahem!

I’ve been doing a bit of research about emotional maturity, and it’s been enlightening. As I consider marriage relationships, I want to point out what Psychology Today considers markers of emotional maturity:

  1. A mature person is able to keep long-term commitments.
  2. A mature person is unshaken by flattery or criticism.
  3. A mature person possesses a spirit of humility.
  4. A mature person’s decisions are based on character, not feelings.
  5. A mature person expresses gratitude consistently.
  6. A mature person knows how to prioritize others before themselves.
  7. A mature person seeks wisdom before acting. A mature person is teachable.

As I read through this list, I realized that an emotionally mature individual is living out Biblical principles. Each of these maturity markers are biblically based.

Now here is a way to gage your emotional maturity and that of others with whom you are in relationship.

Maturity fills the salt-shakers and it wipes down the shelves in the fridge when they’re sticky. It empties the kitty litter before stalagmites form. Maturity understands that there can be one junk drawer in a house, but not 27.

Maturity doesn’t text, type, game or take calls when in conversation with others.

Maturity backs up its files, goes to a doctor or a clinic when it’s in pain, and picks up the tab when it goes out to dinner with its parents.

Maturity understands that nobody wants the back story of why something didn’t get done because it knows that what matters is the effective completion of a task.

In contrast, immaturity has an extensive list of prefab excuses for why it couldn’t make its deadline. Immaturity uses every tummy ache, flu, headache, fallen arch, hangnail or breakup as an excuse to slip the knot of accountability. Immaturity, then, doesn’t understand why life is always “so unfair, like, always” when it offers criticism instead of condolences for failure.

Immaturity whines; immaturity rolls its eyes; immaturity takes everything personally; immaturity accepts no responsibility; immaturity sprays Febreze on clothes instead of washing them; immaturity shows up late and leaves early.

In short, immaturity is spoiled. And what is spoiled doesn’t ripen. It goes bad early, gets bitter and withers on the vine. (G. Barreca at Psychology Today)

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. – John 15:5

As believers when we choose to follow the precepts from the Word, we will walk as mature sons and daughters. THAT is the entire purpose of our life on earth. Mature sons and daughters of the Most High God.

I’m so glad to have grown up with you, my friends.

If you are dealing with an immature spouse, get help. Talk with a counselor and gain skills, gain boundaries with consequences, gain confidence in your maturity. And you can stand firm in your identity that you are emotionally mature because of your faith in Christ.

Love you my friends. I bless you today. In Jesus name. Hugs, Lynn


Today I Can Boldly Approach

My friends, Ann here. Boldly I approach

In this community we have times in this blog where we pause deliberately and turn our faces to JESUS. 

That is our lifeline -- Our way of surviving some of the intense things we face in a spiritually mismatched marriage.

Jesus.

Well, one way of fixing our eyes on him is to commemorate important markers in the year. We have the Christian liturgical calendar that formed in the early centuries of the church. That calendar helped early Christians commemorate the life and message of Jesus. Lent and Advent, for example, are helpful seasons there.

But then there are the Jewish holidays detailed in the Old Testament (e.g., Exodus 12, Leviticus 23), and these days symbolized what was to come. Oh, how I love those. When I look at those days I also see 'Jesus' all over them.

Today is the Day of Atonement, known as Yom Kippur by the Jews. It is all about Jesus. So I thought we could look at some aspects of that today:

The Day of Atonement, described in Leviticus 16, was a day given to the Israelites by God when they were in the wilderness, after they left Egypt, and they were told to keep it forever. It occurs once a year, and on this day the High Priest, Aaron (Moses' brother), enters the tabernacle and sacrifices a series of burnt offerings, first to clean himself, and then to 'atone' for all the people. 

Atone: To make reparation or amends as for injury done; reconcile.

There were some extensive rituals prescribed for Aaron here. One of those things was he was to put his hand on a goat, confess over it all the iniquities of the children of Israel, and then release it into the wilderness.

Another is that he goes alone into the tabernacle to offer the burnt sacrifices, and no other man is present. That speaks very much of the aloneness of what Jesus did.

If you have the energy, you might like to read the account of the Day of Atonement today, and see Jesus in it? It's in Leviticus 16:1-34, and it is richly symbolic.

For on that day the priest shall make atonement for you, to cleanse you, that you may be clean from all your sins before the Lord.

And the priest, who is anointed and consecrated to minister as priest in his father's place, shall make atonement (Leviticus 16:30 & 32, NKJV)

So he shall make atonement for the Holy Place, because of the uncleanness of the children of Israel, and because of their transgressions, for all their sins (v. 16)

My friends, as I read the above today, I thought how grateful I am, and thought "Jesus was a high priest who was human like me, like Aaron. He knows exactly what he's interceding for on my behalf. I do not have a high priest who can't sympathize with all my weaknesses, problems and things I'm tempted by".

Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin (Hebrews 4:14-16, NKJV).

If we know the above passage, we likely know what comes next: We can therefore boldly approach the throne of grace in our times of need, to find mercy from God.

Thank you, Jesus.

With that in mind, here's a beautiful worship song that speaks of that ability we have to approach God because of what our high priest, Jesus, did on the cross.

Love to you all,

Ann

 


A Backyard Miracle??

Mark 9_41
Truly I tell you, anyone who gives you a cup of water in my name because you belong to the Messiah will certainly not lose their reward.

Hello SUMers!!

I pray as you read this you are blessed and filled with overwhelming hope!  Jesus is King!!!!

A quick story: This morning I was sitting in my new backyard enjoying the birds and the sun. While sipping my coffee and with my Bible open on my lap, my husband emerged and sat next to me. We chatted about the millions of tasks that we are still facing as we are slowly moving in.

After that discussion, I looked down into my Bible. And I said, "Do you want me to read to you from the Word of God?"

Sheepishly, "No."

That didn't deter me. I simply began to read a passage, "Truly I tell you, anyone who gives you a cup of water in my name because you belong to the Messiah will certainly not lose their reward."

Mike then says to me, "That what you do all the time when you give a bottle of water to everyone who comes here to do any repair work on our house."

I've been doing this for years. 

