Hi friends. For today's post here’s a little video that I just did live on our Facebook page. Enjoy!
Hi friends. For today's post here’s a little video that I just did live on our Facebook page. Enjoy!
I’ve always loved December. Living in Australia, it’s summer, the end of the school year so we always had our long summer break over December/January. It’s also my birthday month and … it’s Christmas.
I still recall those days approaching Christmas when the presents used to begin to pile up under the tree. Most of them were for dad, he’s a doctor and all his patients bought him presents. Every year. But my sister and two brothers were more excited by what Santa would put in the pillow slips that sat at the end of our beds.
We’d struggle to sleep we were that excited. But mom always warned us that Santa wouldn’t arrive until we were fast asleep.
And then when we woke, far too early for mom and dad, we’d have to wait until they arose before we could open all the goodies in those magical pillowslips.
We had to wait.
The anticipation. The excitement … was electric.
A Year of Darkness
And we’ve done a lot of waiting this year haven’t we? For test results, for lockdowns to cease, for vaccines to be produced, for election results to be finalized. And we still wait.
The season of Advent has commenced. Advent simply means: “coming” or “arrival” – of Jesus.
But as most of us know Jesus didn’t arrive without a long, long wait. Four hundred years in fact. That’s how long the Israelites had to wait. Jesus was born into a world of great darkness. Isaiah had prophesied, "the people living in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death alight has dawned." (Matthew 4:16 referencing Isaiah 9:1-2)
The four-week season of Advent reflects a time of waiting. What, another season of waiting? Haven’t we waited enough this year?
We don’t like to wait, do we? If we didn’t know this before now, we sure do now.
“While God rarely comes at our appointed time, he comes at the right time.” (Louis Giglio)
In fact, we are experienced waiters. We wait for our spouses to come to know the Lord. How long, Lord?
We celebrate the coming of Jesus as a bub every year at Christmas, but we still wait on Him coming a second and final time. We live in Advent all the time.
Waiting for … Jesus.
Remember those days of childlike anticipation, the sense of wonder, on that day? Christmas Day.
Choose to Listen.
How are you feeling at the moment? Why not express it in the comments below. Get it out in writing. It’s healing.
May I encourage us all in these next few weeks to find some time to sit in the Lord’s presence. Share with Him how you're feeling in this season. And listen. Really listen. God wants to speak to us. No, it’s unlikely to be audible but He’s never stopped talking to us.
He’s coming. Jesus. For you. He’s especially chosen you. You who are holy and dearly loved.
One of the earliest recorded prayers of the Church is the Aramaic word, ‘Maranatha’. It simply means, ‘Come, Lord Jesus’ (Rev 22:20)
May I encourage you to simply pray that prayer, either the Aramaic or the English.
And wait. And listen.
Perhaps also read the story of when Mary received a very special and unusual visitor, Gabriel, in Luke 1:26-38. Let go of everything else that’s going on around you. Desire to hear from God and ask the Spirit to speak to you. Picture yourself in Mary’s place. Imagine the awesomeness of the situation, listen to Gabriel’s words and what they mean.
Write down what you heard, how you felt.
We’d love to hear some of your responses in the comments.
Wishing all of my SUMite friends a joyful Advent season full of childlike wonder and anticipation.
Today we're going to continue with the above topic, and I thought I would start with a little story:
Last year, I attended a ministry conference. We were a small group, perhaps 100 in the room, and Auckland is a small place so we often see family faces. There we were in an interactive session, when the conference leader asked a question. A man on the far left of the room shot up his hand as if to say ‘Over here! I have something to say!’ The mic was carried to him, and for the third time that day he spoke something super insightful into it. All the while, his wife sat beside him, nodding.
I looked over at this couple from over on my side and quietly did a happy dance (inside!) In fact, I just kept on looking over, grinning. See, I knew their story. He was one of those husbands who’d fallen away. For eight years, in fact, he’d stayed home every Sunday while his wife carried on -- Dismayed, determined, confused. But now he was back -- And honestly, everything he said into that mic was so good.
The Come-Back Kid!
My friends, this isn’t the only story I know of a spouse coming back to faith. It might be natural to think that this situation looks particularly impossible. If we're going to really not sugar-coat this thing, you might even fear what your spouse has done. For sure, we know free will is a big part of this, and this thing is no game.
But there's also this: The fruits of the Holy Spirit are joy and peace. This alone tells me that God -- who grows these fruits within us -- will be encouraging us to NOT walk through this situation peace-less. Only God knows the destination of a given soul, but if our spouse has fallen away He actively encourages us to grow joy and peace. Somehow we have to let God bring peace to this terribly difficult situation, but of course fruit grows slowly and usually within the opposite circumstances.
The Lord led me to this amazing verse this morning, which speaks of how He sometimes works two or three times in a person’s life to bring them back from the pit.
“Yes, his soul draws near the Pit, and his life to the executioners.
If there is a messenger for him, a mediator, one among a thousand, to show man His uprightness, then He is gracious to him, and says, ‘deliver him from going down to the Pit; I have found a ‘ransom’;
His flesh shall be young like a child’s, he shall return to the days of his youth. He shall pray to God, and He will delight in him, he shall see His face with joy, for He restores to man His righteousness. Then he looks at men and says, ‘I have sinned, and perverted what was right, and it did not profit me.’
He will redeem his soul from going down to the Pit, and his life shall see the light.
Behold, God works all these things, twice, in fact, three times with a man, to bring back his soul from the Pit, that he may be enlightened with the light of life.” Job 33:23-30 (NKJV):
What a wonderful verse for those who are hoping for a ‘fallen-away’ spouse to be restored! I guess it tells me that this thing is far from impossible, and these spouses are certainly not the 'least likely' or a hopeless case. In fact, I will say that I also feel my husband is the least likely to convert, and he's never yet been a Christian. So perhaps we all feel it: 'Mine is the least likely!'
Least likely does not mean impossible!
Ultimately, God has given us a tremendous shared testimony here in this community. This blog has over one thousand readers, and many were once prodigals. Even Lynn, our founder, describes herself as the ultimate prodigal child, and now she is one on-fire Christian. We know from the parable of the prodigal son what kind of excitement lands on the one who comes back. And so many of the SUMites themselves are living, breathing, walking examples of God's miraculous restoration.
It's hard huh? We will carry on with this topic on Monday. But in the meantime, if you would like to share any thoughts in the comments, please do!
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,
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?
The Christmas season comes around every year and for many of us it’s kind of the same-old-same-old. Yes, the specialness of the season are the traditions of it and doing the same things every year. We put up the same tree and decorations, listen to the same Christmas music, have the same family mealtimes, attend the various end of year gatherings and church services and so on.
The busyness of it and the stress of battling through all the shopping crowds, the cooking of all the food and keeping the house clean can serve to distract us. We consciously decide to stay positive and not allow the stress to affect us or the awkward family moments we often experience.
And before we know it, it’s over for another year. We collapse on our lounges having eaten too much and exhausted from the intensity of our family gatherings. For an introvert like myself I’m hankering to get back into my cave to recharge.
Advent can simply be another tradition. We light the candles at the appropriate times, pick up an Advent-dedicated devotional and even perhaps follow the alternate lectionaries of Bible readings. Like any ‘practice’ we can simply go through the motions. I know I’m regularly guilty of doing exactly that.
I especially love Advent. However, I need to be very intentional to ensure it’s simply not another tradition that I ‘do’ because it makes me feel good. I don’t want to simply go through the motions.
Advent is a season of waiting. Waiting for an “arrival” (which is what the word, Advent means) of the Messiah. Waiting generally is uncomfortable, isn’t it? It’s uncomfortable because it means we’re not in control. I was only sitting on a plane today thinking we were about to take off when we’re advised that three passengers hadn’t checked in. Arggh. I just want to get home. So we wait. Fifteen minutes pass (which feels like an hour) and two of the three sheepishly head down the aisle sensing the boring eyes of every passenger they pass. We wait some more. Until finally a decision is made to go without the remaining one. I wonder how many of us spared a thought for the passenger left behind or in our hearts were simply glad to be on our way?
The Israelites were used to waiting. What 400 years before the arrival of Jesus? We SUMites are used to waiting too, aren’t’ we? Waiting for the many prayed prayers for the salvation of our dearly loved spouses to be answered. We should be experts at it, shouldn’t we?
