Our Live Prayer Video
May 04, 2023
We had such a lovely time praying for our community on Wednesday, including our spouses and children. If missed it, you can catch up here.
... And have a great weekend!
We had such a lovely time praying for our community on Wednesday, including our spouses and children. If missed it, you can catch up here.
... And have a great weekend!
Friends, today we have a treat: Barb Twigg, one of our long-standing community members is sharing a word with us. So without further ado, I will hand over to her:
I’m in school….with the Holy Spirit! I’ve not graduated, He keeps teaching me. I’m almost embarrassed to say why has it taken me so long to get all this? I’m not embarrassed, that’s negative talk and I don’t partner with the dark side ever! But why has it taken me so long to understand these verses? I’m certainly not saying I 100% fully understand but I’m starting to get it now.
For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh, so that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. For those who are according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who are according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace, because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so, and those who are in the flesh cannot please God. (Romans 8:3-8 NASB1995)
"Who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit" -- That’s it right there! We have a body, we have a soul and we ARE spirit. Once we said yes to Jesus Christ as our Savior our born-again status was awakened in our spirit. We are now spirit to Spirit with the Triune God! Our minds are now “set on the Spirit”.
Here’s how I walked this out last week. All of the sudden my husband started having bursts of anger. Now, I was going to complete that sentence with “towards me” but after a second outburst the Holy Spirit got my attention. Let me back up here. These last few years I’ve been repenting…A LOT! And that’s such a good thing because repentance means to turn from. It’s not just a “sorry I won’t do this again.” No, it’s “forgive me I don’t like this part of my flesh, change me from the inside out!” One of my areas of repentance has been don’t be offended and overreact. I felt the Holy Spirit is teaching me when I’m offended and overreact I’m trusting in my pride, which is another repentance area, and not trusting the truth. And we know who the truth is! Jesus!
Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me. (John 14:6 NASB1995)
Getting back to the outburst. When it happened the second time I grumbled to the Lord. “You clearly see what he’s doing. He’s not treating me with….etc”. You know what I’m talking about! But in that instance I had a thought:
“Let it roll off your back like water off the Otter. I’ll deal with him.”
HA! Say what? The Holy Spirit just shut my mouth and train of thought with that statement. “Water off the Otter” would’ve never come out of my mouth so I know it was Him. I laughed and told Him that’s pretty good! I continued the conversation because I really didn’t want to be treated poorly or be the one in the line of fire because of what he was apparently dealing with! I got the indication to take authority over this anger that entered my husband. So I did! I called it out, bound it up and forbid the spirit of anger to come around US! Next day I was reading a devo and the Bible verse was:
To grant [consolation and joy] to those who mourn in Zion–to give them an ornament (a garland or diadem) of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, the garment [expressive] of praise instead of a heavy, burdened, and failing spirit–that they may be called oaks of righteousness [lofty, strong, and magnificent, distinguished for uprightness, justice, and right standing with God], the planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified. (Isaiah 61:3 AMPC).
Oil of joy illuminated off the page. I got up and blessed olive oil, rubbed it in my hands and anointed all things husband! I blessed him as I went through his areas. Knowing that God our Father hears me and sees my husband. I was expectant for the anger to be gone and it was! No more bursts. I figured out a possible cause with my flesh mind but more importantly my spirit was listening and receiving from the Holy Spirit. I needed to love him through this. It wasn’t personal.
My lesson was don’t react so quickly and take up immediate offense. That’s probably just good marital advice regardless! But instead ask the Holy Spirit what’s going on? We walk in the spirit so that should be my first reaction not offense which is from the flesh. The end of the Romans verse says those who are in the flesh cannot please God. Boom! There it is. I want to please God first! Now don’t get me wrong here. It’s not all fixed and now I know better and won’t do that again. No No! It takes practice. Just like working out your salvation, working on your relationship with Christ, your spouse, your kids! It takes practice to walk in the Spirit. I’m a willing vessel and God gets all the glory! Are you a willing vessel?
Water off the Otter!
Barb Twigg is wife to Rick of 33 years. They live in sunny south Florida and are enjoying retirement. She was born to teach and encourage. The Lord led her to the book Winning Him Without Words and she found her beloved SUMites! She loves to encourage in the Lord and operates in the gift of faith. If you have doubt, she’ll lead you to belief! She’s always willing to learn from the Holy Spirit and God's Word then teach it to others. She is active in her church and community to reach the lost and walk out her God given assignments.
Hello friends! Would you believe it, I still have more to write on the topic of Navigating Church. Are you still with me? Isn't it amazing that one topic can spawn so many posts!
Here are the posts on this topic so far:
When it's challenging to attend church
What to do when we feel offended by the church
What the spiritually mismatched bring to church
Friendships with Christians of the opposite sex
Now, today I want to talk about finding a church family. What do we look for when finding a church?
I've mentioned before that in 2021 the church I was attending closed. Yikes, what a thing to happen! The pastor simply lost his vision for the church and felt that we were meant to all disband. Strangely, I felt it was a God thing. God works unusually sometimes.
Something interesting happened next. As we disbanded, God seemed to show each person where they were meant to go next, and he put us into some quite varied churches.
One of us, for example, was a SUMite. She felt that God was leading her to attend the local mega-church, an enormous glittering presence in the inner-city of Auckland. Her response to that was 'Crikey, NO!' as she had formed a bad opinion of mega-churches. However, good on her for following God's lead because weeks later her non-believing husband gave his life to the Lord in the walls of said mega-church!!!
((Let's just pause and take that in for a minute)).
God knows best.
From all that, I say the key is to simply ask God 'What church do you want me in?' It's as simple as that. Ask him to give you a sign or two to help you figure it out.
It's all about where God wants you.
God will have a job for you to do in the church family of his choosing. Your job might be to care for the bruised and broken body of Christ in a less-than-perfect church, in which case you might have some differences with the church. Or, more comfortably, he might want you to go somewhere you are going to be nurtured because that's what you need right now.
When it comes to church, though, there is one deal-breaker for me, and I say this because I can't imagine God putting me in a church that was otherwise. It's this: The church must preach the Gospel.
By preach the Gospel, I mean:
The church must preach that Jesus is the only way to salvation
The church must preach that there is such a thing as sin, therefore we need the cross.
The church must preach the need for repentance and living a changed life; not choosing to live life on our own terms.
There is more to the Gospel; I mean the gift of eternal life is AMAZING! But in all seriousness, the above sentences are critical parts of Jesus's message; and, as our presence supports a church's mission, I can't imagine God putting us into a church that didn't preach the above. That's one thing, therefore, that I would look at before settling in.
On that note, God wants his church to become pure and spotless, not swayed by the world's morals. The church must be willing to be counter-cultural on certain difficult topics, because that's how we honor the cross of Christ, his blood shed for our sin. That means being gracious and truthful. We must be a church that frees people from the things that enslave them, and that involves being truthful about sin. Hard stuff.
The church is called to be very different to the world; and to be brave ... And that is all part of what it looks like to preach the Gospel.
Will the church ever be perfect? Well, we're a bunch of humans, so no. But our job as little SUMites, spiritually single and all, is to help our church be the best it can be.
That's a challenge I can rise to!
Ok, let's chat in the comments. What has been your experience of trying to find a church family?
Hey there SUMites! Amanda her, I am so excited to share something God revealed to me weeks ago that really rang my bell!
For several years my husband struggled with an addiction to alcohol. He was never violent or dangerous, but it was still slowly taking over his life and becoming a top priority. Drinking was what he looked forward to the most at the end of every day and the start of every weekend, it truly was his idol for many years.
One night we were reminiscing about things and he started to talk about drinking. He spoke of it fondly, and admitted to missing it. That hurt my heart in more ways than one. Suddenly, while he was talking I heard God. Now, when I say I heard God I mean I HEARD Him, loud and clear! God said to me, "Can you handle him loving ME like that? Can you give me ALL the space that I will take up in his heart?". My head was actually buzzing, it felt like someone had rang a gong in my head. I cannot remember the rest of the conversation with my husband because God was so loud in that moment. I don't think God has ever spoken to me quite like that before. I had to shake my head to regain focus on my husband and continue our conversation.
