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5 posts from October 2008

October 29, 2008

Magnify Him!

Marthassunrise

Greetings, Dear Friends!



And to those visiting, I say welcome!

I post every Wednesday and my sole purpose is to nourish your soul along the way. 

Every month I give away a $10.00 gift card. Due to popular demand, this month the card is from Starbucks! Leave a post and you may be the one to a couple of cups of java on me!

Now on to my topic...

Yesterday morning I was reading Mary's Magnificat, "My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God, my Savior." (Luke 1:46-47)

Let's take this declaration in two parts.

First, what does it mean to 'magnify' the Lord?

As I tossed and turned last night, I battled with fearful thoughts. The enemy of my soul was working over time and I needed to find my place of rest once again.

In the middle of the night it occurred to me that our brains have somewhat of a zoom lens. Whenever we think about something for an extended period of time, we zoom in on that thing and get a closer look. We notice the bumps and the crevices. We see what passersby miss. 

So when we fixate on our problems, we zoom in on them. When we focus on our fears, we get a close-up look at them. When we dwell on the past, we eventually get a distorted view of it because our necks weren't made to constantly accommodate a backwards view. 

Moreover, the Bible tells us that 'as a man thinks in his heart, so he is." If we dwell on our memories of rejection, our current financial crisis, or our fears of the future, we become walking, breathing organisms of defeat.

We were made to magnify the Lord!

Think with me for a minute about the universe. Picture one of those posters of the Solar system. Remember again just what a small planet we live on in the whole scheme of things.

Now zoom in.

Zoom in closer.

Consider the snowflake. Each one is different. Unique. Beautiful. Just like you and me.

Consider the caterpillar. The chrysalis. The butterfly. The process of transformation is absolutely staggering. 
Our process is miraculous. 

Consider the seed. A tiny little grain is buried under a pile of dirt and in a matter weeks and sometimes days, a fresh burst of life sprouts forth.
The idea of seeds and harvest is profound. 
The fruit and harvest growing in you and around you is...exciting.

Consider the Son. He came to die that you and I might live. He took on the forces of hell that we could inherit Heaven. He confronted our bullies that we might be rescued. He set us free so we could work with Him in securing the freedom of others. 

Think about the Lord. Zoom in on all of the good things He has done. Let His promises, not your problems, occupy your thoughts. 

Fix your eyes on Jesus, the author and finisher of your faith. 

Magnify the Lord with me! Let us exalt His name together!

The second part of Mary's declaration calls us to rejoice. To be thankful. 

What are you thankful for? 

Count your blessings today and every day. 

Let your own ears hear your mouth say that God has been good. And He'll be good again. 

The enemy presses in hard, it's true. But God is the strength of our hearts and our portion forever!

Stand strong, my friend.
Look up. Zoom in. Be thankful.

Until next week~ 




October 22, 2008

Press In, Press Through...

Martha'strail

Greetings, Dear Friends!


And to those visiting, I say welcome!


I post every Wednesday and my sole purpose is to nourish your soul along the way.

Every month I give away a $10.00 gift card. Due to popular demand, this month the card is from Starbucks! Leave a post and you may be the one to get a couple of cups of java on me!

Now on to my topic...

I don't know this for a fact, but I'm pretty sure that many of you are bearing up under a load of responsibility, waiting for a breakthrough of something hoped for, and tempted to 'move away from courage' by becoming dis-couraged.

If that's you, this post is for you!

I get the sense that for many, this season requires great perseverance. Great focus. And great tenacity. 

Maybe I 'sense' this because I'm feeling the same kinds of pressures. And maybe it's just me, but this feeling always seems to present itself this same time every year. 

I'm not a big fan of the October festivities, in fact I find it necessary to raise my shield a little higher in the month of October. 

When life's demands press hard against my soul and Satan tempts me to despair, I know this calls me to activate two strategic elements in my walk of faith...

Press In.
Whenever things feel difficult, stressful, or simply boring and uneventful, we must stop in our tracks and plant a few seeds. Seeds of hope. Seeds of faith. Seeds of expectancy. I've said this before and it bears repeating again: God is always up to something.

The Heavens are bursting with promise. The Heavenly Hosts are busy and active on our behalf. Answers to prayers we prayed yesterday, last week, and when we were seven, have enlisted a response from our gracious Heavenly Father. Even after you die, the world will continue to benefit from prayers you prayed (that's of course assuming you prayed prayers to bless this world and the generations coming after you).