We can choose to walk through Advent with hopeful expectation. Maybe Christmas will be difficult for whatever reason which makes us apprehensive. But we can keep our minds and hearts on the good news of Jesus. He is the liberator, the lover of our souls and we can choose to use these days to intentionally go deeper with Him.
“In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome[it.” (John 1:4-5 NIV)
Jesus is the light. And as these verses tell us He shines in the darkness. May I encourage you to take a few moments today or tomorrow or the next day to identify the places in your life where you might be struggling to find God. Where are the places of darkness? These can be scary places because we worry that Jesus won’t show up. So here’s what we’ll do:
“You keep track of all my sorrows.
You have collected all my tears in your bottle.
You have recorded each one in your book.”
Spending moments of stillness where it’s just you and God are particularly special in this season. I’ve recently started using an App that Ransomed Heart have released. It’s simply called “One Minute Pause”. Go check it out – it’s free. Here’s the link to the Apple version but there is also an Android one, just search for it in the Android app store: - https://apps.apple.com/app/id1471913620
Come, let us adore Him, Jesus that is, this season. Let’s be intentional with hope in our hearts. Blessing, dear friends. I’ll be checking in midway during the month with a second post on Advent.
Perhaps in the meantime let’s share with each other what we’re hoping for this Christmas. I’m hoping for complete healing for my brother, John, who is walking through a stem cell transplant to keep lymphoma at bay. Unfortunately, he will be spending Christmas in a hospital isolation ward.
Lynn here. It appears that this message, wait upon the Lord, continues to rise up before me. And I find myself, smack in the middle, of another classroom with Jesus. So, SUMers, I remain walking this faith journey out. Reaching the pinnacle, Mike’s faith in March, I believed would place me upon firm ground in the Promised Land and struggles would diminish.
Yet, here I find myself learning a number of lessons in quick succession. Most of you don’t know but Mike has been unemployed since May. And now after nearly six months of unemployment, I’ve discovered how I’ve made money a stronghold, even an idol (Forgive me, Father). I’ve looked to a steady paycheck for safety and security. Now you may be wondering over the details about our efforts to find a job. Let me assure you, we have been diligent but I find that we are lingering in this season because we both have many lessons to learn.
I DON’T LIKE WAITING! But everywhere I turn the scriptures pop up. On websites I visit, social media. There is a song on my play list right now: Let’s Wait Upon the Lord! I’ve prayed a lot about waiting and I believe I have heard from the Lord about all of this financial mess.
But, the answer I think I heard is so far out there, so impossible, that with all my years of faith, I’m struggling to grab hold….. and wait for God to move. Because His answer will take time. And I shake my head even writing this because last February when God told me Mike would be baptized, I struggled to believe.
SUMite, you aren’t alone. Waiting is the hardest part of faith. Waiting in the pain. Waiting when your husband is distant and angry at you, at God …. at himself. Waiting for your prodigals to run home. Waiting for the doctor to call. Waiting for your heart to heal. Waiting for the pain to stop.
What is it, my friends, that happens to us in the waiting? Do you know? Can you share with me? Can you encourage me. Encourage someone else. Who has overcome the classroom of waiting? Perhaps our entire journey on earth is learning to love and live…… in the waiting.
Thoughts? Joining you today in the Marching….. Love, Lynn
Lynn here. I’m coming to you from my prayer room on a beautiful and somewhat unusually cool July morning here in southern California. It’s peaceful and a breeze is drifting in the front window. Oh, how I wish you were sitting here with me. I long to sit with each of you and listen to your story. I will one day. And it will be GLORY!
I just clicked off the phone after talking to my mother who called to check in on the job search, the book progress but mainly to tell me, I love you.
But as we talked about the book she said, “Lynn, I’ve shared that story with nearly everyone I meet. I tell it over and over.” She’s talking about Mike’s baptism story. “I tell them to NEVER give up praying.”
Never give up praying.
Don’t stop hoping.
Always lean into the impossible.
Twenty-seven years. I won’t look back at the years with longing for what might have been. I look back at the decades and see Jesus in every turn along the journey. I view the Father’s hand of favor and love and I feel the peace of the Holy Spirit as the Trinity lived within.
It was worth the price of waiting.
To all the weary SUMites, who linger in prayer and continue loving Jesus and your unsaved spouse, words from my beloved mother who has lived with the Lord for nearly eighty years, “Don’t give up hope. Don’t stop praying.”
I adore you my friends. Stay tuned because God is brewing up more fantastical stories in the Donovan Clan. I feel the excitement in the air and can’t wait to share all He brings about in our immediate future.
March on Warrior!!!! WE WIN!!
I received a call that I wasn’t expecting. From my sister. It was Saturday night, two weeks ago. She was relaying some information she’d received about our brother, John.
He had been admitted into hospital that afternoon, had an MRI that found he had a ‘mass’ in his head. Oh dear. Not at all what we wanted to hear.
And so the waiting began.
Over the next week John had a bunch of tests and scans. Lots of waiting for things to happen – John dubbed it “hospital time”. All confirmed there was only the one mass. Everything else was normal except that movement in both his right arm and right leg were slightly impaired. The mass was pressing on his brain impacting a signal to those limbs.
Finally, a biopsy was to be taken. But this was no simple biopsy as they had to get into his head. And therefore, there were risks involved. Because the mass was in an area of ‘high value real estate’ we were told.
The procedure went well and there were no complications. Praise God.
And then we waited. For the results.
Three days later a simple text message arrived. From John. “Diagnosed with B Cell lymphoma. Chemo starts Monday. Sorry for the curt message.”
My heart sunk.1
A Season to Wait
Advent commenced last Sunday (2 December). Advent is a time of waiting. The name Advent comes from the Latin word adventus, meaning “coming” or “arrival.” Beginning each year on the fourth Sunday before Christmas, Advent commemorates the birth of Jesus and also anticipates His return. As Ann Voskamp says we are “perpetual Advent people” waiting on Christ’s return. I’d add that we are also waiting on Jesus to do work in our heart regarding life’s circumstances.
We SUMites are used to waiting, aren’t we?
He doesn’t always immediately respond to our heart cry – “God help us!” So we wait. “He teaches us to stay in the waiting.” (Ruth Haley Barton) We sit with our longings: for good biopsy results, for our pre-believing spouses, and so on.
It’s important for us to not run away from our longings, to spend time with the Lord expressing our worries and fears. We see throughout the Scriptures, particularly in the OT and the Psalms how many times people cry out to God, whether it’s Rachel in her desire for children (Genesis 30) or David in his lament (for example, Psalm 6).
Light and Darkness
When we wait we often linger in darkness. The future is uncertain and dark. We don’t know what is going to happen. We don’t know what the diagnosis will be or if our spouses will choose Jesus. We typically associate negative connotations with the darkness, don’t we? But a lot of good things happen in the dark. Remember we were created in the darkness of the womb.
Lingering in uncertainty with our longings can also be a positive experience. Because we linger with God. Even if He feels distant we can claim the promises that He has given us in the Bible. “By His stripes we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5)
Lighting candles is one of the symbols of Advent. It reflects Christ being the light of the world and coming through the darkness – “The true light that gives light to everyone, was coming into the world.” (John 1:9)
During Advent we don’t just wait, we also anticipate. We anticipate the celebration of the birth of Jesus at Christmas. And we anticipate that He will come again to make all things new.
“Jesus Christ has come, and He is coming again. This is the heart of Advent.” (He Reads Truth)
The Branch Gives us Hope
“A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse;
from his roots a Branch will bear fruit.” (Isaiah 11:1-2)
Advent is all about hope. In the who is coming.
We can believe in that hope. Because He did come 2,000 years ago on that Christmas morn, born in a food trough, son to a teenage mom and her husband.
We can believe in that hope. Because He has come to us. He is in us and we are in Him.
We can believe in that hope. Because He has told us He will never leave us nor forsake us (Heb 13:5). Even when our beloved doesn’t know Him. Even when the diagnosis isn’t good.
