100 posts categorized "Victory"

Child of an Unequally Yoked Marriage: Part Two

Betty Higginbotham is continuing her story today. You can find part one here. On Monday Betty described how she married and had four children, but her husband wasn't a believer. So, we'll let her continue -- Betty Higginbotham

"Oh I tried. I would start going to church and tell myself "I got this", "I got it this time", just to be dragged back down. I did this many times. Never feeling accepted. Loved. My husband and I then got into a lifestyle I'm not proud of. I won't speak of it here. I will say it all but destroyed our marriage.

I battled again. For three years. Spoke of wanting to get back to God, but I didn’t know how. I couldn't just tell my friends or stop the lifestyle. Leave what I thought made my husband happy? No, I couldn't. I didn't know how. But, driving on my way to work one morning I spoke the simplest words. “God if that’s you, if you are calling my name, you and you alone will have to get me out. Because I don't know how to walk away.”

I woke up from a dream one night. It was so vivid and surreal. I was in a deep dirty hole, as if standing at the bottom of a water well. I could see all my sin around me. It was sickeningly scary, filthy. At the top of this deep, deep hole there was a light! A very small light. Oh! If I could just reach that light I would be out of here! Now imagine looking through a toy kaleidoscope, the image of the light getting brighter and brighter before bursting open with magnificent bold bright most beautiful colors like a turning kaleidoscope. I was getting out! I awoke. 

About a year later in the same lifestyle we were drinking and partying as usual, but in a split second a series of events happened that made my whole world blow up. It left me with no one. No friends. On the verge of divorce. I cried. I cried so hard. I didn't understand! But in my total brokenness, I heard a still soft voice. "Yet I am still here. Never to leave you nor forsake you."

From then on, I committed to follow God. I was 44 and have not looked back or missed one minute of that life since. It's taken a lot of healing. Rekindled relationships with family. Renewed friendships with my sisters, a closer bond like never before. I'm still with my husband of 34 years. We have much more of an understanding and are a lot more in tune with one another.

I struggled so long trying to "ride the fence". I knew the truth from a young age. I saw miracles at young ages. I heard God's voice. I used his power. Why did I struggle so? Well, my mother told me when I was 8: “They are battling for your life BUT satan will not win!” She claimed my victory in Jesus’ name from the very beginning. She had so much more faith in God and his promise (Acts 16:31 Believing on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved, you and your household!) than she did in the path I was taking. She did not sway nor waver. She only believed God’s word was true. She knew that day 10 years ago would come. She believed what God said was the end result would come to pass. To this day, all her children have accepted and are living for Jesus Christ.

I tell you all of this to pass along the hope and faith my mother had. No matter the road your children take, or are now on, it is not the end of their story! Satan may win some battles but the war is won only by the one who shed his blood for me, for you and your household, the one who stomps the serpent's head!

Now for things you did not see in my story.

  1. I was never physically abused even though I had an abusive alcoholic father.
  2. I didn't die nor have any effect of my overdose. Not even long term. I'm still healthy today.
  3. I was never addicted to drugs or alcohol. I could always take it or leave it.
  4. God saved my marriage. More than once. My husband is still not saved but God has a plan for his life.

Throughout my life God was there. Covering me. Protecting me. When you see your daughter or son taking a different path, stop. Look through the eyes of our Savior and see his end result, his promise that is written in Acts 16:31.

I pray this gives someone, just one, encouragement that the lost child will return home to Christ. As parents we are the seed planters. It may take others to water that seed for its growth. Much love to you all and God bless.

Hi. I am Betty Higginbotham from Southwest Louisiana where I work as a geriatric nurse. I have been a believer all my life but I have known Christ for the last 10 years. I am 53 years old and have been married for 34 years with 4 beautiful daughters.


Trials -- Count it all Joy?!

Dear friends, Ann here. His word 2

Sigh, my heart is full! Yesterday morning I got up, made a pot of coffee, opened Zoom and there was Lynn along with a screen full of other SUM faces. Most were from America, one from England, and another from New Zealand.

When I see the SUM community in person like that I want to reach through the screen, pull you into my living room, and say a big hello. There's a lot of love here for you.

Most enjoyably, we sat with the Word of God for 40 minutes, then broke off into discussion groups.

My friends, if you want to join in next week or any of the following weeks, for as much or little as you can, please do. Email me at annhutch42@gmail.com. I might even be able to send you a recording of this last session (we're still working that out). I can certainly send you the Zoom link for upcoming sessions. 3pm Pacific, Wednesdays.

The Word of God. Isn't it wonderful! Since we're in the Book of James, can I encourage you to read it, even if you're not able to join on Zoom? I also will write the odd post about James on the blog as we focus on that book. Today, I want to do that, so here's a little introductory thought:

This week, a long-time friend of our community, Jim Edwards, sent me some writing that he had done about the Book of James. He wrote a book called Living and Breathing Hebrews to Jude (2008), and it's a paraphrase of the New Testament's epistles. I read the James segment and absolutely loved it. (Man, how I love the creative things God births through people in our community!) From that, here's something Jim wrote --

"James is full of one-liners: some seriously tough sound-bites. As sound-bites they can easily be misunderstood, and easily produce condemnation—beware! Each chapter has at least one. I’ve highlighted them in the notes, but you are likely to hardly notice them in my translation.

Most, however, are wonderful, direct, hard-hitting promises, where direct simple language helps the memory and adds power to the simple statement."

I'd never thought of the Book of James like that, but it's true. As you read it, you do get pummeled by the occasional 'oomph' verse that makes you gulp.

So I wanted to share the first one of those today, right from chapter 1:2. Are you ready? Here we go:

My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials (James 1:2, NKJV).

Really?

The verse continues:

.. knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience.

But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing

My friends, what are the trials you've been through as part of your faith walk? How hard have they been? For me, certain trials have been almost unbearable; others not quite so stark, but still trials. Today I wrote in the margin five key trials I've been through since being a Christian. One of those is the SUM. At points in my SUM I have thought "Nothing could be as hard as this." There's something about the SUM walk that is so very difficult because it involves deeply spiritual issues.

Another trial I faced was a nine-month period of illness last year - Illness that was mysterious to the doctors, and for which there was no apparent solution. That was no light thing to walk through either. Almost every day during those nine months I had a little cry to myself. It was a different kind of battle to the SUM.

Count it joy? That I can do when I'm through the battle. It's harder to do when in the battle. But I can certainly engage with the concept and think about what it means.

Here's something intriguing Lynn said today on Zoom. She said (I'm paraphrasing): "Trials show you what lies you've been believing, and help you break those lies." Not that God brings us our trials, but he uses them mightily.

So, here's a discussion question: Think back on a trial you have faced. What lies did it bring to light?

Wow, that's a deep question. I might need some time to think on that myself. I'll leave you with it, and here's to us enjoying the Book of James these next few weeks. If you want to post your answer to the question in the comments, please do!