I looked up, "Wow, I didn't even realize that I was doing this." I smiled BIG. It's fun to discover that God lives in you so much that you live out His will even unknowingly.

BUT, this is the BEST PART OF THE STORY: Later in the day electrician, Gregg, arrived to repair our A/C unit. We blew a fuse, darn it!

I'm in my office as Mike and Greg are chatting. Then suddenly I hear Mike say, "Can I get you a bottle of water?"

My friends, THEY ARE ALWAYS LISTENING. I took one brave moment to read the word to my husband, even when he wasn't interested.

He was listening. 

They are watching and listening. No pressure. Just live an authentic love with Jesus. THAT is all.

I adore you. Lynn


The GREAT Power of Our Warfare

Jesus Names of SUMThe name of Jesus.

His name can launch a war, seal the fate of nations, change the destiny of a thousand generations. His name can cast out legions of devils and free captives from the darkest depression. His name heals the blind and destroys cancer. His name can bring freedom, deliverance, new destinies and fortunes.

For an entire season of my life, I would mumble around whispering the name of Jesus. Over and over, Jesus, Jesus, Jesus. His name spoken aloud changes my heart and my home. Can I share something with you that is a peek into my life? Well, ahem, even today when I wake in the night and make a trip to the bathroom, without being aware, the name of Jesus still slips from my lips. “Jesus, I love you. Jesus, you are my King. Jesus, I adore you. Jesus, Jesus, Jesus.”

Oh, that we would all have the name of Jesus continually tumbling from our lips.

Everything changed for me when I came to wrap my mind, heart and spirit around three passages of scripture and how Jesus is at the core.

And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. —Ephesians 2: 6-7

To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. — Colossians 1:27

For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. —Colossians 3:3

SUMite Nation, come to the truth and grips with these passages. Let them dwell in you and you in them. We are seated with Christ in heaven. Christ is IN US, the hope of glory. We are hidden in Christ in God.

Who could ever touch us if these are true?

Jesus, Prince of Peace
Jesus, Prince of Peace

The weapons of our warfare: The Word of God, Worship, Blood of Jesus, The name of Jesus. And our offensive weapon is our Sword. 

Take care. I adore you. Lynn Donovan

(From the archives as I'm STILL unpacking!  grin)


The Risen Jesus Versus Our Circumstance

Hi everyone, Ann here. He has risen

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

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

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

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

Amen, amen, amen to that.

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

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

In other words:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I'd like to finish with a prayer --

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

Love you all, 

Ann


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

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

The Silent Day

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Not My Will, But Yours Be Done.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Amanda


What Does Victory Look Like?

Hello SUMite Nation, our Church without Walls,

Lynn Donovan here. Years ago, at a writer's conference, I heard the Lord say to me, "Yes, you are going to do this." The reference was to start this ministry and hopefully help one other person who was on the road with me in an unequally yoked marriage.

And here we are years later. So many of you have followed my story, read the books I wrote and those I wrote with Dineen Miller. Our story is HIStory. It's a story of how an ordinary woman had a distant hope in a great BIG God.

I want to share the END OF THE STORY with you today.

March 14 was our THIRTY year wedding anniversary. WOW! Thirty years of ups and downs, fights and makeup mooching, laughing, crying, gain and loss, faith and doubt. We have lived through a life. On this 30th, Mike and I are about to close on our dream home in our New Promised Land. We found a home in a small country community in Northern California. We will move in May 1st. Just in time for my birthday. Papa is just soooo good.

I feel as though all the sacrifice and what seemed like a distant hope for years is now being fulfilled. Thirty years, a lifetime with one man. And more than that, this thirty years led me to the most important aspect of my entire existence. A powerful faith life and an intimate and consuming relationship with Father, Son and Spirit. 

I take into this new Promised Land everything I fought for. All my years of prayers and petitions and the fruits of decades of practice, belief and hope.

My friends..... This is the end game of a faithful God AND a faithful servant of Christ. There is goodness in the land of the living for the faithful. You do your part and God will do His. I KNOW it's difficult and this powerful faith isn't for the faint-of-heart, but for Kingdom children of the Most High.

After 30 years, this is the secret: Don't ever give up on the Lord. Never stop praying and believing. Always grow in faith. Let love change you, then your spouse and your family. Partner with the Lord in all you do and He will show up with miracles.

Thank you for joining me on this journey. I'm humbled to think I shared a tiny part of your life and faith. I'm truly thankful. Thank you for celebrating with me. 

And for all of you still in the trenches, I now get to continually pray for you and your family. Leave your name and those you want me to bring before our Lord. I will do it with great gladness and exuberant expectation for YOUR MIRACLES!

I love you, Lynn

Photos from our new place: 

RM 3 14 2022
RM 3 14 2022
RM 3 14 2022

Lynn New Home RM 3 14 2022


Shift Your Focus

Pexels-ethan-sees-2853432
Photo by Ethan Sees from Pexels

Happy New Year, my friends. I know it’s now February. Wow, where did January go? But this is my first post of 2022. I’m so looking forward to this year.

Where is our Focus?

A new year often brings new beginnings, new hopes, new challenges. Often it simply brings more of the same just in a new year. We can get caught up in channelling our focus and our thoughts on newness or on the existing. For those of us who can grapple with anxiety or worry, we can continue to allow ourselves to focus on the worries or the fears or the things that are making us anxious.

For many of us SUMites, the mismatched nature of our marriage will often feature prominently in our thoughts. Will 2022 be the year we see breakthrough? Will our partner find the Lord? And what if they don’t?

May I encourage you to simply take a few moments now (yes, stop reading this post) and simply ask the Lord to help you see what are some of the thoughts that are pre-occupying you at present? Why not jot them down.

The Enemy is a liar!

The Devil is a liar! John 8:44 tells us this. He will happily engage our minds with worries and fears that are simply … lies. I was reminded of this last week when I read a lovely post from Corrie Ten Boon1. She wrote of a day she was convinced she was coming down with the flu. It was also effecting her eyes as she was struggling to see properly. Corrie had to give a talk and was so consumed by her fear that she didn’t do it well.

“It is impossible to listen to the Lord’s voice while listening to our own fear. Fear is loud, insistent and time-consuming.”