Often when we’re in a season of wilderness or a battle or even the 24 days of Advent our hope is in the end, the arrival, the victory. Time and time again we see in the Bible, most often the true ‘victory’ occurs during the wilderness, or struggle or suffering. This is where we discover that God wants more of us; He wants our hearts to know Him deeply and intimately. This can only come through time with Him. I've always loved the story of Elizabeth and Zechariah, John the Baptist's parents, who lived in silence for 5 months of his gestation. During this period, Zechariah discovered the wonder of an intimate Father, and on John being born, as a result of his obedience in naming his son, Zechariah's tongue is freed and he opens by praising God (Luke 1:64)
Advent is counter cultural because it calls us to slow down from our busy schedules of Christmas parties and events to spend time waiting on Jesus, and leaning into Him as we discover and share the longings of our heart.
I hope you are able to spend some time in the next few weeks reflecting on the hope of Advent. On Jesus. Allow His Words to “dwell in you richly.”
Wishing all of my SUMite friends a blessed Advent season full of childlike hope and anticipation.
Grace and peace,
1. Note: as a write this post, John is undergoing his first chemo treatment. We don't know what is going to happen this week, in the next weeks and months, but I have real comfort because John is in a great place with the Lord as he starts this challenging season. He wants to fall more in love with Him and discover all there is to life with Jesus. If you remember, we'd cherish any prayers you may utter for John. Thank you, my dear friends.
Gang, can I just tell you…. I MISSED YOU. I finally am home. It’s great to travel and I have some stories to share but it’s awesome to be back at home.
I am refreshed now and feel as though God has cranked up my passion to a brand-new level for our community. Since returning, my heart is filled with the thoughts of you. I’ve been praying like a mad woman for marriages, for your hearts for you to rise up in hope and to see how Jesus is working all around you. I have prayed to defeat depression, fear and weariness. I’ve been praying for restoration, redemption and to cancel all the lies of the enemy in the homes and spouses of the SUMites… And I’ve only been home for a week!
Right now I’m in a serious season of intercession. Take comfort and hope and know that God sees you. He loves you and I’m interceding for you along with Jesus through the Spirit.
Today, I want to share a story with all of you who feel that God has disappeared or doesn’t see you. He does.
Most of you know that Mike and I traveled to Europe to celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary. The only way I could convince Mike to travel overseas was to add a cruise to the equation. He agreed. So, we cruised on the biggest boat I’ve ever seen. Our room was on deck 15 and wow, what a view. 3,000 guest and 2,000 crew. THAT’S a crowd.
Mike is a traditional sort of guy, so nightly we would eat dinner in the formal dining room. The first night we were seated with a young couple. But they had been separated from their family and joined them for the remainder of the cruise at their table, thus we sat alone.
But…. On night three we walked in for diner and there sat two new couples. And this is where the story becomes a God thing.
You see, the women we met have been friends for more than 40 years. The two couples are great friends. And within minutes we were chatting and laughing and having a great time. And with me around, I can’t help it but conversations always move to areas of faith. I’m sorry, I just can’t help myself.
Wouldn’t you know it, out of all the thousands of people on our ship, we were now seated with a Nazarene pastor, his wife and their best friends. After a few nights of talking, Wes, the pastor looks over at Mike and asks, “Mike can I ask a personal question?”
“What is it that keeps you from accepting your wife’s faith?”
I sat motionless staring at Mike. He responded honestly and with great respect for me and the pastor. And his answer was not what I expected and yet it was.
“I believe in God. I believe in Jesus. I just struggle with organized religion.”
My mouth hung open as I took in this conversation. Mike went on to explain a bit more. Pretty much what you might expect. The evil that has been perpetrated by religion, etc.
I love Wes’ rely, “What your saying isn’t anything that I haven’t thought as well. But it is also true that when people organize, pool their resources, their manpower, they bring so much good to the world. Bringing the Gospel to those who would never hear it and helping people in multiple ways.”
Gang, can I just say, Wes was born to be a pastor. His love shined from his eyes. His concern for Mike was genuine and you could just see him loving Mike without judgement. Man, when I grow up I want to be like Pastor Wes.
A funny thing about these God-incidents. One evening I didn’t attend dinner because I was still full from lunch (eating is the main sport on a cruise – sheesh, I gained five pounds) an Anglican Priest was seated at our table along with the Nazarene pastor, his wife, their best friends and Mike. HILARIOUS!! Mike is surrounded on all side, all the time, by believers.
Don’t think for a second that God isn’t working in your life and marriage. He is. He ALWAYS is at work to bring men unto His heart through His kindness.
Keep praying. Keep believing. Keep growing in your faith. Our God is all powerful, faithful and He is moving in our lives.
I love you. Have a great week. Lynn
This date on March 14, 1992 was the day we married. I looked through some of the photos. A couple of crazy kids. Wow, twenty five years passes quickly.
We have come through much and I tell you this from the bottom of my heart.
I love this man.
Thank you for celebrating this special anniversary with us. Mike and I will be traveling to Europe later this summer to celebrate our love and marriage.
Stay strong SUMites. It's the journey that makes us holy! Love, Lynn
Hello, my dear friends. I’m taking today’s post as an opportunity to update you on my daughter, Leslie. Many of you have asked me to keep you updated, which touches my heart beyond belief. Thank you. Your love and prayers fill my heart with comfort, joy and peace.
If you’re new to the site, my daughter Leslie was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor at age 14 in 2008. She is 23 now and cancer free. (If you want the full story, you can do a search of her name to access the archives.) At the end of 2015 she began to exhibit side effects of her radiation treatments from 2009 and had to stop working due to pain and trembling throughout her limbs. Just as it seemed she was finally stepping into a full life, healthy.
Leslie has still not been able to go back to work. It’s been over a year now. Her pain level is still high and after a year of seeing the doctors at Stanford (not the same team who helped save her life) and not getting anywhere or any relief, she has begun to take control of her own health care.
That’s a big step. I confess that was difficult at first for this mama who can hover at times, but she has done a fabulous job pursuing her own health solutions and answers.
As a result, she’s managed to find out more with a rheumatologist nearby in just a short month. Right now the doctor’s report says she has arthritis in her tendons, her right ankle being the most damaged.
My friends, I am going to be honest with you here. I didn’t know what to pray for as this was unfolding. I, of course, wanted a good report and prayed for that, but I was torn. I wanted answers for her so she could figure out how to manage the pain in her body and live a fuller life.
So I am grateful for answers, but I am not coming into agreement with this diagnosis, nor will I speak it over her. I have learned in the healing rooms to pray and believe with each person at whatever level they are willing to believe God for their healing, but I have also witnessed God increase each person's faith in those moments to believe and ask God for more than they can ask or imagine (Eph 3:20).
So, I will support my sweet girl and believe with her at whatever level she is at to believe she can be restored, even through treatments and medications, which I’m not against. God clearly worked in tandem with the doctors to save her life in 2008, and it is a story full of miracles.
I believe in God’s Word that says we WERE healed by the stripes of Jesus, and that His salvation (sozo) covers our physical restoration too. And I am standing on the promise God gave me for Leslie from Isaiah:
The Lord will guide you continually, giving you water when you are dry and restoring your strength. You will be like a well-watered garden, like an ever-flowing spring. — Isaiah 58:11
My friends, I am not discouraged. Initially my heart ached, and I poured that out to my Papa God. He gave me comfort, peace and reassurance. He does not forget His promises. Quite the opposite. He constantly watches, plans and sets things in to motion to fulfill His Word out of His great compassion and in His perfect timing.
Yet the Lord longs to be gracious to you; therefore he will rise up to show you compassion. For the Lord is a God of justice. Blessed are all who wait for him! — Isaiah 30:18
And for every promise God gives us, He gives us the provision too. So this is how I am “upgrading” how I am praying this over my daughter.
Father God, You have given me the promise for Leslie. I speak it back to You, in faith. That You, Lord, are guiding Leslie continually, not just now but throughout her life. That you are giving her water in the dry places of her body and restoring her strength. That every provision she needs to walk in health is already in place for her.
I declare in agreement with Your Word, Lord, that Leslie will be as a well-watered garden, like an ever-flowing spring. She will be restored in the places she has struggled and pour out great beauty, fruit and hope to others in dry places. She will be a garden that blooms and produces fruit that cries out and shouts of Your great power, love and glory, Lord. In the endless name of Jesus, amen!
