Advent - God of Surprises

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I sat chatting with my publisher. We’d only just met face to face for the first time and here we sat, an Englishman and an Aussie, having a cup of tea (as in hot) in a café in a Nashville hotel. We were attending a Christian Writers Conference, he prospecting for new content and I hoping he’d give me an update on my manuscript that I’d sent through to his employer three months previous.

Unfortunately, Tony knew nothing about my manuscript. He was now a contractor to the business and so wasn’t involved in the day-to-day. I thought we’d end up having a nice chat about nothing in particular until he quickly changed the subject with the question: “Have you thought of writing non-fiction?” (for those of you who don’t know I write fiction).

My heart jumped a little. I’d come to the conference having played around with an idea for a non-fiction project to discuss with some of my writing friends and one in particular, our very own Dineen Miller. But I didn’t plan on pitching it, as this was a fiction conference so I naively thought who’s going to be interested in non-fiction? Well, Tony was.

Not being prepared, I babbled out an idea and it was clear to both Tony and I that all I had was a general concept. He kindly agreed to my suggestion of sending him a proposal in the next month.

As soon as I finished with Tony I sought out Dineen and with much excitement shared what happened.

I’ve attended two of these conferences now and both times the Lord has surprised me.

Mary

We’re all familiar with the story in Luke 1. Last week we looked at Gabriel surprising Zechariah with the news of a baby. In verses 26-38, Gabriel appears a second time to a poor Galilean peasant girl. Most commentators believe Mary was 13 or 14 years old. It was relatively common in those times for girls of this age to be married and pregnant and I’ve always loved the innocence of Mary’s question to Gabriel: “How will this be, since I am a virgin?” (v34 ESV)

This was only the first of a lifetime of surprises for Mary. God turned this girl’s life upside down in an instant.

Mary and Elizabeth

The surprises continue. And we’re still in Chapter 1. Mary’s now pregnant and she visits her cousin, Elizabeth who is now almost six months pregnant.

“and she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the baby leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit ”” (v40-42 ESV)

The babe inside Elizabeth, ie, John, leaped when Mary greeted Elizabeth. The spiritual electricity is hot. The baby senses the presence of the Messiah. And then Elizabeth is filled with the Holy Spirit! Wow.

After this initial Holy Spirit-charged greeting, Mary, we’re told remained with Elizabeth for about three months. (v56) Here we have a 60-year-old woman, six months pregnant, with her fourteen-year-old cousin who was in her first trimester. Both women no doubt supported each other in very practical ways through their respective pregnancies. Just imagine some of their conversations! 

Can we presume Mary was present at the birth of John? Did she assist in the birth? Did she hear Zechariah speak his first words after being mute for nine months?

And then Mary went home. With a baby bump. Surprising her betrothed, their families and communities. I expect Mary would have been dreading that day of departure. 

How has God surprised you recently?

It didn’t take long for more surprises. Chapter 2 starts by telling us that the Romans are planning a census and everyone needed to go to their own towns to register. Joseph and Mary went to Bethlehem “the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David” (v4) only for Mary to soon go into labour then giving birth to Jesus in a barn because the inn was full due to the influx of people registering.

The Messiah! Born in a barn? Another surprise.

As we journey closer to Christmas, now only 14 days away, may we all be surprised by our Lord. May we all have expectant hearts as we keep our eyes on Him.

When was the last time the Lord surprised you? It would be lovely for us all to share in each other’s surprises by adding them in the comments. I trust this will fill us with even more hope as we wait upon the Lord in this season of Advent.

Grace and peace,

*****

Share your voice, heart and love in the comments. 

THRIVE in your Spiritually Mismatched Marriage and raise your children to faith. Our books are filled with practical experience and Biblical advice. -click or tap the photo-

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1 Peter 3 - Same But Different

image from www.spirituallyunequalmarriage.comThank you, Martha, for your powerful post about submission vs obedience on Friday. I believe she is working on a follow up and I will post it when she sends it along.

Today, I want to continue with what the Lord was showing me a few weeks ago about 1 Peter 3. If you recall, God has me camped in the books of Peter and He suggested I read all of the chapters. Reading chapter three, I sensed the Holy Spirit focus on something we, the unequally yoked, usually miss because we are hung up on the first verse and we miss the rest. And the rest of the passage is amazing.

So, let’s look at this passage.

1 Peter 3New International Version (NIV)

3 Wives, in the same way submit yourselves to your own husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives,

2 when they see the purity and reverence of your lives.

3 Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes.

4 Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.