That statement just hit me between the eyes. Because fear is just like that, isn’t it?

To conclude Corrie’s story, her secretary who had been sick happened to listen to her talk. Corrie was surprised to see her as she thought she’d be home in bed. But her secretary realised she had Corrie’s glasses by mistake and wanted to exchange them. They swapped glasses and ‘miraculously’ Corrie’s symptoms disappeared. She had been wearing the wrong glasses.

“When we agree with fear, our symptoms continue … instead of partnering with my symptoms, if I would have sought the Lord, perhaps I would have noticed Him pointing to what was really happening.”

Ever partnered with your fears, worries or symptoms?

Shift our Focus

Worry, fear and anxiety mean our hearts and minds are focused on something else. Jesus asks us to focus on Him. That doesn’t necessarily mean that our circumstances will change, it just means that we are able to hear from Him in our circumstance.

I love reading the Psalms, especially David’s. They express all our emotions: fear, worry, ecstasy, joy, peace and so on. David, as we know, did great things but also some not-so-great things. Often, he struggled when he’d taken his eyes off the Lord.

Psalm 16 is a wonderful psalm of hope. I particularly appreciate these words:

"I will praise the Lord, who counsels me;
    even at night my heart instructs me.
I keep my eyes always on the Lord.
    With him at my right hand, I shall not be shaken.

Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices;
    my body also will rest secure" (v 7-9)

He reminds us that when we keep our focus on the Lord we will not be shaken.

For many of us in mismatched marriages, we keep questioning why it’s taking so long, what do we need to do different or better. We might also worry about the things we feel we can’t do because of our partner won’t like it and it can all get a little overwhelming. Can’t it?

But Jesus simply asks us to shift our focus. Stop thinking about the worries, the issues, the shortcomings, the why nots, and start looking at Him. And not to take our eyes off Him.

Next time I will share a little on how we can shift our focus. How can we develop greater discipline in keeping our eyes on Jesus. In the interim, may I encourage you to spend time reading a Psalm of David’s. 16 or 91(probably written by Moses) or 23 are great places to linger. Linger. Spend a week, a month just lingering on the psalm. And pray them like a prayer, put yourself in David’s shoes.

Grace and peace, my friends.

1. Corrie Ten Boom, God is My Hiding Place: 40 Devotions for Refuge and Strength (Chosen Books, Minneapolis, 2021), 101.


Our Homes and Families, Fasting our Final Day

Community Fast -- The Final Day

We are very nearly there .. Oh what a great feeling! Fast and pray 2022

If you're fasting food you may be feeling somewhat out of it by now, and so relieved that we're nearly there. You've nearly done it! And however you've fasted, God honors your efforts. Hiccups and all.

Fasting afflicts our soul, sends us crashing to the floor in weakness, makes us like vulnerable newborn babies.

But equally, it's a common adventure for us as a community, and that part I love. We've been doing this together for years now, and each year we learn a little more about how to fast or we see each other try something new ... courageously.

I've learned that one person's fast is completely different to another person's; and I shouldn't expect what happens to one person to happen to me. After all, God works with us each so individually. My recent fasts, for example, have been very quiet in terms of hearing God. I've often expected some grand revelation, but it's not necessarily been like that. All I know is that it does change things. I look back at all these years of fasting now, and do believe it has strengthened many of us, enabling us to walk in victory in some quite difficult circumstances.

Spiritually, we are a powerful army when we fast like this, together. It's as if we're marching forward in ranks, side by side, not looking to the right or the left. Only forward. Only towards our God. Armored up, and focused. And while it's tough as anything, it's a pleasure to do this with you, to be part of these ranks, and to know that on all sides not only do I have the mighty hosts of Heaven, I also have my fellow soldiers in this community.

So as we march towards the finish line (yay!!) I wonder if we can do two things today just before our fast closes? I'll be doing this an hour or so before the end, and then will ease into eating gradually.

First, take communion. Before our fast Lynn shared a recipe for unleavened bread. Or, take a regular cracker, juice or wine, and then sit in the quiet and read one of the passages in the Gospels where Jesus talked about the Lord's supper. Those can be found in Matthew 26:26-29, Mark 14:22-25, and Luke 22:17-20. Or you could read some of John chapters 14-17. Marinate a little and thank him for the week.

And second, would you take some time to pray for the whole SUM community? That is, the SUMites, their homes, their spouses, and their children? What a lovely thing that would be for so many of us to be lifting up our voices in prayer for these homes. It'll be not unlike our recent day of worship, where our prayers will reach Heaven hour by hour, seeing as we are spread across so many time zones.

Thanks everyone, it's been a meaningful week as always. Next week I'm on holiday with my family in the South Island of New Zealand (a place called Queenstown) so the blog will be quiet. But we'll all be back again the week after.

And now it's your turn: Tell us about your fast, how has it gone? Did you experience anything spiritually? I can't wait to read the comments.

Love to you all,

Ann


While in the Wilderness - Fasting Day Two

How did day one of the Fast go for you? If you didn't manage it yesterday don't beat yourself up -- It's perfectly normal to have a few hiccups in this big exercise called fasting. Just dust yourself off, get back on the horse, and start afresh. Fast and pray 2022

Over here, so far so good. I've not eaten since Monday morning. It does make me feel unwell, though, and that's even with coffee and juices. I can't believe that Jesus did this without those kinds of aids in blazing desert heat for forty days (Matthew 4:1-4).

On that note, I feel like looking at a well-known fasting passage today:

Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.”

Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’ ”

Weakened, Jesus goes through more temptations from the devil in his fasting state until finally:

"The devil left him, and angels came and attended him" (v.11).

I'm reflecting today on the fact that a believer who has work to do for the Lord will be allowed to endure a wilderness season like the above.  A season, that is, where they are weakened, fragile, tempted, and embattled. Sound familiar?

A wilderness season (which may last years) lifts us from being a baby Christian to a viable, ministering-to-others, working-for-the-Lord kind of Christian. 

I wonder why Jesus fasted while also being in the wilderness and being tempted. It seemed the two came as a package: Fasting forty days, and also being tempted in a miserable wilderness. Further, he was on his own; well, without human companionship. But that whole package (fasting, temptation) lifted Jesus into a maturity that meant he could walk into the next thing God had for him: His ministry.