I mulled this over a lot in the days afterward. The truth was, God had caught me in a heart issue. I am a fixer, when there is a problem I want to fix it myself. I like to be the one to make people feel heard, seen, and wanted. Most of all, I like being the number one source of comfort for my husband. The more I looked into my heart the more I realized I was NOT prepared! I had not been preparing myself for what would come when Daniel got saved.
You see, when Daniel takes an interest in something it consumes him. He has been that way since we were teenagers. When he was 16-18 it was The Beatles. We have every album (CD's and vinyl), a book of the complete music scores, pictures, shirts, ect... When he was 20 it was another musician named Gotye and Daniel learned a new instrument because of him. When he decided he was an atheist, he dove head first into that as well. He was listening to and reading from every atheist influencer he could find. He would spend hours researching and arguing his point to anyone who would listen. Daniel is an all-or-nothing man, so it is very clear why I would need to have my heart prepared for when salvation comes to him!
I know without a doubt in my heart that when God does reveal himself to Daniel my house is going to be turned on it's head! What a glorious day that will be! But I have had to face that, while glorious, it will also come with challenges. As God moves on to the throne of his heart, everything else has to take a step down! I will have to share him with the Father in a way I have never had to do in the 14 years we have been together. I will no longer be his main source of comfort and peace. He won't run to me first, he will run to Jesus! The dynamic of our relationship will shift, there will be a third party we are now both aware of! His views and opinions will change and grow as he changes and grows. He may want to try a new church, change what we watch, wear, and listen to. As for me, I have been the soul spiritual leader of our children for 10 years! You can bet that will not be easy for me! I like being in charge haha!
God has started this work in me slowly. This year has taught me a LOT about giving God control, about what it means to actually "give it to God". It has been no easy task, this heart change. BUT it is exciting! Because for God to speak to me in such a drastic way, it must mean that things are getting close to changing, and I better be ready!
Have any of you ever thought about the challenges that a newly saved spouse might bring? Has God ever spoken something so loudly to you? Drop a comment so we can talk about it! :)
Hello, dear friends, it's Ann here.
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.
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.
Often-times a spiritually mismatched marriage can make us feel we're in a real quandary. I wonder if that's how you'd describe it too?
Dictionary definitions of the word 'quandary' include:
A state of perplexity
A hard plight
A state of difficulty
A state of perplexity or uncertainty over what to do in a difficult situation.
Yes, I'd say that's how it's often been. But today I'd like to share something that God seemed to show me about that state of quandary. What he seemed to say is that a quandary has its purposes Here's the story:
Three years ago I was sat in my church's Easter service. The pastor put on some music and said "Let's sit and reflect for a while." The soft music played.
Gazing down, my eyes began to wander. They wandered over to a certain molded indentation on the plastic seat beside me, where my husband should have been sat. And still the music played. Instead of thinking about the empty tomb I began to think about a different empty thing: That empty seat, and my absent-from-church husband.
"He is not here," I thought to myself. And I wasn't thinking about Jesus now.
One thing led to another then, and yes this may sound dramatic but I threw myself forward, hurled my head into my hands, and let my shoulders heave in quiet sobs.
He is not here. He is not here.
Meanwhile, the reflection music just kept on playing.
It was at that moment that little thoughts came to me that seemed to perfectly articulate my problem, like some kind of 'eureka' moment. I grabbed my phone and began to type. Here's what I wrote:
"I can't do faith without you, Bryce.
You won't do it with me.
I can't be without you.
I can't not do faith."
"Wow" I thought, clicking the save button with a sense of resolution. "That there is what's going on. I'm in a constant quandary." Indeed, what I realized from writing those four statements is that this SUM situation was bringing me a set of tensions that seemed impossible to hold. Well, at least that's how it felt.
At that moment, however, God seemed to give me the following as a way of countering the problem I had just typed out. It landed in my heart as an analogy, a quiet answer from the Holy Spirit:
"Ann, there are numerous facets to your character, just like a glitter ball has many facets. These tensions in your life enable the different facets of your character to be examined by Me. These tensions have their purpose: They enable Me to test your heart. Know this, then: Every time you hold two contradictory things in tension in your marriage, you are being tested and refined. I am watching to see how you navigate it and what choices you will make."
Amazing. "I think I understand, Lord," I said, and I have thought a lot about that image of the glitter ball and its facets ever since. Is this whole SUM situation one big set of tests, even?
The refining pot is for silver and the furnace for gold, but the Lord tests the hearts. (Proverbs 17:3)
Well, that was three years ago and of course I've had numerous thoughts about spiritually mismatched marriage since, just like I imagine many of you do. But, three years on, some of those things I'm holding in tension don't seem so hard to combine any more. I can't say why exactly. Perhaps it's that Jesus has come into the middle of it and brought ease.
There is one part to that quandary that I can say has actively changed, though. My first statement that Easter three years ago was this: "I can't do faith without you, Bryce." Well, I have learned that I can do faith without him, and I do. For, after all, though I am one flesh with my husband, I do stand on my own two feet before God.
Overall, then, perhaps our lesson is today is that we mustn't despise the quandary, but instead see it for what it is: a tool for us to draw closer to God, and a tool for him to refine our characters.
Do you have a quandary you're wrestling with at the moment?
Let's chat in the comments!
We have certain routines in this community, and one of these routines is that around this time of year many of us will ask God for a word for the year. For ourselves, that is, as individuals.
Asking God questions about our own life is such a good way of drawing near to him. He so desires to be our friend and talk to us about our unique lives.
Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. James 4:8
"For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Jeremiah 29:11
Whenever I’ve asked God for a word for the year I've actually never received it as a solitary word, though I know that some of you have. Instead, for me it’s been a concept, a phrase, or an analogy. We're all different.
One year, for example, I asked and then later received a phrase in the night: “Jesus Christ, first and foremost, all the way for me.” That year (2018) did end up being a year where I focused on Jesus and asked a lot of questions about the Gospel.
Another year I asked for a word and the next morning had a symbolic dream in the early hours. It was about moving in a boat, along with others in the SUM community, towards a new destination. That was for 2019, and a lot happened to us that year together: Most notably, Lynn's husband's baptism and a subsequent book, 'Marching Around Jericho', which was a huge shift in our ministry.
Then this past year, the word I sensed was “Crossing over.” Crossing over into what, I still do not fully know, but I know that I am crossing over into something and it certainly has been a year of personal transition. Most of my conversations with God this year have been about preparing for the 'more' of ministry in the future, and preparing for what God wants to do beyond this COVID shaking. Our world is being shaken but when the dust settles God has work for us to do. My head has been there, in the future, and it's certainly a ‘crossing over’.
So with all that said, how about we each go ahead and ask God for a word for the year? It might not be a single word that you hear back. It might be a dream, a picture/analogy that lands in your head, a concept, a phrase, or a scripture. Just ask, and see what happens.
He may give it to you immediately if you are on your knees and being quiet. Or, he might give it to you in the night hours later, even a day or week later. But ask and see if anything does come to mind straight away. Even if it feels like a fleeting whisper, I’ve often found ‘whispers’ turn out to be accurate. God's voice is usually not a dramatic thunderclap.
I do know that when we ask he delights to answer.
If you do have a word for the year, perhaps you can share in the comments? It'd be great to hear about it.
Lots of love to you all, and I hope your Christmassy count-down is going well.
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,
I had a different post planned today, but that can wait until next week. Instead, I thought I'd share a few impromptu thoughts given the present events. We're watching wide-eyed as the US election plays out, and then across the Atlantic many Europeans are entering their second lockdown. It's all pretty intense.
However, many believers - friends of God -- across the world will be sitting in their living rooms asking, “What does this mean, Lord? What do you want us to know?”
Sitting … waiting … watching … seeking Him.
"I will stand my watch and set myself on the rampart, and watch to see what He will say to me, and what I will answer when I am corrected."
(Habakkuk 2:1, NKJV)
We hear in part, and we put the pieces together as a body. So, in that spirit I thought I might share what I've been hearing from God these past few months. And when I say 'hearing', I can say He has spoken this particular thing to me quite a few times this past year (even before COVID began), and quite clearly. The hard part is believing it (because it feels abstract) and knowing what to do with it. It's along these lines:
The Church is crossing over to a new era like the Israelites crossed the Jordan.
This crossing over involves moving from one era to another. From one way of being, to another. From old routines, old ways of doing church, and old mindsets to a brand new 'thing'.