5 For this is the way the holy women of the past who put their hope in God used to adorn themselves. They submitted themselves to their own husbands,

6 like Sarah, who obeyed Abraham and called him her lord. You are her daughters if you do what is right and do not give way to fear.

As I read through this the Lord said, “Read it differently. What if the verses were in a different order?”

Then I heard the passage like this:

Wives, in the same way submit yourselves to your own husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives, you are (Sarah’s) daughters if you do what is right and do not give way to fear.

Okay, I realize this is only my conversation with the Lord, so please understand, I am not changing scripture but as I read the scripture in this order, I felt the Lord help me to change focus.

I could feel conviction of the Lord to submit to my husband to win him to faith but ALSO to do what is right and not give way to fear. The Holy Spirit flooded my heart with understanding. Submission is a behavior of obedience to God and that kind of behavior is what will win the hearts of our husbands. Also, I realized that fear does not communicate faith to unbelievers. In fact, worldly people perceive fear as a weakness.

What I believe the Lord was trying to show me is that back in the day, when the church was new, people were converting to faith in droves for the very first time. They didn’t know how to proceed when they came to faith and found themselves in a marriage with an unbeliever. Peter, sharing under the Holy Spirit unction, is urging them/us to remain married and preserve the family. Yet, live out authentic faith without fear. When we do so, our obedient behavior to the Lord is the testimony to our unbelieving spouse. This kind of faith without fear is straight from the heart of God. And when empowered by the gifts of the Spirit, results in a beautiful submission out of love, compassion, great wisdom and the power of God to our spouse, our marriage, our family and ultimately to God for His glory.

Bold faith brings thousands to Christ. That’s a fact. Faith is NOT a weakness nor for the weak minded. It’s a powerful life of miracles, provision, protections and more. When we demonstrate that we live and believe in THAT kind of Kingdom, people are moved, changed, and want to be part of it.

After this revelation I sensed how the devil turns our hearts to believe the way to receive our husband’s approval is: Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. (vs 3)

However, lasting beauty/relationships are developed through behaviors of authenticity and vulnerability, exactly like this: Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight. (vs 4) when they see the purity and reverence of your lives. (vs 2)

By the way, this is what makes a marriage successful.

Wow and WOW! Okay, thank you for allowing me to share my prayer time with you. I think that 90 percent of all the decisions we make, are motivated out of fear or love. And this passage speaks exactly to the core of our beliefs. It’s a daily battle to choose love and to operate out of the gifts of the Spirit and overcome our fears.

Share your thoughts. Does this resonate with you and how can we encourage one another to operate out of love and not fear? Hugs, Lynn

*****

Share your voice, heart and love in the comments. 

THRIVE in your Spiritually Mismatched Marriage and raise your children to faith. Our books are filled with practical experience and Biblical advice. -click or tap the photo-

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Submission vs. Obedience by Martha Bush

SUM Nation, 

Several weeks ago I read such a great response in the Facebook Group by Martha Bush, specific to Submission and obedience. I asked her to share her perspective with all of us today since we are camped in the books of Peter. This post is authentic and powerful. Thank you Martha. Hugs, Lynn

*****

image from www.spirituallyunequalmarriage.comSubmission vs. Obedience

Polly’s Story

Travel back to the 1900’s with me to the home of Smith Wigglesworth and his wife, Polly.

Prior to his salvation and fame as a minister, Smith harshly persecuted Polly for her faith, and demanded that she not go to church.  She didn’t obey his command, instead would make his dinner and head for church every Sunday.

One night, Polly came home from church later than usual. Smith scolded, “I am the master of this house, and I’m not going to have you coming home at such a late hour!” 

Polly quietly replied, “I know you are my husband, but Christ is my Master.”

This made Smith so mad that he locked her out of the house.

My Story

Now, I invite you into my home where I faced the “likes” of Smith Wigglesworth.

My husband had always supported my faith until God gave me a new direction - - resign my job as a school teacher.  

After several months of praying, studying God’s Word and counseling with my pastor, I went to my husband to discuss the new direction with him. 

He immediately responded with a firm, “NO!”  

Usually not one to rock the boat, I rocked it this time, and began my journey.  

For the next several years, I faced intense opposition from my husband.

Submission vs. Obedience

1 Peter 3:1:  Wives, be submissive to your husbands.

The question is, “How does submission play into stories like Polly’s, mine, and yours when faced with persecution of our faith, or verbal and emotional abuse within the home?”

I’d like to share a few points I learned on my journey trying to figure this out.