It's also noticeable that his wilderness time happened straight after he was baptized. And it was only after the wilderness that he went out, found his disciples, and performed his very first public miracle: The turning of water to wine at a wedding.

Do we all need to have a wilderness time after our initial conversion in order to truly be useful to the Lord? Perhaps so. For out of our pain comes our ministry to others.

For that reason, when I look back on my own SUM I can even dare to say that I wouldn't change it for the world. It's done things to my own character. Necessary things, I guess.

Our homes, our families, and our wilderness alone season... God will use it all. And we can pray "Lord, help us walk it through and see it through. Hold us up in it all."

How is your fast going so far? Any thoughts on the topic of wilderness seasons? Share anything you'd like to in the comments.

Ann


There Once Was A Man Who Didn't Believe

There was once a man who didn't believe in God, and he didn't hesitate to let others know how he felt about religion and religious holidays, like Christmas. His wife, however, did believe, and she raised their children to also have faith in God and Jesus, despite his disparaging comments.

Snow_church One snowy Christmas Eve, his wife was taking their children to a Christmas Eve service in the farm community in which they lived. She asked him to come, but he refused.

"That story is nonsense!" he said. "Why would God lower Himself to come to Earth as a man? That's ridiculous!" So she and the children left, and he stayed home.

A while later, the winds grew stronger and the snow turned into a blizzard. As the man looked out the window, all he saw was a blinding snowstorm. He sat down to relax before the fire for the evening. Then he heard a loud thump. Something had hit the window. Then another thump. He looked out, but couldn't see more than a few feet.

When the snow let up a little, he ventured outside to see what could have been beating on his window. In the field near his house he saw a flock of wild geese. Apparently they had been flying south for the winter when they got caught in the snowstorm and couldn't go on. They were lost and stranded on his farm, with no food or shelter. They just flapped their wings and flew around the field in low circles, blindly and aimlessly. A couple of them had flown into his window, it seemed.

The man felt sorry for the geese and wanted to help them. The barn would be a great place for them to stay, he thought. It's warm and safe; surely they could spend the night and wait out the storm. So he walked over to the barn and opened the doors wide, then watched and waited, hoping they would notice the open barn and go inside.

The geese just fluttered around aimlessly and didn't seem to notice the barn or realize what it could mean for them. The man tried to get their attention, but that just seemed to scare them and they moved further away. He went into the house and came back out with some bread, broke it up, and made a breadcrumbs trail leading to the barn, but they still didn't catch on.

Now he was getting frustrated. He got behind them and tried to shoo them toward the barn, but they only got more scared and scattered in every direction except toward the barn. Nothing he did could get them to go into the barn where they would be warm and safe.

"Why don't they follow me?!" he exclaimed. "Can't they see this is the only place where they can survive the storm?" He thought for a moment and realized that they just wouldn't follow a human.

"If only I were a goose, then I could save them," he said out loud.Geese winter

Then he had an idea. He went into barn, got one of his own geese, and carried it in his arms as he circled around behind the flock of wild geese. He then released it. His goose flew through the flock and straight into the barn - and one by one the other geese followed it to safety!

He stood silently for a moment as the words he had spoken a few minutes earlier replayed in his mind:

"If only I were a goose, then I could save them!"

Then he thought about what he had said to his wife earlier. "Why would God want to be like us? That's ridiculous!"

Suddenly it all made sense. That is what God had done. We were like the geese - blind, lost, and perishing. God had His Son become like us so He could show us the way and save us. That was the meaning of Christmas, he realized!

As the winds and blinding snow died down, his soul became quiet and pondered this wonderful thought. Suddenly he understood what Christmas was all about, why Christ had come.

Years of doubt and disbelief vanished like the passing storm. He fell to his knees in the snow, and prayed his first prayer:

Mangercross "Thank You, God, for coming in human form to get me out of the storm!"

~Author Unknown

 


When Jesus Enters Our Home ...

By Ann Hutchison  Lion of Judah

Recently one of our SUMites sent me a lovely word that I believe is relevant to all of us and I want to share it today. It's a great analogy of the work Jesus does in our homes.

Here's what she said:

"Ann, does Aslan from the Chronicles of Narnia mean anything to you?

I got a lovely picture of how he walks through and all the snow melts and things come to life. That's what I saw for your household."

That was from Libby Finan from the UK, who many of us know as she has been with our community for several years. It's always a treat when she sends something like this. Yes it was a message to me, but as I sat with it yesterday I felt "It's for us all!" So, if she's reading today, thank you Libby. And, I'm guessing most of us know the story of Aslan the lion from C S Lewis's book The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardobe? If not, it's a great read.

As for the picture of Aslan that she shared above, isn't that a beautiful analogy of how Jesus works in our families?  We welcome him in, he enters our families, and things do start to change. Often the wait is far longer than we are comfortable with, but we start to see glimmers ... sparkles. It might be seen in the fact your marriage gets that little bit more harmonious. Or that your spouse begins to verbalize acceptance of your faith instead of the opposite. Lynn lion

Jesus is indeed to us like a strong, majestic lion, and He has the power over anything the enemy can throw at our families. Because of that, the following verse is such an important one for us:

And the God of peace will crush Satan under your feet shortly. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. Amen. (Romans 16:2o, NKJV)

Indeed shortly, shortly God crushes the enemy and he turns winter into springtime for us. But 'shortly' for God can take a while. And the work of Jesus might take the form of a gentle thawing, like the dew of Heaven lightly settling onto different areas of our lives. It's a blossoming here, a blossoming there. 

Last month one of those little glimmers happened in my own household. It might seem small but it felt big to me:

It was my birthday and I'd asked God for something nice. Why not huh (I'm smiling).. And yes, something special did happen that day. That evening our son Miles decided he'd like to go to a church social event, and Bryce offered to drive him. It was a 10-minute drive. The next thing I know I get a text from the pastor's wife: "I've just met your husband."

It turns out that when they'd arrived no one was there except the pastor and his wife and so Bryce had got out of the car to meet them. They had a lovely chat and he enjoyed it. They sound to have covered a lot of ground, including his own church background and their own sense of calling, and they chatted a while.