Specifically, the Lord has led me repeatedly to the story of Joshua and the Israelites who crossed the Jordan river collectively. They crossed over from the wilderness to the promised land (Joshua 1:1-3:17) and this involved them completely leaving their old place. Even though it was the dysfunctional wilderness, it was what they knew so there was comfort there. The wilderness had a certain set of routines: They ate manna, for example, and they were led by Moses. In the new land, the manna stopped and Moses died just before they crossed. Their main focus was now to follow the 'new' -- Joshua -- into new battles. The whole package was completely different. And the process of crossing over took months, the river being only a small part of it.
The good part was that once they had crossed over, they experienced victory - Well, as long as they were obedient and listened to God's voice.
I believe what God is saying is that we are moving, and we need to be prepared for the same magnitude of change as the Israelites had, unbelievable as that might sound. When we emerge from this pandemic, things will be different in our faith lives and perhaps in the Church. I have no idea how, but I do believe God is asking us to prepare our hearts for that. He is asking us to be open-hearted to change, be prepared to embrace something new, be prepared to be obedient, and hold on tight to him.
Right now, the year 2020 is an experience that feels something like walking through the riverbed of the Jordan. It's hard to be straddling this in-between place, this 'no-man's land'. But in that story of the crossing over, the Ark of the Covenant went ahead to show God's people where to put their footing, for they had not been that way before (Joshua 3:3-4). In the same way, God will be leading us through this. We just need to keep talking to him -- And listening.
Here is the key scripture God has been giving me for this time, and I love it. It fills me with hope!
"But the land which you cross over to possess is a land of hills and valleys, which drinks water from the rain of heaven, a land for which the Lord your God cares; the eyes of the Lord your God are always on it, from the beginning of the year to the very end of the year."
(Deuteronomy 11:11-12, NKJV)
SUM family, let's be strong and of good courage, for God is doing something new in our midst. Hold on tight, he has us buckled in and safe!
In the meantime, how are you doing? I'd love to hear, even if you are finding it tough. Let's pull together as a community.
Love to you all,
It's been a couple of weeks since I last wrote, but in my last post I shared a story from our archives where the Holy Spirit had given us a caution about using the ‘unequally yoked’ label too much. To catch up, you can read that post here. Today I'm interested in chatting a bit more about that -- the 'unequally-yoked' badge.
I certainly can relate to the issue of using the 'spiritually mismatched' label a little much. As a woman, I share my feelings easily with others, and when I’m with other Christians I talk about my faith challenges. Well, the spiritual mismatch is the major challenge, right?
Except … it’s easy to mention this thing to any Tom, Dick or Harry at church and suddenly we’re allowing them into our marriage, which is a private space. That thought makes me sad. I think my husband would hope that doesn't happen.
I guess over the years I’ve become more wary about sharing this precious and difficult thing that Bryce and I walk. But guarding the tongue takes practice, especially if you are naturally a bit talkative!
As for the label itself, which we do use in the SUM community, what are we to make of the words that the Holy Spirit gave us (mentioned in my last post)? Let's take another look at those beautiful -- and perspective-changing -- words:
Your marriages are not mismatched or unequally yoked.
Your marriages are Mine.
Your husbands are Mine.
They are Mine.
Words like these are designed by the Lord to give us the mind of Christ. He always sees things differently to the way we naturally do and he will often ask us to lift our eyes above the circumstances. He wants us to walk in hope, peace and joy!
Of course, we can't deny the battle. If we were too euphemistic in our words, people wouldn't be able to find this blog and know we're here to help them deal with spiritual mismatch in marriage. The Bible uses the term ‘unbelieving wife’ and ‘unbelieving husband’ (1 Corinthians 7:14) with honesty. So, we do the same in this ministry to articulate the challenge for others who need help. Even then, I have to say I use the label cautiously (Proverbs 18:21).
Perhaps the issue is not so much about using the label as much as it's about our hearts. If the label is used to minister to other SUMites it's a different thing to us using the label widely and without respect for our spouse. So, while I'm open with SUMites I've become much more guarded when talking with other Christians. If I do talk about it I'll say something like this:
"My husband and I do have a difference in what we believe, but we're still happily married."
“My husband doesn’t go to church with me, so I tend to do that side of things by myself.”
In fact, I had this role-modelled to me a few years ago when I sidled up to an older woman at church. I wanted to ask her about her non-attending husband. All she said was this, smiling:
“You're right, he doesn't come to church. But you know what, he is the most amazing man. It's not ideal, but he's a fantastic husband.”
I liked that.
Ultimately, what I know is that God sees the end from the beginning. This present moment is not the final answer and when God looks at our marriage he sees its final day and every day leading up to that. As he sees the bigger picture, his word on the matter is this:
Your marriage is not mismatched. It is Mine.
If we can believe these words, our job is then to 'call things that are not as though they were' (Romans 4:17). That is, we can go so far as to say verbally to others: "My husband -- He belongs to the Lord", or "My marriage -- It belongs to God", or perhaps we can even smile to ourselves and think about that declaration of the Holy Spirit: Not mismatched.
My friends, I hope you've found that interesting -- It's been food for thought for me. For now, here's a question: How do you approach this issue when talking with other Christians about your situation and your life? We'll chat in the comments.
We’re currently looking at past words that God has spoken to our community. To catch up, here are the recent posts:
Part two - 'God is Calling our Spouses'
Now, this next word I’m going to share is one where the Lord gave us an adjustment. In it he was encouraging us to adjust a particular aspect of our walk. It’s shared with warm humor by Lynn but when I read it I did nod and say all over again, 'Yes, Lord.'
It happened at the conference that Lynn and Dineen attended on 12 October 2012. Lynn tells the story, which I’ve copied below. It's a longer one, so perhaps make a drink and settle in ... Then we can chat in the comments.
"Sometimes are you overcome and overwhelmed with the sheer love and patience God bestows upon you?
Glad it’s not just me.
His relentless persistence to get through to my heart and more, my thick-head, is astounding. In the weeks since the conference, I feel like I’m reading scripture for the first time. I’m in love with the book of Luke right now and can’t get enough. I’m reading that book like it was personally written for me. Scripture verses have new meaning, depth and POWER in my life.
I’m not sure how long this post will be but I’m writing until the entire story is out. Because it is HIS-story and all for His glory.
I think I mentioned in the post about Maria that God was intentionally selective about the conferees that He placed around us during the three day event. Our God did not waste one minute of the conference. He sent Helen to us at lunch and Maria next to me in the audience and Laura prayed with us in the bathroom. That story still makes me chuckle (a tale for another day, I promise).
But God also used Heidi, Dineen and me as we spoke truth and love into each other’s lives. A bond of love formed between the three of us that is impenetrable, powerful, perfect and sealed in eternal love. I hope all of you experience this kind of Kingdom friendship and love.
Onward. It was the last day of the conference and all throughout the day, through people like Laura, Darlene, and Helen God was trying to talk to Dineen and I. He wanted to speak about something Dineen and I wear. You see we kinda promote this badge on our chest. I’m still struggling to figure out how it comes to rest on my chest and why. But the badge we wear says this:
I’m unequally yoked.
Truly we have moved past wearing this badge as martyrs. It’s just easy to say, “I’m unequally yoked” because in Christian circles people always reply to our declaration with a serious nod of understanding accompanied by eyes full of concern or pity and they utter one word, “Oh.” As if to say, I see, I get it, poor you.
Sheesh, just writing that makes my stomach turn. Onward.
Well after three days of proudly wearing our invisible but very discernible badges around the place and after God sending people to us to speak gently about our malady of unequalness, God was sick of us. So He sent in Heidi.
We were walking along the road to a nearby restaurant for dinner. Now I don’t recall the conversation specifics at the moment. I think we were talking about Laura and the words she prayed over us in the women’s restroom. And Heidi with trepidation in her voice says, “Did you hear what she was saying to you?”
“Ya, I thought I did.”
Heidi looked at me and Dineen with uncertainty in her eyes and then she ventured, “I really don’t know how to say this and I’m not saying this to be hurtful or anything but I don’t think you are hearing what God is saying to you.”
I froze in my tracks on the side of the road with cars passing by. I stared at Heidi and Dineen was standing right there frozen as well. “I just hear God telling me to tell you this. ‘Your marriages are not mismatched or unequally yoked. Your marriages are mine. Your husbands are mine.’”
Instantly I felt chastised by our most loving and Holy God.