  1. Stronghold: People Pleaser

 

I had been a people pleaser since childhood, and I brought this stronghold into my marriage.  A “go with the flow” personality, I had no identity of my own.

 

My husband is the opposite - a good moral man, but very opinionated who likes to be in control, which explains why he responded with a firm “NO” when I discussed my new direction with him.

 

Normally, I would have done anything to keep peace, but this time was different. I knew I had heard from the Lord and must obey.

Galatians 1:10: Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ. (NIV)

Acts: 5:29: We must obey God rather than men. (HCSB)

  1. People Pleaser to Special Possession

Once the people pleaser stronghold was broken, my self-esteem had to have a makeover. It was time to shed the puppet on a string/doormat mentality.  

Also, got myself a new name tag - - You are a chosen people, His royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His wonderful light.  (1 Peter 2:9 NIV)

  1. A man’s enemies will be members of his own household. (Matthew 10:36 NIV)

My home became a battleground establishing who comes first – God or family. My husband said, “Things were great as long as you just went to church, but you had to get fanatical; I want my wife back.”

  1. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood.  (Ephesians 6:12-13)

Though my husband’s opposition was hurtful, I finally realized it wasn’t him coming against me; it was the devil himself trying to wear me down with harsh words through my husband.  

  1. Arrogant, Sarcastic, Brass Attitude

I came out of the people pleasing pit swinging. I had no problem pointing my finger in my husband’s face and saying: “Let me tell you something, Buddy. You no longer intimidate me; my feelings and opinions count in this marriage.  Stuff it!”

Oh yeah, it felt goooood to be FREE!

But---my mind flashed back to my daddy. It was as though I could hear his gentle, but firm southern voice talking to me.

“Girl, I didn’t raise you to act like this. I’m fixin’ to give you an attitude adjustment. Get your Bible and turn to Galatians 5:13 and read it.”

Dear brothers and sisters,

you have been given freedom:

not freedom to do wrong, but

freedom to love and serve each other.

(TLB)

Conclude

On the next post, I will tell how God adjusted my attitude as it relates to submission vs. obedience. 

A longgggg journey, but time well spent in examining my marriage, seeing where I had missed it from the start. It wasn’t easy, but necessary.

Have you examined your marriage? 

  • Are there strongholds that cause friction?
  • Have you lost your identity?
  • Is your husband exercising a demanding authoritative role as the head of the household?
  • Does he value your feelings and opinions?
  • Does he ask you to sin?
  • Is his sin affecting you and the kids?

Please share what you have discovered in the comments.

Blessings to you.

 

*****

Share your voice, heart and love in the comments. 

THRIVE in your Spiritually Mismatched Marriage and raise your children to faith. Our books are filled with practical experience and Biblical advice. -click or tap the photo-

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Advent - Sharing the Longing

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One Bible story that I keep coming back to each Advent season is the one that features Zechariah and Elizabeth. I hadn’t spent a lot of time reflecting upon it until a few years ago when I began to observe Advent.

Most of you will know their story is briefly told in Luke 1 before Mary’s story. I’d encourage you to read it again (v5-25) and as we’ve done in the past read it meditatively. Perhaps listen to it and put yourself into the story. Imagine you are Zechariah or Elizabeth or one of the crowd and see what the Spirit reveals to you.

Longing

This couple was probably in their late 50’s or early 60’s. He was a respected Jewish priest and would have been highly thought of within society. However, even though holding an elevated position in society they were probably looked down upon.

Why? Scripture tells us the reason: 

“But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and they were both well advanced in years.” (v7)

Because child bearing and, particularly a son, were so significant in those times, Elizabeth was most likely not recognised and she would have carried great shame.

Besides the shame there would have been a deep deep longing. For a child. The preceding verse describes both as being blameless before the Lord. But still no child. Imagine their heartache, the number of answered prayers that had come from both of their mouths over perhaps forty-plus years.

We too experience a similar longing. For our spouses who don’t know the Lord yet. And the different life we might lead as a Christian couple. No more shying away, no more hiding in the background, no more missed opportunities, and no more sitting alone in church.

Astonishment and Doubt

Zechariah has an experience of a lifetime. He is fortunate to be the name drawn to have the honour of burning incense in to the temple of the Lord. This would have been a great day for him. 

And then he meets an angel. Not any angel. Gabriel, “who stands in the presence of God.” That angel. Many would have fainted I suspect … his presence would have been terrifying, bewildering and just weird.

The news Zechariah receives is astonishing. After all these years of waiting and longing, answered prayer, his dearest Elizabeth would bear … a son. And not just any son; but one that “will be great in the sight of the Lord.”