The sweet pastor's wife (her name is Olivia, and she is 28, so young and non-threatening) then said ever so nicely, "You'd be so welcome to come to church if you like," At which point Bryce threw his head back and laughed, "Well ...."

It was all good natured and low key, but it was the first time Bryce had actually gone near a church event and got out of the car. Further, the friendliness and ease of it all felt to me like a new blossoming. That day Bryce met 'my church' and liked them. It prompted a quiet hooray in my heart, and a thawing. Just like the Aslan picture above.

Yes, when Jesus is welcomed by us into our household, things do change. Have you found that in any area yourself, I wonder? Let's chat in the comments.

Ann

p.s. The lion painting above was done by Lynn. I thought it was a good fit!


December Rhythms and Routines

Hi my dear friends, it's Ann here. Writing

Well, it's December (hooray!) and today I wanted to chat about personal rhythms and routines over Advent.

With the cosiness of Christmas in the air, I just love December. And one of the reasons for that is I have a few little special things I do to connect with God. These things are special enough to me that I start to look forward to them in November!

Centuries ago, the Western church developed a liturgy to help their congregations connect through the year with the Gospel. Specific scriptures were read on certain dates, and specific stories from scripture were celebrated. I imagine that was a very helpful thing for those who loved God but couldn't necessarily read his word. Well, these days I think we can do the same in our personal lives: We can find some special personal routines throughout our year that help us remember and connect with aspects of God.

When it comes to Advent and December, I thought I might share with you my three special practices, and I'd love to hear from you in turn if you have any special Christmas faith routines. I'm sure I'll adopt more routines as the years pass, but for now here are my three:

First of all, on 1 December I pick up my heavy leather Bible, open up its beautiful pages to the nativity sections in Matthew and Luke and start to read. I say Matthew and Luke because they're the only two out of the four Gospels that cover Jesus's birth. I take my time over them, marinating in them, piecing them together like a jigsaw puzzle, and reading one section a day. 

They are fascinating narratives; they never get old. I find I look back sometimes on the Old Testament prophecies that go with certain parts. I shake my head in wonder at the Bible and this part of it -- The nativity story. It is truly a mind-blowing thing, and also a very surprising thing that God did here: A baby in a manger. A messiah born to an 'unmarried' woman? Bemusing. Mesmerizing. Full of symbolism. 

The second thing I do is crack open my own journals for the whole past year and start to re-read them over the month of December. Now this one involves a lot of sitting around with a whole lot of coffee; which, to Bryce, does look a little lazy. But it's amazing to look back on what God has done. I find I've asked God a lot of questions and have written down everything I've prayed for, so sometimes I find myself startled to see within the pages of those journals that "Wow, Lord, you really did answer that."

And finally, as Christmas approaches I book myself a hotel room for the night and take 24 hours away with God. It's indulgent, I know, but sometimes a mother's got to do what a mother's got to do. I tell my family it's 'Mum's strategic planning day', at which they burst into laughter. But truly it's to talk to God about the coming year. 

I guess I'm writing this because the success of our walk as SUMites is so heavily driven by how deep our intimacy with God is. And now, our ability to cope with this pandemic is also going to be impacted by the same. Yes, we have at least two tough things we are enduring (the SUM, the pandemic) .. And if we have tough stuff in our lives, oh how we need Jesus like we need air!

How about you? I'd love to hear of any routines you have at Christmas time. Yours might look completely different to mine but hey, variety is just great, and so I'm looking forward to chatting about this one.

Ann


The Gospel -- What is it?

GospelMy friends, we're currently in a series about Carrying the Gospel in our Homes, and I've loved your input so far - Thanks!

It was particularly interesting last Friday when we chatted about 'What is the Gospel?' and we each came up with different things that it meant to us. Perhaps that shouldn't be too surprising as the Bible presents a multi-faceted picture of the Gospel too.

Anyway, today I thought it'd be interesting to chat a bit more about that question: What is the Gospel?

In the Bible the word 'Gospel' (euangelion in Greek) is used 77 times, but in different ways. Across these 77 instances, it's referred to as:

The Gospel of Jesus Christ (e.g., Romans 15:19). Gospel pic

The Gospel of the Kingdom (e.g., Matthew 4:23).

The Gospel of the Grace of God (e.g., Acts 20:24).

The Gospel of God (e.g., Romans 1:1).

The Gospel of Your Salvation (e.g., Ephesians 1:13).

The Gospel of Peace (e.g., Ephesians 6:15).

In each of these cases, the word 'Gospel' is used quickly in a sentence, and then the writer moves on. It's almost as if it's too big to describe in that moment. It is, however, described as 'truth', 'fellowship', 'glorious', and 'a mystery'. Further, that word euangelion means 'Glad Tidings', so it's really, really good!

In his own preaching of the Gospel Jesus said, "Repent", but he followed it with: "For the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand!" So, yes, it does include a very real call to repentance. And, the stark fact is that some will reject God. But our job is to bring the Good News of the Kingdom of Heaven.

And so, we carry this Good News in our homes, daily, and over long years. It's seen by our spouse all the time. Whether or not we say a word about it. It will (metaphorically) ooze out of our pores as we live out our Christian life and make all the choices we make as SUMites.

Now, here's an extra little thing: I mentioned in Monday's post that I know someone who is an evangelist. He's an older minister than me and he runs the New Zealand branch of a global ministry (Evangelism Explosion) that teaches Christians how to share the Gospel. It's a great ministry! Anyway, a few weeks ago he invited me to come on one of his courses and, as I write, we're currently midway through.

Now you'd think for a SUMite we'd know a lot about this topic ... Yes, yes we do. But, I am not an evangelist, and I believe I can benefit from putting myself in a room with those who are. Indeed, this course is turning out to be very enjoyable with plenty of new things to think about. 

One of the things my evangelist friend has given us in the course is an outline of the Gospel, showing how it has five elements to it: Heaven, Man, God, Jesus, and Faith. The idea is that we can use these five elements to think about how chat to others when sharing our faith. Here they are:

The Gospel:

"(1) Heaven is a free gift. It is not earned or deserved.