Heidi rushed on, “Please don’t be mad but I hear God telling me to say to you, ‘They are mine.”
That instant my heart broke wide open. I felt ashamed that I had not believed God about this and even more shame that for so, so long I’ve worn this stupid “spiritually mismatched” badge about my person.
She said, “Your words have created a prison where you have held your husband in a cell.”
Pain. O, the pain.
However the pain and shame instantly left me as I said to Heidi, “Oh Heidi, you are right. God is so right.”
It was at the moment that I opened the doors of the prison. I tore off the badge and I surrendered it to God. I remember saying to Heidi and Dineen, “This changes everything. Even our ministry. Perhaps we are to even change our ministry name?” A million thoughts rushed into my head. And those thoughts Dineen and I are still wrangling with today.
Out of this entire exchange what has remained profound and clear to me are three words that the Father spoke to me and Dineen, “They are mine.”
My friends, deep calls to deep. Step into this deep with me and see if you can uncover the truth of those three words in your life. What are the implications? Why it is God would say this to Dineen and I, “They (our husbands) are mine.”
Now I have to also be clear in this. Heidi spoke these words as they were placed upon her through the Holy Spirit and they were intended for Dineen and I. However, I also believe they are intended for our community. But there is a progression or a spiritual shift that happens within us that allows God to speak these words to those of us who live with an unsaved spouse. And it’s this development, this shift that changes everything. And I’m desperate to share this with you so that you don’t have to be hit upside the head from a close friend on the side of the road."
Well, that’s the story! We'll build on it in a future post, but in the meantime I'd love to hear your thoughts. See you in the comments.
Today I’m continuing from my post last week about this blog being like a wonderful museum of God stories. If you missed it you can catch up here. In that post, I described how God has given our community the occasional prophetic word over the years: words of wisdom or promises specifically for us, the SUM Nation.
It’s such encouraging stuff. We have the Bible, but we also have access to hearing his voice. When we do receive a word from the Holy Spirit, it’s helpful to go back and re-examine it. For example, there might be an instruction for us in there that we'd forgotten and by reviewing his words we can make sure we're doing all we can to partner with him.
I guess it’s all part of what it means to be in relationship with him. What an adventure!
Today, I’m smiling so much as I share with you the first prophetic word I could find on this blog. It’s from 2012, and it’s just a few words that the Lord spoke to Dineen; in fact, it was shortly before the turning point that I mentioned last week. Here are the words:
Tell the SUMites that I am calling their spouses.
You can read Dineen’s explanation more fully here. But, very simply, this is his promise to us: He is calling them. He is calling them.
Now we might be bouncing up and down, thinking, "Yes, but I’d like to know whether my spouse is going to become a Christian any time soon?" [laughing] It’s as if God asks us instead to pause, take a breath, and just listen to what he wants us to know. He wants us to know that he is calling them. [Deep breath]. So what does that mean?
As I read Dineen's write-up of the word, I understand from it that we are to trust and rest. We know that no one can come to Jesus unless the Father draws them, and this thing is in motion. Our response can be: “Thank you, Father. You are calling them. And I know that in time your voice will become louder, your knock will become louder.”
The Lord will often leave space for mystery when he speaks. But sometimes he will give us a bit (as he did here) and then more later. Indeed, a few years later he gave us some clearer promises about our spouses' salvation and I will pull those out soon.
Back to 2012, a most curious thing happened next: Just three weeks after writing up that word, Dineen was driving in the center lane of an 8-lane road at 8am when out of the corner of her eye she saw a man cross the road from the opposite side. He stopped in the middle of the road, fell to his knees and lifted his arms in a gesture of worship. Here's the story. It was totally startling and strange. Could it be that it was a little extra confirmation as we look back? It was primarily a personal blessing for Dineen at the time, but for us SUMites I wonder if we could also use it as a visual of a spouse crossing over, from unbelief to belief.
All I know is that God is calling.
Now, there was a second part to this word about God calling, an instruction for us:
Lift up your faces!
“Lift up your eyes, and look to the heavens” (Isaiah 40:26, NIV)
My friends, this is to be our way of walking, to lift up our faces and look at Heavenly things. That is something for us to ask God's help with, and perhaps we can linger there by re-reading Dineen's posts above. For now, here are some fitting words from those posts:
“What if that lift of our eyes is a constant state of awareness – constantly looking for God in our everyday lives? What if we looked for God’s hand and provision each day for the prayers we sent up just that morning. What if we waited expectantly for God to just show up in some way each and every day?”
I will leave it there. I guess I take from this that we are to marinate in the idea that God is calling our spouses, and we are to lift our faces. And perhaps we are to take a little time to chew over these two ideas. I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments.
Lately, I've been thinking about how much this blog is a museum full of interesting stories. I wonder if any of you find it so? And, within it there are places where God has answered some of those questions we talked about in our last post. That's what I wanted to share today. Hope you can follow me as we take a little walk through the SUM community's story.
Most of us will know this ministry was started by Lynn as just a little blog. Her time of being spiritually mismatched had only just become easier when God nudged her to start writing publicly about this sensitive topic. This was a huge ask: Would her husband mind? Miraculously, Mike said yes, and fourteen years later here we are. Mike's baptism last year brought us full circle. It is truly one of my favorite stories ever.
This blog, for me, is a treasure trove of God stories. It's a living, breathing parable. A record of God's faithfulness. A story of a little one becoming a thousand (Isaiah 60:22). And, a story of a nation that God loves deeply: The SUM nation.
Last year, I decided to read through the SUM nation's story from the very beginning, starting with Lynn’s maiden post on 1 May 2006. With the spiritual equivalent of museum-curator gloves, I read carefully, post by post, turning the events over. It was as if certain threads were like specific exhibits. Hindsight adds extra insight to some of these threads.
I noticed quite a few things. One part I love is that when Dineen joined soon after the blog started, she instantly brought a strong message about Jericho. She wrote about that a lot. It was as if the Marching Around Jericho book and testimony was foreshadowed in some of her posts. God had a story here that he was writing, and we were all along for the ride.
As I scrolled through, I was keen to read any words from the Holy Spirit that had featured in past posts. By that, I mean directly spoken words or visions that God had given to the leaders for this community. But as I read, from 2006 onwards I could not find much. In 2012 that changed. It was only after October 2012, a personal turning point where Lynn and Dineen each had a deep encounter with the Lord, that they began to receive clearer promises from the Holy Spirit for this community. They would pen these words, turning them into posts. As a reader at that time I recall how strengthening those posts were.
Hearing God speak, and then conveying his words to others, is a huge learning curve. Looking at this blog I can see that God used many ways to teach us to hear his voice. He would usually speak in the still, small whisper, a barely-there conviction; but sometimes he would give Dineen a dream, vision, or a picture; or Lynn would hear a phrase drop into her spirit. It was exciting. They grew in hearing God's voice, and so did we.
Paul said we should use these kinds of words as part of our spiritual battle:
"This charge I commit to you, son Timothy, according to the prophecies previously made concerning you, that by them you may wage the good warfare" (1 Timothy 1:18, NKJV)
These words, then -- words from the Holy Spirit -- are powerful tools. They might include promises and/or direction and strategy, and they can completely change our outlook. Importantly, they can also answer some of those questions we have.
So with this in mind, I’m going to dig out some of these prophetic words that are sitting in our archives, some from as early as 2012. They are words of wisdom and/or prophecy (1 Corinthians 12:8-9), and their purpose is to edify, exhort and comfort us (1 Corinthians 14:3). I would describe them as gifts to help us. So, I'd like to dust them off and take a look at them again. Would you be keen? I’ll start with a couple next week, and then will revisit others here and there over the months as time permits.
In the meantime, I'd love to hear your story: How long have you been reading this blog, and what has been your most memorable post, topic, or series of posts?
Recently, I popped a question onto our Facebook page, asking ‘What’s your biggest question for Jesus right now concerning your spiritual mismatch?’
Many of you will have seen that post, but some won’t. I found the responses so helpful in relation to my own path, that I thought you might too. I guess I realized I have asked God every single one of those questions. And when we see others face the exact same things, we remember we are not alone.
So, here goes. From our beautiful community, here are the biggest questions we SUMites wrestle with:
How long, Lord? How much longer? When? When, Lord? I’m waiting!
Why doesn’t my spouse come back to you? What is standing in the way?