Love you all,

Ann


Don't Let Anyone Steal Your Crown

Crown 2

Hi SUM family, it's Ann here.

I'm on holiday at the moment in England, where I've been visiting my parents in my home town (Reading), and attending my brother's wedding. I have one more week here before flying back to New Zealand. It's been special to be with my family. 

I am finishing off this post with my Mum pottering in the next room. That's nice huh!

Now for today's post:

Today I had a catch-phrase I wanted to share -- It's something that we can speak out when feeling battered by others' unbelief. The catch-phrase is this:

I'm not going to let anyone steal my crown!

Perhaps we can even take a moment to speak that out right now, in fact, before continuing to read? Here we go: I'm not going to let anyone steal my crown!

The back story to that phrase is this:

I know there are some here who became unequally yoked because their spouse used to be a Christian, but then lost their faith. In many of those cases your spouse's faith was real, even vibrant, but now that same spouse lives in unbelief. You now hear from their mouth all the many reasons they choose not to believe.

I know a little of what's that like as I used to work with a man who lost his faith, having previously been on fire for Jesus. This man was a clever man, and he would share with me on many occasions the various reasons why he had chosen to walk away from Christianity. After spending time with this man I would often feel embattled.

God would show me all over again that Christianity is true. Nevertheless that man's voice was in my ear on a regular basis. So, which voice was going to be louder: God's or this man's?

A friend who was very strong in his faith knew I had this challenge and decided to send me some words of wisdom. They were such on-point words that I wrote them down at the time. I was greatly helped by them, and discovered them again this week so thought I would share them here.

Perhaps these words are especially for you today if you're one of those whose spouse lost his/her faith. Here goes:

"Don't let anyone steal your crown.

You sit in the heavenly realms with the Lord (Ephesians 2:6); you've been lifted. So it is that you remember the incredible position of authority and respect you have right now, and in the next life as well, even if some people have forgotten their position or have chosen to lower themselves after having once been elevated."

Amen to that. For the Bible does speak of us inheriting a crown, or crowns, and phew it will be quite the inheritance. We must hold onto it like crazy, not letting the unbelief of another person steal it from us. 

In that spirit, then, let's look at the scriptures about the crown that is laid up for us:

And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away (1 Peter 5:4, NIV).

Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing (2 Timothy 4:8, NIV).

Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you life as your victor’s crown (Revelation 2:10, ESV).

Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him (James 1:12, NIV).

Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever (1 Corinthians 9:25, NIV)

If you would like prayer for perseverance today -- That is, if you are feeling battered by the unbelief of those around you and need prayer to keep going, leave a note in the comments and we'll pray for you.

Love,

Ann


Jehovah Perazim: Breakthrough Power Within You

Hello, dear friends, it's Ann here. Break the power within you

Last week we talked about life with the Holy Spirit. I so enjoyed those conversations.

Well, this week I want to share a couple of simple stories -- one today and one on Friday -- to describe something the Holy Spirit did on an otherwise ordinary day. In each story there is a truth for us SUMites to take away.

Are you sitting comfortably? Ok, here we go:

A few years ago, I was fast asleep in bed when I suddenly woke to feel a jolt of explosive power break out of me. KAPOW!!!  It felt like shards of diamonds had just exploded from within my innermost depths.

POW!

It was the descriptiveness of it that struck me. The sense I had was definitely of shards of diamonds. Precious stuff.

Why did I experience that, and what was God trying to say? I wasn't sure.

A few weeks later, however, he whispered this: Ann, that power was the breakthrough power within you that you carry. It will break out of you and change people and circumstances around you.

Amazing. What's more, I know that word wasn't just for me: It's for our community. For you carry the resurrection power of Jesus Christ, and I know that many of you stoke your relationship with God so fervently that this power will shift things around you eventually.

How I love this on-fire community of ours!

Christians use the word 'breakthrough' quite often to describe a change in circumstances, or even an inner change that they've been waiting for and praying for. As far as I'm aware it's not a term that's obvious in the Bible, but I do believe it's in there. Sometimes these terms catch on because a Spirit-led believer has experienced it and talked about it. 

So, where is breakthrough in the Bible? Well, I think a few tucked-away places.

First, the book of Micah describes a situation where the power of God is so great that breakthrough will occur --

He who opens the breach goes up before them; they break through and pass the gate, going out by it. Their king passes on before them, the LORD at their head (Micah 2:13, ESV).

Second, there's a little scripture in the story of King David where David experiences a victory and declares God the Lord of breakthrough:

And David came to Baal-Perazim, and David defeated them there. And he said, “The LORD has broken through my enemies before me like a breaking flood.” Therefore the name of that place is called Baal-Perazim. (2 Samuel 5:20, ESV)

Reading that, I actually feel the presence of the Holy Spirit as I type. That tells me God is breathing on this concept for us. Perhaps we can linger there a moment. 

Jehovah Perazim, you are the Lord of breakthrough.

And finally, there's a curious story in the book of Genesis, where Judah's daughter-in-law Tamar carries twins, and during the birth one twin miraculously breaks through out of her womb:

When the time of her labor came, there were twins in her womb. And when she was in labor, one put out a hand, and the midwife took and tied a scarlet thread on his hand, saying, “This one came out first.” But as he drew back his hand, behold, his brother came out. And she said, “What a breach you have made for yourself!” Therefore his name was called Perez. (Genesis 38:27-29, ESV)

Perez means the same as Perazim: Breakthrough. That baby, who broke through miraculously, ended up being the ancestor of Jesus. Breakthrough was in the DNA of Jesus and it's in ours too.

What do we do with all this? I think we are to just know about it. That is, we're to know that's what we carry, even if we can't see it with our natural eyes. What's more, we'll carry more of it the more time we spend with him. And, those around us will be changed by that, including our families.

We have the God of breakthrough intimately with us.

Whew, what a thought. Do you have any thoughts to share in the comments? I'll see you there.

Love,

Ann 

 


Inviting a Baptism of the Holy Spirit into Your Life

By Ann Hutchison Holy Spirit you are welcome 3

Years ago, I asked God a question: "What does it look like to walk with the Holy Spirit?" I had not read the Bible through yet, but I noted scripture mentioned gifts of the Holy Spirit, such as healing, tongues, and miracles; and I had questions for God about this.

A night or so later, I woke with a phrase in my head. The phrase was this: The voyages of Paul.

The voyages of Paul? Hmm. 

Now, I was a babe in the faith. I knew who the Apostle Paul was -- he wrote parts of the New Testament, but I didn't yet know he took voyages. "Did he take voyages?" I asked. Well, I went to Wikipedia and found that indeed he did! WOW.

Yep, that was the Holy Spirit speaking to me, and I sensed God was telling me to go and look at Paul's voyages to see how the Holy Spirit works in someone's life. When Paul took those voyages the Holy Spirit was active in his life, and his stories leave us examples of what that can look like.