(2) Man is a sinner. He cannot save himself.

(3) God is Love and doesn't want to punish us. But God is just and must punish our sin. 

(4) Christ is both God and man. He died on the cross and rose from the dead to pay the penalty for our sins and purchase a place in Heaven for us.

(5) Faith is not just head knowledge, nor is it temporary faith. True saving faith is trusting in Jesus Christ alone for our eternal life."

(Quoted from the Evangelism Explosion manual)

Can that outline help us a little more, I wonder? I, for one, am going to blue-tack it up on my kitchen wall for a week or so and mull over how I carry these five messages.

We may find, even, that we have the opportunity to chat about one of these five areas to our spouse in the course of natural conversation. In any case, we can be sure that as carriers of this message our spouse will see it. They will see what we believe; and they will see what we stand for. And that is our great commission fulfilled.

I look forward to chatting in the comments, as always, and have a lovely weekend.

Ann


Let's Go to the Rock

Dear friends, Ann here. Rock 1

Today I just wanted to post a short-n-sweet thought.

Both Ian and I wrote last week about those moments in marriage where our partner finds our faith all too much. And we chatted about how our natural response might be to withdraw a little from Jesus to ease the comfort of our partner. But, as we discussed, the real solution is to push into Jesus.

Even if it feels risky.

We still honor and devote time to our partner. But we push into Jesus.

Those who commented last week agreed; and we all said it takes some time to learn that Jesus is actually the solution here. If we keep on prioritizing him, he will bring surprising things into our marriage; and will ease the situation somehow.

Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. (2 Corinthians 3:17)

In that discussion one of our SUMites, Susan, shared in the comments a song that captures this idea perfectly. It's I Go to the Rock by Helen Shapiro, and it's so spot-on for us it could be our anthem for the moment. We, the SUM community, push into the Rock! So, on that upbeat note I'll leave you with the song. Thank you, Susan, for sharing it -- And let's keep going to the Rock!

 


In Our Homes We Are Fresh as a Daisy!

Hi dear friends, Scripture Aug 6

On Monday I talked about a particular feature of our Christian life in our homes: That on the one hand we're engaged in fierce battle against the powers of darkness; but on the other, much of our faith life is about enjoying the abundant life of Jesus by receiving his love and giving out his love. 

It's as if these two things often mix and swirl in our hearts: The battle, but also the delight. They do work together: If we delight in him and rest in him, we become better warriors.

Having thought about all this, I recently made the picture here for our Facebook and Instagram pages. Take a look and see what you think -- I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments. It is a scripture about battle but, nudged by the Holy Spirit, I set it amongst a picture of daisies.

Fresh, lovely daisies.

The scripture itself is from 2 Corinthians 10:4:

"The weapons of our warfare are not the weapons of the world. Instead, they have divine power to demolish strongholds."

If you look at this picture what does it speak of to you? The idea that our weapons are not weapons of the world can certainly get us thinking afresh. 

Having marinated on this picture myself, here are a few words I've scribbled for us all with the help of the Holy Spirit. I hope these bless you in your battle and delight you as a sweet and precious child of God:

Our weapons are love, intimacy with Jesus, rest, prayer, fasting, delighting in the Lord, and other weapons that don’t look anything like worldly weapons. These are restful Kingdom weapons, just like the yoke of Jesus is easy and his burden is light.

Like daisies we might seem 'common-garden' or ordinary to others, but we are fresh and white, clean and bright in God’s eyes. Oh, how he loves us! Clothed in white like the saints in the Book of Revelation, we know whose we are. Indeed, we are positioned in his inner courts, beside his throne of grace.

Like a daisy, our faith is beautiful and fragrant to him. It is delicate and ever so precious. What’s more, it came from him all along: He clothed us in those robes of white.

And who knew … This delicate and fragrant faith holds more power than we can easily recognize. It is the light of Jesus, and that Light destroys strongholds.

So, like a sweet daisy, keep on stoking your prayer life, dear SUMite. Keep on holding on tight to the hand of Jesus. Keep on resting in him and trusting in him. Keep on reading scripture. Keep going. For, the outworking of all of this is that the Light of Jesus is so powerful that strongholds cannot help but be SMASHED!

Love you loads, Sumites!

Ann


Representing Jesus to Our Families

By Ann Hutchison Unlock with love

Hi SUMites!

I just had a realization that gave me a giggle. I went onto our Instagram page, scrolled down, and realized that I have put so many pictures of weaponry on there. We have at least two sets of boxing gloves … a sword … a spear … a few videos of me talking about hurling stones at Goliath giants .. And then I have a picture of war-planes scheduled for an upcoming post. The reason I laughed, I suppose, is that I'm not particularly like that in other areas of my life. 

I looked at all that battle imagery and thought to myself, ‘Ann?! What's going on?’ 

Well … It could be the times we’re in and what God has been asking us to focus on. Society's godlessness is ramping up. That calls for us to strengthen ourselves in the Lord (1 Samuel 30:6). From a personal viewpoint, I've also had to fight so tenaciously for my faith in my marriage that I do feel a bit like a toughened old boot these days. But I also know that to represent God well to others we must hold two things in equal tension: (1) Compassion/mercy on the one hand, and (2) Righteousness/truth on the other. As we learn about these, we sometimes focus on one and sometimes on the other, until we can walk out both things in tandem and represent Jesus well.

Our marriages are a great training ground for that: How to represent the mercy of Jesus, but also stand up for truth. Do you find that as difficult as I do, I wonder?

For months I suppose I've been something like a battle-maiden when it comes to Jesus. I’ve been listening to God about putting away cowardice. I’ve also been engaging more than I used to with the issue of demons. Finally - sadly -- I’ve gone near the realization that some people are truly in rebellion against God, as opposed to, say, being apathetic or on the fence. All of those issues are not ‘meek and mild’ ideas. Rather, they speak to the fact that Jesus often stood up against things and came to destroy the works of the devil, as captured in this scripture:

Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil. 1 John 3:8 (ESV)

So yes, we've been focusing on battle in this blog lately; but, hey, perhaps we can switch modes now. The fact is, Jesus is so wonderful I want to spend the whole day with him, always! As Lynn said recently, "When you have an encounter of love with God it changes you forever," and it is that experience of Jesus that I want to bring to another person when I represent Christianity -- The kind of delightful experience of Jesus that would unlock their hearts and make them want to fall to their knees. Quote Sep 2

How, how? How do we bring Jesus to others who don't know him? Well, to know our gifts is one great way, so that we can use the strengths God has given us to fulfil his purposes. For example, some of us are great encouragers, others have an interest in praying for healing, others love praying for people. Then we must pursue those things. 