SUMites, I believe now is the time for us to renew our prayers and declarations for the promises God has given us. He does not falter, nor does He step away from us. Our breakthroughs could be just a single prayer away. Let’s not give up the race now.
Our Great God will not fail us. I believe He will move and do things in ways we have never seen before and never could have imagined. I’m already seeing Him do this in small things, and it’s absolutely stunning. I can’t even imagine what this will look like as He increases in us, our lives and circumstances and through the prayers we pray over those we uplift to Him.
Share your hearts and thoughts in the comments, my friends. I am standing with you in prayer for every promise, every provision, every declaration.
Love you so very much,
The Israelites were a people who waited. They waited for the promise of restoration to their homeland for over 70 years. My friends, we are like the Israelites. We are also a people group united in our time of waiting as we yearn and hope for the promise of salvation. And God has given grace-filled promises for every part of it.
Have you not known? Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He does not faint or grow weary;
his understanding is unsearchable. — Isaiah 40:28
Nothing is unknown to Him. Every possibility is the doorway to another, yet the ultimate goal is always the same. He is the one unchanging constant in this life, my friends. He exists beyond time as we understand, as He just is. He is our Creator, our Redeemer, our Savior—His heart is to be all things to us and His power, like His love, is more than we can comprehend. He never tires, falters, or doubts. He trusts us more than we trust ourselves. He believes in us more than we believe in ourselves. And how could He not? He knows what He has given us as a deposit, as His ultimate promise—His Spirit.
He gives power to the faint,
and to him who has no might he increases strength.
Even youths shall faint and be weary,
and young men shall fall exhausted; — Isaiah 40:29-30
The Hebrew word for "power" is ḵôaḥ and holds meanings such as to be firm; vigor, ability, able, chameleon, force, fruits, might, power(-ful), strength, substance and wealth. It is a "power-packed" word (yes, pun intended) that attempts encompass and define His indefinable power, presence and provision. It is who He is.
Our limited power and strength never diminish or change His plans. In fact, quite the opposite is true. Our weakness is the very condition that allows His power to be revealed and perfected (2 Cor. 12:9). And He never grows weary in His own strength and He never grows weary of helping us, providing for us, sustaining us and loving us. When we see impossible, He says possible. When we see a wall, He makes a doorway. When we see the end, He says it's just the beginning of a new time, a new season, a new opportunity...
Appointed Times and Seasons
but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength;
they shall mount up with wings like eagles;
they shall run and not be weary;
they shall walk and not faint. — Isaiah 40:31
There are two Hebrew words here that hold vital meanings to our complete understanding. The first is "wait." Other translations use "hope." That's because the Hebrew word here, qâwâ, means both to wait and to hope. It also holds meanings such as to bind together, to expect, gather (together), look, patiently, tarry, wait (for, on, upon).
To hope in the Lord means to wait expectantly upon Him to fulfill His promises to us. He knows the times and season of our lives down to the smallest detail. He is always working to fulfill what He has promises us in the best timing and seasons possible. He wants us to have the fullest benefit.
The second noteworthy word in these verses is "walk." The Hebrew word here, yâlaḵ, and means to walk (literally or figuratively); causatively, to carry (in various senses), bear, bring, carry (away), come (away), depart, flow, follow, grow, lead (forth), let down, march, prosper, pursue, cause to run, spread, take away. Take not of the meaning "prosper" in this definition. As His children, no matter what time or season we are in, we are intended to prosper and thrive. Even in the toughest of times, God is working to help us reap our reward as we grow more like His Son Jesus.
And perhaps I'm not far off in say that is our greatest "opportunity," dear friends, to be more and more Christ-like. Our lives are a continual journey toward Jesus, to be like Him and one with Him. I used to wonder if we had to discard all that we are in order to be like Jesus, but the reality is, in doing so we become who we truly are intended and designed to be. Our identity in Jesus is a lifetime spent in revelation of our unity and inheritance in Him. And we are provided for in every way and for every aspect of that journey.
There is so much grace for us in the waiting, my friends. Both the Hebrew and Greek words for "grace" mean kindness and favor. So know that as you wait, God's grace is there providing His power, strength, hope and provision as we dwell in His great kindness and favor.
SUMites, you are greater in and through Him than you will ever know. You are destined to soar on wings like eagles!
What has God promised you, my friends? That is the place I want to start today, because I’ve discovered there is a very definitive process that occurs between the promise given and the reality (or manifestation) of that promise. And it’s in the in between time that we can get confused or even lose sight of our promise.
No, I will not break my covenant; I will not take back a single word I said. — Psalm 89:34 (NLT)
I believe as a community we are on this journey right now together. As I shared last week during our prayer and fasting, this is a Year of Promises. As I walk in this place of waiting and the challenges I’ve faced, I’m finding that God’s promises are designed to bring us from one point and place in time to another and it’s very much to do with our growth as believers.
We’ve talked in the past about preparation and that is part of this promise package. God always sees us according to His plan for us—who He created us to be. He sees us from our future and therefore partners with us to direct our path accordingly. Our promises are part of that future becoming our present reality. So, in everything, God is working for our good to according to that picture.
Yes, we do have an enemy that will do whatever he can to hinder and delay that path, but ultimately, as we continue to seek God and say yes to Him, we are assured of victory, as God’s Word says. He already sees us as victorious, therefore we are. That’s an important place to walk in faith and perseverance (Romans 8).
As God cheers us on He also works in us so that we can walk in the fullness of our callings (destiny) and many times that means we need healing. We live in the reality of good verses evil and the imperfections of this world, so it is inevitable.
This past week God worked this in my life in a stunning way. As I mentioned God revealed some things to me, of which one part was a deep need for emotional healing. I find it so very interesting that as Lynn is about to begin this series on emotional healing, God walks me through that very thing.
So, my dear SUMites, I want to encourage you to walk this journey with us, because it is part of the revelation of your promises this year. To fully receive what these promises are we often must grow in some way to be able to walk in them. This is part of God’s upgrade or promotion process. He wants us to benefit fully from His promises.
Think of it in a way as professional training or learning a skill. In order to function as a lawyer in a court or as a teacher in a classroom, we have to learn things in order to fully function in those places. Our “training” or teaching can be very specialized too.
I believe that God is doing much of this in us for many reasons. For me, this means I am more emotionally healthy for two reasons. One, to walk in the broader places He is taking me in ministry and to be ready for where He is taking my husband to one day be in ministry together. Yes, He has to get me ready (prepared) for what that means. Oh boy…
And sometimes it can seem messy and painful, but as we’ve used the analogy before, a wound must be cleaned for it to heal well and without infection. Think of the lies, hurts, rejections and grudges we carry as infections, that once dealt with, our emotional wounds can be healed.
The wonderful thing about this process is that it ripples out. So often we want to fix what we see on the outside, but God works from the inside out and that is what those around us begin to see as we are healed. Those places we often struggle with externally could very well be the reflection of something inside in need of healing. This applies to our spouses too, my friends. We have the benefit of the Great Physician at work in us to help us heal, yet those who don’t know Jesus yet can only rely on their own resources or that which the world offers.
My friends, whatever God did in me this week broke and released things I have carried for years. I feel lighter, stronger, and more peaceful. And I am excited to walk in this new freedom and am expectant of the ways it will show up more in my life. I’m excited to see what God does next, and I am looking forward to what He does in all of us through Lynn’s series.
It’s going to be good. How do I know that? God told me. Since last weekend, His still soft voice has whispered over and over to me these words.
“Watch what I do.”
And He has expanded those words for our community. This is what I feel I hear Him saying for us:
Watch what I do.
In your homes and in your marriages,
Watch what I do.
In your lives and in your government,
Watch what I do.
In your nation and in your communities,
Watch what I do.
In your minds and in your hearts,
Watch what I do.
SUMites, the choice is always ours. God loves us no matter what. He is always for us and always, always, always, working for our good. So if you feel this is something you want, then I encourage you to pray something like this in your own words:
Lord, I want everything You have written on the pages of my book in heaven to become a reality in my life. I want to let go of the pain and hurts and be healed of the emotional traumas in my heart and soul. Whatever that takes and whatever that looks like, Lord, I say yes. I am ready. I trust You. I love you and I am so grateful that You love me with such a relentless and perfect love. Lord, I am watching to see what You do! In the name of Jesus, amen!