Well, I still have those old notes from that day, and I'd like to share them with you now. I hope you like them. For me personally, they have refreshed me all over again, years on.

The Holy Spirit:

1. Speaks to you --

Especially when you worship and fast. He speaks through visions of the night or the day, dreams, pictures, symbols and analogies, and helps you understand scripture.

He warns you about certain things; and sometimes he gives instructions. This might be, for example, whether to step forward in a certain situation. Sometimes he will even forbid certain actions, not necessarily things that are a matter of conscience; rather, it's a 'not yet' or 'not here'.

He confirms his words to you by confirmations from others, and he says, 'Do not fear', and 'Take courage', strengthening you so that you continue in faith.

2. Helps you discern --

The Holy Spirit helps you look at a situation and know if it's God or Satan, enables you to recognize others' faith and, conversely, recognize the influence of evil in a particular situation.

3. Helps you speak --

He gives you words for others, which can greatly help them in their belief.

He enables you to speak accurately when necessary, though you will always be learning. Through him, you can speak true and rational words. You will testify to the grace of God, and he makes you God's witness.

He even might enable you to give others some divine insight, if you grow your skills in the gift of prophecy (1 Corinthians 14:1).

Finally, he will enable you to speak boldly. Some still won't believe, but God does open hearts.

4. Grants signs and wonders

As you grow, the Holy Spirit will enable you to shake off the devil and be completely unharmed.

He will enable you to heal others, and even raise someone from the dead (Can I believe that? Yes I believe it).

Just as miraculously, he will enable you to open others' eyes and set people free of troubling spirits, strengthening the church as a whole, and increasing the size of the church. 

5. Strengthens you

Finally, he will have the effect of great joy on you and others and put a fervor inside you that stands up against anything on the outside.

**

WOW. How amazing, exciting and inspiring this is. All I can say is I want more and I know that it is there. This list was, after all, compiled from scripture (The Book of Acts chapters 13-28).

As for what it means for us today? Well, the Holy Spirit can come from an appropriate person laying hands on a person (see Acts 8:17-19), or by simply asking God in the quiet of one's home to be baptized in the Holy Spirit. 

To be baptized with the Holy Spirit is life-changing, and begins the above adventures. I believe God will give us only as much of the above-listed experiences as we can handle, according to our maturity and other circumstances. It's a beginning.

If you are reading this and haven't ever asked God for a baptism of the Holy Spirit, or simply want to ask him for more, you can do that in the quiet of your home. But, it would also be our honor to pray for you. If you would like, leave us a comment and we would absolutely love to pray for you! 

Love you, friends,

Ann


Sweet Gifts for a Grandmother's Faith

By Ann Hutchison  T M 2

You know, when it comes to my kids I've always found it super challenging to bring faith to them. In fact, it's no less challenging to bring faith to them as it is to bring faith to my husband.

Is it like that for many of you, I wonder?

Here's a pic of my precious two boys -- Travis and Miles. They are 17 and 16 and, like their Dad, they have not yet had a point in their life where they've said "Yes, I give my life to Jesus". That's not to say they haven't been exposed: Both boys were raised with me talking about God a lot. I would tell them God stories, I would pray for them, and I did take them to church for periods of time, but church never gelled for them and that part was a real struggle for me.

In his earlier years, my oldest used to express unbelief, or would challenge the existence of God. He's a very concrete person, geared around what he can see and touch directly. Those expressions of unbelief have now stopped, though - Interesting.

My youngest, meanwhile, joined church of his own volition a year ago too. THAT was amazing, and I shared that story here. He and I now attend church together, just the two of us. Still, with him I'm watching and wondering where he sits with it all. 

Well, two weeks ago something very special happened, because I saw a tiny shift happen separately for each boy in the space of one weekend. Glimmers of change. Mum Travis 2

I'll start with Travis. My Mum was visiting us and she and I happened to have the chance to go out for dinner on our own with Travis. It was a treat for her and I. As parents of teens know, it's nice to have the excuse to spend time talking with a willing teenager and we chatted about all sorts. Here's a nice photo from that night.

Well, partway through the evening, we started talking about Travis's friends and where they stand in their beliefs about God. He said, very casually, 'Yes, they've told me they don't believe in God, and I've told them I do believe in God.'

I've told them I believe in God.

Well that made me smile because I have never before heard him say that. And, when someone makes a statement like that it's a clear step forward to say 'My heart is open'. 

That was Friday.

Sunday rolled around, then, and my Mum and I drove with Miles (my youngest) to church. It was the first time my Mum had attended our church and she was looking forward to it. 

Our church doesn't do communion often, but they happened to have it that day. The leader said, "If you have received Jesus into your heart, then do come up and take some bread and wine". Miles was sitting on the other side of the room to us with one of his friends. I took a peek over thinking 'will he go?' and sure enough up he got, walked to the table, and took the bread and wine. He then went and sat down, and as I peeked over I could see he had his eyes closed, reflecting. It's the first time I've seen him take communion.

Like the statement his brother made - 'I believe in God' - Communion is powerful. It is the finest of feasts, and a way we can enter Him, by eating his body and drinking his blood. That day Miles took a step in the Heavenlies by receiving communion (Jesus). Mum miles 2

Later, my Mum and I were alone and I turned to her --

"Did you notice what Travis said in the restaurant?"

"Oh yes, I was going to say the same to you!" Her eyes sparkled back at me.

"And did you notice Miles took communion?"

"I DID! Yes, I noticed that too."

She and I grinned broadly.

My Mum has been a woman of faith since the 1970s, never wavering, never backsliding, and praying constantly for her family. It seemed somehow providential that she was there to witness those two new signs that my boys are getting there, that is, getting towards that momentous decision where they will say --

"Yes, I am going to give my life to Jesus."

Thanks for reading along today. For those of you who have kids, how old are they and how are things going faith-wise?

Ann


Nothing is Impossible -- A Testimony

Ann here,

A few years ago a friend at church told me how she and her husband used to be unequally yoked, but then he became a believer. "He did?!" I gasped. "How? How?" At the time her story really helped me.

Well, this week that friend came to my house and recorded her story on video, especially for our community. Here it is for your viewing pleasure, and may it spur you on.

"For nothing will be impossible with God" (Luke 1:37, ESV)


"It is Finished."

Dear friends Passion of Christ

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Lean on the finished work of the cross."

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

Lean on the finished work of the cross.

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

Lean on the finished work of the cross.

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

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

And .. We will be back on Sunday!

Ann


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


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


From Spiritually Mismatched to Jointly Present

By Ann Hutchison Tea and biscuits

Dear friends, I shared last week about the small group I've been attending. Well, today I want to share a very encouraging story from that group.

There's a man in that group who's a great sharer. He's jolly, enthusiastic, and loves God. He brings plenty of ideas about faith to our group chats. He's in his sixties, and he and his wife have adult children. 