Since we're such earthbound creatures, we need constant reminders of Heaven, of God, and of His great love and involvement in our lives. 

When we slow down long enough to plant a few seeds, we remember that God is growing good things all around us. He has been good to us. I heard a statistic recently suggesting that if your household income is $50,000 or above, you are in the upper 1% of the wealthiest households in the world!

John Bunyan once said, "The pathway of life is strewn so thickly with the promises of God that it is impossible to take one step without treading upon one of them." 

We must earnestly seek after God because everything we could ever want or need, is found in Him.

But there's another reason.

More precious than the gifts from His hand is the treasure of knowing His heart.

He is beautifully, wonderfully wonderful. 
He is a treasure beyond knowing.
He is scandalously humble.
He is terrifyingly powerful.
And He is intent on revealing Himself to those who seek hard after Him. 
Nothing compares to the priceless offer of access to the Most High God.

Press in to know Him more. Or to know Him again. Or to know Him for the first time.

Press in and He'll make the way clear; the boring sacred; and the burden lighter. Press in.

Press Through.

To persevere is to press through; to bear up under a heavy load for a prolonged period of time. 

The Bible says that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. And that perseverance produces character (and reveals it). Perseverance leads to godliness. Perseverance matures us and completes our faith. 

Pressing up against unmoving, difficult circumstances - carrying a weight we'd rather not - holding onto hope when it seems heavy in our arms - all these things make us more like Jesus. 

When I consider how easy it would have been for Jesus to cancel His plan to be my Savior, I shudder. I imagine Him hanging on the cross, beaten, brutalized, and broken under the weight of the world's sin. I see Him with dried and fresh blood stinging His eyes as He looks down at a mocking, eye-rolling crowd. 

How easy it would have been for Him to look up and say to God, "Change of plans. These people are not worth it."

But He hung in there.
He hung there.
For me.
For you.
Amazing love.

You MUST hang in there!

Someone once said, "There are a thousand people waiting on the other side of your obedience."

"The idea that Christianity is an unending round of mountaintop experiences is unrealistic. there is the daily routine, the menial task, the disappointing circumstance, the bitter grief, the shattered plan. Perseverance is the art of bearing up and pressing on in the face of all that seems to be against us." (Believer's Commentary, p. 2290)

'Therefore, since we are surrounded by SUCH A GREAT CLOUD of witnesses, let us throw off EVERYTHING that hinders and the sin that SO EASILY entangles us, and let us RUN WITH PERSEVERANCE the race MARKED OUT BEFORE US, let us FIX OUR EYES ON JESUS, the author and finisher of our faith, WHO, FOR THE JOY-SET-BEFORE-HIM-ENDURED THE CROSS, scorning it's shame, and SAT DOWN at the right hand of God." (Hebrews 12:1-2)

There you have it.

Since you are surrounded by a host cheering you on, hoping you'll choose to persevere, throw off everything that slows you down.

Throw off bad attitudes, low perspectives, and unbelieving tendencies. Throw them off like yesterday's clothes! (for you newbies, see my post from a couple of weeks ago).

Run with perseverance. Bear up under the weight. Believe God is good. And hang in there.

Fix your eyes on Jesus. 

Press in. Press on. 

It matters what you do and how you believe when you'd rather be bored or cynical. 

Believe for the best. Be strong. Be courageous. 

Let your perseverance be a witness to a desperate world in need!

Until next week~


October 15, 2008

Manifold Wisdom...

Housethroughtherocks

Greetings, Dear Friends!


And to those visiting, I say welcome! 

I post every Wednesday and my sole purpose is to nourish your soul along the way. As most of you know, each month I give away a $10.00 gift card to someone who posts on my blog. Thanks to your response (and because some of you have never heard of Caribou Coffee), this month's gift card is from Starbucks! So leave a comment and share your thoughts. 

Now, on to my topic...

This morning during my prayer time, I paused and pondered the following passage of Scripture...

"...that the manifold wisdom of God might be made known by the church to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places." (Ephesians 3:10)

I did a little study on the word, 'manifold' and here's what it means: varied hues, colorful expression, different shades, a palette of colors

God expresses Himself profoundly. Creatively. He speaks to us in a variety of ways. He teaches us wisdom through His Word, His creation, His people, and by the direction of the Holy Spirit. 