For all of God’s promises have been fulfilled in Christ with a resounding “Yes!” And through Christ, our “Amen” (which means “Yes”) ascends to God for his glory. — 2 Cor. 1:20 (NLT)
I love you, my SUM family. I’m so blessed to walk this journey with you and stand with you in prayer.
Hello, SUM Family! Life at the new Miller Home has been crazy busy and hectic to say the least. We’re mostly settled in with just a few boxes here and there.My daughters and son-in-love will soon arrive to spend Christmas with us—our first Christmas in our new home. Needless to say hubby and I have been busy little bees getting things put in place and finishing some projects ourselves like towel bars and and a few light fixtures.
Then, of course, decorating the house for Christmas, gift shopping, social events…my list is growing, my friends. How about yours? I think we all share this common challenge of managing the business of the season while trying not to lose the heart and hope of what it truly means.
Christmas is all about promise. Our Messiah Jesus was/is the greatest promise given to us. The Old Testament is all about that promise. God moves and weaves Himself into the lives of His people with great care, often giving us just a glimpse into a picture too large for us to fully comprehend. But every story points to His faithfulness to His promises.
Here’s are two translations of a verse that captured my heart this week:
This is why I wait upon you, expecting your breakthrough, for your word brings me hope. — Psalm 130:5 (TPT)
I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I hope; — Psalm 130:5 (ESV)
The first version from the Passion Translation brings to light the position of waiting, to wait expectantly for God to bring breakthrough. Sometimes we can get tired in this place of waiting and give up right before that breakthrough comes. The key here, my friends, is to be tenacious and one of the best ways to do this is to have a support system. This is one reason why having a church home, small group or prayer partner is vital.
Last Sunday I went to church weary from a lot of spiritual warfare. The enemy targeted my daughters and family to try to undermine my choice to stand in a place of peace. I went up for prayer at the end of the service. A friend spoke wise words to my heart, “to speak what I know, not what I see.”
In other words, I could speak the trouble and chaos I was witnessing in my children’s lives, or I would speak the truth of God’s Word and promises into the situations and into their lives.
Both of these translations also contain “word,” which means promise. The Bible is God’s promise to us, and Jesus is the manifestation of those promises as He is the Word become flesh (John 1). That kind of blows me away, SUMites. That’s a huge promise and God fulfilled it. Nothing is impossible with Him.
My friends, like you there are promises that I have prayed into all year long (like my daughter’s health and restoration so she can work again) that I’m still waiting to see manifest. Those are the ones that put our faith to the test. Will we continue to contend for what God has promised us no matter how long it takes? These are the waiting places that require us to guard our hearts from doubt and encourage ourselves in the Lord. His love conquers everything!
As Ian shared in his beautiful post Wednesday, we are a people who wait. We know this position well, my friends. SUMites, we are all standing and praying for the promise of salvation for our spouses—a promise God spoke to my heart specifically for this community at the beginning of the year. I know He continues to work in our spouses in ways we can’t even see yet. Seeds are being planted and divine appointments put in place. I believe God is “setting-up” our spouses to walk into belief in ways we can’t even imagine right now. I am contending for this for my own spouse and yours. And I have been asking God for testimonies.
Well, I have a story to share with you that I think will strengthen your faith and reenergize your prayers. Last week we received a testimony from Jamie about her marriage and her husband. This is a stunning story of God working in the most unexpected ways. All evidence pointed to this marriage ending in divorce, my friends, BUT GOD… It’s powerful, awe-inspiring and beautiful. All things are possible with God.
Read ‘God Saved Our Marriage…and My Husband’ here. I pray it encourages you and ignites a new hope in your spirit. That is the promise we hold within, the hope of Jesus, and it’s the focus of this first week of Advent.
Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us. — Romans 5:1-5
SUMites, I bless you with a fresh anointing of hope that will ignite your faith to a whole new level as we close this year well.
I love you all so much,
There’s something both exciting and tremendously nerve-wracking when an author presses the send button on the email that whisks their latest manuscript off to a publisher. Exciting? The project we’ve been working on has now reached a point of completion. In my case that project had consumed a lot of my mind space for the past three years.
Nerve-wracking? Will they like it? Enough to publish it? What if they don’t? What will I do then?
It’s a moment that is soon forgotten.
And then we wait.
And wait some more.
A few months later an email arrives outlining your manuscript is still in the game. Being reviewed by some others. They liked it sufficiently to pass onto others. Great.
And then we wait.
And wait some more.
As I shared with a writing friend recently: the Lord's got it in His big capable hands. Waiting helps us lean on Him more. And that's what I've tried to do. Keep writing, keep hoping, keep knowing He's looking after the situation irrespective of whether I receive a positive response or not.
We are People who Wait
Authors wait a lot. It’s part of the fabric of being an author. I expect it’s one of the reasons self-publishing has become so popular: the author takes greater control over the end product and can manage the timeline.
We SUMites wait. We know all those feelings that come with waiting. The frustration, angst, discouragement, hopelessness. We know the drill because it’s part of our lives. We wait for our beloved to receive the revelation that Jesus is their Lord. For some of us we’ve waited a long time and may continue to.
Advent is a time of waiting. The name Advent comes from the Latin word adventus, meaning “coming” or “arrival.” Beginning each year on the fourth Sunday before Christmas (last Sunday), Advent commemorates the birth of Jesus and also anticipates His return. As Ann Voskamp says we are “perpetual Advent people” waiting on Christ’s return.
The Branch Gives us Hope
“A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse;
from his roots a Branch will bear fruit.” (Isaiah 11:1-2)
Advent is all about hope. In who is coming.
We can believe in that hope. Because He did come 2,000 years ago on that Christmas morn, born in a food trough, son to a teenage mom and her husband.
We can believe in that hope. Because He has come to us. He is in us and we are in Him.
We can believe in that hope. Because He has told us He will never leave us nor forsake us (Heb 13:5). Even when our beloved doesn’t know Him.
Christmas can be a tough season for we SUMites because we choose to celebrate Jesus and not Santa. We pop off to church on Christmas Eve and/or Christmas Day, alone.
But remember Jesus understands loneliness. He understands being alone. He understands rejection. He understands our SUMite situations.
He understands us. Really, truly! Because He has chosen each one of us.
Choose to remember Him when the enemy throws the darts of loneliness at you, when he tries to take away your joy in the One we celebrate. Look for the Presence of Jesus in the small moments, in the interruptions, when out shopping, wrapping those presents and chatting with your neighbour.
I hope you are able to spend some time in the next few weeks reflecting on the hope of Advent. On Jesus. Allow His Words to “dwell in your richly.”
Wishing all of my SUMite friends a blessed Advent season full of childlike hope and anticipation.
Grace and peace,
My friends, I pray this video encourages you. As I suggested, read Ezra and this amazing story of how God used King Cyrus, the leaders of the Trans Eurphrates, King Artaxerxes and King Darius to rebuild the Temple in Jerusalem. The very people and plans to stop this wound up revealing the original edict by Cyrus to rebuild the Temple. God loves to turn things on end and surprise us, SUMites. Remember, things won't look the way you expect. This is not a time of either or. It's a time of yes and both and AMEN!
So let's be in prayer together for our loved ones.
When the servant of the man of God rose early in the morning and went out, behold, an army with horses and chariots was all around the city. And the servant said, “Alas, my master! What shall we do?” He said, “Do not be afraid, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” Then Elisha prayed and said, “O Lord, please open his eyes that he may see.” So the Lord opened the eyes of the young man, and he saw, and behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha. — 2 Kings 6:15-17
Lord Jesus, open the eyes of our spouses and loved ones that they me see YOU! In the name of Jesus, amen!
I love you so much, SUMites! You are amazing!
I have doors.
Yep, doesn’t take a whole lot to make this gal happy. I can now close the doors of my office and play worship music whenever I want and speak privately on the phone on the occasions when I’m blessed to minister to someone.
And I’m learning some new lessons in this season about expectations. Specifically my expectations of God. Early on God made it clear this home was a blessing from His hand and I was to receive it as such.
But what I didn’t expect were the complications that came. Foundation issues, mistakes (the tub vs. the shower) and a backed up sewer line on our fourth day, just to name the big ones. I expected the little ones, like an unfinished wall behind a toilet that went unnoticed until the toilet backed up. Yet, I assumed that since God was clearly behind it all, we’d not have so many big hitches that turned an expected four to six month build into a year.