One night the group was mingling as the evening was wrapping up. Some were in the kitchen, others were in the living room, and I was sat on a couch beside this particular man and his wife. She was next to me, he was on the other side of her talking to someone else, and so she and I got quietly talking.

She began to tell me her story. It went like this:

"I actually went to church on my own for years. He wasn't interested, he never came with me. I was on my own in my faith for a long time."

She smiled at me.

I peeked around her to take another look at her hubby, a bemused look on my face. Are we talking about the same man? Then I focused on her again.

"Was that hard for you?" I asked. 

"Was it ever!" she rolled her eyes.

We shared a cheeky smile.

"So what happened next?" 

"Oh, he just gradually got there. Bit by bit, slowly things changed. He's only just started coming to this group. He would never have gone to something like this before."

I peered around her discreetly at him again.

"Amazing." I said with a big smile.

"Yes, amazing." She grinned back.

Looking at that man today, all I can see is one who loves being with God first thing in the morning, attends church, reads Christian books, plays worship music in the home for his own enjoyment, and gets his wife to do devotionals with him in the morning.

Well there we go. The joy of this story is that I will get to see this visible example weekly from now on at my small group, and they are a living breathing example of a spiritually mismatched couple who had one season then another season. 

In this ministry we need these examples, as hope is an important element of our spiritually mismatched walk. God wants us to hope because he doesn't want us to label our spouse as an impossible case (he wants us to bless our spouse not curse them, James 3:10) and he wants us to believe in His magnitude. 

It's summed up well here:

Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things (1 Corinthians 13:7, NKJV)

So, while we must learn to be content in our circumstance (very important) and love our spouse exactly where they are (also very important), hey let's seize stories like this so that we can hope and believe that there is a bigger possibility beyond what our circumstance looks like today.

Hope you liked that story. Love you all,

Ann


The Day My Husband Entered the Small Group Scene

Ann here, and I thought the title would make you smile. Yes indeed, I have a little story to tell today. Welcome

In Monday's post I left off where my small group had said: "Do invite your husband to the Christmas dinner, we would love to meet him."

Gulp!

Now, Bryce has said to me on a number of occasions that he finds the whole 'small group' concept difficult. He has a bad experience of growing up in an unhealthy and spiritually controlling church, and from that experience he was concerned that any small group I joined would be 'cultish and weird'. Those were hard words to hear, but hey, if this is how our spouse sees these things it's probably helpful to know. If we know, then we can try to understand and try to address it. Anyway, given all of that historical 'stuff' the thought of now inviting him to a small group Christmas dinner was not easy!

I wonder, though, whether at some point we all turn a corner where things become different? Where faith or church are not so contentious any more? Anyway, the long and short of it is that I plucked up the courage and asked him.

And ..... 

He said yes. No problem at all. Just like that. He said his 'yes' so easily, in fact, that I had to leave the room to process this massive new development, which felt like breaking news.

Now here's that same scene I described on Monday where I stand at a closed front door, behind which lies a small group, and I'm wondering how on earth this thing is going to go. Except this time my husband is standing by my side.

I hold a salad, he's carrying wine, and we're ready for a good time. He's perfectly cheerful but I've got a pounding heart. Why? It's the first time we've gone through the doors of church together since those difficult church days of his. Yes, it's only a small-group dinner, but it's the church.

We enter, join the chattering crowd on the back patio of the house, and before I can barely introduce him ... off he goes. Into a happy crowd and away from my side. And so the evening continued. Ann Bryce

Later, as the sun set, he and I were sat in a circle of comfy outdoor armchairs chatting with some of the others about church and other things. He liked them, they liked him. At that moment I looked up to see a beautiful rainbow in the dusky sunset. I took it as a wink from God and thanked Him -- Seriously, seriously thanked Him -- for this moment.

Oh my dear SUM friends, it was a fascinating turning of a corner, and I know you understand the emotions around this sort of thing. It was indeed 'breaking news' for it broke some kind of barrier. It also broke away some of my own lingering angst about our spiritual mismatch, bringing us together and showing me all over again 'God's got this'.

Some of us have spouses who do visit church or its social events; others of us find that area more tricky. But however it looks now, things can always change --

"For nothing will be impossible for God" (Luke 1:37, ESV)

Does your spouse come to church or social events or not? Let's chat more in the comments.

Love you loads,

Ann


Entering 2022 as a Community

Dear friends 2022 2

It's Ann here, and today I want to share some thoughts about 2022 for us as a community.

At this time of year I spend some time praying about the year and asking God if there are any particular themes for us as a community. For 2022, here's what seems to be on my mind:

The SUM walk is so multi-faceted in the kinds of issues we face and the skills we have to develop in order to thrive. In fact, it's not only multi-faceted, but it is long. Some SUMites do have an experience where their spouse joins them in faith quickly, but for most of us the SUM journey is like a marathon or high-altitude mountain climb. It's high-risk, tiring, and takes endurance.

This year, I think what God is saying is, hone your skills, equip each other for the climb, and persevere

Yes, persevere.

These are just some of the complex facets we have to tackle specifically because we are in a spiritually mismatched marriage:

  • Tackle our own doubts, and hold fast to our basic belief in Jesus.
  • Understand God's heart for unbelievers and his plans for humanity
  • Stay connected to church when it feels almost impossible to do so.
  • Understand Satan and demons, and know how to fight them.
  • Take on the solo responsibility for our children's faith lives
  • Learn about prayer, including using our authority in the spirit realm
  • Learn to love our spouse well and be a great marriage partner
  • Set good boundaries within and around our marriages
  • Develop a strong devotional life 
  • Learn to hear and discern God's voice
  • Build a healthy personal community around ourselves.

Phew -- There's a lot there. And though it is the spiritual equivalent of a high-altitude mountain climb, a lot of what we go through seems to be about training ourselves in the above areas over and over. 

Now, I'm not a climber myself but my Dad was (he's still alive, but older now). As a child I remember he would go off to climb mountains in Europe, taking pick axes, ropes, pulleys, crampons, pouches of dried food, compasses, maps and more. It was serious business. He would also go in a team: Mountaineers have to work together to keep each other safe. 

That's what I feel we're going to do here in SUM in 2022. We have unmovable mountains to conquer: The mountains of our spouse's and family's unbelief. So, to face those we have to dig deep, roll up our sleeves, decide we're not going to give up, and keep equipping ourselves together.  

There's a fabulous documentary on Netflix about high-altitude mountaineering called '14 Peaks: Nothing is Impossible'. It's about a Nepalese man who climbed all fourteen high-altitude peaks in the world in record time -- Within a year. These were peaks over 8,000m. He took a team of fellow mountaineers and the documentary follows all of their climbs. It is an absolute inspiration to watch. The sheer grit that he displays, the skill level, the fatigue, all of it .... Amazing. He called his feat Project Possible, because people told him it was impossible. He came out victorious, and so can we. 