James, chapter one teaches that if any of us lacks wisdom - we just need to ask for it - and then believe - without a doubt - that we will receive exactly the expression of wisdom we need for the moment. 

Over and over again I've told my boys that the promise of more and increasing wisdom, is one of the best kept secrets in the Bible. Wisdom is better than money. It's better than gold. 

And yet, every day people throw away time and money on get-rich-quick schemes. Not a wise thing to do.

We race to and fro with our eyes on the ground and our minds skipping ahead. We lean on our own understanding. We trust in our own insights. We rely on our own perspective.

If wisdom is better than wealth, and we have an open-door offer to gather all of it we could ever want or need, why don't we ask for more? 

Is it selfish if I ask for more? 

If I ask God - on the hour - for more wisdom. Does it mean He has less for you? 

I didn't think so.

Let's go back to the passage from Ephesians. Paul expresses here a hope and an expectation that the Church (you and me) will live and breathe and display a life of such wisdom and authority, that it serves the enemy notice. And it gives the angels pause.

We are the evidence of Christ's victory.

If we receive the insight that God daily offers us, and if we make choices that reflect His active involvement in our lives, things will change. Lives will change. The world will change.

However, if we refuse so great an offer, and determine to go our own way, the evidence of wisdom in our lives will simply be a dull shade of gray. Like a dirty window.

But if we replace our earthly perspective and understanding (our dirty window) with God's other-worldly influence and insight (His stained-glass window), then, when His light shines through, His varied hues and beautiful colors will shine in and through us.

Read this powerful excerpt from my 'Believer's Commentary'...

"From Heaven the angels are compelled to admire His unsearchable judgments and marvel at His ways past finding out. They see how God has triumphed over sin to His own glory. They see how He has sent Heaven's Best for earth's worst. They see how He has redeemed His enemies at enormous cost, conquered them by love, and prepared them as a Bride for His Son. They see how He has blessed them with all spiritual blessings in the Heavenlies. And they see that through the work of the Lord Jesus on the cross, more glory has come to God and more blessing has come to believing Jews and Gentiles than if sin had never been allowed to enter. God is vindicated; Christ has been exalted; Satan has been defeated; and the Church has been enthroned in Christ to share His glory." (p.1928).

Wow!

I've said this before, but one day we will have to give an account for how we lived. Sin repented is gone forever. But what about Kingdom living? In light of all God has offered us - on a daily basis - are we gathering more wisdom? More grace? Are we standing on His promises? Walking with an increased awareness of His presence all around us?

I hope so.

A Heavenly host is watching us. Pulling for us. Praying that we will understand the urgency of the hour.

The times call for great wisdom.

But I have great news for you.

God offers it freely. 

Until next week~
 

October 08, 2008

Yesterday's Clothes...

JordanAngieDirtbike

Greetings, Dear Friends,



And to those visiting, I say welcome! I post every Wednesday and my sole purpose is to nourish your soul along the way.

Before I get into my topic, I have a little business to take care of. Each month I give away a $10.00 Caribou Coffee gift card to someone who posts on my blog (although my son thinks I should switch to Starbucks. What do you think?). 

Leave a comment; share your heart; you might win a couple of cups of java!

The picture above is of my son and his girlfriend after a time of dirt biking. I think it's adorable. It doesn't exactly fit my topic but sort of. 

Now on to my topic...

Last weekend I spoke at the beautiful Camp Lebanon in Upsula, Minnesota where two hundred women gathered to meet with God. It was a glorious weekend. 

But something troubled me...

Though my messages went well and women seemed to track with me, I felt something was blocking God's blessings for these women. It's one thing to hear a nice message, it's another thing to be transformed by the very presence of God.

Each night at bedtime, I curled up in a ball, hugged my pillow, and prayed. I prayed for the women and their precious hearts. I prayed for myself, that I might be a reliable messenger. I asked God to please show me if I was missing anything. Anything.

In addition to speaking at the main sessions, I offered to lead a Power Walk and teach a Power Stretch class. We had a great time together.

Sunday morning I prayed in the shower; I prayed while blow drying my hair; and I prayed as I put my clothes on for the day. I prayed that God would speak to me and through me.