So not true.
Those are the moments that make you stop, pause and wonder. Don’t you think? If God is clearly the force behind the event, then why do we still hit complications that threaten to take us off track?
This is what I’m discovering and please add your own thoughts and wisdom in the comments, my friends.
My friends, sometimes we will see the reason or the good in the trial or complication quickly. Other times we will scratch our heads in confusion every time we think about it. Those are the times we must rely on faith and trust in our God that His ways, thoughts and plans are much higher and grander than we can imagine. And just because we can’t see Him working doesn’t mean He isn’t there. I think we, as SUMites, have an advantage of experience in this area. We live in this level of faith every day as we wait for our spouses to come to faith. God is faithful and relentless in His pursuit of everyone to know Him (2 Peter 3:9).
So, my friends, these are some of the things God is teaching me at the moment. How about you? What are you seeing and witnessing God doing in you, around you, in your family, etc.?
And one final thought. Our best stance is abiding and resting in Him (a.k.a. trusting Him). Because that’s when Abba does His best work. Why? Because we get out of the way. LOL! Amen? Amen!
Put this on loud and repeat: This is OUR song!
Dear friends, I'm traveling this week and will be in Nashville for the ACFW conference. I'm thrilled to share this most encouraging post by SUMite, Dee Rusnak. How amazing to think our Lord and Savior Jesus understands our mismatched places because He lived it too.
Thank you, Dee, for once again sharing your beautiful heart and encouraging words with us! Love you!
See you next week, SUMites!
The Mismatched Family
By Dee Rusnak
How often have we learned that God is never in a hurry, or at least within our time frame? Or better, never in the way we expect? We read in Joshua how ripe Jericho was for the taking, but God said not so fast with the Israelites who were hungry to take the land. And, when they did, it was in such an unorthodox way (Joshua 6 - marching around the city). Why do we want to rush things and do it in our own way? For me it's so I can rest knowing my ducks are all in a row. If my entire family were saved, then peace would be upon me, or so I think. But God is drawing them in His time and according to His ways. I struggle with that.
In reading through God's Word we find that the family of Jesus didn't believe while He was among them, even to the point of sarcasm. "But when the Jewish Feast of Tabernacles was near, Jesus' brothers said to Him, 'You ought to leave here and go to Judea, so that Your disciples may see the miracles You do. No one who wants to become a public figure acts in secret. Since You are doing these things, show Yourself to the world' For even His own brothers did not believe in Him." (John 7:3-5)
Mark (3:21) recounts that His family thought "He is out of His mind!" How did Jesus handle the fact that His own family didn't believe? Matthew 13 lists them as James, Joseph, Simon and Jude, and some unnamed sisters. Jesus certainly had the power to change their hearts. After all, time was ticking and He wasn't going to be on earth much longer. Time to get Your ducks in a row here, Lord! Did Mary teach them and groom them as they were growing up, especially nearing adulthood, about their older brother as Savior? Did His true identity come as a total shock to His younger siblings? Where were they during His crucifixion? Didn't they love Him or try to defend Him? Interestingly, none of this is mentioned in God's Word.
However, we know that some were saved. In 1 Corinthians 15:5-7 Paul writes "He appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve. After that, He appeared to more than five hundred of His followers at the same time...Then He appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all He appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born." Mary and His brothers waited in the upper room for the Holy Spirit following His ascension, "They all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with His brothers." (Acts 1:14) But, which brothers, if not all? Two brothers that we know of, James and Jude, were converted and wrote books in the New Testament. James later became a leader in the Jerusalem church. What about His sisters? Did He pray for His Father to draw them? Were there still family members who did not believe? Aunts? Uncles? Cousins?
If Jesus was tempted in every way just as we are, was He as concerned for the souls of His family, just as we are for those in our lives? "For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are - yet was without sin." (Hebrews 4:15) Jesus was quite familiar with God's ways and His timing. Never do we see Him fretting throughout His life. As Psalm 37 says "Do not fret - fretting only brings harm." Yet He entrusted God with all things, including Himself, and the salvation of His earthly family…and us!
“I do not pray for these alone (disciples), but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me. And the glory which You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one: I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me.” (John 17:20-23)
SUMs, Jesus had a mismatched family! We are literally walking in His shoes (sandals)! When we read that He has experienced everything we go through, did you ever consider this situation? We’ve never been alone, SUMs, nor will we ever be! He’s been where we are! He gets it! In His great compassion and love for us, He has given us an example to follow of what we’re to do while we wait: Pray. Trust. Obey. Look what happened with James and Jude! Not only did they believe, but were used by God as Bible authors! Forget the ducks. Instead, together let’s listen intently to God’s very heartbeat: "who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth" (1 Timothy 2:4), and let us watch Him do what's impossible for us but is so very possible for Him!
I went through my old files today and found a post I’d written about my husband’s positive qualities. The list made me think about a verse in Ecclesiastes that I absolutely love. Why? Because it’s a picture of God’s heart and how He sees us.
He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man's heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end. — Ecc. 3:11
There are three little words in this verse—made, put and heart. But the Hebrew translation of these words holds a list of meanings that would fill a page. I’m just listing a few of them to give you a taste:
Made—to do or make in the broadest sense, become, bear, bestow, fashion
Put — give with greatest latitude, restore
Heart — feelings, will, even intellect, inner man, soul
And to think He did this with everything—everything—kind of blows my mind. He’s fashioned us with beauty and bestowed beauty upon us to grow in beauty as we resemble Jesus more and more. He’s given us eternity with the greatest latitude and restored us to Him, to His kingdom through Jesus. And He put all of this promise in our hearts, wills and souls—the very essence of who we are.
Now take a look at this truth:
As it is written: “I have made you a father of many nations.” He is our father in the sight of God, in whom he believed—the God who gives life to the dead and calls into being things that were not. — Romans 4:17
How amazing to think that the same way God called into being this “gold” He placed in us, He’d doing the very same thing with our spouses, our family members, our friends—every single person He places on our heart to pray for. In fact, that nudge should tell us He’s already in action and He’s asking us to partner with Him with our prayers.
So as we look at our spouses, think about the eternity that God has already placed into them. Ask God to show you what it looks like, to see your spouse through the eyes of God.
Deep friendship is a calling forth of each other’s chosenness and a natural affirmation of being precious in God’s eyes. — Henri Nowen
Then as we see and treat them according to that chosenness (and pray), they begin to walk in that truth. I’m witnessing this right now with my husband.
That old post I found? Here’s part of what I wrote about him in 2007:
He’s the kindest, most loving man I have ever met. I’ve always felt cherished in our marriage. He’s a great dad, provider, and all around great guy. He’s affectionate, loves his girls to pieces, enjoys hanging out with his family, and actually saved a binky (a pacifier) from each of our girls as a memento.
He’s generous, quick to give of his resources, and wants only the best for not only us but for his extended family as well. Part of the reason I fell in love with this guy was because of his big and wonderful family.
He’s patient, even-keeled, passionate about his interests, loves his work, and is constantly stretching his mind.
Shortly after I read this, he brought me a yellowed piece of paper with big child-like letters, written by our oldest daughter when she was about five years old. He’s still a big softy...and more. I love watching what God is doing all around my husband and how he responds without even realizing it. I see the calling on his life now and the love of God already flows through him in ways that surprise me.
My friends, I want to challenge you today to make a list about your spouse. Write down all the positive qualities you see in him or her. Then hold this before God and praise Him for creating your spouse to be that person. And ask God to show you more of what He’s placed in him or her to add to your list. Don’t be surprised if this becomes new inspiration in how to pray for him or her.
And feel free to share in the comments. We can have a little “brag-fest” and inspire one another with our hopes and prayers for our loved ones.
SUMites, we hold great hope for ourselves in our growing intimacy with God. We can hold that same hope for our spouses as well and trust God to bring them into that hope of Jesus in His perfect timing.
Lord Jesus, thank You for creating us and holding us together with Your amazing and complete love. Thank You that You do this for our spouses too. I pray for fresh eyes for every SUMite to see his or her spouse through Your lens of love and grace. Reveal the “gold” you’ve placed in them so that we can be part of calling it forth. In the name of Jesus, amen!