"For with God, nothing will be impossible" (Luke 1:37, NKJV)

Dear SUMites, this year -- 2022 -- I'm looking forward to us becoming even stronger, even more perseverant, and even more equipped to walk out our faith in our unique marriages. 

Now here's a question for you: Which of the above issues would you particularly like to see us write about this year?

Love to you all

Ann


A Date for your January Diary

Hi everyone, January

It's Ann here, and I just wanted to give you a heads up about the next thing coming up for us:

Our annual fast is happening from Monday 3 January to Friday 7 January -- And, even though fasting is challenging there's something very exciting about that week. So yes, put those dates in your diary and start to think about how you might take part.

For those new here, this fast is something we've done for a number of years and many of us find it a deeply impactful experience. One SUMite even said recently it's the spiritual highlight of her year. What we notice, I guess, is that it brings us closer to God, and we'll often have something novel happen during the fast to us personally, or to someone else in the comments. It's very much an 'in-it-together' thing. 

If you're new to fasting, a good way to start is to fast from food each day from sunrise to sunset, with a small meal each evening. But, if you've built up some fasting stamina over past years you might try a stretch further by going liquids-only for the whole week, Monday sunrise to Friday sunset. Eek, that is very challenging indeed!

However you challenge yourself, things do shift, change, and break open. Guess what happened the first time I took part in this community fast? At Friday sunset I walked into my bedroom to find Bryce lying on our bed reading a Christian book!! I couldn't believe my eyes; and yet I could because of the week I'd been through.

Jesus said to his disciples when they were trying to unsuccessfully cast out an unclean spirit, "This kind can come out by nothing but prayer and fasting" (Mark 9:29). 

... And to that I say, "Right then, let's roll up our sleeves and take the plunge all over again this January, for we need this in our homes!"

After Christmas we'll write a little more about how we can prepare for the fast. But for now it'd be good to start asking God "How would you like me to fast this time?" and perhaps pray for the stamina and preparedness to do it, because it does take some thinking.

I'm really looking forward to doing this with you all again.

Much love,

Ann


I Need A Prayer

Post A PrayerHi Friends, Lynn Donovan here:

I'm coming to you today in the midst of a very busy season and yet hopeful you will take five minutes to step along side of me and especially my husband, Mike. 

I would love to receive a short, one-to-two paragraph prayer, for healing. I want to pass these short prayers to Mike, one a day, throughout his treatment with begins December 13. Read About it here.

Please take a minute to login here and post in the comments, a SHORT prayer, from your heart, that Mike could pray to build his faith for healing. 

I am absolutely leaning on you and your love during this season. 

I love you. I feel surrounded by your goodness, your love and your faith. Hugging you with a full heart today, Love, Lynn


The 'Unequally Yoked' Are Dancers!

By Ann Hutchison Dance

Hi SUM family!

I said that today I would share another word from the Lord about how he sees our carrying of the Gospel in our homes. Well, I have to say what I'm going to share next has warmed my heart over the last few days. 

The word that follows was given to me a few years ago by the Holy Spirit, but I never understood it at the time. That's because it was for today, not then. It came to me as a phrase that landed in my head, I wrote it down straight away and pondered it, but then forgot all about it. Forgot, that was, until I started writing this series on the Gospel.

The phrase was this:

The unequally yoked can dance the true Gospel.

And yes, what a cryptic word indeed! But as I've sat with it this past week, here's what I've come to understand:

In this series we've discussed whether we use words to preach the Gospel in our homes. We agreed that mostly we live it out quietly in front of our spouse. Mostly the Gospel message is 'preached' quietly. And, it's the choices we make that will get our spouse thinking.

Over the last couple of weeks I've been asking myself this: "What has Bryce seen in my choices that tell him about the Gospel over the last few years?"

The answer to that would be "quite a lot"!

And you too, I know. Even if you think you're not being effective enough. It might even be a fun exercise to take a piece of paper and jot down all the things your spouse has seen in you that tells them something about the Gospel, and, importantly, challenges them as to its truth.

In this way, the Gospel is something we dance. We make daily movements in tandem with Jesus to mime it all out. We don't stand up in front of a microphone and preach at our spouses. No, instead we dance it ... Day in, day out. 

Dance can tell a story.

Dance is mesmerizing.

Dance is visible rather than noisy.

Dance is beautiful.

And what's more, the Lord made it clear in the above word that it's not just the Gospel, it is truth. For, however much we are told by our spouse "It's not true," it is true. It is the truest thing in the world.

No one can take that truth away from us. And so, we dance. 

Now, I know nothing about dancing, but this week I spent some time on Youtube looking for examples of expressive dances that tell stories without using words (which is what dance does). I have no discernment as to what makes good dancing vs bad dancing, it is not my area, but spending time on Youtube just watching the beautiful art of dance I could appreciate a little of what it means to 'dance' the Gospel out in front of another person. 

You might like to do the same, look on Youtube at some dancing? Anyway, I say let's pick up our metaphorical dance shoes and keep on dancing that Gospel in our homes, with gusto, and in full view of our spouses!

My friends, this wraps up our time of looking at the Gospel. It's been lovely thinking about this together, and next week it's time for something new. See you on Monday!

Ann


Stuck Between a Rock and a Hard Place

“This isn’t what I married.” Said Bryce. “And there may come a point where I say to you enough is enough.” Rock hard place

He stood by the chest of drawers suddenly seeming distant. I sat on the bed. My heart was pounding with fear.

“Don’t you ever say to me you can’t give it up if I ask you to.”

He was talking about my church involvement. And possibly also my faith. Gulp.

One request had led to this conversation: I had told him I'd like to go to a ‘small group’ at church one evening a week. It was 2017, and I thought he was used to my faith and my church-going. But I had misread how he truly felt. As I can now see, a small group/home group is weird to someone not versed in church ways.

I was helpless and heartbroken. Helpless as to what to do; heartbroken at the fracture between us. I could not change my beliefs if he asked me to. I could change some of my behavior, but my beliefs? 

Over the next few days I scraped myself around the house, miserable. The burning in my bones wouldn’t go away. The experience of God had been too tangible for me to turn any other way except towards Him.

My friends, I'm guessing you've likely had one of these 'fracture-filled' moments at some point in your SUM? Some of us have an easier ride than others on this one, depending on how much our spouse disagrees with our faith and how much they verbalize it to us. When a spouse does verbalize displeasure at our faith it is memorably difficult and upsetting. It always calls for us to go away, think about what we can compromise on, and on what we just can't. 

Things are easier now between Bryce and me, but that day in 2017 I remember thinking to myself (crying) "I'm stuck between a rock and a hard place, the rock being Jesus and the hard place being my husband!"

What on earth do you do when you feel stuck in an impasse like this?