I grabbed my socks off the floor and put them on my feet. They weren't especially clean. Okay, they were dirty. The Power Walk had taken its toll on my little white socks. But no one would see them under my black boots, right?

The whisper across my heart surprised me, "You might want to put on some clean socks." 

Huh? 

I prayed that profound prayer again, "Huh?" 

The Lord continued speaking to my heart, "You might want to put on some clean socks because you'll be removing your shoes in the service today. I want you to ask everyone to remove their shoes this morning because they are on holy ground. This is the Sabbath day and it's to be regarded as holy. These are My beloved Ones and they need to see themselves that way. My call is profoundly high and all need to consider it so. Re-establish the fact that I am a Holy God and you are My people." 

My knees were instantly weak and my eyes welled up with tears. 

I bowed my head and prayed. I committed the morning to the Lord, and I went and found the worship leader. I asked her to add a certain song to her list. I couldn't stop the tears from streaming down my face. She asked, "Are you okay? Do you feel sick?" 

I replied, "God has something special for these women this morning and I don't want even one of them to miss it." 

The worship was powerful and the stage was set. 

When the time came for me to take the stage, I was all choked up. I shared what the Lord had shown me that morning. I added, "God's arms are full of things He intended to give you this weekend. Some of you run the risk of leaving this place without ever receiving what He has offered; maybe it's because of a hardness of heart; maybe because of unbelief. But I ask you to humble yourself. Look up. Open your hands. Receive what He so lovingly wants to give. All too often we wear yesterday's dirty rags when daily, God offers new mercies to us. He has a new thing for you today. Receive it." 

Women responded right away. 

I put on a beautiful song and with the lights down, we took off our shoes. Many kneeled to the ground. Quiet sobs of repentance erupted. The room became a sanctuary.

Many women came forward and received the prayer and encouragement they so desperately needed. 

Something broke loose that morning and we were all so blessed to be there. 

You know, without even thinking about it, many of us put on yesterday's rags. The rags of sameness, of doubt, of unbelief, or cynicism. 

But what about expectancy? What about hope? What about God's promise to do a new thing in our midst?

In this world we are promised to have troubles. But we're also promised overwhelming victory. Overwhelming. Victory. 

No circumstance can keep us from a fruitful, powerful, thriving life. 

But our own unbelief can.

Dear Lord, 
Forgive us for the countless times we've picked up our dirty socks and put them on our feet without even thinking about it. May we remember anew each day that the earth is Yours and everything in it! May we embrace today, that You've offered fresh mercies and new garments to Your people. May we slow down long enough to receive the peace and the comfort You so willingly offer us. And forgive us for the many times we've treated holy opportunities as common, everyday occurrences. You are everywhere. And we matter to You. What a privilege it is to be linked in fellowship with You. May we never take that for granted. Thank You for Your great and unexplainable love. Amen.

Here's to new days and new garments of praise!

Until next week~


October 01, 2008

Love Jesus...

Beautifulvermilionsunset

Greetings, Dear Friends!

And to those visiting, I say welcome!


I post every Wednesday and my sole purpose is to nourish your soul along the way.

Before I get into my topic, I have a little business to take care of. Each month I give away a $10.00 gift card to Caribou Coffee. My son suggested I switch to Starbucks. What do you think? 

Anyway, today is the day to award September's winner.

And the winner is...Tina Greenland! Tina, Congratulations! email me at: info@susielarson.com and claim your prize.

*Just a note: winners have to contact me. I'm not able to chase you down! Thanks so much!

One more note of business. My quarterly Ezine comes out on October 15; if you haven't signed up, be sure to do so today! I give away lots of fun books from fellow authors; I include some devotional thoughts and great book recommendations; and I offer some health and balance tips. Here's the link to subscribe:


Now, on to my topic...

This morning during my prayer time, I pondered Jesus' words to His disciples regarding the woman who lavishly anointed Jesus' head with expensive oil:

"...For you always have the poor with you, and whenever you want, you can do good for them. But you will not always have me. She has done what she could; she has anointed my body beforehand for burial And truly, I say to you, wherever the gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in memory of her." (Mark 14:6-9)

A little later during my prayer time I read from Revelations, chapter two regarding the Church of Ephesus. 