Will my spouse ever choose you? Or, am I always to be in an unequally yoked marriage?
Show me please, what I need to do? Do I need to do anything different?
How do I know when to submit and when to stand my ground on gray areas?
How do I disciple my children in this situation?
We’re so different, how can this work?
What can I do better to sow good seed into my spouse’s life? How do I witness? How can I speak to their heart about you, Lord?
How do I wait well?
How do I love my spouse unconditionally?
This is just a condensed version of those questions. They represent an awful lot of 'stuff', and we can all nod our heads at the many, many topic areas that a SUM raises. I imagine any Christian who is not in our shoes would be surprised how much there is to this situation. It touches almost every area of our life.
As for questions, I believe God loves them because that's where we begin to try to hear his voice. Like a questioning child, I do go there with the Lord. In fact, it's a daily thing here: Question question question question.
In fact, I’ve even got a ‘question diary’. Having been given a lovely hardback diary for Christmas a couple of years ago, I thought I would use it to jot some key questions for the Lord as a record of my relationship with him. It sits on my shelf and sometimes I scribble a question in there and pop it straight back. Other times I pick it off my shelf and flick through. It’s amazing how many answers I’ve received to the quirkiest questions!
However, God sometimes leaves a question unanswered. There are some pieces of information that are just not in our best interests to know. We understand only in part. Sometimes, perhaps the Lord wants us to pursue the answer and grow wisdom rather than receiving a thunderclap response from him. He knows what is best for our souls.
My friends, it’s these questions that lead us to pursue Him. And though the above cries for answers are birthed out of our serious wilderness season, they propel us into greater wisdom.
On Monday I want to share one way that God answers questions that is specific to us as a community. I’ll be back then to chat about that - I'm looking forward to it.
In the meantime, which question is your biggest one right now?
Today I thought I would chat a little about hearing God's voice as a whisper. Often the way God speaks is through the softest of moments, much like the everyday companionship of a good friend.
Even the prophet Elijah heard God in the still small voice rather than a dramatic fanfare (1 Kings 19:12), and that's usually how it is. The hard thing is, we have to believe it's Him, and that takes a leap.
With this in mind, I thought I'd share a testimony. So settle in, grab a drink, and enjoy. Even writing it today has warmed my spirit, so I hope it does the same for you. Here goes ...
One Easter I was walking up the hill near my house. Suddenly it seemed that every purple flower I saw was grabbing my attention. Was it my imagination? I shook my head quickly, “Don’t be stupid, Ann.”
That was that. But later I was lying in bed and found myself thinking about my faith difference: “I’m scared Bryce’ll go off me if I go further with God --” Suddenly, a purple rose flashed across my mind. It could have been my imagination. But was it God saying, "Do not fear"?
Weeks later, it happened again. I was swimming in a pool this time and a thought came: "People think I'm nuts believing in Jesus --” Swoosh, a purple clover came across my mind. Was it God? Was He once again saying “Do not fear”?
It happened more. Different purple flowers would land in my head, interrupting my thoughts (usually when I was thinking an anxious thought): Thistles, forget-me-nots, bushes of small dark purple things. I began to believe it was God.
One day, I was sprawled on my floor having cleared out a cupboard. A mysterious wooden box sat in front of me. I hadn’t seen this box for years, and as I lifted its lid I smiled to see piles of letters from childhood pen-pals. But there was something else tucked in there. I reached for it and pulled it out. It was a faded piece of paper from my last day of primary school in 1987, with names and addresses of friends; It was lovely to remember them but then I stopped in my tracks. Something was written in thick black crayon in the corner of that page. It was this:
"And little purple flowers were sprouting."
Oh God!! I sat back, stunned. It's You. What was He saying to me through this? Perhaps that He was always there.
Fast-forward a few years and we come to my kitchen renovation which I mentioned in my last post. There, God had the sweetest purple flower waiting. But first, let me backtrack:
It sounds strange, but as a child I would daydream about having a secret room. I loved the idea of having a space within a house that was hidden. Well, now I’m grown up but I’m still that same person.
After buying our house, Bryce and I realized that our house had a hidden pocket of space behind a wall. We knew because there was a stained-glass window on the outside that wasn't on the inside. Just before the renovation, then, we said to one another "Let’s get the wall knocked down and see what’s in there!" This was last July, just as I was leaving my job, something I’d felt God wanted me to do. The day we knocked the wall down was the day I waved goodbye to colleagues and closed a 10-year chapter in my life.
Honestly, friends, my heart pounds at this one. When we knocked down the wall, guess what we found: A little secret room! And what’s more, the stained-glass window was revealed: A purple flower. Here's a photo of it. That day it was as if God said, “I love you, Ann, and I’m here as you leave your job.” All day I couldn't concentrate; I just had to keep staring at that room and window, captivated.
That stained glass window was put there decades ago, as was the piece of paper in that wooden box. But God knew I’d be coming across it now. The moral of the story? God speaks in mysterious ways, and life with Him is ... well ... fun!
I would so love to hear anything you would like to share about hearing God, so please, go for it in the comments. And I say let's pray for more!
We're spending time talking over on Facebook about intimacy with God, so I thought I would follow suit in today's post. Many years ago, I observed another Christian's intimacy with God, and it was so eye-catching that it kick-started my own relationship with Him. Here’s what happened:
I was at my parents’ table in Reading, England. I live in New Zealand, so only visit once a year. On this visit I noticed that in their home ‘everything felt nice’. Even the coffee had that little ‘something special’.
Are you suspecting something? Yep, my parents were both growing in their connection with Jesus. As a non-Jesus-lover, I didn’t recognize the atmosphere for what it was, but I did notice my Dad seemed to spend a lot of time in his study. The door was closed for one or two hours, then he’d emerge for a late breakfast, cheerful.
One morning at the table, I said to him: “What do you spend your time on?”
He cast me a secret smile: “Well, Ann, the only thing that matters to me these days is my relationship with God.”
Huh?!! I pulled a face but eyed him up quietly. Never heard such a thing.
Well, um, as you can tell, these days I’m a closed-door kinda girl myself with that same secret smile; it's the kind of smile that says ‘God is exciting!’ It’s funny how these things are catching.
Yes, a while after asking my Dad that question, my heart got stirred and I began to do business with God on the couch in my living room. I am a couch potato, so can do time on the couch very easily, and this is where my relationship with God has happened. That couch is so meaningful to me now it’s like a family treasure. It's in the TV room, which I now term 'the prayer room' (much to the laughter of my family) and I retreat to it throughout the day -- Especially when life as a Mum gets intense.
Those years ago, on that very couch, I began to ask God some direct questions. The first one was ‘Um God, Do You Exist?’ Blow me down, He answered over a period of weeks with some extraordinary occurrences. Oh. Next question: ‘What is True?’ At this point, I bought a special notebook and started to record these questions, documenting my blossoming relationship with Him. One notebook led to another, and these days I have a pile of them. The questions seemed to open up closeness.
After asking ‘What is true?’ God started to show me it was Jesus who was the Way, and there was no other. It was so compelling that all I could say was ‘Ok, this is true – I’m in.’
Then came a time I prayed a dangerous prayer, without realizing it was dangerous. By dangerous, I mean it was the kind of prayer that brings the Kingdom of Heaven near because it is completely in line with His will and you end up never the same again. Dangerous, but exciting. The prayer I prayed was this:
Align my desires with yours Lord.
I've heard of others praying something like this (e.g., Let me really know you, Lord), and I've heard them say 'Sometimes I wish I hadn't prayed that prayer because it’s not been easy.’ That's a little of how I feel about that prayer though I would never, ever want it to be different. See, after praying that prayer, I could never get God out of my head again, and then I noticed how far from Him our culture is. That was the difficult part. My head and my heart became filled to the point that I felt constantly aware of Him. It felt like He had become as real to me as the person in front of me. Real.
Align my desires with yours, God.
Align my desires with yours.
This request, simple as it was, helped me draw closer to Him.
I've been helped vastly in years past by others on this blog -- Not only the writers but also those in the comments who've shared how they get close to God; so I hope you enjoyed this one little piece of my own story. But now I'd love to hear your stories: How much do you ask God questions, and what other things do you do to draw close to Him?
Two Christmases ago, I was sitting alone in a spacious old church in Edinburgh enjoying a family service. I'd been visiting that city on a solo trip and it was a treat to go to a new church. I chose one to visit and as I took my seat it warmed my heart to be surrounded by a hall full of believers, though I knew none of them.