Well, apart from having a little cry, which is thoroughly cathartic, I'd say the most helpful thing we can do is turn our face directly towards the rock-face that is Jesus. The rock-face that our spouse is even against. There is a rock on one side, a hard place on the other. Turn our face directly towards the Rock (1 Corinthians 10:4). It has to be that way. Give some time to Jesus, go for a walk, say to Jesus 'Please minister to me in my pain,' and determine that you will keep on being a Christian.

Dear friends, if we do that (turn deliberately to Jesus), He will come through for us and change something in this situation, even if it is simply to give us strength.

Love for Jesus includes love for our spouse, so then we ask Jesus: "What does loving God but loving my spouse look like in this particular circumstance?"

I suppose the words 'rock and a hard place' aren't entirely unscriptural. After all there is a verse that says that Jesus is the rock that the builders rejected, and yet that rock became the cornerstone of the church (Acts 4:11). He is also the living stone rejected by men (1 Peter 2:4). I guess, then, if we are feeling we're in between a rock and a hard place with our Rock, Christ, being rejected by our other half, we're simply living out a scriptural truth!

The good news is, this particular story about my husband, me, and church has a rather amazing ending. God moved in a way that made my eyes widen with surprise. I will share that story next time I write.

For now, do you feel you're in between a rock and a hard place at the moment? If so, feel free to share in the comments and I'd love to pray for you.

With love,

Ann


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


Alissa Berglund Salvation Testimony

This week one of our dear SUMites, Alissa Berglund, sent us the following story. This was one of the salvation testimonies we heard of a few weeks ago behind the scenes, and since then Alissa has been writing it up, knowing just how much it will encourage us all. We're so happy for her, and thank you, Alissa, for sharing it!

***

Alissa and AndyMy story is typical, I was raised in a Christian home, accepted Christ early on, started out in my prodigal years in my late teens, married my pre-believing husband in my 20's (hoping he was, but knowing deep down he wasn't saved), had kids, and shortly after God called me back to him. In the fall of 2014, I returned to my faith, and this is where I start my story of being spiritually mis-matched.

After returning to Christ, I tried in my own strength to save my husband. But my efforts were futile, created strife and life got hard fast. Andy didn't want to hear about my faith and in-fact he told me he was agnostic. I had never felt lonelier and more abandoned in what had previously a strong and close marriage. Despite Andy's resistance, he still came to church with me and the kids, his reasoning... "If my family is going, then that's where I want to be". I began to pray and believe Romans 10:17 "So faith comes from hearing, that is, hearing the Good News about Christ". I believed that one day this verse would come true for him.

In 2016 I discovered the SUM community, and it was balm to my soul!! Finally, a group of people who knew what I was going through. I had church friends that tried to sympathize, but unless you are walking through it you just don't know, am I right??

There were moments were Andy engaged more with God and I thought, this it! He's going to put his hand up during an alter call... and then he wouldn't. But despite that, I kept praying, and putting my hope in Jesus that at the perfect time he would awaken Andy and he would believe.

In 2019 I attended the SUM conference hosted by Lynn. I had the most encouraging time, met so many women who filled my cup. God did amazing things, and I came home inspired again to reach Andy, and then we entered the election season, the pandemic, and the civil unrest in our community. Life turned up-side-down.

Going into 2020 and now 2021, between discussions on politics, racial tensions, the pandemic, trying to distance learn our kids, and just hold it all together Andy's heart was gripped by fear and despair, not knowing what truth was or how to find it. It made my husband even harder to reach for Jesus. We talked at-length about how it was that I was able to stay centered and confident in what I knew truth to be, but it always came back to Jesus, and he didn't like that answer.

In late spring of 2021 Andy really started to dig for truth on has favorite platform Tik-Tok. I started to pray over his media asking God to have him "stumble" upon Christian influencers that might cause him to question who Jesus is. Lo and behold it started to happen. Our conversations began to be different we started taking more about who Jesus was, but he still was operating in fear.

At no point did I have any inkling that God was doing something in his heart, but on June 12, 2021, while driving to our family fishing trip Andy gave his heart to Jesus in the car. I of course was driving separately and had no idea what was transpiring until we pulled over for a pit-stop and he pulled me into a hug and told me he had given his heart to the Lord. After nearly 18 years of marriage, and the last 7 being some of the hardest and loneliest God in his perfect timing revealed himself to Andy and he was saved.

It wasn’t an alter call or a big ado… In Andy’s words God “woke him up” and once he saw the truth, he couldn’t deny it.

I am here to encourage you, that God IS doing things in our spouse’s heart that you can’t even fathom. He is a way-maker, miracle worker…. Even when we can’t see it.  

As I’ve walked this road for so long as a SUM, God is now working to re-define my purpose and identity as a wife of a believer. Do not give up… If God called Noah to build a boat for over 100 years, he is calling you to pray and believe for your spouse for as long as it takes.

***

I'm Alissa Berglund from Lakeville Minnesota. My husband Andy and I have been married nearly 18 years and we have two boys, James and Micah who are 9 and 8 years old. 


Are You Fighting the Right Battles?

Hi SUM family, Ann here. Paul 2

What a treat to have Martha write for us on Monday -- Thank you, Martha! And, phew, the titles of our latest blog posts may look like we're being challenging. Are you kicking against the goads? was Martha's post. Now, mine is titled: Are you fighting the right battles? That said, the Apostle Paul was convicting; so, I guess a study about him will lift our game.

Nothing wrong with that! In fact, I always think that's a sign of a good church, if people are challenged to better discipleship.

So, yes, are we fighting the battles God wants us to fight? Are we putting our energy into the right places?

In the Book of Acts, there is a story where Paul was forbidden by the Holy Spirit to preach the Gospel in a particular place, Bythnia. Paul wanted to go there -- He had huge passion and truth to share. Surely the people of Bythnia needed him ...? And yet he was forbidden. Why? Only God knows. 

Now when they had gone through Phrygia and the region of Galatia, they were forbidden by the Holy Spirit to preach the word in Asia. After they had come to Mysia, they tried to go into Bythnia, but the Spirit did not permit them.

So passing by Mysia, they came down to Troas.

And a vision appeared to Paul in the night. A man of Macedonia stood and pleaded with him, saying, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” Now after he had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go to Macedonia, concluding that the Lord had called us to preach the Gospel to them. (Acts 16:6-10, NKJV)

We don't know what would have happened if they had gone to Bythnia. It's like a movie plot where Bythnia is the mysterious path not taken. What we do know is what happened in Macedonia: They met a lovely lady, Lydia, in Philippi, and baptized her and her household (Acts 16:11-15). Angels would have sung at that! Perhaps they were always meant to meet Lydia. What's more, they had their massive Midnight Hour miracle, where they were broken out of prison and the jailer's household was saved too (Acts 16:25-34). Yes, the power story that Lynn told last week about Paul and Silas happened in Macedonia. If they had gone to Bythnia .... Well, we would never have had that story. But they did go, they obeyed God, and these salvations occurred.