This church, from all appearances, had it together. They were known for their incredible work ethic, their patience, their intolerance of evil, and their ability to discern the legitimacy of those who talked a good talk. They had grit and perseverance and they were very, very patient.

AND YET, God took issue with them. So much so, that unless they repented, He promised to come quickly and remove the lampstand from their place. 

Just where did they miss the mark?

The Bible says, they 'left their first love'. 

They were about their Father's business with out their Father's fellowship. 

Think about another story in the New Testament. Mary and Martha. Both had access to Jesus. Both loved Him. To quote author William L. Ford III who addressed the difference between Martha and Mary's focus, "Martha was consumed with how she served...Mary was consumed with WHO she served..."

Hang with me, I'll be making my point soon.

Let's just jump to one more Bible passage. In 1 Corinthians chapter 13: 3 it says:

"If I give away all I have to the poor and give my body up to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing."

Anyone who knows me, knows that I'm passionate about social justice issues. I want the Church to be mobilized to feed the poor, rescue the oppressed, and to set captives free!

I use a portion of every one of my speaking engagements to draw attention to the work of my heroes at the International Justice Mission.

In fact, just last night, my husband and I (and a few of our friends) attended Sara Groves' 'Art-Music-Justice' tour and I cried through most of the program. It was amazing.

So, what's my point?

I believe that many people, Christian and otherwise, are stepping up to meet the needs of the oppressed because God is pressing the issue. His heart burns for these precious people and He'll use whoever is available to do the things that He cares about.

But, in light of the anger and political divisions in and outside the Church, you can see how 'Social Justice' can become a religion all its own.

It's noble to do this work. Every one agrees with that.

Jesus, on the other hand, well, He's a little more controversial. 

I'm walking carefully here, so please stay with me.

At the end of the day, it's our oneness with Jesus that matters more than anything. And when we fan that flame, nurture that love, and live from a place of intimacy with Him, we'll do the things He cares about. We'll be provoked to care about the poor; we'll be compelled to help the helpless; we'll be moved to make a difference in our world.

But if we stray away from our 'first love' passion, and we use all of our energy to diligently do the work (minus the worship), in a short amount of time, it'll become about us; about what we're doing; about what others should be doing.

The result? Self righteousness. Judgement. Exhaustion. Frustration. Feeling overwhelmed by the vast need around us. Feeling under-qualified to make a difference. Feeling prideful that we're doing more than the next guy. Feeling insignificant that we're not doing as much as the next guy. And so on.

And yet, when we abide in the Vine, fruit happens. Life happens. Needs are met. People are revived. And we're made new in the process. When we hook up to our Life Source, life flows through us and produces an impact that we never could on our own. 

My friends at the International Justice Mission are perfect examples of this.

Each and every person I've met and worked alongside, has been a godly, humble person. They are so connected with the heart of Christ behind their work, they give off no expectation that 'you should really be doing more' or that 'I'm someone special because I'm doing what matters'. 

On the contrary.

They are so connected to the heart of Christ in this thing, that they face the worst of the evil on this earth with a brave and humble heart knowing that God is with them. They can receive your $5.00 gift with utter humility and gratitude as if you have just given them a million dollars. 

How do they walk such a narrow path? 

Under Gary Haugen's leadership, every IJM staffer places a high priority on prayer and oneness with God.

The days are speeding up and the end is nearer today than it was yesterday. 

One day we'll all give an account for what we did with what was offered us.

What did we do with the offer of fellowship with Jesus?
We're we willing to face and admit the poverty of our own soul?
Did we serve on our own strength, or did we serve out of our fullness in Christ?
Did we place a high priority on our time in Jesus' presence?
Did we tend to things that burn in God's heart?
Did we live by faith?

Considering the Church of Ephesus who seemed to have it all together but ran the risk of losing their 'lampstand' because somewhere along the line, they wandered off track...may we pause and consider the path we are on today.

As Graham Cooke once said, "Christianity isn't rocket science, it's about living under the love of Christ. It's about letting Him love you and living in response to that love."

Take time today to ponder your fellowship with Christ. Nurture that love-affair. Rest in His care. Do what He says. 

No more. No less. 

Trust Him to carry the world on His shoulders. Be humbly grateful for the call on your life. Entrust others to Him as well. 

First and foremost, love Jesus today. Enjoy the fact that He is crazy in love with you. 

Until next week~