Love you, my friends! My prayers are joining with yours.
(P.S. I will be in Nashville next week for the annual American Christian Fiction Writes conference. Woohoo! I get to spend the week hanging out with fun people who have characters talking in their heads (just kidding...well mostly...). See you on the 30th!)
My friends, how are you doing? There’s a lot going on in the world right now that is discouraging and heartbreaking. The more I watch how God is working in our community here; at the healing rooms as we pray Jesus’ truth into hearts, lives and bodies; through the connections and bridges I see Him building and creating between all of us—the more I understand His heart for us to know these foundational truths. Our foundations need to be firmly built in His truth.
And, SUMites, perhaps it sounds a bit trite and cliché because it’s been said so many times, but we are not of this world. We live in it, we have a mission and a purpose here, but God’s plans, purposes and HIS PROMISES go way beyond the now and span all of eternity. In other words, He’s got us covered. We can rest in the reassurances He’s given us and walk in the truth of Who He is and who we are in Him. That’s our identity—another part of this foundation series I sense is coming.
Today’s foundational truth is found in a verse we know well, and Paul is the scribe who wrote these words of God’s truth.
So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love. — 1 Corinthians 13:13
As I sought Holy Spirit’s help to understand what He wants us all to understand about this truth is that these three are like the Trinity—Father, Son, Holy Spirit. They cannot stand alone as they are part of the whole.
Love is, as Paul says, there greatest of these three and represents the God-head.
Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. — 1 John 4:8
So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. — 1 John 4:16
Hope represents Jesus, who is the hope of the world.
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. — 1 Peter 1:3
Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus according to the commandment of God our Savior, and of Christ Jesus, who is our hope, — 1 Timothy 1:1
When I did a search for the word “hope” throughout the Bible, Psalms had the most references, but can you guess which book came next? The book of Job. Did you know that in the Old Testament the words hope and wait are used interchangeable because the Hebrew word is the same? And in the New Testament the definitions for the various forms of the Greek word for “hope” used always included the definition “joyful and confident expectation”?
Which then sheds a whole new light on this verse:
…looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross… — Hebrews 12:2
Faith is representative of the Holy Spirit, whose highest purpose is to teach us about Jesus and grow the seed of faith we are given when we received salvation.
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. — Ephesians 2:8-10
Like the three fold cord spoken of in Ecc 4:12, faith, hope and love are intertwined and purposed to function as a whole. The real clue, amazingly, came when I looked up that fascinating word, abide.
menō — to stay (in a given place, state, relation or expectancy): abide, continue, dwell, endure, be present, remain, stand, tarry (for), to wait for.
Without love, hope and faith lack the soil for their roots to grow deep and strong. Without hope, love wanes and faith dies. Without faith, love shrivels and hope fades. My friends, as a wordsmith of sorts I find it very difficult to fully explain this mystery for a mystery it truly is.
What I do know is that God’s love is the substance, the birthing place, of miracles. That hope is a divine expectation of God’s love to overcome and save. That faith holds love and hope in the birthing room of those miracles with great tenacity and perseverance.
The entire Bible is about these three words, because the Bible is about God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. And these three words embody the heart of God.
Perhaps the mystery isn’t so mysterious at all and is simply and ultimately a decision to believe the Truth (Jesus) and trust and look for God in every part of our lives. We are not meant to live our faith only during our quiet time with God and church attendance, but as part of every aspect of our lives. To do otherwise keeps God in a box and leaves us disappointed. But to live the abundant life, full of God’s love, hope and faith brings joy, peace and prosperity.
Faith, hope and love. Love is the greatest, the most powerful force on this earth. And all we have to do is ask for it, my friends. Ask God to overwhelm and flood us with His love so that it pours out all around us. Ask Him to love others through us. Ask Him to show us how He loves others and do likewise. There is no set formula, no pattern, no correct way to do this. Just simply follow His lead. He’s an expert!
I love you, SUMites, with the love of God, with the hope of Jesus and with the devotion of the Holy Spirit. May the Lord drench you with His amazing love and renew your spirit. In the name of Jesus, amen!
Hello my dear friends. I just love the Scriptures you’re sending in response to my post on Tuesday. Thank you for sharing your treasures with me. I’m so blown away by your stories of how God is moving! I will be writing these precious Scriptures on the beams of our house and holding them close in my heart and prayers as I stand with you. God is so good and so amazing!
This next foundational truth—salvation—seems pretty obvious, my friends, but I feel like Abba wants us to understand there is more to it than what we think. So much more that we can comprehend actually. And it’s all about Him.
For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. — Isaiah 55:8-9
Yes, God’s thought are not ours. They are pure, perfect and all encompassing. All-encompassing—that right there blows me away when I contemplate (or attempt to) the depth of God’s heart and thoughts toward us, let alone His relentless and enduring love. How His plans are always for good and how He works things out for our good no matter how complicated they are or how many people are involved. He’s magnificent!
So, here’s what has my heart burning about the foundational truth of salvation, SUMites. We know what this word has meant to our own lives and we hold it like a hidden treasure, pursued by our prayers for our loved ones to know its precious worth as well.
First let’s take a look at another Scriptural truth (I’m a big fan of 2 Peter 3:9) that addresses God’s desire that ALL people would be saved.
First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time. — 1 Timothy 2:1-6
The word saved here in Greek is sōzō and means to save, i.e. deliver or protect (literally or figuratively): — heal, preserve, save (self), do well, be (make) whole.
1. to save, keep safe and sound, to rescue from danger or destruction: A. one (from injury or peril) to save a suffering one (from perishing), i.e. one suffering from disease, to make well, heal, restore to health. B. to preserve one who is in danger of destruction, to save or rescue to save in the technical biblical sense negatively to deliver from the penalties of the Messianic judgment, to save from the evils which obstruct the reception of the Messianic deliverance.
That’s a lot of meaning. Normally I try to bring out just the key parts but this one is so full of meaning that I find to be “all-encompassing” so I’ve included the full definition according to Strong’s.
Now here is what I sensed Abba speaking to my spirit. We wait for the moment of salvation, we pray into it, anticipate it, and at times even despair of it ever happening. Yet God waits for the heart of the one He pursues and as He waits, He builds, prepares, woos, establishes, equips, prepares, celebrates and rejoices. We may not see Him, but that doesn't mean He's not there.
In other words, my friends, salvation is so much more than a moment. And its process begins long before we are ever aware of it. As Scriptures says, it is the Father who draws us to the Son (John 6:44 & 65). This is a mystery we don’t fully understand but know to be true. Abba Father sets into motion His great plan according to His wise timing.
And looking at the full meaning of sōzō, we see something that is much more than a moment. It’s about building. It’s about preparing the ground for the framework, laying down the rebar and materials to make the foundation solid and able to support the rest of the structure—all this before the concrete is even poured.
Yes, my friends, in our time of waiting and praying, God is working to build the foundation so that when the rest of the structure is built, it will stand with integrity and truth. It’s a process that is done with such care and intentionality.
After the foundation of our house was completed, they discovered an error in the blueprints. If not corrected the foundation under the stairs would not be sound. The process was stalled for a time to figure out how best to correct the foundation to make it right. Two areas of the cement had to be cut out, reinforced and re-poured.
At times we feel this kind of delay in our loved one’s journey to salvation. We question what’s happened so far and doubt. Wonder if we misunderstood. But what if that’s simply a time that God is reinforcing the foundation so that the structure to come will stand strong? What if we shifted our prayers along those lines, asking Abba, “What needs to be covered with prayer as the process continues?” Or to simply ask Jesus, “What are you doing now? What can I be doing to partner with You?”
Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose. — Philippians 2:12-13
For even after the “moment” we come to the truth of Jesus, the process must continue so that we become more and more like Him. What joy is it to walk in salvation and not reflect the image of the Gift Bearer? What sense is there in the seed of the tree that remains a seed and never reaches its full potential to grow deep roots and tall branches to bring life and shade to the world it inhabits?
My dear friends, salvation is so much more than the solution to the question of heaven or hell. It is life, the very breath of God, intended to fill us, save us, heal us, restore us and love us beyond reason. It is all-encompassing for our every need that is designed to bring wholeness to our past, present and future.