Hallelujah to that! And, Lord, help us to listen to your voice carefully.

I believe this story is relevant to the craziness we find ourselves in today. Right now, there are all kinds of battles we can fight, all kinds of things we can speak to. But where and how does God want us to speak or act? Some of us might be called to one battle, others to another. But, we must keep listening to him.

I suppose it's a little like Peter who gets told by Jesus, after the resurrection, what his commission is to be. Jesus specifically tells him that he will die a hard death. Peter turns and gestures towards the other close disciple, John, "But what about him?" Jesus's reply is this: "If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me." (John 21:21-22). In other words, you do your bit; and your bit might look different to someone else's.

There are only so many hours in the day. Who knows, there could be a Lydia waiting around the corner for us, but if we're too busy throwing ourselves into 'Bythnia' rather than 'Macedonia', yikes, we might miss it!

I guess, then, this whole story says this: In doing good works for Jesus, I must pay careful attention to where he wants my energy, and walk that particular path.

Then -- if I do -- I will say this with joy:

“Now thanks be to God who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and through us diffuses the fragrance of His knowledge in every place.” (2 Corinthians 2:14, NKJV)

My friends, in the comments, perhaps we can share where we feel God might be asking us to put our energy/words at the moment? And where he is asking us not to go? 

Much love to you all,

Ann


I see a cloud the size of a man's hand

Hi SUM family, Ann here. Singing

Whew, it’s been an exciting week with us hearing about two spouses’ salvations in one week. If you missed those you can catch up here and here.

Well, unbelievably, there’s more! No sooner had I uploaded Monday's post about a second salvation than I got a message from another SUM friend (a local friend): Unbelievably, her husband had just responded to an altar call this past Sunday at church. 

Three in one week.

Are you pulling the same stunned face as me, I wonder?

All I could do then is play the song ‘God is on the Move’ on repeat in my living room and do some serious (uncool, Mum-looking) dancing in celebration. My teenage son, Miles, sauntered down the stairs midway through. He looked at me, smirked, shook his head, and walked on into the kitchen to get himself some toast.

So funny!

Anyway, somewhere in amongst this extreme excitement, God gave me a scripture. He said, “Go and look at the passage where Elijah prays seven times before he sees a small cloud.”

So I did; and I wondered what I would see. I suppose it’s one of those stories I’d read a few times so perhaps felt ‘old’. The thing is, scripture is so full of treasure it’s never old. I should have known better and, sure enough, I saw something brand new this time.

The story of Elijah’s cloud is in 1 Kings 18:41-46, and it goes like this: There has been a desperate drought in Israel, but then Elijah proclaims to the King that rain is coming. He says to the king, "Go up, eat and drink; for there is the sound of the abundance of rain." In other words, "You don’t need to worry about stashing up food any more, I promise you the rain is coming!"

Truly, I feel this way about the spouses in our community. Impossible as it seems, we can know something is coming in the spirit before we see it in the natural. It's just ... There's perseverance first.

Elijah went to the top of Carmel; then he bowed down on the ground, and put his face between his knees, and said to his servant, “Go up now, look toward the sea.” So he went up and looked, and said, “There is nothing.” And seven times he said, “Go again.” (1 Kings 18:42-43, NKJV)

Seven times, nothing.

Isn't that just like the prayer for our spouses? We pray. Nothing. Nothing. Oh, and nothing. Nothing? Nope, nothing. Nothing. Can’t see any sign of my spouse turning…. Years pass …. Nothing.

Shall I say that again for effect? Here we go, six 'nothings': Nothing. Nothing. Nothing. Nothing. Nothing. Nothing. Ok, I now hereby sign and seal this thing as officially impossible. That's not to say it won't happen; it's just it's an impossible thing that needs God. We all look at each other, nod our heads, agreeing and understanding that it will take a miracle the size of the red sea parting. 

Then it came to pass the seventh time, that he said, “There is a cloud, as small as a man’s hand, rising out of the sea!” (v. 44)

I wonder if even Elijah, let alone his companion, couldn't quite believe what he was seeing, even though he had sensed it in the spirit. After all, 'We're in a drought!'

So, with all that in mind, here's what just happened for us this past week:

One man’s hand goes up in surrender, ‘I say yes to Jesus’.

Another man’s hand goes up in surrender, ‘I say yes to Jesus’.

And a third man’s hand goes up in response to an altar call.

Oh, it's a cloud 'the size of a man’s hand' rising from the sea! A sign. A sign of more to come. We don't know how or when, but yes. More will come.

I am smiling here, and with that I’ll sign off for the weekend. Lynn will be here on Monday. In the meantime, for your pleasure here's 'God is on the Move'!

 


Another Spouse Gets Baptized!

Ann here!Baptism

Teehee ... I bet the title made you eagerly open this one. And, you won't be disappointed with what you read next. God glorifies His name through this community. Sometimes we have to wait a little while between testimonies, but they always come.

I remember just before COVID spread through the world I wrote a post called 'Salvations in our Community -- What's Next?' We'd had a noticeable and unusual spate of spouses' conversions in a short space of time, which had pricked up my antennae. Feeling like something was ‘in the water’, I wrote the post.

Well, something was in the water, but it wasn't what we expected. I wrote that post on 1 March 2020. By 14 March, COVID was running rampage in Italy. A week later, people everywhere were saying 'What a week this year has been'; and, by the end of the month, many of us were locked down.

We've continued to watch all this unfold, but the biggest message I've heard from God this whole year is this: Prepare to win and care for souls. I continue to believe we are going to see new Christians -- born again ones -- come into the Kingdom of Heaven when this pandemic is over.

Well, blow me down, today we got a little inkling of that again, with a testimony of a spouse's conversion that was just so encouraging. It felt, to me, like the sun was coming out again.

It was yesterday morning that I heard. I stepped out of bed and thought to myself, “We had that spate of conversions before COVID. I’d love to see some more now!” Only an hour later I checked email and there it was -- This message, from one of our dear SUMites:

“After 24 years of marriage, my husband was baptized yesterday, July 4, 2021. I am over the moon! It was a gradual process that seemed to steamroll over the last two years, during a whirlwind move to another state, and aided by circumstances beyond our control … We look to God for comfort and direction and are closer than ever in our relationship to each other as well as to our Father. Praise God, and thank you, Jesus.” 

I wrote back instantly, and she then told me something extra that was sweet: At the very moment her husband was dunked in the pastor’s swimming pool, fireworks went off in the background. Celebration, power, and God's goodness.

We all know what it takes to get there, and we can all relate to this one praying, perseverant wife saying she is 'over the moon!' On behalf of all of us, I say to her just how much we celebrate with her, and I thank her for sharing it with us.

On that happy note, have a lovely weekend, everyone!

Ann


The Way We Fight Giants

My friends, Ann here.