Hallelujah.

Zechariah is so astonished that he questions Gabriel. I think we all would under similar circumstances. And interestingly, Mary a few verses later, asks almost the identical question when Gabriel shares with her. (“Then Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I do not know a man?” v34)

Doubt is part of the human condition. It is nothing to be ashamed of nor does it turn God away from us. He understands. Expressing our doubts to Him is okay. He wants us to share our doubts with Him. We only have to read the Psalms to see how David doubted.

Intercession by others

“And the whole multitude of the people was praying outside at the hour of incense.” (v10)

It’s easy to miss this verse. While Zechariah is in the temple, a multitude is praying. For him. Probably for Elizabeth. For their situation.

No doubt our couple had shared with many their sadness, their longing and yearning for a child. God doesn’t call us to journey alone. In seasons of doubt being able to share our situations can be beneficial not just to ourselves but those we share it with. When was the last time we shared our sadness about our situation with another? For most of the last twenty years, I wouldn’t say much at all unless directly asked. Recently, I mentioned it to someone in one of my prayer groups. And his first response was “that must be tough.” To which I nodded and said, “yep, it is.”

“Naming the ache of our yearnings is indeed faithful. It opens wide the gift of receiving and embracing the prayers of others.” (Enuma Okoro)

We’re blessed having this community where we can share our yearning and be praying for each other. Lynn, our ever faithful leader, a few weeks ago encouraged us to leave our spouses name in the comments so she could pray for each of us as couples. And I understand there is some wonderful sharing in the Facebook group.

If you are feeling particular sadness due to a longing in your heart or loneliness as Christmas approaches please share with us in the comments below so we can love over you with our prayers.

I had thought I’d write more on the next part of the story but I realise I’ve gone long enough so I'll leave it to next time.

Grace and peace, dear friends.

*****

Share your voice, heart and love in the comments. 

THRIVE in your Spiritually Mismatched Marriage and raise your children to faith. Our books are filled with practical experience and Biblical advice. -click or tap the photo-

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I Can't Write Anything Like THIS Miracle

SUM Family: Today I was going to start writing about 1 Peter 3 but I’m overwhelmed by the miracle stories that were posted in the comments on Friday. I want to share one of them. I know many of you don’t have time to go back into the comments but this story is a living example of 1 Peter 3 and the love of Christ in the life of a SUMite. I can’t write anything that can compare to this.

Behold, the love and faithfulness of one woman and a good Father.

image from www.spirituallyunequalmarriage.com 

Roxanne S.

Hi Sumite Family,

Remembering back to some beautiful miracles...

My step daughter was going through a dark time, and moved back in with her mom. Through her dark time for several years of her life, she stole from me, broke my things, told lies about me to my husband and in-laws. Broke my heart to say the least. This caused strife between my husband and his family to me. I was so down and feeling lost, I almost left my husband.

I had started to see God telling me, hearing God tell me everywhere and in everything in my life, from music, to Bible reading, to sermons, to friend’s wisdom, and so much more, telling me to go DEEPER with Him. Pray, fast, trust Him, AND to STAY, STAY, STAY, not leave my husband. So, I stayed.

Then I heard God tell me again in multiple ways, pray for your step-daughter. I did not want to pray for someone who caused me so much pain!! But, I did. I wanted God to bring about a miracle.

Within a year, late one night, my step- daughter's mom called us, and said my step- daughter ran away from home. So, I began to pray for my step-daughter and her safety, and to bring her home. My husband had been watching me do a lot of this, and I had no idea.

Then, that morning, she showed up at our house. All she wanted to do was talk to me, and cried about the choices she had made. God opened the door that night for her to need me, and for the next year she lived with us, and needed me. A lot of healing happened that year.

AND my husband gave his life to Christ during a Christian music festival, which by the way, he only went to, because he saw what I was doing in my prayer time, and what was happening to his daughter individually and as a mother/ daughter relationship. He apologized for not backing me up all those years too.

God is still doing major work in our family. There are so many miracles that I could tell you about. They all have been answered through being on my knees praying, fasting, speaking his word, reading his word, and a lot of "tough love" and trusting God in the end for whatever His plan would be.

I am still praying for my husband to have a personal relationship with God. God is good though, and he is always working on our behalf.

*****

Share your voice, heart and love in the comments. 

THRIVE in your Spiritually Mismatched Marriage and raise your children to faith. Our books are filled with practical experience and Biblical advice. -click or tap the photo-

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