As the singing began, I got the faintest thought that there might be someone there whose spouse did not yet believe – Someone there whom, maybe, I could help. I brushed it off but as the singing continued the thought came back. I brushed it aside again and carried on singing.
Another song passed, and the tiny thought came back, now niggling me. Eventually I turned to the lady next to me and asked: “Is there someone here whose spouse doesn’t believe?” I mean there are usually plenty in churches, so there would be. I just wondered if it was someone she could point out.
Her eyes scanned the hall, going left, going right. Nope, couldn’t see anyone. She looked behind, but still couldn’t see anyone. Her brow was furrowed by this point, “I’m sure there are, I just can’t think …” And then she looked in front of her: “OH, yes –”, and pointed to the lady right in front of me, on the floor alongside her husband, watching the kids in the nativity play. “Yes, there she is with her husband. He’s very good, he comes to church with her but doesn't believe.”
“Is it hard for her?” I asked.
“It is.” She said.
I watched this beautiful couple during that service, thinking “I feel I would know how to encourage you, if we ever chatted.”
Then another thought came: “I should tell her she’s not a second-class Christian.” It really was a fleeting thought, one that could have been my own, certainly no thunderbolt. But equally, perhaps it was the Holy Spirit. So I did it. I walked over to her straight after the service, crouched down by her seat, and told her that I just wanted to encourage her. I didn’t mention the spiritually mismatched part. I just told her that what she was doing for her family by carrying her faith strongly was making such an impact, that it was a difficult faith road she walked, and that God is pleased with her.
Hearing God in our day-to-day is hardly ever a thunderbolt, and it is the still small voice. Nevertheless, as I walked out of the church that day I felt I wanted to know: “Was that really you speaking to me, Lord, or am I on a wild walk of the imagination here?!”
What happened next was more educative for me than I might have thought.
Two days later I was sitting on a bus travelling through a completely different part of Edinburgh from that church. The bus stopped at a red light, and I absentmindedly watched the crowds pass on the pavement. In my daydreaming state, however, I was suddenly startled to see none other than that lady’s husband standing on the pavement! I did the most enormous double take. What was interesting about the scene was that everyone around him was in grey or beige, but this guy, he looked so colorful – I think he was wearing a crisp yellow and the brightest blue. He stood out from the crowd.
It seemed God was saying to me there, "Yes, you did hear my voice that day."
The reason it was educative was it confirmed to me that I should probably take note of these gentle whispers more than I do. It also showed me that if I ask God for help in figuring out whether I'm hearing Him He will come through for me.
So that's my story. What are your experiences or thoughts about hearing the still small voice even when it seems faint? I look forward to chatting in the comments.
Come Away With Me, Tiffany Carter, 4/18/2019
Come away with Me
My darling, My bride.
Revealed in the chamber
The secrets I hide.
I long for your presence
I'll wait here all day.
My love please don't tarry
There's so much to say.
I give you My heart
You hold the key.
All you must do
Is linger with Me.
No need to worry
I'm protecting your heart.
I'm faithful to you
I vow to never depart.
So come now, I'm waiting
Believe Me, it's true.
The treasures of Heaven
Are poured out for you.
The Lord is beckoning us to draw near to Him. I don't know about you but in this season I am in need of some refreshing! Will you answer His invitation?
I will give you the treasures of darkness and hidden riches of secret places, that you may know that I, the Lord, who call you by your name, am the God of Israel. - Isaiah 45:3
I love you dear SUM family!
Hey there SUM family, Tiffany here!
We are on the verge of a major breakthrough. I believe that this is both individual and corporate for our SUM community and our families. Already we have seen a few wondrous accounts of spouses getting baptized into the faith! Hallelujah! Strongholds are breaking in our lives as well as our spouses. We are seeing addictions begin to cease. Affections returning in marriages. What a great time to be alive!
I wanted to share something that God is stirring in my heart. During the fast and even recently, I am hearing the phrase "new wine." I am barely scratching the surface of where Holy Spirit is trying to take me but I wanted to share my heart because I feel it is important. When breakthrough is upon us, there is always a push back from the forces of darkness. Freedom, identity, purpose, birthright. These are all things that scare the enemy. Satan and his minions know that when we step into the calling and purpose that God has ordained for us and we walk in our authority they are in big trouble! Is it any wonder that there are flair ups and illness, death and financial strain?
Back to new wine. Let's take a look at what Jesus had to say:
14 Then John’s disciples came and asked him, “How is it that we and the Pharisees fast often, but your disciples do not fast?” 15 Jesus answered, “How can the guests of
the bridegroom mourn while he is with them? The time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them; then they will fast. 16 “No one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment, for the patch will pull away from the garment, making the tear worse. 17 Neither do people pour new wine into old wineskins. If they do, the skins will burst; the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. No, they pour new wine into new wineskins, and both are preserved.” (Matthew 9:14-17)
Side note: it is interesting that Holy Spirit brought me to this scripture during the community fast. John's disciples originally asked Jesus a question about fasting.
When thinking about the process of making wine in ancient Israel it always begins with a pressing and crushing of the grapes. Grapes did not last very long when harvested in the heat and climate of the season. The farmers would instantly turn the grapes into wine and store them in the wineskins to preserve them for longer periods of time. It was actually the process of crushing the grapes that started the fermentation process. During fermentation, carbon dioxide is released so new wineskins were needed for their elasticity to allow for expansion as the gas was released.
In Acts 2 the Holy Spirit came and filled the apostles in the Upper Room during Pentacost. A crowd gathered as they heard a noise and realized that they could understand men speaking in their own native tongues. The people in the crowd were amazed and perplexed. There were also some who accused the apostles of being drunk on "new wine (NKJV)." Paul urges in Ephesians 5:18 to not be drunk on wine but be filled with the Holy Spirit.
What does this have to do with what Jesus said in Matthew 9? For us as believers today, being filled with the Holy Spirit we need to realize that He is the one who leads us into all truth - He speaks what He hears from the Father through Jesus (John 16:13). He is the new wine inside of us. We are the wineskin (vessel). Just like the fermentation process as carbon dioxide is released in the wine making process, Holy Spirit releases things in us. He is always releasing, always leading. His job is to stir in us a call to become more like Jesus. He gives us guidance and direction. As the expansion happens to a wineskin, so does the pressure in our lives.
Being the wineskin, we are the ones who decide whether or not we will allow for this movement of Holy Spirit. Will we choose to listen? Will we be flexible as He calls us into the uncomfortable? We will refuse to allow the fermentation (preservation) process?
I am being drawn into a new level of worship. One that is completely uncomfortable and will really challenge me to worship the Lord with my WHOLE body. Take a look at the video below. I would love to explain my hearts desire further, maybe for another time. This is my inspiration into the new and exciting journey of flagging.
Let's talk in the comments. I would love to hear: What are some things that Holy Spirit is challenging you to do? What areas are you being drawn into the uncomfortable - for your preservation and God's glory?
Hi everyone, Ann here!
This morning, I want to share a special story that happened to me last Christmas. It was an event that wowed me and as we're deep in the gospels it seems timely to share.
The story began when I sat sipping coffee with a favorite colleague. He’s twenty years older than me, a lovely man with a sharp mind. He also happens to have different views to me about Jesus. We agree to disagree, and we stay polite. Yet, this particular morning he couldn’t resist throwing an argument my way:
“Ann, the gospels weren’t written by Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.”
I did not hold the same view, but to my surprise, out of my mouth came this: “I know.”
Why on earth did I say that? As I left him to go back to work, it bothered me. Grrr. I could have engaged in a debate, but I didn’t. Perhaps I was just too fatigued by the constant pressure to not believe, pressure that was coming from so many close to me.
I continued to be bothered by my response until Christmas, when God turned that moment on its head and reminded me how genius He is compared to men. Here’s what happened:
I was lying in bed, found myself thinking about the 'gospel comment' once again, and said to God: “What would You have said to him? Can you tell me?” Then I drifted off to sleep…
The next morning, as I woke to birds singing, an inaudible voice hit me, clear as day, with these words:
"Which author wrote the Augustus books?"