I have a problem. Here I am writing a series on how to fight giants using the example of some fear I've been battling … But this week the fear has gone completely! So, that's inconvenient because I'm trying to write about it. Maybe the giant wasn't enjoying the fight and ran away. ((Haha!)) Giant fighting

Resist the devil and he will flee from you (James 4:7, NIV)

It's true. As my fingers have typed words about how small giants are I’ve become increasingly fearless. To the point that I feel I've been injected with happy drugs!!

And, in that state, we've reached the part in our series where David picked up five stones to kill Goliath. 

“Then he took his staff in his hand, chose five smooth stones from the stream, put them in the pouch of his shepherd's bag and, with his sling in his hand, approached the Philistine.” (1 Samuel 17:40, NIV)

This passage could be seen as an analogy for spiritual warfare in a Christian’s life. It’s easy to think ‘spiritual warfare’ has to be big and dramatic, but it’s mainly fought in the secret place, the place of intimacy with God. 

It can even be a restful battle, if we can get there. The stones are smooth, after all, and manageable.

I keep a pouch of five stones in my prayer room (TV room) as a symbol, I suppose. And I have an idea of what my top five regular stones (i.e., spiritual warfare tools) are. One is fasting, another is rest. Another, taking communion in my home. Five smooth stones

But there are probably 25 'stones' (i.e., tools) available to us, not just five. And in our community others will have a different 'top five' to me because, as an army, we have different skill-sets, gifts, and experiences.

I therefore posted a question on Facebook, asking our community what their top five are. Here’s what they said, including their quotes. I personally found these wonderful to read, and I hope you do too.

The five smooth stones of the SUM community

Worship. Private time spent in worship invites in the Lord’s presence and power; but even playing worship music in the background changes the atmosphere (2 Chronicles 20:21-22).

Praise and gratitude. Speaking out or journaling such words (Psalm 100:4)

Asking for prayer and support from trusted prayer partners/friends. Sometimes we're too embattled to pray for ourselves except to eek out 'help'. A solid two or three, or a group (e.g., church home-group) who really care about your situation is like a strong, three-fold cord (Ecclesiastes 4:12). As is their emotional support.

Prayer. This is a huge topic, but it can include specific routines like praying on the armor of Ephesians 6:10-17 routinely, binding the enemy's activity and releasing glory and blessing verbally into a situation (Matthew 18:18); blessing the house, the bed, and more.

Healing prayer from a trusted source. Our battle may have at its source underlying spiritual issues (e.g., generational stuff, freemasonry in the family) that can be revealed and healed through prayer with a trained person. We're blessed to have access to that here with Lynn's healing prayer ministry.

Reading the Bible, and quoting scripture out loud, confessing God's truths and promises. Here's a great quote: "Throw a scripture stone to combat whatever battle you are currently facing. If it is healing, throw all the scriptures verses as a stone." 

Surrender to the Lord, exchanging our will for His. A couple of SUMites said here, "The fruits are like no other". 

Journaling. I loved this quote: "I put it all down on paper or computer the situation, including my feelings, and the Lord walks me through it. Then I can throw away everything except the lesson learned."

Time and intimacy with God. "Long walks outside with the Lord / Getting up early to be with him." "Walk n pray along with sitting on the beach and asking Jesus to be with me." This overlaps with other things.

And more, but I'm out of space:

Laughter

Rest

Delight in Him

Revisiting prophetic words we have received

Distraction from triggers

Fasting

Praying in tongues

SUMites, we are equipped and we're up to the task. For the stones are manageable.

Next time I write I'll continue with this series. For now: Do any of the above tools intrigue you and make you want to know more? If so, which ones?

Have a great weekend, everyone!


Battle Series: We Won't Start With The Giant!

Hi SUMites!

Today we’re embarking on our series entitled ‘Fight that Giant!’ If you missed the introduction to this series you can catch up here.

I’m rubbing my hands together at the thought of writing these upcoming posts, for 'giants'  -- That is, spiritually difficult things in our lives -- are nasty critters. As we learn to fight, though, we become strong. Then we can give away some of that strength to others. Wonderful!Giant fighting

Last week, I said we’d start by considering the giant that we fight. Well, God hit the override button on that one. Straight after I wrote that post, He told me “No, start with Me.”

Of course. 

Lord, You are our Giant who fights for us. And we have a picture of Jesus as a giant Himself, a picture that can help us:

“And in the midst of seven lampstands One like the Son of Man, clothed with a garment down to the feet and girded about the chest with a golden band. His head and hair were white like wool, as white as snow, and His eyes like a flame of fire;

His feet were fine brass, as if refined in a furnace, and His voice as the sound of many waters; He had in His right hand seven stars, out His mouth went a sharp two-edged sword, and His countenance was like the sun shining in its strength.

And when I saw Him, I fell at His feet as dead. But He laid His right hand on me, saying to me, “Do not be afraid; I am the First and the Last. I am He who lives, and was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore. Amen. And I have the keys of Hades and of Death.”

Revelation 1:13-20 (NKJV).

Last Friday, when God told me to start this series with Him, I had a rather crazy experience. I'm not even sure what you'll think of this (you may deem me nuts!) but it seems to be relevant, so hey, I'll be brave:

While feeling unwell, I’ve been having hot baths during the day to feel better; there's not much nicer than soaking in a lovely bubble bath. Anyway, last Friday after such a bath I stepped onto the plain, brown, flat bathmat and happened to look down at my feet. There was a bright golden sparkle!

I squinted and bent down. There was another. Oh, and another! In fact, there were sparkles across the whole fabric. On closer inspection they looked like little balls, but with chiseled sides like gems. When I tried to pick a couple out with my fingers they disappeared. "What is this?" I then wondered, but I really couldn't tell so eventually stood up, thinking “It must be part of the fabric and I just never noticed before.”

Hmm...

I forgot about it then, but the next day it suddenly occurred to me to get up and look at the bath mat. Well, blow me down, there was not a single sparkle on it! This started to make my heart pound … So I grabbed the mat and took it from room to room, looking at it under different lights, and rummaging among the fabric to see if I could find just one little gold ball.

Not one gold ball was to be found. The mat was brown as anything and decidedly unsparkley. Yet, the day before I saw enough of these balls to deem them ‘part of the fabric’ and to try to pick them out with my hands. 

Could there be a rational explanation? The bathmat hadn't been washed ... I concluded that I know God is real, and so, why wouldn't it be God? In any case, the message is that His Heavenly realm is in my life, in every step I take, and in those very times I need soothing.

If we consider the Kingdom of Heaven, then, in the very place where we are most embattled those sparkles speak this message:

As servants of Jesus the Glory of Heaven is all around us,

and He is with us in every step we take.

That is our Almighty. And with that settled, now we can discuss on Monday the matter of measly giants!

For now, what's your favorite time that God showed his strength in your life when you particularly needed comfort? I would love to hear some stories in the comments.

Nice chatting, friends, and see you again on Monday,

Ann