But what about bringing the abundant life to our spouses? That one feels tough because their hearts often seem unready to receive anything we want to say in spiritual terms. What a great topic for us to turn our attention to next, perhaps. I feel a series coming on!

In the meantime, let's chat in the comments -- I would love to hear what you think of any of the above.

Much love,

Ann


Why Can't I Keep My Freedom In Christ? By Lynn Donovan

Hi SUMite Family,

I want to share some gained wisdom with you today. As many of you are aware, I have a prayer ministry where I pray with people to help them gain freedom from the enemy strongholds in their lives.

I pray with others to help them uncover the specific areas where the enemy has “legal rights” to their lives, their homes, relationships and faith. We work with Jesus to remove these legal rights and to release them into greater freedom.

I’ve worked with so many different people and one thing always happens in every. single. session. Jesus shows up. Every time. We partner with Him and many find freedom and help.

However, retaining that freedom isn’t easy. Today, I want to share two issues that contribute to a return of oppression.

  1. HARD WORK: To retain the freedom you gained via the Word, through teaching at church, a Bible study, prayer time or a prayer session with me, you must do the hard work.

FreedomI find most people aren’t willing to push forward to read the Word and ACTUALLY put the Word into practice. It takes hard work, determination and time. All of these things are counter to our culture of immediate rewards.

The Kingdom of God requires ALL of these. Hard work, determination and a LOT of time.

Many people truly experience freedom but if they don’t carve out time to pursue Jesus for themselves, the enemy quickly comes by to steel their freedom.

Then he (Jesus) told them many things in parables, saying: “A farmer went out to sow his seed. 4 As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. 5 Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. 6 But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. 7 Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. 8 Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop—a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown. 9 Whoever has ears, let them hear.” -MATTHEW 13:3-9

The enemy of our souls will devour the seeds if they aren’t nurtured, protected, watered and feed.

Next post: Reason number two.

I love you. See you next time. Hugs, Lynn


One Husband and his Jesus-Freak Wife

SUM family, Ann here! Hoodie right way up

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ann


Lynn Donovan - Where We Are Today

Profile for TypepadSUM Nation,

Lynn Donovan here. Gang, it’s time to catch up with you. I’m going to share a few random thoughts. So grab your coffee, strap in, get ready.  LET’S GO! 

First, I believe that as followers of Jesus, we are amid one of the most challenging seasons of our faith life. This feels especially true when compared to a number of generations that preceded us. For me personally, since January, I’ve faced difficulty and pain that almost toppled me. Even in my marriage. Even though Mike is a believer.

So, if you have walked through or are currently in the Valley of the shadow of death, TAKE HEART.

  1. You aren’t alone.
  2. It will end.
  3. Needed lessons regarding surrender and determination are learned.
  4. Discovery of personal idols are revealed.

Then you will:

  1. Walk into a higher level of intimacy with our King.
  2. Realize how your personal idols were open doors to the demonic.
  3. Discover the blessings of surrender.
  4. Make changes that bring health. Physical health, mental and emotional health and health to your soul.

I’m convinced that we are headed for some interesting times and seasons ahead. The assignment against the Church is intense. Right now, Satan and his minions are working out plans to totally destroy or at least scramble the church. So, when it happens you will know that the effort was intentional. But God will reveal many truths in this season as well. And the Church of Jesus Christ will never be destroyed.

I hear the verse: What can be shaken will be shaken.

Now this, “Yet once more,” indicates the removal of those things that are being shaken, as of things that are made, that the things which cannot be shaken may remain. – HEBREWS 12:27

We, The Remnant, and I mean all of us who are/were unequally yoked. We have been prepared. It wasn’t a wasted life to live with an unbeliever. We perceive things the majority of the church can’t begin to understand. We appreciate what it’s like to balance and live in the in-between.

And WE KNOW THE TRUTH. We were forced to figure out our beliefs because we lived with persecution within our own homes. So, we will be the first to sniff out deception. To uncover the lies and to unite, even if underground, to bring hope and truth to others who are desperate for a word from God.

One thing I know for certain. Choose every day to arise and…

  1. Follow hard after Father, Jesus and Holy Spirit
  2. Forgive Freely
  3. Kick the devil out
  4. Choose to never be offended
  5. Love with truth
  6. Allow wisdom of the Word to be your guide
  7. Know who you are and Whose you are

Finally, for all of you who feel broken. I know exactly how you feel. I can promise you this. When everything is broken and the only thing you have is Jesus. When He is all we have left. He is more than enough. And He is all the matters.

I love you dearly. Keep Marching because your faith is so very important in this season. Hugs, Lynn


Another Giveaway

I hope you have been enjoying the memories from all the writers. There is more coming. But today, just enter your name and favorite Bible verse in the comments to enter into any of the books or teaching below: 

 

Kingdom Conversations cover photo

Winning Him Without Words
Raising Godly Kids in a Spiritually Mismatched Home
Winning Them With Prayer
Marching Around Jericho
Kingdom Conversations
My Child Sees Monsters - Release date: June 1, 2021

Or you can choose from the vast video teaching: Equipping Warriors. Take a look. These videos WILL grow your faith and challenge you into greater faith in Jesus.

Lord Y'shua, I pray for every person who has come to this place on the web. Fill them with hope. Show them TODAY how you are working in their lives, marriage and families. Reveal the miracles that surround them. Speak to them clearly and remove the evil assignments against their lives. In Your powerful name, Y'shua. AMEN

 

I LOVE YOU! Lynn


It's Okay to Doubt

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Image courtesy of FAVPNG and workablequantit26

Hi Sumites, Ian here.

Another Easter has passed. Ann led us through Holy Week and I thought I’d share some thoughts on one of the stories we read post Jesus’ resurrection.