“Augustus? Augustus?” I went, rubbing my sleepy eyes. “Who’s that?” I’m chuckling as I write this, I’m probably one of the few who didn’t know. As a teenager I messed around during history lessons, missed a lot, and Roman history was never my thing. This meant I had to look Augustus up. Here’s how my Wikipedia search went:
Who was Augustus? Augustus was Emperor of the Roman Empire during the time of Christ.
Did Augustus write any books? Yes. He wrote a series of books about himself, a multi-volume set of memoirs.
How can I get hold of these books? The books are lost (sorry, did Wikipedia say lost?? How on earth?!) Only fragments remain. According to one website, they might have been one of the most revealing texts of Roman history, had they survived. But they didn’t.
Ok, here I paused my search: The leader of the Roman Empire, Caesar Augustus, wrote a set of memoirs, which would have been historical gold, and yet they were lost. In contrast, four biographical accounts of a homeless carpenter survived intact from the same period with this much manuscript attestation?
Who wrote the books of Augustus? Augustus did. And they got lost.
Who wrote the four gospels? God did. And for that reason:
“Their sound has gone out to all the earth, and their words to the ends of the world.” (Romans 10:18, NKJV)
Indeed, the revelation of Jesus Christ, the Bible, is the world’s best-selling book, having spread just as Jesus prophesied when He said that the woman who broke her flask of oil over him would be celebrated throughout the world:
“Assuredly, I say to you, wherever this gospel is preached in the whole world, what this woman has done will also be told as a memorial to her.” (Mark 14:9, NKVJ)
The four gospels are a beautiful gift to us; they are like four puzzle pieces that, when put together, bring to life the most beautiful tidings of great joy which will be to all people (Luke 2:10). Their genius is only magnified by their differences that so cleverly fit together; and I can never get enough of them.
So like the woman with the alabastar jar, I hope I never stop wasting my life on Jesus and digesting the beauty of his birth, life, ministry, death, resurrection, and ascension.
No, Matthew, Mark Luke and John didn’t write the gospels. God did. And that's why those words came out of my mouth so readily: "I know".
"Marvellous are Your works, and that my soul knows very well." (Psalm 139:14 NKJV)
SUMites, do you have any further thoughts about these amazing gospels? Let's keep sharing our insights as we wander through the gospel together this Christmas season.
I wish you all a wonderful Christmas!
By Ann Hutchison
“Away with Him!” roar the crowd. I open my curtains and peek out. In the crowd I see people I know: Atheists, agnostics, those who’ve left their faith, and some of other faiths.
I stand and watch for a while. My eyes scan them, person by person. Some of these people are my friends. Finally, I go back to the calm of my living room and sit on the couch. I pour myself another tea, and say: “Jesus, help me again: Show me You're real?”
Sometimes, I word it differently: “God, can I check again that I'm on the right path?”
His response always comes in some way or other:
It is Jesus.
Once, I had a night I'll never forget: It was a few years ago, and I'd been reading a book about another faith. I didn't know what I believed. That night, God interrupted my sleep with crystal-clear words. His voice made me sit up: Cling tenaciously to the risen Jesus Christ, your Savior. “Ok,” I whispered back; and from then on I went with Jesus.
Like many SUMites, I’m surrounded by strong-minded people of differing beliefs. Even if they are placid, their disinterest can be strong. The whole thing requires discernment: I examine their reasons, but the most useful thing I do is go back to my couch, have another cuppa, and ask God.
There is a fabulous analogy to all this, in an unlikely character of the Bible: Pontius Pilate. He might be a surprising one to compare ourselves against, but he had a real encounter. It’s an encounter like ours, in that Jesus was right there, real as anything, and yet those who had not had the encounter were exerting incredible pressure on Pilate to reject Him. Like the SUMites, Pilate's spouse was not by his side. Her conclusions were reached in a different time and place. Standing alone, then, he had a big call to make: yes or no.
I love Pilate’s process. Over and over he asks “Are you the King of the Jews?” and each time Jesus urges him on non-forcefully: "Are you speaking for yourself about this?"
Later, Pilate brings up a valid point: “The crowd is accusing you of so many things” (Mark 15:4). It bothers him, so he goes back to the crowd: “Why are you accusing Him? What evil has He done? Help me understand!” (Matt 27:23). The crowd can only give an ill-informed answer.
In culmination, Pilate asks the most important question a person can ever ask: “What is truth?” (John 18:38)
This story holds a gem that has helped me discern the crowd in my own life. It’s this: The crowd never once bothers to ask Jesus what is true. Instead, they only accuse, reject, and make a lot of clamor. Clamor is boisterous and grabs our attention, but it can be folly:
The woman Folly is loud;
she is seductive and knows nothing.
She sits at the door of her house;
she takes a seat on the highest places of the town,
calling to those who pass by,
who are going straight on their way, (Proverbs 9:13-14, NKJV)
Like many SUMites, I sometimes face clamor in my social life. But now I ask: "Has this person asked God if He is real?" And "Have they asked God what is true?" Because if they haven’t, they've missed a crucial step. Believers have often had a different experience altogether. When the crowd roars, then, I will always go back inside and ask God. I guess I'm learning to speak for myself, regardless of the crowd's roar.
“Stand at the crossroads and look;
ask for the ancient paths,
ask where the good way is, and walk in it,
and you will find rest for your souls. But you said, 'we will not walk in it'." (Jeremiah 6:16, NIV)
Do you have a loud crowd in your life? If so, I'd love to hear how God has shown you He is real. Perhaps we can encourage each other with our stories.
During my prayer time, I often hear the Lord speak. This is what I’m hearing in this season. Be Blessed, Lynn
Who among My people will incline an ear? Who is listening to the wisdom of the Spirit?
The pressure of this sifting, the building of the forces of strife, bear down. The character of My people, forged in the flames of contention and opposition as hell rages against them, roaring, reaching a crescendo.
Tears. The many, captured by angelic hosts. They are sealed, each one, in the store rooms of heaven. Labeled with tender care and meaning; loss, infirmity, poverty, addiction, death. Testimonies upon the shelves. Each an assignment of hell determined with an assail of weeping and destruction of My children.
The tears of the Bride sealed, recorded and waiting, each for the redemption and restoration that looms and quickly draws nigh. Each demand the recompense of the Ancient One.
This shall surely happen! The shout from heaven reverberates across the eons.
Perceive the fires which accomplish the burning away of the dross throughout the month of August. This month of refining, then turns the page to the season of surrender as September marches to its close. Many perceived losses and concluded assignments draw down to finality and closure.
Do you not perceive it, My child? Are you unaware that My hand is moving to release you into the new?
October bursts forth with decree, ALL THINGS NEW! The Kingdom of God releases the angelic multitude, wings of determined flight and missions, certain. Millions of heavenly scrolls arrive with new year assignments. The arrival is accompanied with provision for completion. Works of healing, salvation of the nations, teachings, preachings, creative blueprints of discovery. Each an intimate design to release My love, joy, peace in increasing measure.
My child, open your spirit. Take an account of the details in your current season that are drawing down to culmination. Much of what you grip in stronghold and fear of loss, is determined to hinder. Let go, for My purpose must be fulfilled in your life and the lives of others.
There is pain, sorrow, not by My hand, but by my enemy. Yet, through My compassion I will close the pain in September.
The trumpet blast of Rosh Hashana decrees the end! The birth of new life, new anointings, exceptional possibilities and increase into Yom Kippur and beyond. Remain steadfast. Your awareness now, is the key named, Overcomer. It unlocks the treasuries of heaven. Behold the tears of yesterday are redeemed in new adventure and assignments and the enemy will repay, times seven, all that was lost and taken.
Prayer, faith, and conviction are your courage to press through.
I delight to give you the Kingdom. Thouest art being prepared in this season for the weighty glory to rest upon you with increased measure.
Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning. —Psalm 30:5b
Recently, Lynn shared a wonderful video about how she asked God for an egg and literally got an egg!
This story made me smile broadly. After all, if we ask for an egg God does not give us a scorpion (Luke 11:12). But it got me wondering what it means, exactly, to ‘ask for an egg’?
An egg holds life, a scorpion brings death, and if we ask for life we do not get death. That is a profound truth, but what about the times God seems silent? As I pondered this, some aspects of my past came back to me, times when an ‘egg’ was asked for. They showed me God was there all along.
To begin with, there was my mum, who prayed for me throughout my childhood. Every morning, I would rise to see her on her knees in the living room, wrapped in a robe. Sometimes I’d hear the muffled sound of prayer. But did I take notice? Nope. As a teenager, my reaction was something along the lines of whatever.