I don’t confess to full comprehend the full ramification of the word “salvation” that is simply nine letters, yet encompasses the entire heart of our Creator. He doesn’t expect us to either, my friends. He simply asks us to believe. Trust. Love.
And this is where I will leave us today, my friends, with the prayer that the all-encompassing truth will firmly solidify in the foundation of our faith and the ones we are contending for. In the mighty name of Jesus, amen!
Don’t miss my prayer video tomorrow. Next week, more foundational truths and a reader question I know will speak to your heart for your marriage.
Love you so very, very much, SUMites!
Hello SUMite Nation,
I’ve been traveling and so has Dineen. So Monday’s post is waaaaaay late and likely to show up in mail boxes on Tuesday. But, I’m moved to share a quick word of encouragement.
Over the past several weeks, I’ve been privileged to meet many of you face-to-face. Kathy Sweetman’s church in San Diego has two groups each are studying our books. I visited their study group night and it was simply amazing. I SO wish I was able to do this with every group. (Lord, provide the money and this girl will travel *grin*)
I have been speaking quite a bit locally, and everywhere I go lately I am meeting women who are unequally yoked. Even this weekend a young woman sitting next to me at a retreat mentioned her unbelieving husband. My heart is deeply moved as I see the pain in their faces.
I hug their neck. I look deeply into their eyes and say, “I get it. I know what you are living through. I know how very difficult this walk truly can be. But, I will be the voice to tell you that YOU CAN DO THIS.”
Of late there seems to be a common issue within our community. I even remember a young woman at our Detroit retreat mention this issue.
Right now the weariness of the loooooong journey is upon many shoulders here and feels like an unrelenting 20-pound sack of pain and burden. My heart breaks over the faces that look at me with tears just about to roll down cheeks, “I’m so weary of the waiting. I’m so tired of the conflicts. I’m so weary that there isn’t any change in my husband.”
I will be the voice to all of you today. The voice of the Holy Spirit as He SHOUTS, “He is worthy of it all! Change will come. I’m working things out behind the scenes that you cannot begin to conceive. My plans are in motion but I’m depending and preparing other people in this process. And moving people and events into place takes time. And I’m preparing you in multiple ways as you step into your Kingdom identity and destiny.”
What do we do in the waiting? We cry. We tell our Jesus all about it. We stay in the Word! We write our prayers in our journals. We read some good books. (I have suggestions, leave a comment and I will offer recommendations.) We reach out. Leave me a comment that I may carry you in prayer. Reach out to your small group at church. Be willing to be honest and tell them you need intercession. Then pray for someone else.
I discovered that when I changed my prayers to focus on another’s needs, my prayer time was much more fulfilling. We need to pray for ourselves and our family. Every day, each person by name. But then pray for others who are feeling weary. Suggestion: Pray for them now in the comments.
I will remind you that our unique journey is very difficult in seasons but it is also filled with riches of the Kingdom that other married believers will never experience. I’m reminded of the story of Carol who married her husband who was a believer. She seemed to have the life I always wanted. They attended church together, raised their kids Christian, etc.
BUT….. There is so much more to this story and I will share it again on Friday.
I love you. I’m praying for you and we are seeing breakthroughs. Press into the Father’s heart and keep contending for yours. Hugs, Lynn
My dear friends, I hope the journaling exercise to "pay attention" to how you hear God has been a blessing and encouragement to you. Your comments have encouraged me greatly! I love how God speaks to us in many ways and specifically to our need and relationship with Him. Let’s review that verse again:
“So pay attention to how you hear. To those who listen to my teaching, more understanding will be given. But for those who are not listening, even what they think they understand will be taken away from them.” — Luke 8:18 NLT
Today I will share that story I promised you, one that will show another form of how God can speak to us. I've had the joy of training and working in two different healing rooms (Silicon Valley and now Manatee County). In fact, just this past weekend I attended more training and had the joy of facilitating as well.
And God has used the last several years to teach me so much about healing prayers through teachers and mentors in these places and especially through the Holy Spirit, our greatest Teacher and Mentor of all. Over time, I've learned to recognize better when He's showing me something. I believe He communicates this way with me, because I am an artist and a very visual person.
If you study the book of Acts, you will see many descriptions of the disciples receiving images and even visions of God's leading. Just before his death, Stephen is given a glimpse of Jesus and heaven (Acts 7:55). Ananias heard the Lord instructing him in a vision to go to Saul because God had given Saul a vision of Ananias as part of Saul's conversion from a Pharisee to a believer who would be known as Paul (Acts 9:10-19). And God showed Peter through two visions that he was not to discriminate against Gentiles (Acts 10:3-33).
I love serving people in the healing rooms. We are there to pray with people for their needs, to encourage and edify them as Scripture directs, and we work in teams of three because we are stronger as a three-fold cord.
Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing. — 1 Thess. 5:11 ESV
Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken. — Ecc. 4:12 NIV
On this particular day, a woman came in for prayer about the purchase of a house. She and her husband had felt clear leading to buy a specific house and had made an offer, but the inspection now showed issues that they would not be able to afford. Confusion had set in.
As our team sought God for leading in how to pray for her, I saw an image of a house in my mind. At first I simply thought it was the natural reaction of the mind to connect an image to thoughts, but as I said, I have learned through experience and practice to pay attention when I get an image, especially in this type of setting. Yet I am always careful to defer to Holy Spirit's leading to share a word of knowledge (1 Cor. 12:8).
Our sister in Christ then joined us in the prayer room and we began to speak truth into her heart to help her refocus on God and His leading for her. I felt Holy Spirit direct me to share the image so I did.
I described the image of the house in the detail the Holy Spirit had given me. I'm always a bit nervous to do things like this, but again I'm learning to trust Him more than myself. It's not easy. It’s a risk and an act of faith to trust in what God is doing and not what I understand or perceive is happening.
Turned out the image was the house she and her husband wanted to purchase, and sharing with her what God had shown me, along with what the other team members felt Holy Spirit telling them, confirmed and affirmed this dear woman on the God-lead path she was obediently trying to follow. She just needed reassurance that even though complications had cropped up, God was still in the lead and would provide. She left encouraged and felt even closer to God as a result. As we all do when we see, hear, feel and sense God's presence with us—we are drawn closer to Him and hunger for even more.
And I was too, as was the prayer team. These encounters never cease to astound me and draw me closer to God. I pray they never do. The end of this story is wonderful. The couple moved forward in faith and made another offer. They purchased the house for a price that gave them room to make the repairs. God did exactly what He said He would.
Understand, therefore, that the LORD your God is indeed God. He is the faithful God who keeps his covenant for a thousand generations and lavishes his unfailing love on those who love him and obey his commands. — Deut. 7:9 NLT
My friends, the amazing thing is I am learning to apply this way of praying to my family. One night Holy Spirit showed me that I didn't believe He would show me what to pray for my family like I do in the healing rooms. I'm learning to first seek and listen before I start praying what I think my husband or daughters need.
Sometimes our best intentions and love can keep us from hearing what God wants us to know, because we are more focused on the issue at hand instead of the answer God is waiting to give us.
Now as I pray for my husband, I wait for a leading or image to show me where God's working in him. That way I know how to pray and work with God in this transformation process. God wants me to see my husband as already saved and pray and praise accordingly. Just as God instructed Peter in his vision to not make a judgement of a person's place in God's kingdom, I feel God telling us the same thing, my friends. This verse spoke that truth to my heart this week:
Peter told them, "You know it is against our laws for a Jewish man to enter a Gentile home like this or to associate with you. But God has shown me that I should no longer think of anyone as impure or unclean. — Acts 10:28
Right now we need to be seeking God for His heart and how He sees our spouses, our loved ones, and pray and declare in agreement. We only have a partial picture with our own perspective. God has the full picture and He knows our spouses (1 Cor. 13:12).
And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. – Philippians 1:6
That day of Jesus Christ is now, my friends. The Greek translation for the word "day" means the space between dark and dawn. I believe this is the time between Jesus' coming and return and we are in that time right now! So don't be discouraged! He is faithful to complete what He has told us He will do. SALVATION!
Dear friends, we live in an incredible time of witnessing God move in our spouses' lives and hearts! Be assured He is working. Seek Him, ask Him to show you and trust Him to complete the good work He has started as you join Him accordingly in prayer and trust for your spouse's salvation. Amen? Amen!