Thomas and his doubts

When Jesus first appeared to the group of disciples in the Upper Room on Sunday night, Thomas was missing. Why? The Biblical accounts don’t tell us.

In the days following, Thomas catches up with his friends, only to be informed that he missed the return of Jesus. Incredibly, he doesn’t believe them. Why would his friends mislead him? Why doesn’t Thomas trust their words?

Thomas responds with his well-known statement: ““Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.” (John 20:24 NIV)

Soon after, the disciples are all assembled in the Upper Room once again. This time, Thomas is with them. Lo and behold, Jesus turns up (not bothering to use the door. Remember, He’s fully divine now!) Jesus knows what’s going on in Thomas’ heart and not wanting him to feel left out, offers Thomas the same opportunity he gave the others the previous night: come and touch my wounds. Tellingly, he encourages Thomas to “stop doubting and believe.”

We’re all like Thomas

Jesus knew Thomas’ doubt. What does he do? Jesus knows what will eliminate that doubt: touching his wounds. Lovingly, Jesus invited Thomas to draw close, touch and believe.

We all struggle with doubt from time to time, don’t we? When will my spouse come to know the Lord? Will they ever come to know the Lord? What happens if they don’t? Why does God appear to be silent when I cry out for help: for peace in my family, for healing of an illness, for an end to this pandemic?

Like Thomas, the two disciples on the road to Emmaus had doubts. Once again, Jesus gave them the best answer he could: Himself.

Jesus knows our doubts. He knows every single one of them. And like Thomas, Jesus invites us to experience … Him. Jesus asks us to do something, well, two things: act and believe.

Thomas missed the initial opportunity to stop doubting because he had separated himself from the others. I often do this too. When I’m fearful, or doubting, or simply fed up with the journey, I retreat. I shut myself off. I get lackadaisical with prayer and Bible reading. I stop listening, I allow myself to be easily distracted and stop being present.

Reading the Word, prayer and Christian community are all examples of acting. The reason these are so important are that Jesus is in all of them. He’s present. We’ll find Jesus in the Word, when we pray (and be still to listen) and when we meet with others (“when two or three are gathered”)

May I encourage each one of us to move towards Jesus. He always has open arms, inviting us to step into them, yes, to touch his wounds and simply, experience his presence. 

Which of these three activities: Bible reading, prayer, Christian community do you find most challenging when life becomes difficult? Be wonderful if we could share with each other in the comments below.

Grace and peace, my friends.


Focus on Jesus, And ... Things Bloom!

Dear SUMites, Ann here. Jesus

I hope you enjoyed our little experience of walking together through Easter. I have to say it was a great discipline for me to focus solely on Jesus that week. 

On the topic of 'focusing solely on Jesus', when I first started writing for this blog a few years ago I asked Lynn "What would you say the mission of this ministry is?" Her answer: "Point the SUM community to Jesus."

Obviously, on this blog we write about all sorts of topics around that. We try to revisit practical things like financial giving or church involvement – Things that are surprisingly common challenges for us all. And then the spiritual aspect of a SUM is also a big topic for us – Things like prayer, spiritual warfare, God’s promises and so on. But primarily the key to thriving in any hard circumstance, including a spiritually mismatched marriage, is this: Focus on Jesus.

Early on, when I was really finding it difficult having this gaping faith difference in my marriage, a friend gave me some advice:

“Ann, if you focus on Jesus, Bryce will eventually see the spiritual bloom on your cheek.”

Quite honestly, at the time I felt overwhelmed by that. Only because I was all-round 'overwhelmed' anyway. I guess it was all proving too difficult to follow Jesus when there was so much resistance. I thought if I did move forward towards Jesus any more than I already was doing, my husband might even leave me. It was incorrect thinking, but it was my fear. The whole thing seemed a massive risk, and I wondered if this advice was a little … Too simple, perhaps?

But now I look at that advice and think ‘Yep!’ Spot on. Thank you to that friend. It is simple, and it is the key. Focus on Jesus.

It’s not easy to push forward towards Jesus, but the fruits do come. The joy, the peace, the love, and eventually the power. For what happens is that the more we fill ourselves up with the Spirit of Christ, what we carry becomes far stronger than what is in the world. And that is when testimonies happen!

So now, on the topic of testimonies, I have something curious to share next time I write -- Something that has happened in my home. More on that another day (I'm smiling).

For now, how easy do you find it to 'focus on Jesus' amidst your SUM circumstances? Let’s chat!


The Story God Writes

Hi friends, Ann here.

As we consider the story of Jesus's last week, we've reached the day after the crucifixion.

And today, I've been thinking about how God is just the best story-teller!   Story

How would the disciples have felt, I wonder, during those long, long hours when Jesus was in the grave? Trauma, no doubt. Confusion, perhaps? Fear, for sure. An inkling of something good to come next, but serious difficulty believing it. If I were in their shoes I'm not sure I'd have been able to believe the good at that point.

Little did they know that every single part of that story they were living out had been pre-planned by God down to the finest detail. Later, that story would be written as part of a wonderful and coherent book. A book that starts with 'Genesis' and ends with 'Revelation'.

When Jesus had told two disciples to go to Bethphage and untie a donkey, for example, it was so that a prophecy in the Old Testament could be fulfilled.

"Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your King is coming to you; He is just and having salvation, lowly and riding on a donkey." (Zechariah 9:9, NKJV)

When he told two of them to find him a room to eat the Passover, it was so that he could eat the lamb with them. This was something foreshadowed generations earlier by their Jewish ancestors when the Passover meal was first instituted. And when Judas sold Jesus for thirty pieces of silver, it had already been prophesied centuries ago (Zechariah 11:12-13).

It was all one exquisitely crafted story. A love story.

Just like those disciples, we -- Jesus's present disciples -- can't really see the story we're part of. God continues to write stories using our lives. These stories turn into testimonies but while we're in the midst of our own personal testimony it's hard to understand what on earth God is doing in our lives. Or to sit through it.

Still, for those disciples something was round the corner. The same is true for our own lives. There will always be a 'something next' that God is doing.

Back tomorrow, friends, on Resurrection Sunday!