My twenties passed without incident. I got married and had two beautiful boys. And then came Christmas Day 2010. Here's the scene:
On that day, the family gather in my brother’s tiny house in the South of England. A break in the chatter comes and Mum, who has watched me ignore God for years, jumps up and rummages for her gift. She hands me a small package and wraps me in a bone-crushing hug.
I peel back the paper to see a book on my lap: ‘Journey into God’s heart’ by Jennifer Rees-Larcombe. “Thanks, Mum,” I smile.
On the plane home, I yawn and reach into my bag. “Meh, I’ll give this a go”, I think, cracking open the book. It looks so harmless but this, it turns out, is no normal book. Ten hours later, still travelling, I have just read a life story like no other. I won’t spoil it, I’ll just say the book showed me God speaks to people.
Now comes a part I’d forgotten:
After reading that book, I snuck to the bathroom, sat down, and said this:
“God. If you’re there, can you speak to me?”
I was met with complete silence, but for the first time in my life I’d asked for an egg.
Two years passed, during which time I did not think much about God, and then came 13 April 2013. That day found me on my knees reading the Saturday morning newspaper in a fluffy robe. The scene is freakily like my mum years back, except I’m not praying. It’s like every other Saturday, except the article I’m reading happens to be about Christians, death, and life. And right there, in that moment, I hear Him:
You’ll never be the same again.
Wha- wha- what???????? I sit up with a start, and at that point know something in my life is going to change.
I was still far from God and it is fascinating to me that even in that moment I didn’t recognize Him. I chalked it up to the universe. “The universe tells me something is going to change.” But something did change, alright. Boy, how things changed: By December that year I found myself in a full-on, all-in-for-God space.
I still have no idea why it took two years to hear His voice.
Towards the end of that year, I started my first prayer journal. The first prayer I wrote was this:
“God, I notice that other Christians are fervent. I’m fervent for my three lovelies (my family), but I’m not fervent for you. Can you make me so?”
This time I did not have to wait years, I did not even have to wait a day. Since writing those words I have never been able to get God out of my head again.
To me, all this is what it means to ask for an egg and not receive a scorpion. Whether the answer comes instantly or decades later, it seems God answers in ways that hold Life (an egg) and negate death. None of it looks like what we expect, though -- It’s all a bit of a surprise package. Just like an egg!
So now I’m interested to hear more thoughts on the topic of asking. What adventures, delays, instant responses, or lessons have you had?
These are the Greek words from John 10 that I'm speaking about:
Know: ginōskō; a prolonged form of a primary verb; to “know” (absolutely) in a great variety of applications and with many implications (as follow, with others not thus clearly expressed): — allow, be aware (of), feel, (have) know(-ledge), perceived, be resolved, can speak, be sure, understand.
Name: onoma; from a presumed derivative of the base of ginōskō; a “name” (literally or figuratively) (authority, character): — called, (+ sur-)name(-d).
Truly: amēn; of Hebrew origin; properly, firm, i.e. (figuratively) trustworthy; adverbially, surely (often as interjection, so be it): — amen, verily.
(The word "amen" is a most remarkable word. It was transliterated directly from the Hebrew into the Greek of the New Testament, then into Latin and into English and many other languages, so that it is practically a universal word. It has been called the best known word in human speech. The word is directly related -- in fact, almost identical -- to the Hebrew word for "believe" (amam), or faithful. Thus, it came to mean "sure" or "truly", an expression of absolute trust and confidence. -- HMM)
Thanks for listening, my friends!
My friends, I have something very special to share with you today. It’s something I was unsure about sharing at first, but a phone convo with Lynn helped me see I should indeed share it with you. And since then, God has revealed a bit more and connected more dots.
In early 2014 God told me to pray for California. This was before our move to Florida. II was sitting on my porch one morning with my favorite mug full of coffee and my Bible. As I read and prayed, God told me to “pray a wave a faith over California.” I didn’t quite understand what that would look like, but I did what He asked and began praying this obediently for months.
Fast forward to the Spring of 2015. We’d moved part time to Florida but still spent several months in California and still owned our home there. The Holy Spirit led me to read the book of Isaiah.
One particular morning, I reached Isaiah 55 and the Holy Spirit began to point out parts that had to do with the land and water over the next several chapters. I knew in my spirit this had to do with the drought in California. I continued to read, wondering why He would even show such things to me.
Now let me preface this to say that the He’d first set me up the day before with Isaiah 52:6. I underlined it, recognizing that as new covenant believers, this was connected to the promise of the Messiah to come. And we know the name of Jesus is powerful and thus why we pray it.
Therefore my people will know my name; therefore in that day they will know that it is I who foretold it. Yes, it is I.” — Isaiah 52:6 (NIV)
So the next day when He stopped me at Isaiah 59:19, I already had this reference to connect to. As you can see in the picture, I dated my notation April 28, 2015. I suspected this was related to the Holy Spirit’s instructions to pray a wave of faith over California and that this also spoke of the end of the drought. In fact, that is what I heard in my spirit, that God was decreeing an end to the drought.
Within weeks of this revelation, several other Christian leaders in California began to say the same thing. I knew God was revealing His heart and plans for the state of California, and now we are seeing the full revelation of this.
What was predicted to take years—the return of the rains to refill the reservoirs—is happening in weeks. We are seeing God move faster than we ever have before, my friends. And He is moving in new and stunning ways. Right now it’s very important that we keep alert to these new ways and be willing to let go of the old. I believe this is also part of what He meant when He told me things wouldn’t look the way we expect and that He wants to do things differently. These are things I shared with you last year.
Now there is more to this moment in time, my friends, and it includes us. On that same day, the Holy Spirit stopped me at Isaiah 60:22. See the picture below with SUM written next to the Scripture.
SUMites, we have grown from a small family and a tiny group to a mighty nation of over 2,000. I believe we are symbolic of what God is doing all over the world. He is bring up communities like ours to operate the way the church did in Acts 2. We are the new church He is bringing into place.
Last July, I shared in a video message what I felt God was speaking about His church, that “His heart is to establish a new and holy church—not fix the old one.”
That doesn’t mean we are to abandon our churches, dear friends, it simply means God is transforming us to function in greater unity and love if we will allow Him to come in and do this in our places of worship, no matter where they are. Our church will no longer be limited and defined by physical walls and building. We will be the unified body of Christ, His bride made pure. Connections and partnerships (bridges) are being formed between churches in communities even now to work together to have greater impact in communities and cities.
My friends, I believe this also means God is working in new and significant ways in our marriages and in the hearts of our spouses. This is part of our salvation word from last year, which continues to be the seed planted that the Holy Spirit is watering.
Let me share some of my observations and what I am seeing:
I believe the rain we are seeing in California and the overflow is symbolic of God’s glory pouring over His children and our loved ones (that they shall be saved too! Acts 16:31). I know it looks messy, but remember what I said in one of my previous messages about God’s favor. It can look messy at first (remember how God favored Mary to carry Jesus), but we can trust God to bring His plans and purposed to a good completion for His ways are always good (Rom. 8:28)
I believe we are going to see significant shifts in our homes and in our spouses, SUMites. Many of you already are. As Lynn has shared in the emotional healing series, we need to be healed so we can help those coming to faith to walk in wholeness as well. Part of the video message I shared last year was about God’s “harvest time” and the “fruit” (remember the figs), which are the many souls being called in. (Some of you may even remember the harvest dream I shared in 2013.)
I believe we are entering this time at a new level. We are stepping out of the old and into the new. We will see things happen in ways we never expected or anticipated. We will see God move faster than we thought possible. And we will see our faith increased to new levels as we step into our promises and new opportunities.
My friends, I will stop there. I have something else from Isaiah that God is showing me to pray for my husband that I may share on Friday. I'm asking the Holy Spirit for wisdom on that first and for any more insights He wants to reveal for us. Be assured I will share as the Holy Spirit leads me. I don't know why the Holy Spirit uses the book of Isaiah like this to reveal things to me, but it is fascinating to say the least.
SUMites, we are living in exciting times! Reading this may very well bring things to mind and connect some dots for you. Please share you're thoughts and what you believe God is showing you. I can't wait to hear your hearts!
Love you, my mighty friends! You are greater in Him than you know!